What Do the Astros Need to Be Playoff Contenders?

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Oct. 14, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Rio Ruiz (30) plays for the Salt River Rafters during an Arizona Fall League game against the Surprise Saguaros at Salt River Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When I said the Astros will be playoff contenders in 2015 after their bullpen upgrade, I definitely saw a lot of different opinions about it. I never said they would for sure make the playoffs, or win the World Series, but some people make it seem like I did. So this article is for all of you: what do the Astros need to do this offseason to be playoff contenders? I have a few ideas in mind that will help their case.

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SS/3B: With the bullpen being fixed, this is the Astros biggest hurdle left on the team. Matt Dominguez does not seem like an everyday ML-caliber player at 3B, and neither does Jonathan Villar at SS. The problem the Astros have though is that they have Carlos Correa, Colin Moran, and Rio Ruiz waiting in the wings to take over for good. While there is a very good chance that they won’t be there to start 2015, they could eventually be there on the back end of the year. That means any person they bring on in 2015 must be a really short-term solution. Still, a short-term solution is better than no solution.

Closer: Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek were very big signings for Houston, but the Astros are still lacking a closer. Chad Qualls did a good job with Houston last year, but I rather not see him pitch against Oakland in the 9th inning again when the Astros have a lead. With closers like K-Rod and Rafael Soriano available, the Astros could make their bullpen one of the best in all of baseball by adding a for-sure closer.

Starting Pitcher: I firmly believe that another starter should not be on the Astros radar as it could hold back guys like Mike Foltynewicz, Asher Wojciechowski, and eventually Mark Appel. The rotation was one of the best in the AL last season, but there is an open spot with Peacock’s hip injury that will keep him out to start 2015. Another signing could fill out a solid rotation from 1-5 instead of 1-4, and one unknown.

Left Fielder: Thinking back to 2014, LF was manned by guys like Jake Marisnick, Robbie Grossman, and Alex Presley. Going into 2015, it very well could be the same group of guys again, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I view this just how I feel the Starting Rotation for Houston: do not block some of the young guys from moving up. We have so much hope in guys like Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker to eventually take over out there, and Marisnick still needs time to prove whether he’s an every day player or not. We gave that shot to Altuve going into 2012 after his 2011 season. I’m not saying lightning is going to strike twice and that Marisnick is going to be a batting champion, but he hasn’t done anything to prove he shouldn’t be given a chance.

Those are the four areas in a nutshell that the Astros have room to improve the roster, and I’m curious to think what the rest of the Climbing Tal’s Hill thinks. Is it a specific position you have in mind, or is it a specific player? Please sound off in the comments below and let me know what the Astros still need to do to be a playoff contender in 2015.

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