30 Teams in 30 Days - Houston Astros

General Overview - They made a splash in 2015 to make the playoffs after finishing at the bottom of the West for a number of years. They stumbled a bit last year, missing out on the playoffs, even though they only had two less losses. This will be the year they will regain their footing and win the division. They have the most solid lineup in this division. The only thing that will keep them from winning is the consistency of their pitching staff. They need to have rebound years from Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers and a healthy season from Lance McCullers to accomplish a division championship. Carlos Correa also needs to step it up on offense proving he is one of the better players in this division not named Michael Trout.

Weakness - The offense has plenty of depth all around. The big test is whether George Springer will be able to handle centerfield defensively, otherwise they will have to go with the less offensive Jake Marisnick, leaving Norichika Aoki without a job. The starting pitching has Dallas Keuchel but not a lot of success behind him. Collin McHugh was batting practice for most of last season. Scouts say no pitcher has a better spin on his curveball. If the opposition hits him at a .282 average like they did in 2016 he will not spend a lot of time in the rotation. Lance McCullers was limited to 14 starts last season because of injury. They need him for a full season. After that spring training will sort out who fills the remaining two spots between veterans Charlie Morton and Mike Fiers and younger options Brad Peacock or Joe Musgrove. Chris Devenski will be waiting in the bullpen for one of those options to fail or they could call up the high heat of Francis Martes by mid season. The bullpen lacks an established closer. Ken Giles used to handle that role for the Phillies but he has struggled. Luke Gregerson also has handled this role. Both finished with 15 saves last season. Will Harris can also handle the role but he is best suited for setup. This could be a strength if all parties live up to past potential.

Strengths - This is a strong lineup with too many players available for positions on the field. Josh Reddick and Norichika Aoki are new additions to the outfield. Reddick will provide the power while Aoki will get on base. First base may be the weakest position with Cuban Yulieski Gurriel getting the first opportunity. Marwin Gonzalez can go back to his all important utility role. Evan Gattis is a big bat without a position and unless he just can’t play first base he could also get some work here in spring. Gattis is behind Carlos Beltran at the DH position and if the Astros want to put Beltran in the outfield that would weaken the defense to get his bat in the lineup. The Astros have the veteran Brian McCann behind the plate. Gattis could get some at bats there but his defense is less than flattering back there. Carlos Correa at shortstop could be one of the better players in this division and Jose Altuve at second is an MVP candidate. They are solid here. The young Alex Bregman will get the first opportunity at third base but Gurriel starred here when he played with Cuba.

Non Roster Invitees - The only player who could possibly make this team is Reid Brignac as a utility player but Marwin Gonzalez already has this role. Frances Martes will be given some more opportunity to grow in the minors so unless he dominates in the spring he makes more sense as a mid-season callup.

Breakout Prospects - Frances Martes and David Paulino are two potential dominating pitchers. Martes may make it by mid-season as a starter. Because of his fragility and low innings count Paulino may fit better in the bullpen. Both pitchers live in the high 90s and can hit triple digits with their fastball. James Hoyt has always looked impressive when we’ve watched him in the spring. He should make the bullpen when camp breaks in April. A.J. Reed got a few too many at bats to be considered a prospect but a good start to the season will give the Astros some difficult choices of who to put at first base. Reed has 30 homerun potential. Gurriel does not.

Prospects to Watch - Kyle Tucker has some impressive tools. He was the first round pick in 2015. At some point he will cross paths with his brother as he rises up the minor league ladder. Kyle has potential five tool ability but his brother Preston is more of a fourth outfielder type. Forest Whitley is a tall 6′7″ first round pick in 2016 with a mid-90s fastball. He still has a long way to go as he develops in the minor leagues. Daz Cameron is the son of Mike. Like his dad his fielding is better than his bat at this point but he has the potential to develop some power. Myworld has always liked the power bat of J.D. Davis but he needs to cut down on his strikeouts. His defense is a little shaky at third and the Astros have a lot of options at first. Cionel Perez is one of many Cuban players who have yet to show their skills at the major or minor league level. Perez is a lefthanded pitcher with a smaller frame (5′11″) who has decent low 90s velocity to his fastball. He needs to work on his secondary pitches and his command before he reaches the Astros, but at 20 years of age he has got the time. Freudys Nova was one of the reasons the Astros went over their international salary cap last year. He was originally signed by the Marlins for $2.5 million but after failing a drug test the Astros were able to sign the shortstop for $1.2 million.

2017 Finish - It will be a battle between the Mariners and the Rangers but it will be the Astros and their offense that will win this division.

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