Astros: Four Biggest X-Factors Heading into 2023
By Eric Treuden
Martinez, 28, was absolutely filthy for the Astros last year but ended up being the forgotten man in the bullpen. After beginning the year with 17 straight scoreless innings, he "regressed" a bit to finish the year with a 2.09 ERA and 185 ERA+ in 38.2 innings with the club.
Entering the 2023 season, Martinez has a guaranteed role in the big league bullpen and should once again be a dominant force. Perhaps he could become an oft-used shutdown weapon for the club and make this already-great bullpen even greater.
When the trade that saw Myles Straw go to Cleveland for Phil Maton and Diaz went down last year, it felt like Straw for Maton with a random throw-in player. Instead, Diaz, 24, figures to be the biggest piece in the entire deal in the upcoming season.
While he isn't much of a defender behind the plate, he's begun to play some first base and corner outfield. This positional versatility, along with an incredible season in Triple-A last year (25 home runs, 96 RBI in 105 games with a .306 average), put him right onto the Opening Day roster. He should be a huge bat for the club if he can continue to perform.
Can you even call a player who is an annual lock to hit .300 an X-factor at this point? Well, sure you can, because it's Brantley's health that has been his biggest issue over the years.
Over the course of his 14-year career, Brantley has topped 130 games just six times, only one of those being with the Astros, the team he's called home for the past four years. He's consistently shown that when he's able to stay on the field, he is one of the best contact hitters in the league.
If the Astros are able to get a full season of games out of the 35-year-old, he almost singlehandedly could take this offense that's already incredible and put it into "best in baseball" territory.