2018 Houston Astros expectations and excitement at an all-time high.
The new and improved Astros pitchers and catchers reported to their new complex in West Palm Beach, Florida. Players were catching up with smiles, laughs, focus, and on a mission. That mission is to avoid the dreaded World Series hangover that as history has told us, has affected many baseball teams.
The last team to win back to back World Series was the New York Yankees (1998-2000). That little tidbit of history ranks pretty low on the totem pole, with this enormously young and talented Astros team. The Astros could very well boast the best offense 1-9 and the best pitching rotation in all of baseball. The additions of Gerrit Cole, Joe Smith, and Hector Rondon are very exciting acquisitions to an already loaded staff.
Possible Offensive Explosion:
The Astros pitching rotation isn’t the only thing extraordinary about this team. In 2017 the Astros lineup ranked 1st in runs (896), 1st in batting average (.282), 1st in doubles (346), 2nd in home runs (238), and 1st in OPS (.823). They hit the most home runs (15) in World Series History.
Although Carlos Beltran brought strong leadership to this young team in 2017, his age and diminished skills were clearly evident as the year rolled on. So as of today, it looks like Evan Gattis will get the majority of at-bats at DH this season. Other position players will be sprinkled in here and there. Gattis led the Astros in home runs in 2015 and 2016 but didn’t get as many at-bats in 2017. Another possible breakout player is left fielder Derek Fisher.
There is a great deal of confidence within the organization about Fisher’s upside, and his combination of power and speed. Fisher had the Astros highest recorded sprint speed in the regular season at 29.1 mph in 2017, but that was actually elevated to 29.8mph during his mad dash home for the game-winning run in that epic World Series game five classic, that was one for the ages.
Optimism For A Repeat Title.
– More pitching depth (A full season of Justin Verlander, additions of Gerrit Cole, Joe Smith, and Hector Rondon)
– Deeper lineup 1-9 (Subtraction of Carlos Beltran, and more powerful at-bats from Evan Gattis, the upside of Derek Fisher (easily a 20-20 projection), and the now healthy Jake Marisnick)
With the naked eye, this Astros team seems to be a logical choice to repeat as World Champions, but there will be lots of ups and downs over the course of a 162 game regular season. One thing’s for sure, Minute Maid Park will have a spike in overall attendance this year, and it will be a season full of excitement and lofty expectations for all. This is why we watch, and this is why this game is the greatest of them all.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and baseballsavant.mlb.com***