LOS ANGELES -- The Astros fell to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 2017 World Series on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, so what follows can be considered cold comfort to Houston and their rooters. That said: It's time to talk about Alex Bregman.
It seems odd to cast a player like Bregman as being given short shrift, considering he was highly regarded from the outset. The Astros notably took him second overall out of LSU in the 2015 Draft, and they did so with the compensation pick they received for not signing Brady Aiken, the top overall pick in 2014. Coming into the 2016 season, Bregman was ranked as the No. 22 overall prospect by MLB.
That's the year Bregman debuted in the majors, and he rather famously endured an immediate drought that saw him register just two hits through his first 10 big-league games. From that point through the end of his rookie season, however, Bregman authored a line of .313/.354/.577.
Then of course came his "sophomore" campaign of 2017. For the eventual AL champs, Bregman batted .284/.352/.475 (128 OPS+) with 19 homers; 39 doubles; 17 stolen bases; and time spent at short, second, and third. He's still just 23. Given the scouting reports, the minor-league track record and how excellent he's been over the first 200-plus games of his major-league career, Bregman would seem to be one of the most recognizable young players in the game. He's really not, though.
Where he tends to bat in the Houston lineup says a lot about this matter. During the regular season, he spent 196 plate appearances in the 2-hole, which is highest total at any slot. Coming in second, however, is the lowly eighth spot, where he spent 195 plate appearances.
This isn't to criticize Astros manager A.J. Hinch. Rather, it's a reflection of how deep the Houston offense is. That you can plausibly bat a hitter like Bregman in the 8-hole for a good chunk of the season speaks well of the attack that paced the AL in runs scored. That also hints at an underlying reality, and that's that Bregman just gets a bit lost among the Jose Altuves and Carlos Correas and George Springers on the roster.
In the losing effort in Game 1, however, Bregman reminded us not to forget about him, his valuable present, and his MVP-caliber future. The first reminder came on a 1-1 fastball that Clayton Kershaw meant to bury down in but instead left up and over the middle of the plate ...
With that blast, Bregman became the youngest American Leaguer to hit a home run in a World Series game since Manny Ramirez of the Indians in 1995. Oh, and he's now homered off Kershaw and Chris Sale this postseason.
It's about more than "just" Bregman's bat, though. He's also the best defensive shortstop on the Houston roster, but because Correa was entrenched before Bregman arrived, Bregman shifted to third. It's no surprise that he's a standout at the position., and in Game 1 he turned a pair of nifty double plays -- one with Correa as the pivot in the second and then Altuve as the pivot in the fifth. Please enjoy the latter turn ...
Soft hands and an accurate arm on display.
As though to remind us that Bregman did his job in defeat, he provided the biggest challenge to Dodgers lockdown closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth. Bregman swung and missed only once against Jansen on Tuesday night, worked the count full, and on the eighth pitch of the at-bat lined out to center on a well struck ball.
So when you ponder the fact that the Astros may win the World Series in 2017 and figure to contend for years to come, think of the likes of Altuve, Correa, and Springer, yes. But also spare some room for Bregman, who does it all on the field, and is going to do it all on the field for at least the next decade or so.