Houston Astros 2018 Season Preview
After the Houston Astros won their first World Series championship in the history of the franchise, the only question left that the team has to answer is: why can’t they do it again?
The Las Vegas oddsmakers clearly believe the answer to that question might be a firm “yes,” considering they’ve given the Astros the second-best odds in Major League Baseball only slightly behind the Los Angels Dodgers to win it all in 2018.
The new old team for 2018
For all the additions made by the New York Yankees, and for all the talent that still remains with other contenders like the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, the Houston Astros did what made the most sense to them, and most others: keeping the group that won it all last year intact. Outside of the retirement of Carlos Beltran, and the defection of a few role players from last year’s squad, the 2018 version of the Astros will look almost identical to the one that won 101 games in 2017.
Pitching rotation is unquestionably as good
Houston can boast such lofty expectations, in large part, because the top of their pitching rotation is unquestionably as good as any in baseball. Justin Verlander might not be the supernova pitcher that he was a few years ago, but in his five games since coming over from the Detroit Tigers last year, he went 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA.
In an injury-marred season last year, Dallas Keuchel went 14–5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts, was named an All-Star, and still has five legitimate pitches in his arsenal. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that they’ll return Charlie Morton (who led the team with 25 starts and racked up 14 wins of his own) and add Gerritt Cole (who still flashes tantalizing stuff time to time despite his ups and downs) in the rotation as well.
The blue chip talent
On offense, it all starts right down the middle for the Astros, with their home-grown core of blue chip talent. Second baseman Jose Altuve (the reigning 2017 American League MVP), shortstop Carlos Correa (among the best all-around talents in baseball), centerfielder George Springer (the World Series MVP) are the anchor of a batting order and defense that remains lethal enough to take this team as far as it plans to go again in 2018.
The team has so much talent that they’ll start Brian McCann at catcher, Marwin Gonzalez in left field, and Josh Reddick in right field, but each of them will likely split time throughout the regular season with a host of players whom the team has accumulated.
Houston we have a problem
If the Astros do have a weakness, it might come from the closer spot. Incumbent Ken Giles became more of a liability than an asset over the course of last year, but will still get the first crack at taking on the same role in 2018. To help take some of the pressure off him, but they acquired guys like Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, and still have Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock to help the team put Giles in the best possible position. Of course, if things start to go south again, expect the Astros to active buyers in the trade market, to upgrade this spot.
Just another cliche
At the risk of using another cliché when it comes to sports: the sky is the limit for this Houston Astros team. They were the best team in the American League from wire-to-wire in 2017, and it would honestly be something of a disappointment if they weren’t the same in 2018.