HOUSTON - The spring grind in Florida is now in the books. The Houston Astros spent six weeks in West Palm Beach to fine-tune for the new 2019 season, but that is now over.
Hello, opening day!
Are the Astros built to contend and make a World Series run? You bet they are.
“This team has all the potential in the world,” George Springer said Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. “I think this team can do what it wants to do, but a lot has to go right over 162 games. Control what we can do and just play.”
“Excited to get this season started, and Thursday, it’s off to the races,” Alex Bregman said Monday at Minute Maid Park. “Guys have prepared themselves. We are in a great situation to get off to a great start and win at a nice clip. We are looking forward to this season and couldn’t be happier for how things came together during camp.”
Last season, the Astros went 103-59 en route to winning the American League West title. Their season ended in the American League Championship Series with a loss to the eventual World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox.
A.J. Hinch is back for his fifth season in Houston. From day one, he has earned the respect from everyone in the clubhouse and has become a true fan favorite in Houston. Hinch said as good as the Astros look on paper, it's now time to get the job done on the field over the course of the 162-game regular season.
“We know how to prepare and get through the season. Win games and get to playoffs. I don’t have a concern about this team's mindset,” Hinch said.
The 2017 World Series run is now in the rearview mirror for the Astros. Like any team, roster changes are a part of baseball, and the Astros dealt with some changes during the offseason.
Start with the pitching rotation that is minus a key part of the Astros' recent success with the loss of former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who remains a free agent after a quiet offseason. With Keuchel and Charlie Morton both gone, the rotation still remains one of the best in baseball:
- Justin Verlander
- Gerrit Cole
- Collin McHugh
- Wade Miley
- Brad Peacock
With Verlander, fresh off his new two-year, $66 million contract extension, and Cole leading the rotation, it bodes well for the Astros. Both right-handers were strikeout machines in 2018, with Verlander whiffing 290 opponents and Cole sitting down a career-high 276. McHugh returns to his starting role after a year as a reliever, while Miley is the new addition signed by general manager Jeff Luhnow. Peacock was steady in 2018 and won the fifth starting spot in camp.
The Astros' regular lineup again will likely produce big numbers, assuming everyone stays healthy for most of the season. The lineup is tough. With the likes of Springer, Bregman and Jose Altuve leading the attack at the plate, opposing pitchers better beware. 2019 is a big year for Carlos Correa to produce and rebound from a 2018 season where he dealt with injuries.
The Astros' big addition was signing Michael Brantley. Brantley is a proven veteran who plays good defense in left field and has been consistent at the plate throughout his career. Yuli Gurriel is steady at first base and hits with power, while Tyler White can be counted on as a designated hitter or can also be a defensive strength in spot starts at first base. Right fielder Josh Reddick returns and is focused on improving his offensive numbers while playing steady defense. The Astros' new catcher is Robinson Chirinos, who comes over from the Texas Rangers. Max Stassi will also see plenty of time behind the plate in 2019.
ASTROS' PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Michael Brantley, LF
6. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
7. Tyler White, DH
8. Josh Reddick, RF
9. Robinson Chirinos, C
This Astros team should be a squad that dominates the AL West and makes a playoff run. That said, every year is different, and like any team, it will all come down to health.
“I’ve told our team you can’t take anything for granted. We are the favorites in the AL West, but we haven’t won anything yet. I know people are talking about the type of playoff teams there are in the American League, but that is noise to me,” Hinch said.
The Astros open the season in Tampa with four games against the Rays, followed by three more in Arlington against the Rangers. The Astros then return for their home opener against the Oakland A’s on April 5 at 7:10 p.m. at Minute Maid Park.
Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.