Category Archives: Houston Astros

Season Outlook: Houston Astros

Projected 2017 Starting Lineup:

  1. George Springer – Center Fielder
  2. Jose Altuve – 2nd baseman
  3. Carlos Correa – Shortstop
  4. Carlos Beltran – Designated Hitter
  5. Brian McCann – Catcher
  6. Alex Bregman – 3rd baseman
  7. Josh Reddick – Right Fielder
  8. Yulieski Gurriel – 1st baseman
  9. Nori Aoki – Left Fielder

Projected 2017 Starting Rotation:

  1. Dallas Keuchel
  2. Lance McCullers
  3. Collin McHugh
  4. Mike Fiers
  5. Charlie Morton

Season Outlook:

The Houston Astros already had a really good lineup with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Alex Bregman. However, the Astros were busy adding to their lineup even more particularly by signing Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Josh Reddick. Those are 3 veteran players that should combine with the extremely talented players that Houston already had. There is no doubt that Altuve and Correa will be the heart of the Astros lineup, but there really is no weakness in their lineup right now. The Astros lineup clearly is good enough now to not only make the playoffs, but possibly be a world series contender. Meanwhile, the Astros starting rotation is good, although it still has room for improvement. Dallas Keuchel is the clear ace of the pitching staff and Lance McCullers is a very good starting pitcher as well. However, after those 2 pitchers then there is a pretty big dropoff with Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, and Charlie Morton being the rest of the rotation. Houston could add another quality starting pitcher very soon and that is the piece is probably needed to make this team a world series contender. If the pitching staff can become really good to go along with their already dangerous lineup then there is no doubt that this is a top 3 team in the AL.

Prediction: 1st place in the AL West

jose-altuve

Biggest need remaining for every AL West team

Houston Astros РBiggest need: 1st baseman

The Houston Astros don’t have a big need, but if there is one position that appears to be a little bit of a concern then it would be 1st base. Yulieski Gurriel will be the team’s starting 1st baseman in 2017, but he has limited MLB experience which makes me wonder how he will fare with the everyday job at 1st base next season. Gurriel hit .262 with 3 home runs for Houston last season, but the Astros should add at least some depth to the 1st base position. It might not work out with Gurriel as the everyday 1st baseman and the Astros should find another 1st baseman that can fill in if Gurriel doesn’t do well. There are many options left in free agency and they would be smart to add some depth to 1st base.

Los Angeles Angels – Biggest need: Catcher

The Los Angeles Angels didn’t get much production out of the catcher position with Geovany Soto and Jett Bandy. Now, both Bandy and Soto have departed this offseason which means there will be a new starting catcher for the Angels in 2017. Carlos Perez will see more playing time as a backup catcher next season. However, Martin Maldonado was acquired from the Brewers this offseason in order to be the new starting catcher. Maldonado has some power as he hit 8 home runs last season, but he needs to be a more consistent hitter as he only had a .202 average. It’s tough to find solid catchers these days, but the Angels could really use one because the combination of Maldonado and Perez doesn’t look too promising.

Oakland Athletics – Biggest need: Centerfielder

Oakland has some big needs to fill before next season, but the biggest need that they have is in center field. Jake Smolinski is projected to be the starting centerfielder for the Athletics in 2017, but he has never been very good even as a backup outfielder. Smolinski can hit some home runs as he hit 7 last season, but a .242 average is a little concerning. I don’t see Oakland going out and signing a quality centerfielder. However, there are still a few out there if they choose to go that route and it would probably improve their lineup.

Seattle Mariners – Biggest need: Left Fielder

The Mariners outfield isn’t looking too good for next season as they have three starting outfielders that aren’t very solid players. However, left field appears to be a major weakness for Seattle heading into next season. Ben Gamel is projected to be the starter in left field for the Mariners in 2017, but the issue is his lack of experience. Gamel only has 48 career at-bats and he only has a .188 average to show for it. There are still some quality left fielders in free agency and the Mariners should sign one to compete with Gamel for the starting job.

Texas Rangers – Biggest need: 1st baseman

Texas lost starting 1st baseman Mitch Moreland in free agency and it has created a major vacancy at the position heading into next season. Right now Ryan Rua would be the starting 1st baseman for Texas and he has only played 44 games at the position in his career. Don’t be shocked if the Rangers make a move to sign a quality 1st baseman and it has been rumored that they will reach a deal with Mike Napoli. Either way, the Rangers should add an everyday 1st baseman soon, although their options are starting to run out.

