Given yesterday’s news of George Springer’s hamstring injury, it seemed likely that one of the many outfielders thriving for Houston’s Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock would join the big league club shortly. Sure enough, Derek Fisher is getting the nod, per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan (via Twitter).
Fisher gets the call over fellow prospects Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, and Myles Straw. Of the four, only Alvarez has yet to use an option this season as he is not on the 40-man roster. This will be Fisher’s second stint with the big league club in 2019, having appeared briefly in back-to-back games on May 4th and 5th. In both games he entered late as a defensive replacement, grounding out in his only at-bat. Fisher last made the Astros top prospects list in 2016 when MLB.com clocked him at #5. He has since been ineligible, as he gained rookie eligibility the year after, hitting .212/.307/.356 across 166 plate appearances for the eventual World Series champs.
There’s still lots to like about Fisher, 25, who has raked to the tune of .314/.379/.555 in 33 games for Round Rock this season, while he’s mostly provided good power and a measured approach throughout his minor league career. The hope is that Springer’s injury is a short-term one remedied with a couple weeks rest, which could play into Houston’s decision to tab Fisher over Tucker or Alvarez, as Fisher is best prepped for an up-and-down style call-up, given his experience in doing so. Even with Springer sidelined, Fisher will have to compete for outfield at-bats with Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick and Tony Kemp. Of course, about half of Springer’s time this season has been in centerfield, where Fisher far outpaces either Tucker or Alvarez.
With that in mind, however, Marisnick likely has the most ground to gain while Springer heals. Marisnick, 28, has actually seen the bulk of the playing time in center this season, starting 26 games and appearing in 35 of 52 overall. Metrics peg him as quite good out there as well, with 4 DRS and 2.3 UZR thus far while posting consistently positive defensive numbers since his debut in 2013. Though he’s long been a toolsy and useful piece for the Astros, he is already enjoying a mini-breakout in 2019, punching well above his weight at .284/.340/.558 worth 1.2 fWAR – not too far off his season-high number of 1.8 fWAR (in 2015).
It’s certainly an embarrassment of riches for the Astros, who should have no trouble covering for Springer in his absence. Still, it’s unfortunate for the 29-year-old who is off to the best start of his career at 2.7 fWAR via a .308/.389/.643 slash line and power surge evidence by 17 home runs and a somewhat ridiculous .335 ISO. Fisher could certainly be auditioning for another big league ball club during this stint, though there’s room for everyone long-term should Houston hold onto their prospects, as Brantley, Springer, Reddick and Marisnick could all depart via free agency after the 2020 season.