Big names, big bats and bigger expectations greet the Astros heading into 2017.
When we think about the 2016 season, we recollect how much potential this team had to make a playoff run. Coming off a break-out 2015, the Astros seemed poised to capitalize on their experience and make the most of a 2016 postseason appearance. However, we were led to a hard fought end and to an off season that has seen our team make a ton of moves to push for a World Series run. Here are a few things we should think about, and focus on, heading into 2017:
Outhit the Opposition
One of the biggest issues the Astros faced in 2016 was a predominantly right-handed lineup. This does not allow for hitters to capitalize on mistakes, as opposing teams don’t have to take into account left-handed hitters creating mismatches. The Astros have addressed this issue by signing Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann. This gives protection to the right handed hitters, and Beltran poses a tougher match as he is a switch hitter.
As we all know, Edwin Encarnacion has been rumored to being pursued heavily by the Astros. His acquisition would lead to a very power hungry lineup. This lineup provides little breathing room to opposing pitchers. The Astros are basically telling us, “If we can’t outpitch you, we will outhit you.”
Ride the pitching market until the Trade Deadline
This move makes a lot of sense, as the free agent market for pitching has been less than stellar. With Chris Sale being traded to the Red Sox, the market grows much slimmer. The Astros have shown little initiative to add a premier starting pitcher. Even though Chris Archer remains an option for the team, what it would take to acquire him would prove to be much more than the Astros wish to relinquish. It is hard to blame the Lunhow for refusing such a high price, as they continue to find great young talent to develop within their farm system.
That being said, seeing the Astros wait until the trade deadline would not be the worst thing. The Astros may also wait to see what Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh provide at the start of the year.
Move McCullers to the ‘Pen
It is unclear whether McCullers will sustain a starting pitching schedule and remain healthy throughout. It is very possible, and very helpful in my opinion, to consider moving McCullers’ talent to the bullpen. His throwing motion is very violent and even though he is a dynamic pitcher, he can wear down easily. He can spot start and give the Astros middle inning relief, taking pressure off of the bullpen.
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McCullers has the type of stuff that can hault hitters in their tracks. His utilization from a relief standpoint could be huge as the Astros grind through later part of the season.
Let the Value Rise…Then Trade
As deep as the Astros are with young talent, it is possible a young star may appear and prove to be an option in the trade market. Depending on where the team is at the trade deadline, they may need to make a move to propel them into the playoff hunt.
Holding young talent and allowing them to gain value gives added leverage as they wish to make moves. You never know who may or may not show up, so a mix of patience and persistence could prove wonders for the Astros.
Beat the Rangers
Although this has little to do with the offseason, it is very clear the Astros are building a team to defeat anyone. This is an absolute priority when you think of their divisional rival, The Texas Rangers. The Astros went 3-18 against the Rangers last season. I repeat, the Astros went 3-18 against the Rangers last season.
Not only did they let an opposing team outplay them more than 85% of the time, they allowed a divisional opponent keep them from realizing playoff success. The Astros cannot allow one team to single-handedly keep them from making the playoffs.
The Fans Ignite
The Astros continue to amaze with their off-season moves, and hopefully there is one or two left for them. We all know how badly this fan base, this city and this team wants a championship; so let’s give them our best heading into the 2017 season.
As the club slowly creep up in line of teams to never win a championship, we can’t help but hope to break that streak. So it is equally important for us fans to show up and give this team a fan base like no other. Lets rock the seats, overwhelm our opponents and give the Astros all the more reason to show up and show out in 2017!