5 Astros players who need to step up before it’s too late

The Astros are in a decent spot, but they have a few guys that need to be better if they want to be real contenders.
Jun 14, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros first baseman Jose Abreu (79) runs up the base
Jun 14, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros first baseman Jose Abreu (79) runs up the base / Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
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The Astros need Jose Abreu to be the guy they paid for

Jose Abreu is the easiest name to put at the top of this list as he was a marquee move that the Astros made this past offseason. When Houston signed Abreu to a three year, $58.5 million deal, Houston was hoping that he would at least be the guy that he was in 2022 with the White Sox where he posted 3.9 fWAR at the plate. They certainly would have been ecstatic if they got his 2020 AL MVP pace or the numbers he put up early in his career, but getting a good hitter with power was the baseline expectation.

Unfortunately, that is not how things have panned out thus far at all. Through 324 plate appearances with Houston this season, Abreu has slashed .236/.287/.341 with six homers which adds up to a career-worst (by a mile) 73 wRC+. When you combine that with having negative defensive value and you have the third worst position player by fWAR (-0.8) among qualified hitters in all of baseball.

There was always going to be risk associated with signing a guy who was going to be playing the season as a 36 year old, but no one thought he would drop off THIS much. One of the things that the Astros need most is more power in their lineup and if Abreu can figure out how to baseball again, it could take their offense to the next level. There are some positive signs lately there at least as Jose does have two homers in his last four games and he is on a seven game hitting streak. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come.

The Astros' Cristian Javier has been fine, but the team needs even more from him

Lets get this out of the way: Cristian Javier has been just fine in the Astros' rotation. He has posted a reasonable 3.72 ERA and 1.5 fWAR in 16 starts this season. He has made real improvements in his walk rate in 2023 while limiting hard contact and getting guys to chase at a nice rate. He has been a pretty good pitcher this season and no one is arguing otherwise.

However, the Astros need him to be better than that if they want to compete. Framber Valdez has been amazing this season for Houston, but having a genuinely strong #2 starter is going to be important especially in key series down the stretch. One area in Javier's game that has dropped off considerably in 2023 is his strikeout rate which sits at 8.07 K/9 which, when compared to the 11+ K/9 he posted the previous two seasons, is less than ideal.

If he can start putting more batters away himself, the rest of the results will come and the Astros will feel even better about that contract extension they gave him during the offseason.