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2014 Outlook: Houston Astros

Jan 16, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

2013 record: 51-111, 5th place in AL West
Manager: Bo Porter, 2nd season
Estimated 2014 payroll: $48 million
Key additions: SP Scott Feldman, OF Dexter Fowler, RP Jess Crain, RP Matt Albers, RP Chad Qualls
Key losses: IF Ryan Jackson, OF Brandon Barnes, SP Jordan Lyles

Projected lineup
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Jose Altuve
C Jason Castro
DH Chris Carter
1B Brett Wallace
LF Robbie Grossman
3B Matt Dominguez
RF L.J. Hoes
SS Jonathan Villar

Projected rotation
RHP Scott Feldman
RHP Jarred Cosart
LHP Brett Oberholtzer
RHP Brad Peacock
LHP Paul Clemens

Top relievers
CL Jesse Crain
RHP Chad Qualls
RHP Matt Albers

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. When will we see their top prospects? The Astros have by all accounts one of the most talent-starved rosters in all of Major League Baseball, but in their farm system await three of the best prospects in the game. Former number one overall picks Carlos Correa and Mark Appel, plus slugging outfielder George Springer possess All-Star talent and all three are on track to debut this season. Will each of them pan out and reach their potential? Probably not. But top prospects debuting is always fun for baseball fans and these kids are legitimate. Correa is a .300 hitter in the minors, Appel was a stud in college and Springer hit .303 with 37 homers and 45 stolen bases for the Astros’ Double- and Triple-A affiliates last year. Let’s see what they can do in the majors.

2. How much will Fowler help Houston’s lineup? The Astros didn’t do a ton to improve their roster this offseason, their biggest acquisition is probably Dexter Fowler who is now expected to hit leadoff. Fowler was excellent two years ago in Colorado (.300/.389/.474) but couldn’t repeat that success in 2013. If he brings his average back closer to .300, he could be the perfect table-setter for Houston’s young lineup. They have some talent on offense and Springer should further reinforce that. A consistent presence at the top of the order could make Houston a little more dangerous.

3. Can Houston climb out of the basement? The Astros lost 111 games last season which is the worst finish for any team since the Diamondbacks lost the same number in 2004. This was one season after Houston lost 107 games and two years after they dropped 106. They’ve been the worst team in baseball for several years now and they keep getting worse. Will the trend be reversed this season? One would think so, given they are at least slightly better on paper than this time last year.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Jan 16, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Off topic, but I just saw that Henry Rodriguez has signed with the Marlins (a minor league deal with invitation to Spring Training). For all the angst and agida he caused, I’ll always remember him for that marvelous inning against the Braves late in the 2011 season. At that point, I really had visions of him turning into a superb set-up man or possibly even a closer.

    • ArVAFan - Jan 16, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      Yes, but now Mark is worrying about the safety of the fish in the tank behind Marlin’s home plate. I am more worried about our players–they are not protected by inches of plexiglass. He had his moments, but also too many not-so-moments. But nothing really tops the time he almost hit himself with a wild pitch.

  2. nats128 - Jan 16, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    Rizzo was just on 980AM and RZ was on 106.7. Must be close to baseball season.

    Rizzo yapped a while about Espinosa.

    • flnatsfan - Jan 16, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      I really enjoyed Zim’s interview. Sounds like he has a lot of wisdom for young players.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 16, 2014 at 3:19 PM

      So I’m assuming ‘yapped’ = nothing of real substance?

      • nats128 - Jan 16, 2014 at 6:49 PM

        Eugene, same cliches and Rizzo quips. Still enjoyed it.

  3. 3on2out - Jan 16, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    The Astros are a sad lot but I love me some Jose Altuve. That little dude can play!

  4. Hiram Hover - Jan 16, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    Did anyone see Bos’s column today about extending JZimm and Desi?

    He said yes, the Nats should make each a “good faith offer,” but seems to have awfully low estimates of what that would be:

    JZimm – says he “may” be in the neighborhood of Verlander’s and Felix H’s ~$80M/5 year deals from 2010. (Bos ignores the fact that both later signed new $170-180M contracts that tore up the last years of those 5-year deals)

    Desi – he “might expect” $78M/6 years

    For those figures, I have to Rizzo would do both deals in a heartbeat, but I doubt Desi or JZimm’s agents would regard them as “good faith” offers.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:05 AM

      My type of offers!

  5. David Proctor - Jan 16, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    Eugene,

    Per twitter: #Nationals avoid arbitration with Ross Detwiler. He gets $3M. $50G bonus if reaches 180IP

    So that’s your biggest question mark answered.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 55 43 --
ATLANTA 54 46 2.0
MIAMI 47 52 8.5
NEW YORK 47 53 9.0
PHILADELPHIA 43 57 13.0
Through Tuesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
WED: Nats at Rockies, 3:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Nats at Reds, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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