Article Written By: Manny Alcala
2013 Record: 51-111 (5th Place in AL West)
Key additions: Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Jesse Crain, Matt Albers, Jesus Guzman, Cesar Izturis.
Key losses: Jordan Lyles, Brandon Barnes, Erik Bedard (unsigned).
Most important players for 2014: Jose Altuve, Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman, Jason Castro.
All you have to do is look at the Astros record last season and you can make a conclusion of how bad of a season it was for them. It was no surprise either to see Houston struggle as mightily as they did last year as they are in a deep rebuilding mode. For this year it appears that the Astros can’t get much worse as they look to start improving their ball club by first and foremost not having another 100+ game losing season.
Houston made a big move this off-season by bringing in center fielder Dexter Fowler. Fowler will give the Astros a little bit of everything as he has some speed, power, and can hit for average as well. He will most likely be the lead off hitter for this team, but it will be interesting to see if he moves down a spot or two in the lineup because Jose Altuve had been serving the role as lead off hitter.
Jason Castro was one of the most underrated catchers last season. He basically went unnoticed and quietly produced a pretty solid year in which he hit .276 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs earning him an all star appearance. If he can build on what he did last season, Castro could have a very good year coming from one of the premiere positions in baseball.
It appears that the Astros will move forward with the trio of Fowler, Altuve, and Castro as the players they will build around to start creating a more competitive team. And why wouldn’t they? These three players are still young and clearly are the most talented on a limited Astros roster. You can count on this trio of players to be the most important contributors on offense. Time will tell if Houston can have a similar rebuilding process much like what the Washington Nationals did.
Two key acquisitions that the Astros made were the additions of Scott Feldman and Chad Qualls. Although both pitchers are past their prime, they will bring solid pitching from both the rotation with Feldman and from the bullpen with Qualls. But their most important characteristic will be the experience these pitchers will bring to the younger players of this ball club. If we set aside the experience, these two pitchers instantly make their pitching staff better by adding reliable arms.
This Astros team is bound to have yet another very long tough season, but expect some improvement. The moves made this off-season will help with the cause. In a very competitive AL West, the Astros will almost for sure finish in last place, but do expect them to win around 10 games more than last season.