Astros sign Josh Reddick to a 4-year deal

The Astros continued their really busy day of acquisitions on Wednesday by signing outfielder Josh Reddick to a 4-year/$52 million deal. Reddick came into this offseason as one of the top free agents mostly because of his solid offensive production. He doesn’t have great power as he only had 10 home runs in 110 games last season. His average has improved the past few seasons as he hit .281 in 2016, but the Astros are hoping that his power numbers will return to the type of numbers when he hit 20 home runs in 2015 with Oakland. Either way, Reddick will be a nice addition to the Astros especially since he will be a much better upgrade over Colby Rasmus who appears to officially be leaving via free agency after the Reddick signing. Reddick has played right field most of his career, but in all likelihood he’ll be moved over to left field since George Springer is the everyday player in right field. I actually think it’s not a bad contract at all for the Astros as they’re only paying him about $12 million annually which isn’t much at all for a quality outfielder for Reddick. We’ll see if Reddick can fully return to the all-star caliber player that he was just a few years ago and if he does then this is a great signing for Houston. However, consistency has been an issue for Reddick, although this still is a good signing for the Astros to give themselves a much needed left-handed bat in their lineup.

Grade: B

josh-reddick

 

Astros sign Morton to a 2-year contract

The Houston Astros added to their rotation depth on Wednesday by signing veteran starting pitcher Charlie Morton to a 2-year/$14 million contract. Morton won’t wow anybody especially with the poor 4.54 career ERA that he has. However, the one thing that he can provide is some rotational depth for the Astros as a 5th starter. Dallas Keuchel Collin McHugh, and Mike Fiers all will be in the Astros starting rotation next year. However, Lance McCullers has been battling arm injuries recently and he’s not a guarantee to be healthy. Also, Doug Fister looks to be departing via free agency, so Morton will help fill that spot. Morton is 33 years old and he’s not a great rotation option, but in a weak starting pitcher market then this deal somewhat makes sense as a temporary solution. Morton is a pitcher that relies on his command rather than a hard-throwing arm to strike out batters, but the key for him will be locating his pitches well to be successful. Morton has been basically the same pitcher throughout his career and I don’t expect that to change with the Astros. He will likely be a 5th starter in Houston’s rotation and if that fails then I think he could be a good long-reliever in the bullpen. Morton provides solid depth for Houston, but this is just an average signing at best.

Grade: C

charlie-morton

Yankees trade Brian McCann to Houston

Houston is certainly showing that they are serious about being contenders next season as they acquired veteran catcher Brian McCann from the Yankees in exchange for right-handed pitching prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman.

Yankees evaluation:

This is an outstanding trade for the New York Yankees in a variety of aspects. The first reason is that the Yankees really have no use at all for Brian McCann at the catcher position going forward. McCann has tremendous power as he still hit 20 home runs last season for New York. However, his offensive production has declined in recent years and he struggled mightily against left-handed pitching as he only hit .218 against them. Also, Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene for the Yankees last season as he hit a whopping .299 with 20 home runs in only 53 games played. Sanchez is only going to be 24 years old at the start of next season, so he is clearly the catcher of the future for the Yankees. Sanchez’s outstanding offensive production made McCann expendable as McCann isn’t nearly as talented as Sanchez and McCann has a $17 million salary next season as well. The Yankees will only be paying $5.5 million of that salary which makes it even better of a deal since they won’t have to pay him nearly as much. Meanwhile, the 2 prospects that the Yankees received makes this deal even better. Albert Abreu has a power arm and has a ton of potential, but he needs some better command as he walked too many batters last year in Single-A. Abreu is still a couple of years from the majors and he figures to start out 2017 in High-A for the Yankees. He had a 3-8 record with a 3.72 ERA, but I expect him to put up better numbers than that next season. Meanwhile, Jorge Guzman is only 20 years and he still has a lot of potential. However, he is far away from the major leagues since he only posted a 4.05 ERA in rookie ball in the Gulf Coast league. Guzman projects well as a powerful bullpen arm at the MLB level since he strikes out a lot of hitters because he consistently throws 100 MPH. It’ll take some patience for the Yankees to develop Guzman, but it’s difficult not to like his ability to throw hard. Overall, New York needed to get rid of McCann since Gary Sanchez is going to be the catcher long-term. Also, getting two quality pitching prospects makes the deal even greater for the Yankees

Grade: A+

Astros evaluation:

It is difficult to find catchers that have the type of offensive capabilities that Brian McCann has. McCann provides the Astros with a much needed left-handed hitter in their lineup and he will probably split time with Evan Gattis at catcher. Gattis will likely face left-handed pitching since McCann has struggled a lot against left-handed pitching. However, the one thing that McCannn can really provide is a power bat for Houston as he has hit 20 home runs or more in every season since 2007. His batting average has declined in recent years, but as long as he is driving in runs then I’m sure that the Astros are fine with that. Trading way quality prospects like Guzman and Abreu is never easy to do, but it was probably the right move since the Astros probably don’t have the patience to wait years before those guys can make an impact in the MLB. McCann will replace the inconsistent Jason Castro at catcher who is a free agent himself. McCann is certainly an upgrade at catcher and he’ll provide some more power to the Astros lineup. Overall, this is a pretty good trade for the Astros since they are getting an all-star caliber catcher that can make an immediate impact for the next 2 years at least.

