Marwin Gonzalez, the former Rule 5 pick, had a breakout year in 2017 for the World Series champs. 2016 was a sign of things to come when the versatile fielder went for double-double homers and steals, but he took his game to another level in 2017, doubling his walk rate (to 9.5 percent) and launching nearly as many homers as he had the previous two seasons combined. That increased walk rate came from more selectivity as Gonzalez improved his chase rate by six full percentage points as he instead went hunting for fastballs to elevate and drive. Although a switch hitter, he does a majority of his damage from the left side as 18 of his 23 homers came off righties. Gonzalez has the rare 1B/2B/SS/OF eligibility for 2018 and should once again have no problem finding playing time in this high-octane offense.
Gonzalez is considered the frontrunner to serve as the Astros' Opening Day first baseman, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic Houston reports. With appearances at every position besides center field, catcher and pitcher last season, Gonzalez counts his versatility as his primary skill, making him a top fill-in candidate whenever a lineup regular is deemed unavailable for a stretch of time. The Astros will have an opening to fill at first base through at least mid-to-late April with Yulieski Gurriel recovering from hand surgery before serving a five-game suspension, so Gonzalez figures to act as the primary option at that position while occasionally getting spelled by one of Tyler White, A.J. Reed and J.D. Davis, all of whom are likely competing for one bench spot on the Opening Day roster. Prior to Gurriel's injury, Gonzalez was projected to see most of his action in left field, but those starts may now end up falling to Derek Fisher or Jake Marisnick to begin the season.
The Astros picked up their $5.125 million club option on Gonzalez for next season, Julia Morales of AT&T SportsNet reports. Gonzalez will see his salary increase from $3.725 million this past season to just north of $5 million with the club taking on another year of his contract. The super-utility man hit .303/.377/.530 with 23 home runs and 90 RBI during the regular season.
Gonzalez is out of Saturday's lineup against the Red Sox, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports. He is 12-for-23 with one home run and eight RBI over his last seven games, but will take a seat Saturday. Derek Fisher will start in left field and will hit ninth in Gonzalez's place.
Gonzalez went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk and three RBI in Thursday's 12-2 win over the Red Sox. Gonzalez got the scoring started with a bases-clearing double in the first inning and got on base three more times throughout this blowout victory. He's slashing career highs across the board at .305/.375/.533 and now has 34 doubles to go with his 23 home runs in 132 games.
Gonzalez went 4-for-5 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored in Monday's 11-3 win over Texas. Gonzalez's breakout year continues deep into September. Just when it looked like it would come to end in August, when he hit a meager .221, he's bounced back to hit .364 in 18 September games.
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