Despite a strong spring training that saw him hit .278 with a .381 on-base percentage and an OPS north of .800, former Ohio State outfielder Ronnie Dawson’s odds of making the Houston Astros opening day roster were slim to none right from the get-go. With Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker locked into starting spots, Dawson — who has played just 10 games above Double-A ball— was competing with Myles Straw and several others for the final few outfield spots on the Astros roster.
Dawson did not make the opening day roster, and because the minor league season has been pushed back to early May, Dawson had been working out at the Astros’ alternate training site in Corpus Christ, Texas. But when five Astros were placed on the injured list Wednesday afternoon due to COVID-protocols, Dawson got the call of a lifetime. His contract was selected by Houston a few hours before their game against Detroit, and he was immediately plugged into the starting lineup at Minute Maid Park for last night’s game.
Batting seventh as the designated hitter, Dawson grounded out in his first at bat in the third inning. In the fifth inning he came back up with a runner on first and one out, grounding into a fielder’s choice out with the runner forced out at second and Dawson reaching first. The next batter — catcher Jason Castro— promptly deposited Michael Fulmer’s fourth pitch of the at bat into the center field seats, cutting Detroit’s lead to 6-2. Dawson — the runner on first — scored on the play.
And then came the big one. Trailing 6-3, Dawson led off the seventh inning with an opposite field single for his first big league base hit. Detroit had their defense shifted to the right, expecting the left-handed Dawson to pull the ball. Instead, Dawson poked Alex Lange’s 96-mile-per-hour fastball into left field, clapping and pointing to the sky as he rounded first base. After nearly five years in the minor leagues, Dawson made it to the show and had his first big league knock.
Dawson’s spot in the order came up again in the ninth inning with Houston still trailing 6-3. He drew a leadoff walk, and would later score on a bases-loaded walk by Yuli Gurriel to cut the Tigers’ lead to two runs. They’d get no closer, however, as Detroit completed the sweep by defeating Houston 6-4. Dawson finished the evening with one hit in three at bats, plus a walk and two runs scored. Not too bad for your major league debut.
Ronnie Dawson played at Ohio State for three seasons from 2014-2016, hitting .316 with 24 home runs, 116 RBI’s, and 47 stolen bases in 175 games. He drew 79 walks during his college career, and left Ohio State in 2016 with a gaudy .912 career OPS. Dawson was a first-team All Big Ten selection in 2016 and was selected by the Houston Astros in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft with the 61st overall pick. He is currently ranked as the Astros No. 30 prospect according to MLB.com.
Dawson’s stock has been steadily dropping over his five minor league seasons, hitting .245 over 431 career minor league games. However, his plate discipline has carried over from college to the pros, as his high walk rate helps lift that .245 batting average to a more respectable .340 on-base percentage in the minor leagues.
With multiple Astros out for at least 10 days due to COVID-protocols, Dawson is unlikely to be sent back down to the minors until April 24 at the earliest. But following his breakout spring and tonight’s performance, he’ll be able to use these next 10 days as an audition for a more permanent role on the big league bench, even when those players return. Houston has today off before heading to Seattle for the start of a five-game road trip. I expect we’ll see Ronnie Dawson in the starting lineup for at least a few of those games against the Mariners and Colorado Rockies.