Sunday, March 13, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Houston Astros

What once was a team that made it to back-to-back NLCS' and won the pennant in 2005 is now a team in turmoil. Needing new ownership and a new direction, the team's fans have been disillusioned. Will the team surprise anyone?

What they Have: They do have some good players on the roster. The outfield is clearly the best asset of this team, with RF Hunter Pence, CF Michael Bourn, and LF Carlos Lee. They combined for most of the offense last year despite Lee having an off season. They did acquire 2 decent veterans for the infield to offset the youth at the corners in SS Clint Barmes and 2B Bill Hall. They'll try to offset the youth in 1B Brett Wallace and 3B Chris Johnson. The younger guys had a chance to upstage past veterans and they did, and Chris Johnson performed enough to make Pedro Feliz a trade piece. Wallace though is still a question mark. The pitching rotation is decent, and despite not having a true number 1 starter for the first time in 11 seasons, they still have talent. Wandy Rodriguez and and Brett Myers are the top 2 starters, and did combine for 25 wins last season. Behind them, J.A Happ, Bud Norris, and Nelson Figueroa are the other starters. Happ is underrated, but the other 2 are question marks. The bullpen has problems with no defined closer, since Matt Lindstrom was traded to Colorado. Brandon Lyon is the incumbent.

What they Don't Have: Experience all around. The bullpen is where the problem is very noticeable. Wilton Lopez, Alberto Arias, Jeff Fulchino are just some of the pitchers that make up the Astros questionable pen. The rotation is young, and doesn't have a true number 1 starter, and that could make for some problems. And in the field, the youthful C Jason Castro will likely start the season. He is raw, and needs to be a good power hitter for the Astros in order to help the lineup, and there are doubts as to whether he will. Brett Wallace has a lot of pressure being the incumbent 1B, and there are also questions to whether he'll have success at that.

Any Help Coming? The farm system has been ignored for awhile, but there are some bright spots still there. RHP Jordan Lyles had a heavy workload in AA, and that doesn't help when he's only 19. But he has 3 plus pitches, and has a chance to become the 5th starter. OF Ariel Ovando has huge power potential, but is very far away from being a major leaguer. SS Jonathan Villar was the main piece in the Roy Oswalt trade, and has great defensive tools, although needing some polish at the plate.

Outlook? Not promising. Skipper Brad Mills kept the team together when the going was tough last season, and he'll likely have to do the same thing this year. This team is a little better than many will give them credit for, but still doesn't have enough to fully compete in the NL Central this season. GM Ed Wade will suffer, and so will the dwindling fan base.

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