The Houston Astros have me fired up this offseason; and finally in a positive way! They have finally showed a willingness to spend money and try to improve the major league team. Houston had also negotiated with the two big-named international free agents this offseason (Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka) before coming up just short on both. This is now the look of a team on the rise! Because I’ve been so successful in the past in offering up Astros’ predictions (read with a sarcastic tone), I will offer you five more that are sure to go wrong.
The Astros will bring in a starting pitcher and trade a starting pitcher.
The team’s willingness to offer a $100+ million contract to Tanaka shows me that the front office is not content with the current 2014 rotation. Of course Tanaka was an ideal situation (he wouldn’t cost a draft pick or a prospect and he’s only 25), but I still get a feeling that Jeff Luhnow has a contingency plan. I don’t really see the Astros bringing in one of the high-priced free agent pitchers or trading for someone like David Price, but I could definitely see them kicking the tires on pitchers like Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm and Johan Santana.
With at least nine current Astros pitchers having realistic opportunities to claim a rotation spot, I think that even if the team decides to stand pat with what they have, we could see a move to ship a pitcher out. Lucas Harrell seems most likely, though I’m not sure that he currently has much value. It’s possible that he’ll impress enough people in Spring Training to make teams think that he’s returned to his 2012 form… or Luhnow could just use some of his Jedi mind tricks again.
Dexter Fowler will thrive in Houston and will be a 2014 All-Star.
The most exciting move of the Astros offseason (other than the move of those horrendous signs in left field) was when Luhnow managed to trade Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes for Dexter Fowler. How Luhnow was able to trade a spot starter and a fourth outfielder for a legit starting centerfielder is beyond me!
Fowler had an outstanding 2012 season, putting up career highs in average, OBP, SLG, home runs and RBI. He started 2013 on pace to at least match those numbers before a wrist injury sidelined him. He was nowhere close to the same after the injury, batting just .217 with two homers in 188 plate appearances from July 11th to September 21st. More known for his speed than his power, the switch-hitting center fielder has a career high of just 27 stolen bases, which came back in 2009. That will change in Houston as Bo Porter stresses aggressiveness on the base paths. With a completely healed wrist, a more aggressive approach once he gets on base, and a nice change of scenery, I believe we’ll see Dexter put up a line of somewhere in the .295/.370/.450 range, with 35 steals to boot. Can you say All-Star?
George Springer will break camp with the Astros.
What would get Astros fans excited about the 2014 season, aside from upping the payroll to $180 million, allowing fans to bring a 6-pack of beer into games and making all seats $10 General Admission? Bringing up George Springer, that’s what! Since being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft, Springer has flown through the minors, dominating at every stop along the way. Last season he split his time between Double and Triple-A, putting up a .303/.411/.600 line while slugging 37 home runs and swiping 45 bags. What’s more impressive is that his numbers were actually better at Triple-A Oklahoma City than they were in Corpus.
Springer’s natural position is center field, but with the addition of Fowler he will find himself patrolling right field. With the influx of speed to the 2014 outfield, maybe Bo Porter will decide to play Fowler in left-center, Springer in right-center, and use a rover instead of a left fielder. Just throwing it out there!
Carlos Corporan is coming off of his best MLB season. He showed some decent pop at the plate, and did a nice job managing his pitchers while filling in for Jason Castro. He has been a nice safety blanket for the Astros since Castro appears to have porcelain knees. Corporan would fit in nicely for a contending team in need of a veteran backup.
Max Stassi handled Double-A pitching to the tune of a .277/.333/.529 line, and seemingly hit a home run every day during a two month span (but it was actually only 17 HRs in 323 ABs). Once he got the call-up to Houston he continued to hit, going two for six before the Rangers’ Tanner Scheppers hit him in the freaking face. Luhnow appears to be very high on Stassi and has been on record as saying that he sees him as a very big part of the Astros’ future. That seems to make Corporan expendable.
The Astros will win 68 games in 2014.
While a 68-94 record is nothing to brag about, it would be a definite improvement over 56, 55 and 51 wins over the last three seasons. I really feel like 68 wins would be a conservative guess for the 2014 Astros, considering they have vastly improved the bullpen, added a solid veteran to the rotation (Scott Feldman), added a legit leadoff man, and should see improvement from the young players that were on the 2013 roster. That’s not even mentioning the numerous, big-named prospects that will be making their way to Houston throughout the year. Let’s just say that 2014 would be a good time to jump on the Astros bandwagon if you’d like to call yourself a “Hipster Astros Fan” two or three years from now!