What Should be Expected from the Houston Astros in 2017?
In the midst of a 70-92 season in 2014, a cover story in Sports Illustrated forecast the Houston Astros to win the World Series in 2017. This seemed like a far-out prediction at the time but the Astros made a significant improvement in 2015, reaching the post-season playoffs with a record of 86-76. They fell off slightly in 2016 with a record of 84-78 due to a poor start and injuries to key pitchers.
Now it is 2017 and time to deliver on the 2014 SI forecast. The team made some significant offensive improvements in the off-season, picking up Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki to shore up the lower part of the lineup which was a soft spot last year. They will also have Alex Bregman and Yulieski Gurriel for the full season. Young players like Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer should have their peak years ahead of them.
The Astros scored an average of 4.5 runs per game last year. The improved offense should raise that figure to about 4.8 runs per game which could result in about 5 more wins. This leaves it up to the pitching. The key will be a return to form of Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers after their season ending injuries in 2016. If they are successful, the Astros should be in good shape but, if not, the club may have to give up one of their top prospects in a trade for pitching help.
The remainder of the starting rotation should be competitive if Collin McHugh returns to health. Newcomers, Charlie Morton and Joe Musgrave, both had excellent springs. The bullpen is deep and should be one of the best in the league.
Another key to success in 2017 will be the ability of the Astros to compete with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have totally dominated the Astros in recent years including a record of 15-4 in 2016. If the Astros can win half of their games against the Rangers, they should finish on top in the Division
The season will be a major disappointment if the team fails to reach the playoffs. If things fall in place, a Division Championship and post-season success is within reach.