2014 Outlook: Houston Astros

2014 Outlook: Houston Astros
January 16, 2014, 1:30 pm
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Zuckerman breaks down 2014 Hall of Famers (VIDEO)

2013 record: 51-111, 5th place in AL West
Manager: Bo Porter, 2nd season
Estimated 2014 payroll: $48 million
Key additions: SP Scott Feldman, OF Dexter Fowler, RP Jess Crain, RP Matt Albers, RP Chad Qualls
Key losses: IF Ryan Jackson, OF Brandon Barnes, SP Jordan Lyles

Projected lineup
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Jose Altuve
C Jason Castro
DH Chris Carter
1B Brett Wallace
LF Robbie Grossman
3B Matt Dominguez
RF L.J. Hoes
SS Jonathan Villar

Projected rotation
RHP Scott Feldman
RHP Jarred Cosart
LHP Brett Oberholtzer
RHP Brad Peacock
LHP Paul Clemens

Top relievers
CL Jesse Crain
RHP Chad Qualls
RHP Matt Albers

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. When will we see their top prospects? The Astros have by all accounts one of the most talent-starved rosters in all of Major League Baseball, but in their farm system await three of the best prospects in the game. Former number one overall picks Carlos Correa and Mark Appel, plus slugging outfielder George Springer possess All-Star talent and all three are on track to debut this season. Will each of them pan out and reach their potential? Probably not. But top prospects debuting is always fun for baseball fans and these kids are legitimate. Correa is a .300 hitter in the minors, Appel was a stud in college and Springer hit .303 with 37 homers and 45 stolen bases for the Astros’ Double- and Triple-A affiliates last year. Let’s see what they can do in the majors.

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2. How much will Fowler help Houston’s lineup? The Astros didn’t do a ton to improve their roster this offseason, their biggest acquisition is probably Dexter Fowler who is now expected to hit leadoff. Fowler was excellent two years ago in Colorado (.300/.389/.474) but couldn’t repeat that success in 2013. If he brings his average back closer to .300, he could be the perfect table-setter for Houston’s young lineup. They have some talent on offense and Springer should further reinforce that. A consistent presence at the top of the order could make Houston a little more dangerous.

3. Can Houston climb out of the basement? The Astros lost 111 games last season which is the worst finish for any team since the Diamondbacks lost the same number in 2004. This was one season after Houston lost 107 games and two years after they dropped 106. They’ve been the worst team in baseball for several years now and they keep getting worse. Will the trend be reversed this season? One would think so, given they are at least slightly better on paper than this time last year.