2019 Team Preview #3: Houston Astros

Welcome to the Team Previews! If you’re new ’round here, give a read to the 2 Team Previews you’ve missed!

On to the preview!

Last Year

2018 Record: 70-92, 5th in AL West, 32 games back

2018 was more of the same for baseball fans in H-Town. 90+ losses for the 7th straight year, 30+ games back of the AL West juggernauts and the continued progression of “The Process”. Will 2019 be the year it starts to come together?

Key Additions

RP Lester Ontiveros (FA)
RP John O’Quinn (FA)
RP Bryan Morris (FA)
RP Drew Taylor (FA)
3B Esteban Ortiz (FA)
SS Mel Applegate (Rule 5)
3B Bill La (TBR via Trade)

Key Losses

3B Daniel Fleming (TBR via Trade)
SS Orlando Arcia (Waivers)
1B Ron Foster (Waivers)
RP David Cortez (Waivers)
SP Tom Milone (FA)
RP Hideaki Hirata (FA)
SP Ian Kennedy (FA)
RP Michael Kohn (FA)
RF Hunter Pence (FA)
1B Rodrigo Espinoza (TBR via Trade)
SP Edward Reith (WAS via Trade)
2B Alex Childs (WAS via Trade)

Lineup/Rotation Projection

 

The additions and losses above really don’t tell the whole story for the Astros. Their biggest development is likely just the passage of time, as their elite level prospects move closer and closer to developing into a big-time powerhouse down South. The 2018 offense was powered by a trio of young wunderkinds, RF Richard Fowler (.812 OPS), CF Darge Kawawe (.266 w/11 HR in 295 PA) and DH Edgardo Arredondo (29 HR, 94 RBI). Added to the mix was a big trade to acquire 2018 All-Star 3B Bill La (.315, 44 2B) from Tampa Bay. Top-100 prospect George Cuyco will take over at 1B and 12th rated prospect Aaron White has a real shot at securing the starting SS job.

On the mound, last years ace Shao-Qi Fung (10-8, 3.14 ERA) will reprise that role and be followed by Top-30 prospects Will Rainey (3-4) and Tim James. Rounding out the rotation will be Ramiro Solano (3.58 in 5 GS) and another top-100 prospect, Dave Groves. The Astros also revamped their pen, adding John O’Quinn (2.68) to close, while last years’ closer Lopahin Sachko (26 Sv, 3.35 ERA) shifts to a setup role. Also playing key roles in the pen will be pickups Lester Ontiveros (2.89 ERA), Bryan Morris (2.44 ERA) and Drew Taylor (1.1 WAR)

Outlook

Houston will likely be the hardest AL Team to predict for 2019 – possibly the hardest in all of MLB Pro. On one hand, they’re moving the ball towards the end zone, on the other they might not be in field-goal range just yet, it’s tough to say. The offense should be legit, but the starting pitching has question marks. Even on their best days, the starters aren’t the type to hang around long in games and that may tax the improved pen over 162 games. But if they start hot, maybe the next round of cavalry comes up or a trade for a starter from their impressive prospect depth. Cold, and maybe they sell what few vets they have and it’s another 90-loss campaign. They do still have to tango with the Angels and Mariners in the division while the A’s have improved and the Rangers were already a .500 squad.

I think they won’t finish last for the 3rd straight year. 4th place, 79-83 record, a 9-game improvement and The Process shuffles itself towards toppling one of the behemoths in 2020.