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The Houston Astros Are Set Up For Another Fine Season

The Astros, led by Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, secured the 2nd AL Wild Card in 2015 with a record of 86-76. Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The Astros, led by Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, secured the 2nd AL Wild Card in 2015 with a record of 86-76.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros made it to the postseason for the first time since 2005 last season, and they are very well set up for another postseason run. The A.L. West may be the most wide open and unpredictable division in 2016, so here is my breakdown of their playoff hopes.

The Outfield - The Astros quietly have one of the most talented outfields in the game, and the Astros will get a huge contribution from it in 2016.

  Left - Colby Rasmus has consistently been a very solid power hitter throughout his career, but may have really found his niche in Houston. Last year Rasmus hit only .238, but belted 25 homeruns, drove in 61, and slugged .475. Rasmus is also only 29 years old, and is poised for another great season.

  Center - Carlos Gomez was a late season acquisition in 2015 for Houston, and due to injuries he really has not yet shown them what he's capable of. Going into 2016, the Astros expect him to be healthy, and ready to produce again at the high level the league is used to seeing him at.

  Right - George Springer has been a little overlooked since his highly awaited arival to the big leagues in 2014, but he has been exactly what the Astros hoped he'd be and will only continue to improve. In 2015, Springer hit .276 with 16 HR, 41 RBI, 19 doubles, and 16 steals in 102 games. Springer was also marred by injury last season, and is expected to explode in 2016. 

  Back-up - The Astros 4th outfielder is a battle between Jake Marisnick and Preston Tucker, both very capable options. Marisnick hit .236 with 9 HR and 36 RBI last year, while Tucker hit .243 with 13 and 33. 

  Prospects on their way - 2B/OF combo Tony Kemp is expected to reach the big leagues at some point in 2016, but that may or may not happen considering his primary position is second and the Astros have Jose Altuve ahead of him. Outfielders Teoscar Hernandez and Andrew Aplin also could reach the MLB at some point in 2016. 

Infield - The Astros are incredibly strong up the middle, but corners may be a question.

  Third - 30 year old Luis Valbuena, who has some nice pop, will likely be the 2016 third baseman for the Astros. However, you would not be out of line at all to question that. Valbuena had a career best year last season, in which he cracked 25 long balls, drove in 56, but hit just .224. He is also a streaky player, who will deal with some inconsistency. 

  Short - The Astros have no worries when it comes to shortstop, with 2015 Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa looking to build on his .279, 22 HR, 68 RBI 2015. There is little reason to worry about him having a sophomore slump, but it may be interesting to see if the league does figure out how to pitch to him better. Should the rest of baseball figure out how to pitch to him, it could affect his offensive numbers. Correa will have to be ready to adjust to the league, and how they want to pitch to him.

  Second - 5'6 second baseman Jose Altuve is without a doubt one of the second baseman in the game, and arguably one of the best hitters. Altuve will always give you a batting average well above .300, 35+ doubles, 35+ steals, and is coming off a career best 15 HR season. 

  First - The Astros hope to get a breakout year from former highly regarded prospect Jon Singleton. He has gotten very small sample sizes in the big leagues over the past two seasons, and has not been too impressive. He does posses a lot of power, and could have a good year. 

  Back-up - Marwin Gonzalez is every managers dream. The super utility infielder can play all four positions and also has a very nice bat (.279, 12 HR last season before an injury ended his season).

  Prospects on their way - Tony Kemp (mentioned above). 3B Colin Moran, SS/2B/3B Nolan Fontana, 3B/1B Tyler White, 3B Matt Duffy (does have MLB playing time). Most interesting option is 1B A.J. Reed, could take over at first if Singleton doesn't have a good season. Reed has incredible power potential, and could also have a high on base percentage. 

DH/Catcher

  DH - Evan Gattis had a very nice season in 2015, primarily as a DH but he is also the second string catcher. Like many other members of the Astros, Gattis hits for low average with a lot of power (.246, 27 HR). 

  Catcher - Jason Castro is silently one of the best catchers in baseball, although he may not have flashy numbers to prove it. Castro could still provide more offense than he does, and 2016 may be the year he does that. 

  Back-up - Max Stassi put up fairly solid numbers in the minor leagues, and 2016 will probably be the year he finally stays around in the bigs for a while. He has played parts of three MLB seasons, but 11 is his career high games played. He isn't the best hitter out there, but is a decent back-up catching option.

Pitching - With Keuchel coming of a Cy Young season, the Astros pitching is in pretty good shape. 

  Rotation - While Keuchel may be the only name that jumps off the paper, the Astros have a very, very nice rotation heading into 2016. Their projected rotation, along with their 2015 stats, is as follows:

1 Dallas Keuchel 20-8 2.48 

2 Collin McHugh 19-7 3.89

3 Lance McCullers 6-7 3.22

4 Mike Fiers 7-10 3.69

5 Scott Feldman 5-5 3.90

  Bullpen - The bullpen isn't very deep, but it is very good. At closer Houston will likely has newly acquire Ken Giles, who saved 15 games with a 1.80 E.R.A. last season, set-up by Will Harris (1.90 in 68 games last year), Tony Sipp (1.99, 60 games), Luke Gregerson (3.10, 64), Josh Fields (3.55, 54), and Pat Neshek (3.62, 66). They also have Dan Straily who has bounced around between starting and relieving, as well as MLB and AAA over the last four seasons.

 Prospects on their way - Houston has a few pitching prospect who could soon be making and impact, but the one who stands out the most is Michael Feliz. Feliz made his MLB debut last season and didn't have such great results, but his upper 90's fastball could help him become a nice bullpen piece for this team.

Overall, the Astros have some very likable postseason chances in 2016. They have a nice amount of depth, and young prospects chomping at the bit to make an impact. As I have stated before, I do not believe either Wild Card will come out of the AL West, but I do not think the division crown is a far stretch for them in 2016. Their division chances will rely greatly on the health of the rest of their division (Mainly Texas and their rotation health), but should be able to take care of their business easily. Another reason to like this team is their incredible future not just for 2016, but for years to come. 



  


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