Alex Bregman’s journey toward the majors has taken a detour to left field.
And how quickly the highly touted Fresno Grizzlies’ prospect can turn himself into a competent outfielder likely will go a long way toward an eventual promotion to the Houston Astros.
Bregman’s natural position, shortstop, is blocked at the major league-level by Carlos Correa, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year.
But outfield has become a position of need in Houston with its primary options in left (Colby Rasmus) and center (Carlos Gomez) hitting less than .230 on the season.
Bregman, the second overall selection in last year’s draft, who has quickly ascended to become the Astros’ top prospect, is hitting .356 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 17 games with Fresno through Friday. The 22-year-old out of Louisiana State is hitting .311 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs overall with his numbers at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he played 62 games before a promotion to Triple-A.
The way the Astros are now with Carlos (Correa) there and (Jose) Altuve in the middle of their infield, for Alex to impact the game, it’s going to be at a different position.
Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco on the move of Alex Bregman from shortstop to left, where he is being groomed for a potential promotion by the parent Houston Astros
“The way the Astros are now with Carlos (Correa) there and (Jose) Altuve in the middle of their infield, for Alex to impact the game, it’s going to be at a different position,” Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “And the way (Bregman) is swinging the bat real well right now, hopefully he can help them out real soon.”
Bregman’s transition to left field began with pregame work at the start of the week, including taking flyballs and line drives from Astros’ roving outfield instructor Leon Roberts. He worked with DeFrancesco in the outfield before Friday’s game at Chukchansi Park that launched a nine-game Grizzlies’ homestand.
Bregman made his first start in left Wednesday, successfully handling three flyballs hit his way over five innings. He played nine innings in left Thursday with no defensive chances, and nine more Friday, when he caught one flyball within range and handled two hits that came his way flawlessly.
“It’s gone smooth,” said Bregman, who hasn’t played the outfield since summer ball when he was in high school. “I feel very comfortable out there.”
Bregman also will see time at third, where the Astros start career .231 hitter Luis Valbuena. He played third for the first time at the Triple-A level Tuesday after playing 11 games there at Corpus Christi. Bregman is expected to see action at third and left if he’s promoted to Houston.
“I’d love to play anywhere, I don’t care what position,” Bregman said. “For the time being, I’m trying to help this team win games here in Fresno. Whether I’m playing third, left or short doesn’t matter to me. I’ll do whatever I can to help this team and get better at those positions so that way I’m prepared for the future.”
For the time being, I’m trying to help this team win games here in Fresno. Whether I’m playing third, left or short doesn’t matter to me. I’ll do whatever I can to help this team and get better at those positions so that way I’m prepared for the future.
Bregman on his midseason adjustment to playing different spots in the field
DeFrancesco said he expects third base to be the tougher transition than left field because of the shorter reaction time, different fielding angles and throws than shortstop, but said Bregman is a good enough athlete to do successfully midseason.
“He’s making some nice strides out there,” DeFrancesco said. “He’s played a few games at both and looks real comfortable right now. The more reps he gets out there, it will be easier to transition when he gets to the big leagues.”