The 2017 Houston Astros won the franchise’s first World Series, ever. Now, the team will try and be the first back-to-back winners since the 2000 New York Yankees. Even with a stacked lineup and deep pitching staff, it’s an uphill batter.
The Astros have lost their player-coach Carlos Beltran from last year. That could have an impact, but this is a team that won 101 games last year and has added Gerrit Cole to a rotation that’ll have Justin Verlander for more than a month of the regular season. By all account, the talent on the field in 2018 is even better than 2017. This team remains loaded with deep depth. The names are there. The talent is there. Now they just need health and a bit of luck.
2017 Record: 101-61
2017 Moneyline Record: +11.72 Units
2017 Over/Under Total Record: 81-72-9
Current Odds To Win AL: +254
Current Odds To Win AL West: -453
Regular Season Win Total: 97.5
It’s hard to find fault with any part of the Astros’ team. Though the weakest link in the playoffs last year was the bullpen and while the pen added a couple middle-inning arms, they’re riding with Ken Giles in the ninth.
Giles was all but abandoned in the World Series, but Houston is confident he can bounce back after a strong regular season performance. The Astros are also short on left-handed options in the pen with Tony Sipp the lone southpaw. We will see if there’s enough there come playoff time. In the meantime, additions of Joe Smith and Hector Rondon at least add depth to the pen while starters Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh are likely to work out of the pen given the depth in the starting rotation.
Speaking of that rotation, Justin Verlander is back for a full season after an impressive run through September and October last year. The 35-year old is inching closer to the end of his career, but he was a top-5 finisher in Cy Young voting each of the last two seasons. He’s a proven commodity at the top of the rotation and is joined by Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton. That’s one strong five-man rotation.
If healthy, Verlander and Kuechel give the Astros dueling aces, one a righty and the other a southpaw. Then, Cole is a former ace with top of the rotation stuff. McCullers is filthy, too, and was an All-Star in 2017. Even Morton was 14-7 with a 3.62 ERA last season and proceeded to pitch well in the playoffs.
In the rotation, depth is crucial. Every team needs at least eight or nine quality starters. The Astros has that and then some with McHugh, Peacock, Francis Martes and David Paulino.
The pitching can compete with any team. The offense can, too, after scoring an MLB-leading 896-runs last season and producing a .282/.346/.478 slash line as a team. The team had a .823 OPS. The next highest team OPS was .788.
There’s no doubt this team will score runs in bunches, again. After a hamate bone surgery in February, Yulieski Gurriel will start the season on the disabled list and then will serve a suspension upon his return. With him out, Marwin Gonzalez figures to slide over to first with Derek Fisher getting at bats in left-field.
This team is stacked. They have depth for days with Jake Marisnick, Tyler White, A.J. Reed, Tony Kemp, Kyle Tuker, J.D. Davis and so many others ready to step in for any injury.
Ahead of that talent group of players is a starting lineup loaded with power and speed.
Last year’s team had 10 players with at least 250 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 109 or better. All 10 of those players are back in 2018. Of those players, eight had an OPS+ of at least 122 and five at an OPS+ of at least 134.
Of those five over 134, Jose Altuve led the way at a 164 OPS+ in route to his MVP trophy. Altuve hit .346 with a .957 OPS and produced 24 home runs, scored 112 runs and stole 32 bases.
Impressively, Altuve wasn’t the only MVP candidate on his own team. In fact, Gonzalez may have been the MVP of the team given his ability to play multiple positions. While filling in all over the diamond, he had a 149 OPS+ with a .303 average, 23 homers and team leading 90 RBIs.
Others who completely dominated include George Springer and Carlos Correa. Springer played in 140 games with a team high 34 home runs from the lead off spot. He tied Altuve for the team lead in runs scored while getting on base at a .367 clip. Correa played in only 109 games, but aside from Altuve had the best slash line at .315/.391/.550. He had 24 homers despite missing nearly two months.
This lineup is so deep, it’s easy to overlook the likes of Josh Reddick, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, all above average sluggers.
One other key player to this offense is Alex Bregman. Bregman didn’t hit well in the first half of the year, but finished strong, batting .315 with 11 homers and a .903 OPS in the second half.
As scary as it sounds, this offense has room to grow from the numbers it put up in 2017. The pitching staff is also better—and deeper. It’s hard to imagine a better season than the one that led to a World Series title last year, but Houston hast the ability to be even better.
|Baltimore Orioles||Baltimore, Maryland||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|Boston Red Sox||Boston, Massachusetts||Fenway Park|
|New York Yankees||New York City, New York||Yankee Stadium|
|Tampa Bay Rays||St. Petersburg, Florida||Tropicana Field|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Toronto, Ontario||Rogers Centre|
|CENTRAL||Chicago White Sox||Chicago, Illinois||Guaranteed Rate Field|
|Cleveland Indians||Cleveland, Ohio||Progressive Field|
|Detroit Tigers||Detroit, Michigan||Comerica Park|
|Kansas City Royals||Kansas City, Missouri||Kauffman Stadium|
|Minnesota Twins||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Target Field|
|WEST||Houston Astros||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park|
|Los Angeles Angels||Anaheim, California||Angel Stadium|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum|
|Seattle Mariners||Seattle, Washington||Safeco Field|
|Texas Rangers||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington|
|EAST||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta, Georgia||SunTrust Park|
|Miami Marlins||Miami, Florida||Marlins Park|
|New York Mets||New York City, New York||Citi Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Citizens Bank Park|
|Washington Nationals||Washington, D.C.||Nationals Park|
|CENTRAL||Chicago Cubs||Chicago, Illinois||Wrigley Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Miller Park|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||PNC Park|
|St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis, Missouri||Busch Stadium|
|WEST||Arizona Diamondbacks||Phoenix, Arizona||Chase Field|
|Colorado Rockies||Denver, Colorado||Coors Field|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium|
|San Diego Padres||San Diego, California||Petco Park|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco, California||AT&T Park|
March 29-April 1: at Texas Rangers
April 2-4: vs Baltimore Orioles
April 6-8: vs San Diego Padres
April 9-11: at Minnesota Twins
April 13-15: vs Texas Rangers
April 16-18: at Seattle Mariners
April 20-22: at Chicago White Sox
April 23-25: vs Los Angeles Angels
April 27-29: vs Oakland Athletics
April 30-May 3: vs New York Yankees
The Astros are the defending World Series Champions so they’ll have a target on their back from Game 1. Each team will get up to play Houston. Fortunately for Houston, however, the Astros will have a whole month to get its feet wet before too much difficult competition.
The biggest difference between the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Astros was the team’s start. The 2017 version got off to a fast start while the 2016 version struggled out of the gate. In 2018, the Astros should start off winning. They play three series—against Texas, Baltimore and San Diego—before taking on a team, the Twins, who finished 2017 above .500. From there, they then have series against the Rangers, Mariners and White Sox. In fact, of the teams Houston is slated to face prior to May, only the Twins and Yankees—who they don’t play until April 30—finished above .500.
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