Unless you haven’t been following baseball over the first two months of the season, you know that the Houston Astros are quite good. At 42-17, they have the best record in baseball and already have a 13 game lead in the AL West.
One of the team’s major strengths is its offensive depth – all but one of their offensive starters and bench players (outfielder Nori Aoki) has a wRC+ above 90 and a wOBA above .300. Their .349 wOBA and 122 wRC+ as a team are the best in baseball.
It goes without saying that because of that depth, manager AJ Hinch needs to rotate some players in and out of the lineup, and the player that needs to be rotated into the lineup the most is utilityman Marwin Gonzalez, hitting .314/.409/.636 with 12 homers this season. Gonzalez has played first, second, short, third, left field, and (for four innings) right field this year, meaning that he can conceivably replace anyone in the lineup on any given day.
This year, Hinch benched uber-prospect Alex Bregman, the second overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft who has been Houston’s primary third baseman this season, in favor of Gonzalez. This story from Yahoo shares the story of how Hinch made the decision – by pulling Bregman’s name out of a hat (but not before pulling shortstop Carlos Correa’s name, and putting it back in).
Earlier this season, Hinch called Alex Bregman, one of the Astros’ finest young talents, into his office. Hinch told Bregman he wasn’t in the lineup that day. Bregman did not take kindly to this, not out of disrespect but because, like Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, he carries himself with a competitive mean streak that imbues the Astros with the sort of attitude reserved for teams stocked with graybeards.
To explain, Hinch turned around and grabbed his Astros cap. He told Bregman that Gonzalez needed to play, and in order to figure out who would sit out, he put the candidates’ names in the hat.
“So you picked my name?” Bregman said.
“No,” Hinch said. “I picked Correa’s, but there was no way I was sitting him, so I put it back in.”
Hey, whatever works. When you have a guy like Gonzalez that can be plugged in anywhere on the field, you can get creative when it comes to giving out days off. Joe Maddon did the same thing last year in Chicago with a number of players (including Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Ben Zobrist, cycling them through numerous positions on the field), and it worked out pretty well for his Cubs when all was said and done.