2016 Record: 84-78 (3rd AL West)
It's time to venture to H-Town to check on the Houston Astros. We'll check in with Ryan Dunsmore of The Crawfish Boxes here shortly to get his take on The Astros in 2017.
The Astros were a surprise playoff team a few years back but failed to make it back-to-back trips last year.
They tried to right that by making a bunch of moves this offseason. The ‘Stros acquired Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and a few others in the winter and some think they could still make a move for a big named pitcher (possibly Jose Quintana) before the season starts.
This is the year Sports Illustrated called for the Astros to win the World Series back in 2014, and honestly, looking at their roster, it’s a definite possibility.
The offense should be really good in Houston this year; great in fact. I have the Astros projected as my top overall offense in the American League heading into 2017. That’s right, the number one overall offense. Correa and Bregman should be even better, plus some of the other names mentioned above make the Stros the team to beat when it comes to scoring runs heading into the year.
I’ve got their starting lineup as my top as well. It may sound crazy but the gap between one and two is bigger than two and seven in my projections. That’s how high I am on the Astros lineup. Their bench is my third overall unit, so there shouldn’t be much dropoff when one of their regulars is out.
Their pitching is a different story. Houston rates as my ninth overall pitching staff headed into the year. I’ve got their rotation as my 6th best unit in the AL, but their bullpen grades out 8th.
The defense doesn’t project to be a strong point, as they’re my 11th best unit in the American League.
Let's see what Ryan Dunsmore has to say about the Astros headed into 2017!
The Astros made several additions in the offseason to the offense; do you think they have enough in the rotation to compete for an AL West crown?
"The Astros offense will do enough to keep the Astros in the hunt for the AL West crown. But the Astros rotation will do enough on its own. The top of the rotation will be key on how big of an impact they have, Dallas Keuchel has to get back to his 2015 form and Lance McCullers has to stay on the field. "
"The major thing about the rotation is the Astros have major league quality depth to make sure the production doesn't dip any point during the season. Manager A.J. Hinch can run out Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, Charlier Morton, Joe Musgrove, and even Chris Devenski to make sure the back end of the rotation doesn't get overtaxed. That will be the key for the Astros: Houston must limit the innings of its average starters to make sure they are effective at the end of the season."
Houston also has a few key prospects that will make an impact as well if called upon in Francis Martes and David Paulino.
Do you think we'll see more of the 2015 or 2016 version of Dallas Keuchel in 2017?
"I think we'll see something in between. Which feels like a copout, but 2015 was peak Keuchel and he'll never get back to that. Keuchel admitted coming into Spring Training that he didn't feel healthy in 2016 -- so that could have been a factor. Keuchel's stuff isn't dependent on his velocity and won't be affected by another year on his arm. Keuchel wasn't a flash in the pan in 2015, and he was effective at the end of 2016. I expect a rebound from the beard."
Do you see any younger guys or prospects that might not break camp with the Astros that might contribute this year?
"I've already mentioned Francis Martes, he is the kind of pitcher that could make a major impact for the Astros. Houston has a track record of going slow with prospects but the team bucked that trend in the past seasons for special talents: McCullers, Correa and Alex Bregman. Martes is that special kind of talent. He pairs an electric fastball with a power curve that few pitchers can match."
"Another off the radar guy, Tony Kemp could get the call if Houston has to deal with an injury in the infield. Kemp won't blow you away with the bat but he reminds me of Jose Altuve effort-wise."
Do you think Alex Bregman is ready to make the leap to superstar status this year?
"Bregman will continue to push Carlos Correa as the Astros' top young star, which is saying something. Bregman has shown a level of calm in high-pressure situations that isn't normal for a first or second-year player. He started to figure out major league pitching at the end of last season and league should watch out -- Bregman is coming."
Finally, what are your overall expectations for the Astros in 2017? Did Sports Illustrated have it right when they called for the 'Stros to be World Series Champs back in 2014?
"Ah, yes, the SI cover. I'm not willing to say the World Series title is in the bag. I do expect the Astros to take home the AL West crown and be one of the three teams in the hunt for the AL title with the Red Sox and Indians. The Astros have the lineup to hang with either of those two teams. But won't be surprised if it's a battle of former NL Central foes for the World Series title."
Overall, I have the Astros as my 4th best American League team headed into 2017. They finished 8th last year so I think they’ll be happy about improving on that finish.
Taking a look at the win totals for the Astros, we’ll find that Vegas has their O/U at 89.5 which surprised me a little bit. I thought we might be able to find some value with them thinking I had them higher than most would but apparently not. Last year’s 4th place team, the Orioles, finished at 89-73. I honestly think it’ll come down to the last game of the season, but they’ll ultimately go over 89.5 wins.
Like I said, I think they come down to the last game of the season in regards to getting over or under 89.5. The Astros win that final game to finish 90-72.