Grade: B

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AL West Preview and Predictions

Houston Astros – 2015 Record: 86-76

Notable offseason additions:

SP Doug Fister(From Washington) and RP Ken Giles(From Philadelphia)

Notable offseason subtractions:

RP Chad Qualls(To Colorado), SP Scott Kazmir(To Los Angeles Dodgers), 1B Chris Carter(To Milwaukee), SS Jed Lowrie(To Oakland), and RP Oliver Perez(To Washington)

Analysis: The rebuilding process is officially over for the Astros as they made the playoffs last season. They really didn’t make any moves this offseason to improve on that though. Houston has a stacked lineup with Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer and those guys are young and they will be productive players for a long time. They will certainly carry the Astros offense and perhaps the team overall. The Astros also have a pretty good rotation led by Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. Houston also now has an improved bullpen after trading for young closer Ken Giles this offseason. Luke Gregerson and Tony Sipp will also be good late-inning options for the Astros. Expect this team to be very good for awhile because they are still very young and very talented in many aspects of their team.

Prediction: 1st place in the AL West

Los Angeles Angels – 2015 Record: 85-77

Notable offseason additions:

OF Craig Gentry(From Oakland), SS Yunel Escobar(From Washington), and SS Andrelton Simmons(From Atlanta)

Notable offseason subtractions:

SS Erick Aybar(To Atlanta), SP Mat Latos(To Chicago White Sox), 3B David Freese(To Pittsburgh), and C Chris Iannetta(To Seattle)

Analysis: The Angels came really close to the playoffs last season and they didn’t do too much to improve their team this offseason. Sure, they still have superstar players Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to carry the offense, but besides them they don’t have basically anybody else to produce consistently on offense. Expect Trout to have an MVP-type year and if Pujols can stay healthy then he should put up monster numbers as well. I really like the Angels starting rotation led by number 1 starter Garrett Richards. It is always good when you have Jered Weaver as the 4th starter in your rotation like the Angels do. I think Huston Street is a really good closer, but I’m not a fan of their bullpen overall. 8th inning guy Joe Smith isn’t a very good option as he had a 3.58 ERA. We know what the Angels will get from Trout, Pujols, and Richards. However, they will need to find someone else especially on offense to be able to compete in the AL West.

Prediction: 4th place in the AL West

Oakland Athletics – 2015 Record: 68-94

Notable offseason additions:

SS Jed Lowrie(From Houston), SP Rich Hill(From Boston), SP Henderson Alvarez(From Miami), OF Khris Davis(From Milwaukee), RP Ryan Madson(From Kansas City), and 1B Yonder Alonso(From San Diego)

Notable offseason subtractions:

2B Brett Lawrie(To Chicago White Sox), OF Craig Gentry(To Los Angeles Angels), SP Drew Pomeranz(To San Diego)

Analysis: The Athletics are the type of team that can go from a terrible team to a playoff team the next year. I’m definitely not saying that’s going to happen this year, but the Athletics are always confusing because of the strange signings and trades that they make every offseason. I’m not quite sure how good Oakland’s offense will be and who will lead the charge because they really don’t have a consistent offensive producer. Billy Butler and newly acquired outfielder Khris Davis will have to be consistent and carry the load on offense. Also, Sonny Gray has become one of the best pitchers in the MLB as he had 14 wins and a 2.73 ERA last season. He is the clear number 1 starter for the Athletics, but the issue is that they have a mess of a rotation behind him. Newly signed Rich Hill will be the number 2 guy and he has a 4.54 career ERA at age 36. The Athletics bullpen should be the strength of the team with Ryan Madson, John Axford, and Sean Doolittle as the late inning options, yet the issue for Oakland is if the starters will be able to get to those guys successfully. I’m unsure which direction the Athletics are heading, but besides Sonny Gray there really isn’t much talent on this roster and it’s hard to see them competing in 2016.

