Too Early for Predictions?
Predictions are what they are: predictions. Those who predict everything in baseball correctly must have somehow found a way to time travel. In other words, baseball is unpredictable, but that’s one of the reasons we love the game. Predictions for some can be based off beliefs, insight, and bias. For others, predictions can be an opinion post.
If we were to sit down and talk about the American League West, some would say the Houston Astros would be Division Champions by the time its all said and done in 2017. However they finished third in the American League West in 2016, so why would people think the Astros could jump up two spots in the division.
This is just another opinion post with my personal insight on Major League Baseball.
2016 (84-78 3rd in the AL West)
What went right in 2016:
Jose Altuve: This man took his offensive game to another level this season finishing third in the MVP rankings. He lead the MLB in hits and he hit more home runs than he hit in 2014 and 2015…combined. At 26 years of age, he essentially has another year or two before officially hitting his prime. Frankly, the thought of Altuve becoming more dangerous at the plate than he is right now is beyond scary for opposing pitchers and beyond exciting for Astro fans.
Alex Bregman: This guy is one of Uy’s man crushes as well as one of the most hyped up prospects in the game; and he had good reason to be hyped up. He struck out a ton, yet still produced solid numbers in his limited time in the show. In 2017 he will be given the opportunity to be a full time thirdbaseman and that’s something that could go over very well for the Astros.
George Springer: He was finally healthy for a year… and it showed. He had career highs in home runs, RBIs, Walks drawn, Runs Scored, and the big thing: Games Played. If he stays healthy for 2017 he can be a big part of a powerful lineup.
What went wrong in 2016:
Dallas Keuchel: 2015 was a great year for Keuchel; telling the world he’s here to stay by dominating all year long and eventually winning the American League CY Young. 2016 was a large slap in the face for the CY Young winner. He finished with an ERA of 4.55 and a WHIP of 1.28. Personally I expect Keuchel to bounce back in 2017; his stuff's too good for him not to. He’s not a pitcher who will blow the ball by hitters often so he relies on consistent command to get hitters out. 2016 was a combination of bad luck and poor command for Keuchel. His stuff’s still there, he just needs to locate it.
Lance McCullers: In his age 22 season, McCullers only threw around 80 innings all year long. What went wrong for him in 2016? Injuries. That’s about it. When he did pitch, he put up solid numbers and pitched well for his team. The only real question for him for 2017 is if he’s going to be on the field or on the disabled list more.
Off Season additions/subtractions:
Subtractions: RHP Pat Neshek, OF Colby Rasmus, C Jaston Castro, RHP Doug Fister (Probably, he’s unsigned right now), 1B/3B Luis Valbuena
Additions: OF Nori Aoki, DH Carlos Beltran, C/DH Brian McCann, RHP Charlie Morton, OF Josh Reddick
The Astros had a very un-Astros type of offseason if you get what I’m saying. Basically, they were bold. Maybe, it’s time for them to be bold. I like the additions of Beltran, McCann, and Reddick to their lineup. They have the strong core/foundation in their lineup already and they used this offseason to bolster it more. On the pitching side, they’re a little short but you do have to sacrifice to get and they sacrificed their pitching depth for their offensive strengths.
Did the Astros’ offseason moves make them better than they were last year?
Yes and no. Don’t hate me for saying this.
They obviously upgraded in various positions. Brian McCann, despite what he costs, provides them an obvious offensive upgrade over Jason Castro and a leadership veteran presence in the dugout. Carlos Beltran was a monster last season for the Yankees/Rangers; I don’t expect him to play the outfield much, but he will be very valuable to their lineup even if he produces even 75% of what he did in 2016. The core of Springer, Bregman, Altuve, Correa, and Beltran is already a great core for their offensive production...add McCann to it, as well as Reddick, Aoki, Gattis can fill in at DH or catcher when needed, and whatever Yulieski Gurriel and AJ Reed can produce from first base; the Astros will have a strong lineup. That being said, this is assuming Jose Altuve can produce 90% of his 2016 numbers, George Springer stays on the field again, Alex Bregman produces up to the hype in his first full year, and of course they don’t catch the dreaded injury bug.
Pitching is much more of a question mark for the team. Is Dallas Keuchel going to return to his 2015 level of production? Is he going to be his bad 2016 self? Or is he going to be somewhere in between? I don’t think he will be as good as he was in 2015; but he will put up solid numbers as the Ace of the staff. Question mark number 2:Lance McCullers. Is he going to spend more time on the DL or on the mound in 2017? If the answer to that question ends up being on the mound, he provides them a solid 2. Collin McHugh is basically what you see is what you get. He mixes and matches with his secondary pitches and provides very solid numbers for a 3. Okay, despite the question marks, we have 1-3 down: Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh.
The 4 and 5 are up for question in my eyes. They have Brad Peacock, Joe Musgrove, Mike Fiers, and Chris Devinski. The only two arms with a legit shot at being the 4 are Musgrove and Fiers. Devinski started 5 games in 2016, however he put up great numbers in the pen so he’ll probably stay there. Peacock will likely come out of the pen as well given he has put up poor numbers starting games in his career. Leaving Mike Fiers and Musgrove as the 4 and 5. These two have a lot to prove respectively. Up until 2016, Fiers has maintained a mid 3 average ERA; in 2016 his ERA shot up to a mid 4. On a regular team you probably wouldn’t need a low 3 ERA out of your number four starter; however on a contending team, you would like it. Musgrove is in his second year in the show in 2017. He has the potential to be a good 3, possible solid 2 so he has to show up in 2017 to show his potential. I still think that with the last couple official weeks of the offseason GM Jeff Luhnow could look at additional SP and bullpen options. The bullpen is fine overall, though it's a bit low in good depth. Ken Giles is going to be better, Gregerson is good, Harris is good; the rest is decent. They could use more good relievers. *Reminder AJ Reed and Evan Gattis can be options in a trade for pitching if Luhnow chooses to go that route), though I wouldn't trade Reed*
As of February 1st, 2017 (today), I believe the Houston Astros are a high 80s win team to a low 90s win team. This is of course assuming decent health, Keuchel’s rebound year, and Bregman and the rest of the young guys to keep taking step forwards rather than a step backwards.
Like I've said before, it is our responsibility to make our predictions based on our own beliefs and opinions. It is the reader's responsibility to react and provide feedback if they want/choose to. If you do, please give me feedback I'd greatly appreciate it.