With only three days until the Astros kick off the season against the Phillies, it is time to throw out some benchmarks for the men of brick and sand:
Hunter Pence will have 30 homers and 100 RBIs this year.
After three straight 25 homer seasons, Pence is going to break the habit, and have the biggest season of his young career. Pence has seen his hit totals increase every year since coming into the league, and his extra base hits have improved over time as well. Most importantly, he has seen his strikeouts go down as his career has gone on. Hunter has shown that his bat can is a viable asset for the team, but this is the year where he records 30+ homers and breaks the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career.
Michael Bourn will lead the NL in steals and record his second Gold Glove.
Michael Bourn may never bat above .270 in his career, but no one can deny him on the base paths. After having 61 SBs in 2009 and 52 in 2010, Bourn will look to be the run scoring threat at the top of the Astro batting order at a record setting pace. With little competition in the NL, it is not much a stretch to say Bourny will be the league leader for the third straight year, but adding on another Gold Glove would be impressive by anyone’s standards. His 9 put outs will be hard to replicate with most of the NL now respecting his ability to gun down a runner from center, but his speed and .992 fielding percentage with the Astros will put him on the fast track to many blue star plays that will wow voters again in 2011.
WayRod will have 17 wins and 220 strikeouts.
We have seen flashes of Wandy Rodriguez that just leave you wanting to see what he can do for a full season of consistency. 2011 will be that year. Wandy posted a 2.11 ERA after the All Star break last year with an amazing 101 strikeouts in 93.2 innings, and though his spring has been rough, he seems to have put it all together after than impressive half season. One thing the Magic Wand will have to shake is his crumby starts to the beginning of the year. Over the past three years, Rodriguez has posted an ERA almost a full run higher in the pre All Star half of the year when compared to the post. If the year starts hot for Wandy, this goal is entirely feasible (and I hope so for the sake of my fantasy team).
Wilton Lopez will lead the team in saves.
Brandon Lyon is a serviceable closer, but there is a reason why he did not finish the season as the saves leader for the club in 2010. Lyon is capable of piling up innings for a ball club, but he is just not someone on which to rely at the end of games. If he does manage to have a great start to the year and serves as a great closer, there is a great chance that he will be traded to another team to unload another $4.25M from the pay roll in return for prospects to a depleted farm system. Wilton Lopez is someone who does not walk batters and has proved that he can perform on the professional level with his 2.96 ERA in his first real full major league season. If that proves to not be a fluke, he has the stuff to be a dominate closer in the National League.
Carlos Lee will return to his usual form.
One year removed from a .300 AVG, 26 homer, and 100+ RBI season, Lee flopped for the roughest season of his career. One word could be associated with Lee prior to the 2010 year: consistent. He may be overpaid, but the man had produced year in and year out for whatever team he played. Lee may never return to his .300 AVG, but I would be shocked to see him hit below .290 this year. With Wallace, Johnson, and Pence hopefully picking up some of the offensive load this year, Lee will be relieved of some of the offensive stress that he had experienced in the previous season. For the Astros to be relevant, I hope this is more of a plausible scenario than it is a bold prediction.
Let us know in the comments what your bold predictions are for the team! We will review them and keep track of them as the season progresses.