Houston we have a problem. To put it mildly, the last few seasons have not been kind to the Houston Astros. They have had to endure multiple last place finishes, the worst record in all of baseball, a league change, and even the failure to sign a number one overall draft pick. But on the field in 2014, it was the first time in the last four seasons that the Astros finished with more than 60 wins while not finishing in last place in their respective division. After being baseball’s cellar dweller for many years, the Astros may actually be trending upward going into the 2015 season.
Any potential Houston has at continuing this newfound trend begins and ends with the offense. For starters, the Astros’ cornerstone is second basemen Jose Altuve who led the league in hits last year. Finding himself on base constantly, Altuve also led the AL in stolen bases and had career highs in several offensive categories on his way to his second All-Star selection and MVP considerations. But Houston has also started to surround their star with other viable pieces which does not yet include top prospect Carlos Correa.
First, there is outfielder George Springer. In just a half of a season, Springer sprung onto the scene and produced a 20-homer year before being injured. Springer projects to build off of a good first impression and increase those offensive numbers throughout the course of a full season. The Astros are also seeing the continued development of big bopper Chris Carter in the middle of the order. While the average may not be there, the home run total is including 37 long balls a season ago. With continued improvement, Carter can be a consistent run producer and heavy hitter in the middle of the order.
In the offseason, the Astros brought in Evan Gattis who can certainly see a spike in numbers thanks to a friendly home run hitters’ park. They also brought in Luis Valbuena to platoon at third base. Valbuena is also capable of contributing offensively and lengthening Houston’s American League style lineup. Entering their third year in the AL, Houston is starting to complete the transition from an NL style of play with a pitcher hitting, to now slugging it out one through nine with the rest of their AL counterparts.
Houston also has Colby Rasmus, Jed Lowrie and Jason Castro in the fold who can all be productive with the bat. To the Astros’ haters, be prepared for the Houston offense to score some runs this season and may even contend for hitting the most home runs in the American League this season as a team.
The big question will be if the starting staff can produce enough quality outings to keep the Astros in the mix. This year, the AL West can be had if things fall in line. But one thing that is for sure is that the Astros offense will be a unit to not take lightly in 2015. Get the punch lines in while you can, because the Astros are starting to right the ship and trend upward all thanks to a much improved lineup.