Greetings! As we embark on yet another marathon of an MLB season, it is time to preview all 30 teams. This year, I've decided to go in a new direction when putting together the preview, so the teams will be posted (in reverse order) based my prediction of their record and not broken down by division. Don't worry, their overall record (standings) and division prediction will be included. Let's get to it, starting with the "project" that is the Houston Astros.
Projected Starters - Jason Castro (C), Carlos Pena (1B), Jose Altuve (2B), Tyler Greene (SS), Matt Dominguez (3B), Chris Carter/JD Martinez (LF), Justin Maxwell (CF), Fernando Martinez (RF), Brett Wallace (DH)
At first glance, this is an absolute disaster. Jose Altuve is the only guy in this lineup (we can argue about Carlos Pena, I guess) that would be a legitimate starting player on the majority of the 30 major league teams. Read that statement again. He's the only one! Altuve had a .340 OBP with 7 homers and 33 steals last year in 630 plate appearances. He's an absolutely fine second baseman to have... but as your best player?! I could go down the list and break down all of these guys, but it's more of a who's who of "Four-A" type player sprinkled with some guys getting their first chance at relevance. Chris Carter may hit 30 homers, Justin Maxwell may put it all together and post a 3-4 WAR season, or Brett Wallace may actually reach the basement of his projected ceiling. Those things may happen, but this lineup is going to be wretched either way.
Projected - Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Jordan Lyles, Philip Humber, Erik Bedard/Dallas Keuchel
Remember when I described the lineup as wretched? Think of a synonym... and then apply it to the rotation. First, I'll acknowledge that Bud Norris is a guy that many, many teams would like to have. He's the highest-paid player on the roster (just over $3 million) and he strikes hitters out an a very good clip (almost 9 per 9 innings) as a starter. His stats trailed off a bit in 2012 (4.12 xFIP in 168 innings), but he'd be a solid back-of-the-rotation pitcher for most teams. Harrell is the 27-year-old righty who is coming off of a season where he was actually worth 2.8 WAR (fangraphs), and he's probably the most exciting guy in the rotation. After that, it gets ugly (and that wasn't pretty anyway). Lyles had an ERA over 5.00 in the NL Central last season, and while he's just 22 years old, he may not be ready for the American League just yet. Humber threw a perfect game in Chicago, but he was below replacement-level last year (yikes) and has a career 4.87 ERA over 316 innings. The 5th spot? I guess there is a 5% chance that Erik Bedard could be healthy and effective... but come on.
Projected - Jose Veras (closer), Wesley Wright, Xavier Cedeno, Josh Fields, Sam Demel, Hector Ambriz, Rhiner Cruz
This is almost comical. Veras could be a sneaky fantasy option, simply because when the Astros win (and they have to, at least once or twice), it'll likely be a tight game. That said, he's 32 years old and has a career ERA/FIP/xFIP over 4.00. Good luck. The rest of the 'pen is made up of cast-offs and projects. I don't even want to get into it.
In short, the Astros are moving to the AL West (a very good division) from the NL Central (a very bad division), they have little-to-no talent, and their payroll is so laughably low that it's almost begging for the #1 overall draft pick in next year's draft. It's a comedy of errors for the Major-league club, and it'll stay that way.
48-114, 5th in AL West