Posted on February 16, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
After winning the 2017 World Series, the Houston Astros have nowhere to go but down. However, the Astros approached the offseason as if they wanted to reload for another championship run. On paper, the Astros may be even better in 2018 than they were in 2017. Can the Astros become the first team since 2000 to repeat as World Series champions?
The Astros had one of the best rotations in the American League last year, and they may be even better this year. Dallas Keuchel did a lot of the heavy lifting last season, although he did get a lot of help from Justin Verlander in the postseason. The Astros will now be privy to a full season with Verlander joining Keuchel at the top of their rotation. If those two weren’t enough, the Astros also traded for Gerrit Cole over the winter, giving them perhaps the best starting trio in baseball.
In addition to that outstanding trio, the Astros have Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton rounding out their rotation. McCullers was an all-star in 2017 while Morton won 14 games and pitched exceptionally well after an injury-plagued 2016 season. Brad Peacock, who won 10 games in 21 starts last year, will provide depth, as well as a bullpen option. The same is true for Collin McHugh, who posted a 3.55 ERA in 12 starts last year after missing the first half of the season due to injury. That gives Houston’s rotation at least seven viable starters and plenty of high-end talent at the top.
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Most would agree that the Astros won the World Series despite their bullpen in 2017. But that group did get some reinforcements over the winter in the form of Hector Rondon and Joe Smith. In addition to Rondon, who has experience as a closer, Chris Devenski and Will Harris will give Houston some options in case closer Ken Giles struggles the way he did in the postseason. Peacock will join that group if he’s not needed in the rotation. If Tony Sipp can bounce back after a rough 2017, the Astros will also have a reliable lefty specialist.
This isn’t a group that profiles as one of the best in baseball. But the Astros should have enough solid and experienced relievers to put together a competent bullpen. Considering how strong the rest of the roster is, the Astros should be able to get by with their bullpen as it’s currently comprised. However, it may need to be addressed this summer if the Astros want to repeat.
The Astros scored the most runs in baseball last season, and they’ll have a potent lineup this year as well. It all starts with the middle infield tandem of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa at the top of the lineup. There’s also plenty of firepower in the middle of the lineup with George Springer, Josh Reddick, Yuli Gurriel, Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, and Alex Bregman. It’s also important to keep in mind that most of Houston’s top hitters are barely in their prime, so there could still be room for growth.
It’s tough to find a weakness anywhere in Houston’s lineup. Even if there’s an injury, utility man Marwin Gonzalez can play nearly any position and is coming off an incredible offensive season in 2017. The Astros even have young players should be ready if called upon, starting with Derek Fisher, who appears to be in line to be the team’s primary left fielder.
Obviously, it’ll be tough for the Astros to replicate the 101 wins and world title of last season. But this team appears to have all the pieces in place to do just that. Houston’s rotation alone is reason enough to think they’ll be back in the playoffs in 2018. Some drop off is expected, especially since the AL West figures to be more of a challenge than it was a year ago. However, If they can stay healthy and get enough out of their bullpen, expect the Astros to go 98-64 and repeat as division champions, giving them the opportunity to repeat as World Series champions.