As the thirty teams of Major League Baseball begin their season next week, the rest of the baseball world has started to discuss the big question: Who will win the World Series in 2017?
Entering the 2017 season, eight of the thirty franchises still have yet to win a World Series. This year one of those teams has a good chance to win their first ever championship.
The Houston Astros, who were at rock bottom in 2013, have slowly built up one of the best teams in baseball. The team is comprised of young stars, experienced veterans, a Cy Young award winner, and multiple all-stars. 2017 might just be the year that the Astros strike their name from the list of losers.
There is no ‘W’ in Astros
Since coming into the league in 1962 as the Houston Colt .45s, the Astros have had anything and everything but success.
The Colt .45s became the Astros in 1965, just three years after entering the league. This didn’t help the team’s fortunes as they failed to record a winning season until 1973, and didn’t make the playoffs until 1980. The Astros did string together a few good years in the early 2000’s, and in 2005 they made their first World Series appearance.
After 2005, Houston saw some of its worst years in franchise history. They failed to win 60 games in three straight seasons from 2011-2013. Starting in 2008, they finished under .500 in six straight seasons.
They have made some progress since then.
Following 2013, the Astros made one playoff appearance and finished 2015 and 2016 with winning records. Year after year, it has been nothing but ‘next year’ for Astros fans.
Going into 2017, there appears to be hope for Houston.
Where did the Astros come from?
After finishing dead last in the league in 2013 it looked as if the Astros could not get any worse. Yet only three years later, they have a shot to win their division and could make a run at the World Series.
Where did the Houston Astros come from?
There are a few different answers to this question. The Astros have struggled recently, but for years during their slump, they had one of the best farm systems in baseball. Many of these farm teams were finishing atop their divisions, and teams saw a plethora of young players start to show true potential. Several top prospects have worked their way to the majors and have wasted no time making their names known around the MLB. This farm system is still doing extremely well, and it has paid off so far. The Astros also stayed very busy in the offseason, acquiring a number of experienced veterans that have seen the playoffs many times before and have been consistently solid at their positions for numerous years. Combining young talent and experienced veterans, the Astros look to be a force in 2017.
The 2017 Houston Astros
Let’s take a look at the team that has baseball fans across the country talking.
The Astros are a reasonably young team, however many of these young players are already established names around the league. There are also a number of players who have been around the league for years, but weren’t a part of the Astros until the offseason.
So, who are the Houston Astros?
Let’s start with the star player that has been leading the team since he came into the league in 2011. Jose Altuve, who first became familiar around the league not for his skills on the diamond, but for his height, has become one of the best second basemen in baseball. Standing only 5 feet 6 inches tall, the small, yet larger than life superstar has won numerous gold glove awards and has been one of the league’s hottest hitters since 2011. He finished 2016 with the third highest batting average in the league, and also hit 24 home runs and 96 RBIs. Altuve makes sure to have fun on the field, and is a great leader and teammate that has brought positivity and passion to the Houston organization.
A number of former top prospects in the Houston farm systems have worked their way to the majors, and they have wasted no time putting up impressive numbers of their own. Star outfielder George Springer has been a valuable asset for the Astros since his debut in 2014. From hitting monster home runs to robbing home runs in the outfield, George Springer has proven to be one of the best in the game today. Shortstop Carlos Correa has also been a force in the lineup, and has been extremely helpful for the left side of the infield. Correa hit 20 home runs and 96 RBIs in 2016. Towards the end of the 2016 season, the Astros called up Alex Bregman, a third baseman who had a rather slow start to his Major League career, but promises to be an important piece of the puzzle for the Houston infield. These are only a few of the several young players in the Houston organization, and we are sure to see several more in 2017 and years to follow.
The Astros made several moves in the offseason as well, signing DH Carlos Beltran who played for the Astros back in 2004, catcher Brian McCann from the New York Yankees, outfielder Nori Aoki from the Seattle Mariners and outfielder Josh Reddick from the Los Angeles Dodgers. All four of these players will add to what might be the most powerful lineup in the league, and their leadership skills and experience will help the younger stars improve. RHP Charlie Morton was also signed to a 2-year deal and will be the 5th man in the starting rotation in 2017. The Astros have the skill, the talent, the leadership, the power, and the positivity of a championship caliber team, and if everything goes smoothly, they are sure to win games in October.
What could go wrong?
After a few years of developing younger players and acquiring some veterans, the Astros look set to go in 2017. What could possibly go wrong?
Several things actually, just ask an Astros fan.
This organization has seen good players and teams before, however the franchise still sits at 0-4 in World Series games. Luck has not been on the Astros’ side in the past, and even after the busy offseason there are several areas in which the Astros need to improve from 2016.
Batting average was one of the big problems for the Astros in 2016. Jose Altuve had the best year of his career batting .338, the third-highest average in the league. However, he was the only player in the lineup that hit above .300 on the season. Although they had 8 players who hit 10 or more home runs in 2016, the Astros will need to see an increase in batting averages and on-base percentages if they want to succeed. Another big part of this Astros team that will need to turn itself around in 2017 is the pitching staff. Blown saves were a big problem for the Astros last year, and the rotation that has shown so much potential didn’t live up to the hype last season. Astros ace and 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel finished the year with a not-so-impressive 9-12 record and a 4.55 ERA. Lance McCullers missed most of 2016 with injuries, however has had good numbers when healthy. Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers both struggled with home runs allowed in 2016, anddid not have the season many thought they could. They will both need to have a bounce back year in order for the Astros to be successful. Charlie Morton will be the fifth starter for the Astros and after missing most of 2016 with a severe hamstring strain, Morton will need to produce in order to secure the last spot in the rotation.
Many things could go wrong for the Astros, but that can be said for any team. There will be injuries and slumps for several players throughout the course of the season. The Astros have weapons, and if they can keep a solid rotation, the bullpen can finish games, and hitters can increase batting averages, they have a legitimate shot at winning it all.
There is a chance
The Astros are not a perfect team by any stretch of the imagination, and there are holes in their game that they will need to fix. However, they have the potential to be one of the top teams in the league and possibly win their division. Staying healthy is key, and everyone will need to pull their own weight. Overcoming injuries and slumps will be fundamental in order to win games late in the season. The Astros could very well be a powerhouse team with the best offense in the league and a dominant pitching staff, but not everything is going to go their way. It never does in sports. The main question is will the Astros be able to overcome the difficulties that come their way. If they do, they could very well be world champions in 2017.
Astros Projected Rotation:
Astros Projected lineup:
OF George Springer
3B Alex Bregman
2B Jose Altuve
SS Carlos Correa
DH Carlos Beltran
C Brian McCann
OF Josh Reddick
1B Yulieski Gurriel
OF Nori Aoki