Editors Note: Chris is a southeast Texas native that has followed Houston sports for most of his life. His main hobbies are drinking good beer or whiskey, watching and betting sports, and being a family man. This is his first piece for Houstonsportsandstuff.com. You can follow him on twitter @ChrisCampise
By CHRIS CAMPISE
The Astros had a disappointing 2016 season when you consider the high expectations set by fans and experts alike. Looking back, there is optimism to be had when you consider their ace pitcher experienced a letdown year coupled with an injury, their star player continued to show he is MVP worthy, and some young players stepped up to show they deserve a spot on the team. Ultimately, you can’t go 4-15 against the Rangers and expect good things to happen.
It appears the front office has gotten the memo that the Astros are a team that is right on the cusp of being something great, and are making moves to create a big swing in 2017.
Brian McCann: with the signing of McCann the Astros hopefully will have a more dependable all-around player behind the plate. Jason Castro was adequate defensively but just fell completely off the radar in the batter’s box. Evan Gattis has some serious power with his bat, but had some defensive issues last year, making him a better option to have in the DH slot or in an outfield rotation.
Josh Reddick: Speaking of the outfield, the Astros made another big move the same day as McCann and reached a 4 year deal with Josh Reddick. Reddick played with two teams last year and still managed to finish with a strong .281 average, making him a solid bat the outfield desperately needs. Oh, and not to mention he’s a darn good defensive player too.
Carlos Beltran: Probably the biggest splash came earlier this month when the Astros signed Beltran to a one-year, $16M deal. Beltran will likely spend most of his time in the DH spot, however, can play outfield as well. He absolutely killed it after getting traded to the Rangers late this season, and now finds himself back in the stomping grounds where he made it big in the NL playoffs back in 2004. He also has a good track record of being a good clubhouse influence and boosting team morale, which could prove big with this young team.
Nori Aoki: A somewhat more quiet acquisition, the Astros picked up the 35-year-old Aoki off waivers from the division rival Mariners. Aoki isn’t a superstar by any means, but he could fill in a hole at the bottom of the lineup to have some runners on base in critical situations.
Projected Lineup, Rotation, & Bullpen: There’s still some moving pieces that could sway the batting lineup and order from game to game, but for the most part we could expect something like this:
- George Springer (CF)
- Alex Bregman (3B)
- Jose Altuve (2B)
- Carlos Correa (SS)
- Carlos Beltran (DH)
- Josh Reddick (RF)
- Yulieski Gurriel (1B)
- Brian McCann (C)
- Nori Aoki (LF)
- Dallas Keuchel
- Collin McHugh
- Lance McCullers
- Joe Musgrove
- Charlie Morton (If he can stay healthy) / Chris Devinski / Mike Fiers
- Ken Giles (Closer)
- Luke Gregerson
- Will Harris
- Michael Feliz
- Tony Sipp
Going Forward: These signings are great for the Astros, especially when you look at that batting order. The bullpen still appears to be strong enough to close some games, even if they need to come in early on occasion. However, the biggest piece remaining is to solidify the pitching rotation. To have any shot of winning the AL West, Keuchel is going to have to get back to his 2015 Cy Young form, McCullers is going to have to keep progressing, and they are going to have to get some wins out of the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation. Of course, all of this is hinged on the continuing strong play from arguably the best middle infield in baseball in Altuve and Correa, who show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Oh, and you have to win more games against the Rangers.
All in all, I like the moves the Astros are making, and I’m pretty damned excited for April to see what this team can do. It’s hard to believe that three years ago this team was dealing with an 111 loss season.