Prediction: 5th place in the AL West

Seattle Mariners – 2015 Record: 76-86

Notable offseason additions:

SP Wade Miley(From Boston), RP Steve Cishek(From St. Louis), OF Norichika Aoki(From San Francisco), RP Joaquin Benoit(From San Diego), 1B Adam Lind(From Milwaukee), C Chris Iannetta(From Los Angeles Angels), and SP Nathan Karns(From Tampa Bay)

Notable offseason subtractions:

OF Mark Trumbo(To Baltimore), SS Brad Miller(To Tampa Bay), 1B Logan Morrison(To Tampa Bay), RP Tom Wilhelmsen(To Texas)

Analysis: Perhaps no team was busier than the Seattle Mariners this offseason as they look to improve upon a disappointing 2015 season. The Main key for the Mariners in 2016 will be getting 2nd basemen Robinson Cano back to superstar form. Cano struggled last season, but in spring training he has looked a lot better. Nelson Cruz basically carried Seattle’s offense by himself last season and he is expected to be the main guy to do so again this season. Kyle Seager and Adam Lind should also provide a lot of power in the middle of the lineup as well. The Mariners rotation figures to be very good as they are still led by Felix Hernandez, but they also added quality depth this offseason with Wade Miley and Nathan Karns. Seattle also tried to improve their bullpen with the additions of Joaquin Benoit, Joel Peralta, and Steve Cishek. However, I’m not sold that those guys will be consistent in the late innings. I expect the Mariners offense to be very good this season especially if Cano can become the player that he used to be and the starting pitching is good enough to basically stop any offense.

Prediction: 3rd place in the AL West

Texas Rangers – 2015 Record: 88-74

Notable offseason additions:

RP Tom Wilhelmsen(From Seattle) and SS Ian Desmond(From Washington)

Notable offseason subtractions:

SP Yovani Gallardo(To Baltimore) and 1B Mike Napoli(To Cleveland)

Analysis: The Rangers lineup was what carried the team last season and expect it to be the same way this year. Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland, and Shin-Soo Choo all should carry the load as long as they can stay healthy. Add in the power of newly acquired left fielder Ian Desmond and this offense should be one of the best in the league. Meanwhile, the Rangers struggled with their starting pitching mostly because of the large amounts of injuries that they had. Cole Hamels should be a good number 1 starter for Texas and as long as the other guys in the rotation stay healthy then their pitching should be much improved. The bullpen is looking like a weakness for Texas as Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson aren’t very consistent late inning options. Shawn Tolleson should be a decent closer, but having a weak bullpen could negatively impact Texas. As long as the key position players for Texas can stay healthy then this team should be very good and if some starting pitcher besides Cole Hamels can step up then this team could be the top team in the AL West.

Prediction: 2nd place in the AL West

jose altuve

Reaction: Scott Kazmir traded to the Astros

The rebuilding process was miserable for the Astros and their fans the past few seasons, but Houston proved on Thursday that they are willing to win this year by acquiring veteran starting pitcher Scott Kazmir from the Athletics in exchange for pitcher Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham. The Astros are currently only 1 game back of 1st place in the AL West with a record of 54-43, but the problem is that the Angels aren’t going away very easily. Kazmir provides Houston with playoff experience and he’ll be a front-end starter in their rotation. The Astros have an abundance of young position players that are carrying the team right now, but besides Dallas Keuchel there hasn’t been another very reliable starter in the Astros starting rotation. Kazmir might only be a rental player because he is an unrestricted free agent after the season, but Houston has been rebuilding for too long and it’s about time for the Astros to make a push for the playoffs right now. Meanwhile, Oakland is 44-53 without basically any chance to make the postseason, so it makes sense for them to get rid of Kazmir before they lose him in free agency and get nothing for him. The Athletics have terrific pitching, but they lack defense and they don’t have many consistent offensive players so it is hard to picture them even making it back to the .500 mark this season. Oakland is always looking to get young starting pitching and even though it might take some time for Daniel Mengden to get to the majors he could be a big part of the Athletics rotation down the road. Also, getting a 20-year old catcher like Nottingham is valuable since it is hard to find consistent offensive production at the catcher position. Oakland needs some help at catcher and in a few years Nottingham could be a very productive major league player. I really like this deal for both teams because the Astros need Kazmir right now and the Athletics needed to replenish their farm system with some solid prospects.

Astros grade: B+ – Kazmir is a terrific option short-term for the Astros, but he is just a rental player basically for the team.

Athletics grade: A – The Athletics are looking forward for next season and beyond, so getting some prospects with high upside like with Mengden and Nottingham should be worth it in a few years.