5 storylines that will decide the fate of the Astros season

The Astros are looking for another AL West championship, an eighth straight trip to the ALCS, and a third World Series title in eight years. These storylines will determine how their 2024 season shakes out.

Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Seven
Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Seven / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages
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No. 3: Can Yainer Díaz handle the full-time workload?

Yainer Díaz was everything the Astros could have asked for as a rookie in 2023. In only 355 at-bats, Diaz hit .282 with 23 home runs, 60 RBI and an .846 OPS. His defense was better by every publicly available metric than incumbent starter Martín Maldonado, but even with his fantastic debut, Díaz still had room to grow both at the plate and defensively.

How will the 25-year-old adjust as a game caller? He's never caught Framber Valdez or Justin Verlander, two notoriously finicky starters, and in the case of Verlander, one with a devout routine. Díaz will have to put in a great deal of work to build rapport with Houston's top two arms.

Additionally, for as great as he was at the plate, Díaz's free-swinging approach does leave some holes that were exposed in the postseason. He finished 2023 in the first percentile in both walk rate and chase rate. While he doesn't need to start working walks and pitch counts like Alex Bregman, he can stand to evolve like the also free-swinging Jose Altuve, who went from a 2.1% walk rate in his first season to 10.7% last year.

If Díaz can handle the workload, the Astros' offense and defense will be vastly improved over 2023, and they'll no longer have an all-but-assured out in their lineup.