Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena has been sidelined since July 26 with a right hamstring injury. The team knew it was serious, and on Tuesday this came down ...
Luis Valbuena will have season-ending surgery in the next couple days, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) August 23, 2016
At first, a normal recovery period was expected, but on Aug. 19 Valbuena suffered a setback, which led to this. The surgery will be to repair a tendon, and, as noted, Valbuena's 2016 season is done. That's a blow to Houston, as Valbuena this season has been quite productive: .260/.357/.459, which is good for a career-best OPS+ of 123, with 13 homers in 90 games. Since Valbuena is eligible for free agency this offseason, he's likely played his last game as an Astro.
The consoling knowledge for A.J. Hinch and the contending 'Stros is that they have the infield depth to survive the loss of someone who had been one of their most productive hitters. Installed at third base is of course, Alex Bregman, who's regarded by many to be the top prospect in all of baseball. As recently detailed in this space, Bregman's been raking after an awful start to his big-league career. Given his recent surge, it's possible he'll replicate or even improve upon Valbuena's numbers moving forward.
Elsewhere, the Astros recently called up 32-year-old Cuban signee Yulieski Gurriel. Gurriel's believed to be major-league ready right now, and he's capable of playing second and third. (Thus far, however, he's DH'd.) Take Gurriel and Bregman into account (and, of course, the cornerstones up the middle in Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa), and the Astros are positioned better than most to withstand the loss of a productive infield like Valbuena.