Plenty of media outlets are showing the Houston Astros quite a bit of love so far in 2016.
And ESPN is one of them. In fact, their own Buster Olney has produced a recent series that ranked the top ten teams along with honorable mentions in multiple categories (starting rotation, lineup, bullpen, infield, outfield, defense). And just the other day he released another article that ranks teams overall. Lo and behold, our Houston Astros rank quite high on that list, coming in sixth actually.
The only teams that are ranked higher than the Astros are the Chicago Cubs (the preseason darlings), Kansas City Royals (no surprise), Boston Red Sox (!), San Francisco Giants (even year), and the Texas Rangers (!!!). One reason Olney did not rank the Astros higher than sixth was because the rotation has some depth concerns past the established four starters in the rotation, which to be honest is warranted.
However, with the addition of Ken Giles to the bullpen and a full season from AL Rookie of the Year, Carlos Correa, the Astros have plenty going for them heading into the 2016 season. General manager Jeff Luhnow could add another proven starting pitcher, or promotes one of the top pitching prospects from within the organization, to help feel the void. And with Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, and Mike Fiers already established, then this would surely cement the rotation’s place as one of the best in baseball.
When it comes to Olney’s other rankings that encompass various areas of a team, it should come to no surprise that the Astros are ranked in the top ten in the following: bullpen (4th), lineup (5th), and infield (7th). Hitters like Correa, Jose Altuve, Carlos Gomez, and George Springer make a strong heart of the lineup and could be among the best in baseball next season.
Giles leads the bullpen with valuable help expected by Luke Gregerson and company. And the middle portion of the infield features a strong combo in Altuve and Correa. Don’t forget that this is despite the team has a revolving door at first base. Oh, and don’t think about snoozing on Luis Valbuena at third base and Jason Castro at catcher.
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The other three rankings from Olney, starting rotation, defense, and outfield, did not place the Astros in the top ten. In fact, the starting rotation rankings placed the Astros 12th overall, which was also touched upon in more detail from an article earlier this week from Climbing Tal’s Hill. Even though the Astros defense was ranked fourth in defensive runs saved with 30, Olney placed the team just outside of the top ten for 2016.
However, he did note that the Astros will benefit from having Gomez and Springer tracking down fly balls all season. The outfield was also one of the few teams outside of the top rankings to be given credit, which is partly derived from the injury concerns/history surrounding the three main outfielders in Springer, Gomez, and Colby Rasmus. If all three managed to stay healthy for the majority of the season along with the occasional play from Jake Marisnick and Preston Tucker, it isn’t out of line to believe that the Astros could have one of the best outfields at some point in 2o16.
Even though most rankings are usually thrown into disarray early in a season, it is still fun to speculate the strengths and weaknesses of a ball club to see how they stand against the rest of baseball. Regardless, it is too early to tell how the season will pan out. That is the reason they play the games on the field, and not on paper.
**ESPN articles linked in the post above requires a paid Insider subscription**