The Houston Astros have become possibly the most hated team in baseball this offseason following their cheating scandal from 2017. A new manager, general manager and challenge ahead could spell the downfall for the team, who come in at number 12 in my Major League Baseball (MLB) Power Rankings.
Now you may be asking yourself, why is a team who was in the World Series last season, has the third highest payroll in baseball and has some of baseball’s biggest stars on its roster the number 12 team in my rankings. It’s because I don’t know how good this team actually is. Anyone in the big leagues can hit well when they know what pitch is coming. With that in mind, I think the Astros will take a big step backwards.
The Astros really didn’t get better this offseason. If anything, they got worse. Gerrit Cole is now clean shaven and will be playing for the New York Yankees this season. They really didn’t do much outside of resigning some of their free agents. The majority of their offseason consisted of interviews with the MLB about their 2017 cheating scandal. Astros owner Jim Crane fired both AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow following the announcement of their year long suspensions, so in is Dusty Baker and James Click. Baker is a well respected veteran manager and Click played a big role in the rebuild of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Lance McCullers will try to fill the void left by 2019 Cy Young Runner-Up Gerrit Cole, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery and there is no way of knowing how he’ll perform. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are still two of the best pitchers of their generation, but the rest of their rotation has some questions surrounding it. Jose Urquidy was solid last season but is still inexperienced and the fifth spot is still up in the air.
The batting lineup is still one of the best in baseball. From George Springer to Carlos Correa to Alex Bregman, this lineup is loaded at the top. There is one player that still will need to crack the starting lineup for me to consider this team better, and that is Kyle Tucker.
Tucker was the Astros’ top prospect in 2018 and he has superstar potential, but the problem is that he doesn’t have a place to play with Josh Reddick on the team. I think this will be the year that he breaks out as I can see him having significantly more playing time.
The Astros farm system ranks 18th in baseball according to Bleacher Report. Most of their talent is either at the big league level already or isn’t highly rated. Forrest Whitley is their top prospect. He has top of the rotation potential but is coming off a terrible year with an earned run average (ERA) near eight. His stat line in the Arizona Fall League was much more encouraging, with a sub-three ERA in 25 innings. Whitley should be up in the big leagues this season once he is able to command his pitches again, which shouldn’t take him long after his performance last fall.
Overall, the Astros are going to be a hit or miss kind of team. I think they’re going to come back down to earth, but we’ll have to see how well the team is able to perform now that they won’t know what pitch is coming.
Top Acquisition – None
Biggest loss – Gerrit Cole
MVP – Alex Bregman
Projected Finish – 3rd in AL West
George Springer, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Alex Bregman, 3B
Carlos Correa, SS
Yordan Alvarez, DH
Yuli Gurriel, 1B
Michael Brantley, LF
Josh Reddick, RF
Martin Maldonado, C
Lance McCullers Jr.
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