Major League Baseball 2014 Team Previews: The Houston Astros
Cellar Dwellers. For Now.
The Houston Astros lost their last 15 games in 2013 to finish the season with a 51-111 record; 45 games out of first in the American League West and worst in all of Major League Baseball. Their first season as part of the American League was a forgettable one.
In 2014, things are not necessarily looking up for the young team either. Manager Bo Porter will attempt to bring his team a better finish to the season, while emphasizing growth for the future.
The team did add some veteran pitching and outfield/leadoff help to the roster, but the youth and inexperience of the club may well lead to another 100-loss season. They certainly will not compete for a playoff position; this year or several to come.
A Young Roster
Starting pitcher Scott Feldman is undoubtedly the veteran of this youthful club. At 31, Feldman has pitched for nine seasons; eight with Texas and a split 2013 with Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs. He has not exactly had a stellar career though. His overall record is 51-56 with a 4.62 ERA. Feldman and the Astros agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract in the offseason.
Relief pitcher Jesse Crain is one year older than Feldman, and has pitched 10 seasons in Minnesota and Chicago (AL). His career record is 45-30 with a 3.05 ERA after 532 games, all in relief. Career reliever Chad Qualls also returns to his original team after spending the past six seasons with seven different clubs. He has a career record of 45-37 and 3.79 ERA. Qualls should provide some veteran leadership and experience to a young pitching staff.
After being acquired in a December trade from the Colorado Rockies, center fielder Dexter Fowler may well be the veteran of the lineup and the position players. With five years of Major League experience while with the Rockies, the 27-year old will bat leadoff. He hit .263 last season with 12 home runs, 42 RBI's and 19 stolen bases. He also has a .365 career on-base percentage.
Fowler joins second baseman Jose Altuve and catcher Jason Castro, two former All Stars. Altuve hit .283 with five homers, 52 RBI's and 35 stolen bases while batting leadoff 33 times. Castro hit .276 with 18 homers, 35 doubles and 56 RBI's. Shortstop Jonathan Villar also added 18 stolen bases last season while batting leadoff 36 times. The team should not be lacking for speed.
With the American League West also consisting of the LA Angels, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros are likely looking at several more losing seasons before they can compete. Things can only look up for the Angels after two mediocre seasons, the Rangers and A's have been postseason contenders for awhile, and the Mariners would appear to be improved with the addition of Robinson Cano.
In his second season with the Astros, General Manager Jeff Luhnow will try to work the same magic he did as director of scouting and player development for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals had quite a run, with two world championships and several postseason visits while Mr. Luhnow was with the organization.
Houston has six of the top 100 prospects in baseball, according to Baseball America. That number is not overwhelming, but Mr. Luhnow has a track record of building up an organization's depth over time. It will be several more seasons before the Astros are again competitive.
The Depth Chart
Top Position Players
Josh Fields (Closer)
Jose Altuve, 2B
Dexter Fowler, CF
Jason Castro, C
Jonathan Villar, SS
Robbie Grossman, LF