Tha Sports Junkies 101

Houston Astros Team to Beat in 2017?

Eric Smith via


Are the Houston Astros the team to beat in 2017?

Sign a B list starting pitcher: check. Sign an outfielder, preferably left-handed: check. Acquire a catcher to fill a vacant spot on the roster: check. The Houston Astros have been pretty busy this off-season, and it’s technically just beginning.

Getting all of their ‘must do’s’ out of the way early was a good call by General Manager Jeff Luhnow and company. It doesn’t make sense that more teams don’t do this; get top priorities done early, the first few week of the off-season, just to get them out of the way and think about trades or big-name free agents. Essentially acting on plan B before even thinking about plan A.

But that’s besides the point. With the few moves and upgrades the ‘stros have done thus far is not only impressive, but threatening. They’re shaping up to be not only the team to beat in the American League, but the team to beat in the MLB.


The Outfield

With the addition of Josh Reddick, the Houston outfield reads, from left to right, Nori Aoki, George Springer and the aforementioned Reddick. The only weak spot in an already solid and defensively reliable outfield would have to be Aoki in left.

Despite his strong .283/.349/.388 slash, the fact that he was Seattle’s lead-off man sticks out. It’s unlikely manager A.J. Hinch will use Aoki in the lead-off position with players able to hold that responsibility coming out the wazoo. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and already lead-off hitter Springer.

So Aoki’s 28 RBI’s season last year, despite an acceptable measure considering his spot in the Mariner lineup, will have to get more impressive. With that .283 average, I don’t see a reason he won’t drive in 50+ runs, but being 34 years old could also play a factor in being replaced if the Houston Astros actively pursue a left fielder.


The Infield

This infield is the best aspect of the team, no doubt about that.

With a double play combo of Altuve and Correa, and the recent promotion of young and promising Alex Bregman to man the hot corner, the infield is pretty much set in stone for Opening Day.

The only question mark would have to be who’s at first.

Current first baseman Yulieski Gurriel put up a disappointing slash of .262/.292/.385. The current rumors about the Astros and free agent first baseman Edwin Encarnacion has raised some eyebrows. Clearly, this Astro team has recognized the numbers Encarnacion put up and are willing to open the bank and write a pretty hefty check to get to the World Series. And rightfully so.

The addition of Encarnacion to this already offensively stacked Astro team would, obviously, provide yet another spark, but can help out defensively and his post-season experience will pay dividends to a relatively young Houston organization.

However, there is a possibility Encarnacion is not signed, but don’t forget, Gurriel is still an option at first.

Yeah his numbers are nowhere near Encarnacion’s, but his slugging percentage buried in the horrible slash does turn some heads. With a slug-percentage like that, the 32-year-old does show some promise out of that seventh or eighth batting spot.

There’s also DH Evan Gattis, who could probably fill in well at first, but that leaves a vacant spot at the DH, so it’s wise to keep the 30-year-old who doesn’t wear batting gloves in the spot where can solely focus on offense.

Let’s not forget the accusation of catcher Brian McCann, who won’t put up the same defensive numbers as Jason Castro, will compensate with his bat, something Castro struggled with last season.

The 32-year-old backstop put up .242/.335/.413. This shows, though he may not get on base with a hit, he will get on base. And when he does get a hit, it’s probably going to be extra bases. Again, something Castro struggled with last season.

Though not being as defensively gifted as Castro, McCann’s defensive numbers still aren’t that bad. In 12 major league seasons, McCann holds a career .992 fielding percentage. He only had four errors last year and caught 29% of base runners who tried to steal a base, which is above the league average of 23%.


The Pitching

Overcoming all low expectations last season, the Houston Astros rotation surprised all. Unfortunately, this means there will be high expectations to keep up that same relative success from last season.

Consisting of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, recently added Charlie Morton and no-no hurler Mike Fiers, this Astros rotation needs to prove that only the addition of Morton was useful, and the front office didn’t need to spend time upgrading it.

Though with a few questionables in the rotation, the bullpen is the main concern. With a solid, or genuinely okay, back-end, the middle relief and long relief can always be upgraded. Some names include Boone Logan, Scott Feldman, Travis Wood and Tom Milone.

With a couple of upgrades in the bullpen, this should give the Astros that relief they need to win most one-run ballgames.


Assuming the Astro front office is just getting started, a couple of upgrades in left, first and the bullpen would put together a ferocious team to beat. Though the AL is arguably the more capable league of the two, the moves the Houston Astros make this season will certainly give them the right boost they need to go deep in October.

Should I mention how Sports Illustrated predicted the Astros making it to the promise land in 2017?