HOUSTON ASTROS (AL WEST)
2013 record: 51-111 (fifth, 45 GB)
Projected 2014: 62.5 wins
World Series odds: 200/1
Key additions: Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman
X factor: Chris Carter
Projected starting lineup: Infield: C – J. Castro; 1B – J. Guzman; 2B –J. Altuve; 3B –M. Dominguez; SS – J. Villar Outfield: LF –R. Grossman; CF – D. Fowler; RF – AJ Hoes
Designated hitter: C. Carter
Starting rotation: S. Feldman; B. Oberholzer; J. Williams; J. Cosart; B. Peacock.
Closer: J. Crain
The Houston Astros lost 111 games last year so keep that in mind when listing projected starters. Many of those names you see above may not be in the opening day lineup.
The Astros were placed in the AL West last year against their will, having been in the National League since Houston began as the Colt 45’s five decades ago.
The franchise that gave us Nolan Ryan, Jimmy Wynn, Joe Morgan, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Scott and JR Richard have basically been reduced to a Triple A team.
Pitcher Scott Feldman at $6 million is their highest priced player. The two teams Houston faces to start the 2014 season – the Yankees and Angels – have 18 making more than Feldman.
The “Houston we have a problem” line should have jumped the shark years ago, but it certainly does apply. And yet there is reason for hope.
Reports out of spring training are promising (a 5-6 record) and LVH has the Astros projected for 62.5 wins, roughly a 12 victory improvement.
Chris Carter showed signs of stardom a year ago with 29 homers and 82 RBI. He just needs to improve that .223 batting average. Second baseman Jose Altuve, all 5-foot-5 or so of him, hit a club best .283.
Then there is 3b Matt Dominguez and catcher Juan Castro, who combined for 39 homers. Feldman, who came over from Baltimore after a stint with Texas, is the projected opening day starter. No pitcher on the Astros won more than 7 games last year.
There is a buzz this spring about Lucas Harrell, who won 11 games in 2012 and has looked good in trying to regain the form that led to him being named the team’s top rookie.
And then there is Dexter Fowler, who was a terror both with the bat and in center field at Coors Field, but couldn’t hit a lick for Colorado on the road. If he can hit at Minute Maid Park, the Astros may have landed a bargain for less than $4 million.
Bottom line: It would be hard to make a case for Houston beating out either Oakland, the LA Angels, Texas or Seattle in the West. But a whole host of rookies have an opportunity to crack the lineup and prospects for winning more than 51 games is good. But we’re talking baby steps in a man’s division.
On deck: Kansas City Royals
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].