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Astros: Five players under the most pressure in 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: Chris Devenski #47 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch in the third inning against the Miami Marlins during a Grapefruit League spring training game at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on February 25, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: Chris Devenski #47 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch in the third inning against the Miami Marlins during a Grapefruit League spring training game at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on February 25, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Here are five Houston Astros players under the most pressure in 2020.

For the most part, Houston Astros players are finally getting to start preparing for the 2020 season. It’s going to be an interesting one, for sure, as those 60 games will probably pass in a flash. Getting off to a slow start isn’t a palatable option for anyone in this short of a season.

That’s especially true for some players who are under more pressure than others. For varying reasons, some players have more to prove or have more at stake this year than some of their teammates. In particular, these five Astros are in need of a particularly good 2020 season.

George Springer

This is an important year for Springer mainly because it’s his walk year. With him set to hit free agency after the season, he needs to put together not only a productive campaign, but also a healthy one. After playing in all 162 games in 2016, he’s missed some time with injuries in each season since, playing in only 122 games in 2019.

Of course, he still managed to hit 39 homers and drive in 96 runs last year, so he has the pedigree. But as we discussed recently, the free agent market could be tough coming off a shortened, fan-less season. A monster year from Springer could make lessen the effects from that.

Brad Peacock

Peacock is also set to reach free agency this winter, but that’s not the only reason there’s pressure on him. The second half of his 2019 season was derailed by injuries, and now that he’s 32, his chances of a big payday are looking slim.

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When healthy, however, he’s been a great weapon for the Astros over the past three years. He’ll likely pitch out of the bullpen this year, and if he can regain his form, he could put himself in position to command a multi-year deal this offseason. Even after a tough season financially, teams will still be looking for relief pitching.

Yuli Gurriel

Here we have another impending free agent, but in this case, age is more of a factor than performance or injury history. Gurriel is coming off a career-best season in 2019 when he hit .298 with 40 doubles, 31 homers and 104 RBIs while also being named a finalist for the Gold Glove Award.

However, he recently turned 36, so time is not on his side. If he can show that last season’s performance was not a fluke, he might be able to snag a two-year deal in free agency. If his age starts to show, however, he’ll probably have to settle for a one-year pact.

Chris Devenski

Almost overnight, Devenski seemingly went from relief ace to mop-up guy. He was brilliant in 2016 and 2017, even making the All-Star team in the latter season. But the past two years have been a totally different story as he’s been much more hittable than in his first two seasons.

He’s 29 now, and while he’s under team control for another year via arbitration, another poor season could lead the Astros to non-tender him. He’s making the pro-rated portion of $2 million this season, and the team could decide that he’s not worth the price if he can’t turn things around this year.

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Kyle Tucker

For the team’s 23-year-old former top prospect, it’s time to put up. His major league debut in 2018 was not good, but he looked much better in limited action in 2019, hitting .269/.319/.537 with six doubles and four homers in 22 games. He also hit .276/.313/.448 in Spring Training.

He’ll be trying to wrestle playing time away from veteran Josh Reddick, whose bat has lost its luster the past two years and who also struggled in Spring Training. With Reddick, Springer and Michael Brantley all set for free agency this offseason, Tucker needs to show the Astros that he’s ready for the everyday job. If he does, that’ll be one less thing to worry about this winter.

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