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Houston Astros 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve

The last time a team won back-to-back World Series, Bill Clinton was in the White House, nobody had a smartphone and Carlos Correa was six years old. That’s the challenge facing the Astros, a team that famously adorned a June 2014 cover of Sports Illustrated featuring George Springer and the caption “Your 2017 World Series Champs.” With no major changes from a 101–61 season, the team seems likely to play into October again in 2018. Houston led the league in runs scored and allowed the fourth fewest in 2017. Its five most productive hitters in 2017 will be 29 or younger on Opening Day, and its pitching staff, while older, has admirable depth. Its farm system remains deep, and the once-ridiculed front office has proven to be savvy.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the ASTROS

“It would be a big upset if they don’t cruise into the playoffs again. That lineup is the best in the game and got such a huge boost when Alex Bregman turned the corner. He learned what pitchers are trying to do to him, cut down his strikeouts and used the whole field — and when he pulls it, he’s got a chance to hit a lot more homers because of that short porch in left. The reason they got through the playoffs was the big relief innings A.J. Hinch got from Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock. He lost faith in closer Ken Giles, but it ended up being a good thing. Now they’ve signed Joe Smith and Hector Rondon to build that bridge to the back end. I’m not sure Giles can be the guy back there, but if they run away from the pack again, they’ll have the luxury of giving him another chance. They leaned on Justin Verlander a lot, and he’s 35 now. But he’s fully reestablished himself as an ace, and Dallas Keuchel — who’s right there with him when he’s at his best — will have a big year heading into free agency.”

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Beyond the Box Score

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Beyond Sports

Often, a World Series win, or a Super Bowl victory, or an NBA or Stanley Cup championship will be a city’s major story for a year. Not so for Houston in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey devastated the city, causing 90 deaths and damages approaching $200 billion. The Astros, whose August 29-31 series against the Rangers was moved to St. Petersburg due to the hurricane, wore “Houston Strong” patches on their uniforms through the rest of the season and during the World Series.

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f You Win It, They Will Come

Ten teams increased per-game attendance by more than 500 fans in 2017: The Braves, who opened a new stadium; the Brewers; and eight of 10 teams that qualified for the postseason. (Cubs and Red Sox attendance declined.) The Astros ranked sixth, adding 1,198 fans per game. They drew 2.4 million for the full year, 15th in the majors. Attendance has grown for five straight seasons, and teams typically get a post-World Series bump as well.

Reclaiming the Silver Boot

One of the reasons the Astros fell short of the Rangers in the American League West in 2015 and 2016 was their combined 10–28 record against their cross-state rival. Houston took the series in 2017, winning 12 of 19 games. It was only the fifth time since the advent of interleague play in 2001 that the Astros have won the Silver Boot. And Houston became the first Texas team to win the World Series.

Forgotten Man

Here’s a bar bet you can win: Who led the 2017 Astros in starts? Alternatively, who led the club in innings pitched? The answer to both is Mike Fiers, with 28 starts and 153.1 innings. Nothing says “modern rotation structure” like a team leader who doesn’t even make the postseason roster. Fiers, arguably the team’s best starter in 2016, was non-tendered over the winter and signed with the Tigers.

Stolen Merchandise

The Cardinals surrendered two draft picks to the Astros for hacking Houston’s scouting database in 2014. The Astros used them to draft pitcher Corbin Martin and infielder (now outfielder) J.J. Matijevic. Both are viewed as potential major leaguers. 

Projected Lineup

LINEUP
CF    George Springer (R)
3B    Alex Bregman (R)
2B    José Altuve (R)
SS    Carlos Correa (R)
1B    Yuli Gurriel (R)
RF    Josh Reddick (L)
DH    Evan Gattis (R)
LF    Derek Fisher (L)
C    Brian McCann (L)
BENCH
UT    Marwin González (S)
OF    Jake Marisnick (R)
INF    Tyler White (R)
2B/OF    Tony Kemp (L)
ROTATION
RHP    Justin Verlander
LHP    Dallas Keuchel

RHPGerrit Cole 
RHP    Lance McCullers
RHP    Charlie Morton
BULLPEN
RHP    Ken Giles
RHP    Will Harris
RHP    Brad Peacock
RHP    Chris Devenski
RHP    Joe Musgrove
RHP    Joe Smith
RHP    Hector Rondon