Astros Five Key Players for 2015


Last night, the Astros won opening day versus the Indians 2-0, behind a strong Dallas Keuchel. The Astros fans that I talked to in the stands said that they were excited about the Astros chances in 2015. This got me to thinking, which five players will be crucial for the Astros to reach .500 in 2015. Jose Altuve will not make an appearance on this list because we know what he offers. These players that I have listed below have some type of question marks attached to them entering the 2015 season. The readers’ list might be a little different that mine, but here are my top five.

Number Five: Jason Castro

In 2014, Jason Castro’s batting average plummeted from .276 in 2013 to .222. There was a slight decrease in home runs from 2013, but his runs batted in stayed consistent between the two years. He was a fixture batting third last year because of his prior year’s numbers, but this year he will not be counted on as much in the middle of the lineup.

He has a potential impact bat that will be hitting in the bottom third of the order in 2015. For the Astros to be successful, Castro needs to be hitting .265 or better. Castro did have the dubious honor to be the first Astros strikeout victim of the season. The Astros “Generation K” represented well on opening day, with the Astros striking out seven times in 28 plate appearances, which represented a 25% strikeout rate.

Number Four: Luke Gregerson

Much of the Astros success or failure as a team in 2015 will fall on the bullpen. Last year, the Astros bullpen blew 26 saves in 57 opportunities. The bullpen had 31 saves, which results in a 54% save conversion percentage. If the bullpen was able to hold onto the lead for half of those blown saves, you could easily add 10+ wins to last year’s record. This is why Jeff Luhnow opened his checkbook this offseason in order to add more veteran relievers to the group.

Last year, Chad Qualls lead the Astros with 19 saves, and the rest of the saves were split between Fields, Sipp, and other pitchers. However, with the bullpen arms the Astros have this year, there is no reason why the Astros can’t have a designated closer for the entire season. For this season, that closer seems to be Luke Gregerson. To be a winning team in 2015, the Astros can’t afford to be losing games in the ninth inning as often as they did last year. The Astros need a lock down closer, so hopefully Gregerson can answer that call.

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Number Three: Collin McHugh

Some people are predicting a regression in McHugh’s stats in 2015. Last year, McHugh went 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA in 25 games started. Not bad for a December 2013 waiver claim. In 2015, even though McHugh is the Astros second best pitcher, he starts the season as the fourth pitcher to allow Asher Wojciechowski a chance to make his major league debut at home. Prior to 2014, McHugh had an eight plus ERA for his cup of coffee in the majors.

For the Astros to be successful in 2015, McHugh needs to let his inner Cy Young self-stay true this season. Last year, he proved everyone wrong by succeeding where people thought he couldn’t. He needs to pair up with Dallas Keuchel as a good 1-2 punch in the rotation, even though they don’t pitch back to back. If there is any regression in McHugh, it would cause an already suspect rotation to be filled with question marks. There is a chance that McHugh could not only lead the Astros in strikeouts but could also reach 200 strikeouts.

Number Two: Evan Gattis

The Astros traded three of the top Astros prospects for the premium right-handed hitter that Jeff Luhnow has wanted for a while. During the Bloggers Round-Table earlier this season, Jeff Luhnow said that Minute Maid Park and the Crawford boxes were designed for a hitter like Evan Gattis. With that being said, many experts feel that he will be a defensive liability where ever he plays on the field. His plus offering is his power, where he could hit 30+ home runs when given everyday at-bats.

For the Astros to be successful, Evan Gattis needs to prove that he is worthy of being the cleanup hitter in the Astros lineup. He also needs to cut back on his strikeouts, like most of the current Astros lineup. He might have gone hitless in his three at-bats last night, but two of those outs were hard hit line drives that the left fielder was able to catch up to. His power may not have been present on opening day, but the Astros will be counting on “El Oso Blanco” for production all season.

Number One: George Springer

George Springer will be the Astros leader on the field next to Jose Altuve for years to come. When he went on the disabled list last year, there was a noticeable culture change on the field of play. Springer is not just energetic on the field running into walls, he is also a moral leader in the clubhouse. In last night’s game, Springer drove in Altuve to put the Astros ahead of the Indians.

This year, A.J. Hinch has George Springer hitting second in the batting order. While Springer is not your typical second place hitter, who is supposed to make contact and lay down the occasional bunts, he has been successful batting second in spring games and in 2014. His development as an all-around player will determine the success of the Astros as a whole. He broke onto the scene in 2014 with his power, now his other tools need to show in 2015.

While all the Astros players are important to the success and failures that are to come with the 2015 season, the five players above I think are the most important. The reader might ask why Jose Altuve is not on this list? My answer would be that he is a proven product, we know what to get out of him in 2015. Opening day was a blast, I wish that there was a game tonight, but baseball in H-Town will resume on Wednesday.

Next: Astros Opening Day Experience with my Son

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