No rest for the weary, am I right? The Kansas City Royals may have just won the World Series, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t too early to rank teams before the start of free agency. Well, according to ESPN anyway.
So where does the famous four-letter network rank our beloved Houston Astros going into 2016?
But before you get too excited, the Astros did not achieve a first place ranking. ESPN has already designated the Chicago Cubs as the top team (not surprising). Kansas City is tabbed as the second-best team in baseball based on their success based on their past two seasons. After that, it is just a shmogishborg of seemingly quality teams such as Toronto, St. Louis, San Francisco, New York Mets, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Boston, rounding out the top ten.
But where are the Astros, you may ask? Why outside the top ten?
Well don’t fret too much; Crush City comes in eleventh on the list right after the Red Sox. Surprising, isn’t it?
Now, are the Giants, Indians, and Red Sox all better than the Astros currently? I don’t think so. The Astros seem to have a better group of core players on paper (Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Jose Altuve) compared to any of the after mentioned organizations core players. Even the difference in quality depth on the 25- or 40-man roster seems minute. But if the Astros would like to improve upon this “way-to-early” ranking, then ESPN’s David Schoenfield may have the winning recipe:
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The Astros’ payroll was one of the lowest in the majors in 2015 and with no major raises coming in 2016, they could be a surprise bidder on the free-agent market. They may go after a starter to replace Scott Kazmir, a first baseman or more bullpen help. They had the youngest lineup in the AL in 2015 and full seasons from Carlos Correa and George Springer could make it better.
For once ESPN did manage to hit the nail on the head about the Astros. Getting a full season of productive baseball from Correa and Springer is paramount to any Astros success in 2016. And it is true that the front office will need to turn their attention to the rotation, first base, and the bullpen. Honestly, I can actually see Jeff Luhnow and his team addressing all three to some extent this offseason.
You can also make the argument that addressing third base and the outfield is also necessary. And don’t rule out pursuing a high-profile free agent in the coming weeks. Dependent on the budget that Astros owner Jim Crane approves, the front office may be able to utilize last season’s success in their sales pitch to lure some talent to Houston.
Regardless of where the Astros are ranked on this list, the fact that the team could improve by the time spring training rolls around is truly exciting. And who knows, maybe the next useless ranking ESPN releases perhaps it will be the Astros everyone is looking up to as the top-ranked organization.