Houston Astros v Chicago White Sox

Astros hanging on to Jason Castro for now

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Back in January, the Astros avoided arbitration with catcher Jason Castro, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2.45 million. Prior to the agreement, there was some speculation that the Astros would sign him to a multi-year extension, buying out all three of his arbitration years and likely at least one year of free agency. If an agreement couldn’t be reached, they could explore trading Castro and fall back on prospect Max Stassi.

GM Jeff Luhnow, however, is quite happy with Castro and what he brings to the table, even if his future isn’t known. Via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:

Luhnow said several teams called him to ask about acquiring Castro this past offseason, but he said when you put the entire package together — what Castro does off the field and the leadership he provides and his links to the past — the organization decided that Castro had too much value.

“We take all of those elements into account, and we really feel he’s a player we can’t be without at this point,” Luhnow said. “I think he’s exceeded expectations, even internally for the people that drafted him in the first round. He’s a left-handed-hitting catcher with power and good defensive skills. He’s been injured here and there, but by and large, he’s everything you hope for in a first-round pick.”

According to FanGraphs, among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances last season, Castro was the fourth-most valuable out of 32 qualified catchers at 4.3 Wins Above Replacement. He trailed only Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer (now a first baseman), and Buster Posey. Clearly, the Astros have a major asset on their hands, but one can understand the thought process behind trading him, as the Astros are still at least two seasons away from being competitive.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.