Astros: 5 Candidates for Improvement in 2022

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros had a good 2021 despite falling two games short of winning the World Series and many individual players had excellent seasons.

Even though some Astros had remarkable seasons, there’s room for improvement, as there always is.

In this piece, we take a look at five Astros that are primed for improvement in 2022. The numbers below are taken from the 2021 actuals for each player and the expected numbers from Baseball Savant.

Kyle Tucker

Tucker finished 2021 batting .294 with a wOBA of .381, slugging of .557 with 30 home runs and 92 RBI, but there’s still room for improvement, especially if you’re a believer in the advanced metrics.

Tucker’s advanced numbers for 2021 included an xBA of .307 (+.013), xSLG of .580 (+0.23) and xwOBA of .399 (+0.18).

If Tucker improves in all three of those categories, it’s likely his home run and RBI outputs would increase, too and the 25-year-old would inch closer to reaching his potential.

Yordan Alvarez

I believe most people would agree Alvarez can improve despite 33 home runs, 104 RBI, a .531 slugging average and a .369 wOBA. Alvarez’s expected numbers from 2021 show a similar batting average, but an expected slugging percentage 39 points higher and an xwOBA 20 points higher.

Forty home runs and 110 RBI are not out of the question if Alvarez, who turns 25 in June, meets those expected numbers in 2022.

As a matter of fact, if Alvarez had hit 40 home runs in 2021, his slugging percentage would still be below his expected slugging percentage, so 40 home runs is not an outrageous prediction.

Phil Maton

The only pitcher on this list, Maton struggled once coming over from Cleveland at the trade deadline, but was almost perfect in the postseason. Maton’s actual numbers from 2021 vs. his expected statistics are a study in “what could have been”.

Opponents hit .256 vs. Maton, while the xBA was .209 (+.047), slugging was .425, while xSLG was .342 (+.083), wOBA .335 vs. xwOBA of .295 (+.040) and ERA of 4.73 vs. xERA of 3.68 (+1.05).

Maton was the only qualified Astros pitcher with an actual ERA higher than his expected ERA and the 1.05 number is 17th most in all of MLB.

Is Maton the struggling pitcher we saw during the regular season or the stud we saw in October?That’s the question headed into 2022.

Michael Brantley

Asking Michael Brantley to improve his batting average over last season’s .311 campaign seems like a reach, especially since Brantley turns 35 in May.

That said, Brantley hit only 8 home runs in 417 batted balls and his slugging percentage of .437 was 29 points below his xSLG of .466 and I would expect a related increase in RBI of which Brantley only had 47 in 2021.

Brantley had 90 RBI in 2019, but he spent that season batting mostly third and fourth, instead of in the second spot in 2021. He won’t get 90 RBI batting second, but 60 is not out of the question.

Martin Maldonado

Bear with me on this one, as the potential improvements are incremental, but could be significant.  Every Astros fan knows Maldonado struggled at the plate in 2021 and many have called for a change at the position headed into this season.

Maldonado’s expected numbers show the potential11 point increase in batting average, 12 points in slugging and 10 points in xwOBA.

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While these numbers will leave Maldonado well below league averages in all of these categories, they’re an improvement over last season and Maldonado has slashed .212/.290./.298 for his career.