A.J. Hinch and the Astros are back and ready for the 2017 season to get underway.
Expectations for the Astros were sky high for the 2016 season after a surprising playoff run in 2015, however, the team fell just short of these expectations.
An injury plagued season along with a lack of depth were the key factors in the team falling short of their desired goal of making it back to the playoffs in 2016.
Their series record with division and state rival, the Texas Rangers, hurt them just as much. The series was all Rangers with 15 of the 19 games played going to them. If the Astros had a better record against the Rangers, they would have been a Wild Card team.
The Astros started 7-17 in the month of April (which caused problems towards the end of the season) but turned it around after George Springer moved into the lead off position. As a result, the Astros went into the off-season with questions on how to upgrade the team.
Now that the offseason has ended and spring training is just about over, Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow made key additions to bolster the lineup and transition from favoring right-handed hitters to a more balanced offense. Not much occurred on the pitching front other than the addition of a lower tier starting pitcher, Charlie Morton, coming off a season ending injury a year ago. Jason Castro and Colby Rasmus will be missed, but the Astros upgraded from these two and made the team better at the same time.
The first addition of the offseason was signing outfielder Nori Aoki off waivers from division rival Seattle, adding to the platoon of outfielders that will be constantly rotating throughout the season. Aoki was brought on primarily to play left field.
Next, the Astros traded away relief pitcher Pat Neshek to the Phillies for cash. Neshek was not very consistent through the regular season so trading him was best for the team.
Astros then signed right handed starting pitcher Charlie Morton to add an arm to the pitching staff. Morton is coming off a hamstring injury that ended his season with the Phillies and will be placed in the third starting pitcher role. Morton also is notorious for getting hitters to hit ground balls which play a big factor in the Astros’ defense.
Astros acquired catcher Brian McCann and cash for two pitching prospects. McCann should be an everyday starter behind the plate. Although he is not as good a pitch framer as Jason Castro was, he proves an upgrade with his bat, batting .242 with 28 home runs in 2016, something that Castro lacked in his time in Houston.
Houston signed right fielder Josh Reddick to a 4 year, $52 million deal. Reddick’s addition to the team will make George Springer move back to his natural position of center field where Springer excels.
The next addition is the bringing back of Carlos Beltran on a one year contract for $16 million. Not only will Beltran be the everyday designated hitter, he could also play outfield. Beltran should be expected to be in the platoon for left field. Beltran was key in the team’s 2005 postseason run and now looks to provide some veteran leadership to this young team, just as Craig Biggio did for him, in hopes to return the favor.
Expect the everyday starting lineup to be something like this with Evan Gattis, Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez on the bench:
- George Springer CF
- Alex Bregman 3B
- Jose Altuve 2B
- Carlos Correa SS
- Carlos Beltran DH
- Josh Reddick RF
- Yuli Gurriel 1B
- Brian McCann C
- Nori Aoki LF
The pitching staff needed one key addition, a top of the line starter. There were rumors of Chris Archer from the Rays. They were also targeting All-Star starting pitcher Jose Quintana from the White Sox. He is practically the same as McHugh just with a better track record.
The White Sox ’s asking price for Quintana was too high, wanting to break up our young core by giving up Alex Bregman and giving up our top pitching and hitting prospect. Luhnow refused as they are part of the team’s plans for the future. Luhnow offered a blockbuster package for the Rays’ Archer, including our top prospects and the Rays said it was not enough. Without a top of the line starter, there are questions about the rotation, but with all pitchers healthy (with the exception of McHugh), there shouldn’t be a problem.
The pitching staff consists of :
- Dallas Keuchel LHP
- Lance McCullers Jr. RHP
- Charlie Morton RHP
- Joe Musgrove RHP
- Mike Fiers RHP
- Collin McHugh RHP
- Michael Feliz RHP
- Brad Peacock RHP
- Jandel Gustave RHP
- Tony Sipp LHP
- Will Harris RHP
- Luke Gregerson RHP
- Ken Giles RHP
With a lot of new faces and the young core of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and George Springer returning with an intact and healthy pitching staff returning, Astros fans have a lot to look forward to this season. As Sports Illustrated called it, the Astros will be 2017 World Series champions BUT they have to stay healthy to make it to the playoffs and perhaps, the World Series.