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2019 AL West division preview: the big mean Houston Astros machine

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They’ve reloaded and are ready to demolish the competition once again.

League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Five
Bregman has had an eventful offseason.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Houston Astros

2018: 103-59, 1st in AL West, lost in ALCS to Boston Red Sox

Who?

The Houston Astros. Won the World Series in 2017 then faltered last year against the Boston Red Sox. They return a majority of their core.

Were they even good last year?

Yes. This is despite Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa having down seasons and Dallas Keuchel proving why he should not be signed to a five-year deal. Alex Bregman stepped up and the Houston bullpen and rotation was exceptionally strong.

What did they do this offseason?

Oh, you know, nothing much. Just went out and got three-time All Star Michael Brantley to fill gaps in the outfield. Wade Miley signed with them to shore up their rotation. Moved Brad Peacock from the bullpen to the rotation. Robinson Chirinos is now their catcher. It was a pretty solid team before, and all they did was shore up some of their weaknesses.

Projected Lineup

ORDER POS PLAYER BATS AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
ORDER POS PLAYER BATS AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
1 CF George Springer R 29 3.4
2 3B Alex Bregman R 25 5.4
3 2B Jose Altuve R 28 4.9
4 SS Carlos Correa R 24 3.7
5 1B Yuli Gurriel R 34 0.8
6 LF Michael Brantley L 31 2.2
7 DH Tyler White R 28 1.9
8 RF Josh Reddick L 32 1.8
9 C Robinson Chirinos R 34 1.3

Stats and info courtesy of FanGraphs

That lineup is packed. The first four can match any first four in baseball, and they have depth as well, with Brantley and White in the lower part of the lineup. Save the catcher position, there’s not an easy out at all.

Projected Rotation

PLAYER Throws AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
PLAYER Throws AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
Justin Verlander R 36 4.8
Gerrit Cole R 28 4.1
Collin McHugh R 31 2.5
Wade Miley L 32 1
Brad Peacock R 31 1.6

Yes, Lance McCullers is out for the year, and Dallas Keuchel will probably not be an Astro at the start of the season, but this rotation is built to compete. Verlander and Cole at the top create a huge two-headed monster. Then you have two pitchers who have taken a bullpen role over the past few years in McHugh and Peacock but are aching to start again. Finally you have Miley and his postseason heroics. This rotation should be one of the best in baseball again.

Projected Bullpen

PLAYER Throws AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
PLAYER Throws AGE ZiPS (fWAR)
Roberto Osuna R 24 1
Ryan Pressly R 30 1.1
Hector Rondon R 31 0.5
Chris Devenski R 28 0.9
Will Harris R 34 0.7
Dean Deetz R 25 0.4
Reymin Guduan L 27 -0.1

It’s still crazy that the Astros traded for Osuna while he was going through his legal troubles, but those seemed to have been resolved last year. He’s still the most talented pitcher in the bullpen. There’s quickly a drop off. Pressly impressed last year because of the spin rate on his fastball, and that translated into excellent sub-1 WHIPs and ERAs with the Astros, but Rondon has struggled since coming over from the Cubs. Harris and Devenski are coming off down years, and other members of the pen don’t have much major league experience.

What is their strength?

Experience, fun, ability, superstars, depth, a playoff-proven ace...you name it, they probably have it. There’s not much else to say about this juggernaut that should make another run at the World Series.

What is their weakness?

The bullpen. It got a lot weaker because Peacock and McHugh moved up to the rotation, and most of the members that remained are not as fearsome as Cole or Verlander. If you can knock a starter out reasonably early and avoid Osuna and Pressly, you have a decent shot at scoring against the bullpen.

So, what can we expect?

Although the Oakland A’s have Rahul Setty’s mancrush Matt Chapman and the Angels have done...something(?) some things(?) twiddled their thumbs(?) this offseason, the Houston Astros will most likely will the AL West, and it probably won’t be close. And just like last year, it may be advantageous for them not to finish with the best record in the league so they can play the Cleveland Indians rather than whichever team ends up emerging from the AL East wildcard race bloodbath (of course, the Angels could sneak through, but...)

Yeah. They’re at the top right now, and someone has to knock them off. (2019 AL West Champions...the Los Angeles Angels!)

What’s the most accurate song representation for this team?

Expect to get steamrolled by the Astros more than a few times this year.

Bonus Fact: Alex Bregman has a YouTube account and it’s surprisingly entertaining.