The Houston Astros will look to be the first team to repeat as World Series champions in the last 15 seasons, featuring arguably the best rotation in baseball and a future MVP in Carlos Correa.
Houston’s postseason ride to their first World Series championship made up for the half-decade of terrible baseball their fans suffered through. But, those days are far beyond the Astros, as they come into this season as the favorites to do it all again.
The Astros will trot the leagues best rotation on paper, featuring Cy Young winners Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, alongside newcomer Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, World Series hero Charlie Morton, with Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh as depth pieces. Nobody in baseball can match the talent and depth manager AJ Hinch has at his deposal on a daily basis.
And as impressive as their starting pitching is, the Astros’ offense could be even better. Reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve and his 20-30 numbers in a lineup with talented shortstop Carlos Correa healthy and ready to play a full season, the Astros are scary good. OF George Springer should bring close to 30 homers, while 3B Alex Bregman should expand on his promising 1st full season in the majors.
Houston’s bullpen is solid as well, with Ken Giles who put it all together in 2017 as the full-time closer. Giles saved 34 games while striking out close to 12 batters per nine innings, using a nearly triple-digit heater and slider combo to tear apart teams at the end of games. Chris Devenski and newly acquired Joe Smith come into games giving batters different looks with their awkward arm angles while rounding out an excellent bullpen.
Best Case Scenario
The Astros shouldn’t have too much of a challenge winning their division again this year, with only the Angels improving drastically. But the Astros should have no problem winning close to 100 games this season, and with their depth in the rotation, staters should be rested coming into the postseason.
With an offense that should once again be towards the top in run production, scoring nearly 900 runs last season. There isn’t really a flaw in this Houston squad, but I’m not sure they’ll still have the top run-producing lineup in 2018, but they don’t need to be. Their pitching alone would make them a top-five contender in baseball this year, but they have two potential MVP candidates in Altuve and Correa.
I envision Gerrit Cole reminding everyone why he was a top pitching prospect in the Pirates division, with a large portion of the AL never seeing him before, I expect him to mow batters down in his first year in Houston. Also, Lance McCullers has been touching 97 mph this spring, and these 3rd and 4th starters in the Astros rotation. Expect another deep postseason run, in Houston.
Worst Case Scenario
The pitching doesn’t have many flaws, but one of them could be Justin Verlander, who enters his age 35-season in 2018. While he posted fantastic numbers in his five starts for Houston in the regular season and was even more dominant in the postseason, you have to assume at some point Verlander will regress. The Astros do have the depth to supplement Verlander, and will likely try and limit his usage, but the days of the veteran pitching 200+ innings a year might be officially behind him.
The bullpen is solid as well, but not as lock-down as maybe the Red Sox or Yankees bullpens. Ken Giles, while elite last season, hasn’t shown a track record of consistent success, and if he were to struggle the Astros don’t really have a clear replacement for him.
However, outside of a major injury to the Astros core of Altuve, Correa, Springer, and Bregman, Houston should compete for another World Series title. But they also have veteran leadership in their clubhouse, with guys like Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, and of course Verlander, they have the experienced veterans to guide these budding superstars. If this club stays healthy, they very well could end becoming a dynasty when it’s all said and done.
Jose Altuve – 2B
It would be hard not to pick the league’s reigning AL MVP as his team’s MVP, but Altuve is the little engine that makes this whole lineup go. His bat has grown so much over the years, going from a slap-stick lead-off hitter to a potential 25-home run guy in his seven seasons in the league. His glove is solid at the keystone position, and his presence in the middle infield is felt every game. If Houston returns to the World Series this year, Altuve has a good chance to win another MVP award.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better team to pick as the World Series favorites, however, there’s a reason we haven’t seen a team win back-to-back titles since the Yankees in late 90’s. Clearly, it’s hard to win it all, especially coming off the first championship in team history, but players like Dalls Keuchel have said they aren’t expecting a ‘hangover’ like the Cubs had after winning 2016. However, I don’t buy that. I think Astros are built for a deep run, but we see a new team win it all in 2018.