HR giant Pedro Leon and questions in the center

WASHINGTON — On a Saturday afternoon, the Astros grabbed one central field option, watched another heat up and were reminded of a third toiling in the minor leagues.

Houston hasn’t found any consistency in the middle of the field since the passing of George Springer two winters ago. It still seems nonexistent, but the team at least has options. How to maximize it remains the biggest mystery. The Astros went in on Saturday to extract the 0.4 fWAR from the central field site. Only three MLS teams got a lower value.

Except for the trade deadline on August 2, a mix of characters Mauricio Dupont, Jake Myers, Jose Seri, Chas McCormick and Pedro Leon will fill central field roles in Houston for the foreseeable future.

As the Major League club watched the end of its winning streak on Saturday, Lyon fired two giant tracks at home for Class AAA Sugar Land during their win in Albuquerque. One traveled 458 feet and the other 449. Leon hit the second blast at an exit speed of 110.7 mph, according to the Space Cowboys team.

Lyon has seven runs in his first 30 games at Sugar Land. Of the 31 hits, 19 fell for extra bases. Saturday’s bid raised his OPS to .967 and he’s cutting .270/.393/.574. He only took 115 bats, so slow down the clamor to summon.

The sample size isn’t enough to draw huge conclusions, but it’s certainly impressive for a team that might need some help in a few months. Lyon’s recent defensive responsibilities are perhaps more telling than anything else. The Astros seem intent on exposing him for their short last season. He started there 41 times in 72 minor league games.

Lyon has started 28 games in AAA Sugar Land class defense this season. Three came in shortstop. Lyon started 15 times in the center field and 10 more times on the right. The 2022 Astros don’t need a short layover – they need another defensive player.

Perhaps this is a sign that Leon is in line to be one. His athleticism and outstanding arm might translate into the corner, if need be, but his natural posture is right in the middle. Lyon dazzled the Astros during their time in major league spring training, leading Dusty Becker to say, “I think it’s one of the best we’ve had out there.”

Lyon never had a realistic chance of breaking camp with the Astros. Houston had Ciri and McCormick’s timeshare pen while Myers continued to come back from off-season shoulder surgery. On Saturday, General Manager James Click said Myers is tossing to the bases at a higher intensity and receiving live bats. Click said the team will begin discussing a minor league rehab job “in the coming days.”

In Myers’ absence, neither McCormick nor Siri separated themselves as a daily starter. They alternate with flashes of brilliance and brutal extensions – one seems to rise while the other regresses.

McCormick, for example, is 3-years-old over the past 31 after knocking out his spot in an impacted appearance during Saturday’s 13-6 loss in Washington. Siri started the game, hit three hits and finished the course with double shyness. He’s now 6 in the last 13 – after coming out of a 3 for 36 malaise. Seri and hitting coach Alex Cintron made an adjustment by placing his hand to achieve some better results.

“Last year, when I went up, they tried to move my hand a little higher to hit fast, zigzag balls and it didn’t work for me,” Siri said through an interpreter. “I feel so confident that I can go to the plate and get a bass hit. I feel very good on the plate now.”

All three Siri songs arrived Saturday after the Astros were behind by five, but the key metrics can’t be ignored. He hit all three balls at 105 mph or stronger. His gigantic home singles career against Washington player Eric Fede left the bat at 109.3 mph and traveled 427 feet.

Among the Astros’ regulars, only Yordan Alvarez averages a harder exit velocity than Siri. McCormick can’t brag about that strength, but he has an edge in pitch selection and plate discipline. Even this seems to be fading away. McCormick’s chase rate is 38.1 percent 11 points higher than the Major League average and 13 percent above his figure last season.

Siri has actually reduced both the hit rate and the chase rate.

Publicly, Siri’s unpredictability will always be portrayed as a detriment, but it’s the audacity that makes him fall in love with Baker. Becker appreciates the risks he takes and the pace he brings to the squad without too much of it.

Dupont, earned by the team on Saturday morning, earned four defensive runs during his 495th career center field, according to FanGraphs. It averages 28.2 feet per second when sprinting—both McCormick and Siri are faster—but it’s a more than viable option for an instant start. Becker may rely on Dubón more to cover the central region.

It leaves Ciri and McCormick vying for attention while Myers – and Leon – loom as a threat.

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