AL West Preview – Houston Astros


March 17, 2014 – AL West Preview – Houston Astros Scott Feldman Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

AL West Preview – Houston Astros:  The Houston Astros, or  the Lastros as many called them jokingly last year, look to break their 3 year streak of losing 100 games more.

  • 2013 – 51-111
  • 2012 – 55-107
  • 2011 – 56-106

Not all was bad for the Astros last year, they did manage to play well against the Los Angeles Angels (10-9) and also the Seattle Mariners (9-10).  Also, the Houston Astros were able to spoil Opening day for Matt Harrison and the Rangers by winning 8-2.  Also, another notable game for the Astros last year was the near perfect game for Yu Darvish.  Darvish managed to get 26 consecutive batters until Marwin Gonzales broke up the perfect game and no-hitter with a grounder right up the middle.  At least Darvish was able to get the win against the Astros.

While the Astros have been at the bottom of the division for the past few seasons, don’t expect them to be there very long.  Even though they have one of the lowest team salaries in baseball, they do have some of the best prospects in baseball.  Recently, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Houston Astros farm system number one overall.  The credit for their first place is being able to pick very well in the draft, which as resulted in them having 5 top prospects.  They have also been able to acquire several other top prospects via trades, such as Jonathan Singleton, Domingo Santana and Asher Wojciechowski.

Who left in 2013

The Houston Astros don’t really have a lot of star power on their roster, but they did have a few players depart in 2013.  The Astros lost Jordan Lyles, Erick Bedard and Brandon Barnes.    The Astros were not hurting with their departures.  Bedard had an ERA of 4.59 and a record of 4-12.  Not exactly star power, but he was one of their best pitchers last years.  Also, Barnes wasn’t much of a loss, he was their 4th outfielder.  Also, not missed is Jordan Lyles, he had an ERA of 5.59 with a record of 7-9.

Building 2014

The Astros picked up former Texas Ranger pitcher Scott Feldman on a 3 year deal worth $30 million, making him the highest paid player on the team.  Along with Feldman, the Astros picked up outfielder Dexter Fowler, Jerome Williams, Matt Alberts, Chad Qualls,  Jesus Guzman,  Jesse Crain, and Anthony Bass.  With the acquisition of Williams, Feldman, Qualls and Crain, the Astros will have a couple of strong starters and a stronger bullpen.

Feldman spent time with the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles last year, and posted and ERA of 3.86 with a record of 12 and 12.  He should help the Astros pitching rotation and is basically their ace at the moment.  Which should translate to a few extra wins for the Astros in 2014.  Jerome Williams had an ERA of 4.57 with a record of 9 and 10.  Even though he doesn’t have the best stats, he’ll also help the Astros improve.  Feldman will be the veteran pitcher on the rotation and is also there to help mentor the younger pitchers on the staff.

The Ryan Effect

In case you missed it, Nolan Ryan is now working with the Jim Crane (owner of the Houston Astros).   Ryan has been name as an executive assistant for the team and will be assisting Crane and also his son Reid Ryan, President of the Astros.  Nolan Ryan will bring the same baseball knowledge he brought to the Texas Rangers.  It could be argued who to give credit to, Jon Daniels or Ryan, but when they were both there, the Texas Rangers turned around as an organization and started winning games and eventually made it to the World Series.  Ryan has said that the Astros in their current state remind him of the 2008 Rangers.  What does that mean?  Basically that they are about 2-3 year from being a very competitive team.   They may not go to the World Series in 2016 or 2017, but they will start winning and will give every team in the west a run for the money.

Report from around the Network

Greg Thurston of Climbing Tal’s Hill answered a few questions about Houston Astros.  Below are a few questions that we here at Nolan Writin asked him about the Astros and the upcoming season.

What does having Nolan Ryan back with the club mean to the Astros franchise?

This is a team that has been laughed at by the casual baseball fan for the last three seasons. I think adding Ryan gives the Astros a boost in the respectability department. In addition, I think many of the older Astros fans that may have recently jumped ship will be more likely to return.

How big of an impact do you expect him to have on the team, especially the pitching?

From what I’ve heard, Ryan will be taking on an advisory role with the club — acting as somewhat of a sounding board for the upper management team regarding both baseball and business decisions. I see Nolan bringing an extra set of eyes and adding more of an old-school baseball point of view to a mostly new school organization. He should have some input on pitching philosophies and maybe even player personnel decisions, but I don’t think he will be doing much one-on-one work with the athletes.

What do you expect from former Texas Rangers starter Scott Feldman?

I will be happy if Feldman can stay healthy and eat up 200 innings with maybe a couple of hot streaks mixed in.

I am a fan of the Astros manager, and I think he can turn this team around. Do you think he will get enough time as manager to do that or will he be fired before he gets the chance?

I’m still not completely sold on Porter. I like a lot of his motivational ideas. But he also has a tendency to air the team’s dirty laundry in public — which I don’t like. I think he will get every opportunity stick around until many of the young prospects are ready to contribute.

I think the Astros are going to be better this season. Do you agree and why?

I have to say yes. But only because they couldn’t get much worse.

What prospect or prospects should we look to make it to the bigs this season?

George Springer is the one guy that Astros fans are clamoring for. He may not be on the Opening Day roster but we will definitely be seeing him soon. Jonathan Singleton is also a possibility.

Who would you call the Astros “dark horse” going into this season?

I’ve got a couple for you. Brad Peacock and Robbie Grossman. Both players struggled early last season and , after getting demoted to AAA, came back strong later in the season. I expect Peacock to be a mainstay in the rotation and Grossman to win one of the open corner outfield jobs.

We thank Greg for taking time out to answer a few questions.

Will they loss 100 games again

There is no easy answer here, but my prediction says yes, they will loss 100 games again.  Although I expect it to be very close this year, maybe even a record of 62-100.  With Feldman and Williams, I expect them to win a few more games, but like Ryan I think they need a couple of more years to have their top prospects development.  Also, the Astros didn’t upgrade as much as any other team in the division.  The Rangers last year beat up on the Astros with a record of 17-2, and were the best team against in the west.  I wouldn’t expect the Angels to lose the season series again against the Astros.

Astros visit the Texas Rangers on April 11 for a 3 game weekend set.  That will kick off the Lone Star Series Silver Boot series, the Rangers haven’t lost the series since 2006.  (Tied in 2008).