The former World Series
Champs Cheaters are a shadow of the powerhouse they once were – but they are still good. Fangraphs has their rotation falling in around #19 which is BELOW the Angels who weigh in at #17. If accurate, this could be the first time in years the Angels may have a rotation better than the Astros. It certainly helps that Justin Verlander is out recovering from TJ surgery and some key pieces have departed.
Trash can aficionados George Springer and Josh Reddick are gone. Also of note, Roberto Osuna has flown the coupe and I’m glad to see him out of the AL West (and maybe out of baseball).
Nothing groundbreaking in terms of additions, but the Astros did add Jake Odorizzi, Pedro Baez, and Jason Castro. They didn’t really move the needle forward much with any of these acquisitions.
Projected rotation (with 2021 projected stats):
RHP Zack Greinke 186 IP, 4.05 ERA, 2.7 WAR.
RHP Lance McCullers Jr. 144 IP, 3.85 ERA, 2.5 WAR
RHP Jake Odorizzi 138 IP, 4.40 ERA, 1.8 WAR.
RHP Christian Javier 93 IP, 5.10 ERA, 0.5 WAR.
RHP Jose Urquidy 117 IP, 4.81 ERA, 1.0 WAR.
RHP Brandon Bielak 19 IP, 5.02 ERA, 0.1 WAR.
LHP Framber Valdez 79 IP, 3.93 ERA, 1.4 WAR.
The Astros surely have some question marks in their 2021 rotation, including how effective can a 37 year old Grienke be and how many innings will their currently injured lefty will be able to toss. Valdez fractured his finger and was originally slated to be out the entire season, but that was changed to a less gloomy outlook after his finger showed positive healing signs following surgery.
If Altuve and a few others get over the yips – or remember how to hit without a trash can, this is a pretty solid lineup. You have 5 guys who could hit 30 home runs and a few with 20-30 stolen base potential. Not a lot of super weak spots here other than maybe Maldonado. There are also a few young guys like Tucker and Straw who could could be average or have break out seasons. Their lineup remains strong, even with the loss of George Springer.
- Jose Altuve, 2B the little dude had a pretty atrocious 2020 season. Call it guilt, call it whatever – but even Albert Pujols had a better OPS than Altuve. He’s projected to hit around 20-25 home runs this year with an AVG in the 280s. This is not peak Jose Altuve – that guy may be gone.
- Michael Brantley, LF can still play, and can certainly still hit. The Astros were wise to bring him back. You can expect him to hit around .300 and smash 15-20 home runs
- Alex Bregman, 3B his batting average, like Altuve dropped pretty dramatically in 2020. He is projected to have an OBP in the high 300s and will probably hit 30+ homers.
- Carlos Correa, SS one of the better shortstops around, Correa is in his walk year. He is projected to have about a .350 OBP with 25-30 home runs and his usual solid defense,
- Yordan Alvarez, DH had a .412 OBP in 2019 but barely played in 2020 due to knee surgery. He is another masher and his offensive stats should look pretty similar to Bregman with 30+ homers and an OBP in the high 300s.
- Yuli Gurriel, 1B yet another Astro whose stats took a dive in 2020. Are you sensing a theme here? ZiPS has him at a .303 OBP with 16 home runs..
- Kyle Tucker, RF the young Tucker could be a standout in what may be his first full season as a pro. Projections have him in the 25-30 home run range with a .260ish average but scouts call him a high floor, high ceiling player.
- Miles Straw, CF another youngster with 224 MLB plate appearances. He’s not a power hit but he could swipe 30+ base with an OBP in the low 300s but he has the potential for a breakout season.
- Martin Maldonado, C no strange to Angels fans, he is of course more known for his defense. He is projected to have a sub 300 OBP but also to probably throw out a handful of Angels base runners.
Their Projected Bullpen
The Astros bullpen is even less of a strength than their rotation is. According to FanGraphs depthcahrts, they are ranked #22 in MLB. Below are listed in Fangraphs depth chart order. Projected stats are based on Depth Charts:
Ryan Pressly RHP, 60 IP, 3.25 ERA, 10.9 K/9, 1.4 fWAR.
Enoli Paredes RHP, 61 IP, 4.47 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 0.0 fWAR.
Blake Taylor LHP, 64 IP, 4.5 ERA, 8.5 K/9, -0.1 fWAR.
Joe Smith RHP, 57 IP, 4.08 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 0.3 fWAR.
Brooks Raley LHP, 56 IP, 4.76 ERA, 7.36 K/9, 0.1 fWAR.
Ryne Stanek RHP, 48 IP, 4.20 ERA, 11.0 K/9, 0.0 fWAR.
Bryan Abreu RHP, 30 IP, 4.52 ERA, 10.4 K/9, 0.0 fWAR.
Pedro Baez RHP, 60 IP, 4.35 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 0.2 fWAR.
Their Projected Bench
Catcher Jason Castro not much to see here. Pretty terrible at the plate but a good defensive backup behind the plate. He’ll probably hit around .200 and throw out a few runners here and there.
Utility Robel Garcia a rookie who had 80 PAs with the Cubs in 2020. He is not a strong hitter and will likely not see more than 100-150 ABs.
4th outfielder Chas McCormick will be making his MLB debut in the near future. This spring, he didn’t even hit .100 and struck out 11 times in 26 ABs.
Bench Infielder Aledmys Díaz is a pretty average backup infielder without much pop, though he did hit 18 HRs in 2018. He’ll log a couple hundred ABs with a low 300s OBP..
What to Expect
Despite a weakened rotation and no so hot bullpen, the Astros are still favored by most to win the AL West. The Angels and possible the A’s are hot on their trail though and if a few things break wrong for the Astros and right for the Angels, 2021 may be the best chance to win the division since 2014.