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AL West Preview: Houston Astros

The Astros didn't acquire Will Ferrell this offseason but they did make a number of moves to bolster their roster.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

AL West Previews: Seattle MarinersLos Angeles AngelsOakland Athletics

At a Glance:

Astros (2014)

Batting (wRC+)

97 (9th in AL)

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-84.7 (15th)

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

101 (6th)

Bullpen (FIP-)

108 (13th)

Key Additions: C Hank Conger, C/OF Evan Gattis, IF Jed Lowrie, IF Luis Valbuena, OF Colby Rasmus, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Pat Neshek

Key Losses: OF Dexter Fowler, RHP Nick Tropeano

The Astros are headed into year four of Jeff Luhnow's complete overhaul of the organization. After two years of hilariously bad teams, the Astros improved by twenty games last year and managed to finish fourth in the AL West. This offseason, they added a number of pieces that should support the young core that Luhnow has assembled. That young core, led by George Springer, has one more year of development under their belts but that doesn't necessarily mean they're ready to maximize their potential just yet. However, it does seem like the team has turned a corner and is gearing up for run at contention within a year or two.

FanGraphs is projecting a 79-83 record for the Astros this year, a nine game improvement over last year and just a few games below .500. Considering the success of teams like the Royals and the Pirates, the Astros might be betting on the shifting win curve after the introduction of the second Wild Card spot. If enough things break their way, they could see themselves right in the midst of the Wild Card race.

Projected Lineup

C Jason Castro
1B Chris Carter
2B Jose Altuve
3B Luis Valbuena
SS Jed Lowrie
LF Jake Marisnick
CF Colby Rasmus
RF George Springer
DH Evan Gattis

With the addition of Evan Gattis, this lineup looks very dangerous. They have three players projected to hit over 25 home runs this year (just 20 players were able to hit more than 25 homers last year) and a strong table-setter in Jose Altuve. The left side of their infield will be filled by new acquisitions. Luis Valbuena will give the Astros another on-base threat and Jed Lowrie returns to Houston where he was able to hit 16 home runs in just 340 at-bats in 2012—both should benefit from the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park. The Astros had the worst defense in the majors last year but they only made one move that should improve their team defense, replacing Dexter Fowler with Colby Rasmus. Lowrie and Gattis are liabilities in the field and Altuve has been one of the worst fielding second basemen over the past three years.

Projected Rotation

#1 Dallas Keuchel
#2 Collin McHugh
#3 Scott Feldman
#4 Brett Oberholtzer
#5 Roberto Hernandez

Two breakout performances last year surprised all of us last year and supplied the backbone of the Astros' starting rotation. Both Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh are back along with most of the rest of the rotation. Keuchel was able to be successful by pounding the bottom of the strike zone and overhauling his slider. He led the league in ground ball rate by a wide margin and was able to reduce his walk rate while maintaining his decent strikeout rate. McHugh found his success through the strikeout. His 25.4% strikeout rate and his 39.5% whiff rate off his curveball were both ninth best in the majors in their respective categories. Both will probably regress a bit this year but should be an excellent pair atop the rotation. The back of the rotation is much less exciting. Scott Feldman and Brett Oberholtzer return to fill the third and fourth spots. The fifth spot is up for grabs but I'm guessing Roberto Hernandez (né Fausto Carmona) will open the year there. Brad Peacock and Dan Straily should provide a bit of depth, Straily being the one with the most upside.


The Astros could sneak into contention as early as this year if enough things break their way. Without upgrades to their rotation and their defense, they're realistically a year or two away from really challenging for a Wild Card spot or the division title. The Mariners play the Astros 19 times this year, 10 times in Houston and nine times at home. They'll probably play the role of spoiler again this year with a chance to surprise everyone.