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Houston Astros 2022: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Alex Bregman, Houston Astros

Alex Bregman and the Astros have their sights just not on winning the AL West again, but getting back to the World Series

After seven months of abuse from across the sport, the Astros won the American League pennant for the third time in five years but fell two wins shy of a redemptive World Series title. Their window to claim another championship did not slam shut, though. Eight of their nine everyday position players return for 2022 along with a blossoming young core of starting pitching. Filling Carlos Correa's gaping hole at shortstop is mandatory, but the return of Justin Verlander atop the rotation gives Houston one of the AL's deepest pitching staffs.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Astros

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"Kyle Tucker was their best hitter last year, and with him and Yordan Álvarez, they've got two of the league's best offensive players under control for years. As an offense, they do a great job of not chasing — they'll spoil your best pitch with foul balls, and it's really hard to be pitch-efficient against that lineup. They just keep coming up with prime-age pitchers, too, with José Urquidy, Luis García and Framber Valdez, who might have the best sinker in baseball when it's on. Justin Verlander cares a lot about his place in history, and after so much time off, he'll be highly motivated to keep adding to his legacy. So that's four strong options, plus Lance McCullers Jr. if he's healthy, and maybe Cristian Javier. I'd like to see them just leave him in the rotation and see what he can do, but a swingman like him is so valuable. Ryan Pressly doesn't overwhelm you with stuff at the end of the game, but he's steady in that role, he keeps the ball in the park and his slider is a dominant pitch."

Beyond the Box Score

Mr. October The Astros poached New York Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson last season. Jackson has entered Houston owner Jim Crane's inner circle of confidants — his official title is "special adviser" to Crane — creating an interesting dichotomy given the animus between both franchises. Jackson was visible throughout the 2021 postseason wearing Astros colors — including a navy hat with "Mr. October" embroidered in orange.

Houston Astros 2022 Baseball Cover

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Groundbreaking Houston hired Milwaukee Brewers minor league hitting coordinator Sara Goodrum as its director of player development this winter, making her one of the highest-ranking female front-office employees in the sport. She is believed to be the first woman to hold each of her last two titles: minor league hitting coordinator and director of player development.

Roof debate At MLB commissioner Rob Manfred's behest, the Astros opened the roof at Minute Maid Park for Game 2 of the World Series — and snapped a five-game losing streak in home World Series games. Astros players strongly prefer the roof closed and environment controlled, but the postseason decision could spur a few more open-air games.

Which way Houston's two center fielders share an odd similarity. Both Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers hit right-handed but throw left-handed. Including Meyers and McCormick, only 10 major league players last season hit righty and threw lefty. One of them — Twins rookie outfielder Gilberto Celestino — came up in Houston's system before being shipped to Minnesota in the Ryan Pressly trade.

Buzzing rivalry The Yankees and Astros are not fond of each other. The hatred should spill into 2022, especially after two premeditated celebrations at Minute Maid Park in 2021. After hitting a home run, Aaron Judge tugged at his jersey between second and third in ode to José Altuve's insistence that his shirt not be ripped off after his walk-off, pennant-winning home run in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS. Fans surmised Altuve was wearing a buzzer to alert him what pitch was coming — an accusation MLB investigated but found nothing to substantiate. A day after Judge's home run, catcher Martín Maldonado struck one of his own and, after rounding third base, opened his shirt to reveal his bare chest. Altuve won that game with a walk-off home run in the ninth inning. His teammates ripped off his jersey in celebration.

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Projected Lineup

LINEUP

2B    José Altuve (R)
LF    Michael Brantley (L)
3B    Alex Bregman (R)
DH   Yordan Álvarez (L)
1B    Yuli Gurriel (R)
RF    Kyle Tucker (L)
SS    Jeremy Peña (R)
CF    Chas McCormick (R)
C      Martín Maldonado (R)

BENCH

IF     Aledmys Díaz (R)
C     Jason Castro (L)
IF     Niko Goodrum (S)
OF   Jake Meyers (R)

ROTATION

RHP    Justin Verlander
LHP    Framber Valdez
RHP    Luis García
RHP    José Urquidy
RHP    Jake Odorizzi
RHP    Lance McCullers Jr.*

BULLPEN

RHP    Ryan Pressly (C)
RHP    Ryne Stanek
RHP    Phil Maton
RHP    Héctor Neris
RHP    Cristian Javier
RHP    Pedro Báez
RHP    Rafael Montero
LHP    Blake Taylor

*Note: Lance McCullers Jr. is expected to miss the start of the season while recovering from elbow surgery.

2022 Prediction: 1st in AL West