National League Central Previews: Astros

Today’s Focus:  Houston Astros

2010 Record:  76-86, 4th Place NL Central

After trading away long time Astros, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, last summer, Houston is looking to the next generation to lead this team.  Hunter Pence becomes the de facto leader of the team with 3 full seasons of solid play under his belt.  The Stro’s are also hoping their young corner infielders Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson can develop into productive major leaguers.  Johnson seems to be up for the challenge, he posted strong numbers after his 2010 call up, but Wallace may not be ready for prime time yet.

The Astros are a young team but they also have their fair share veterans.  Carlos Lee had been a steady presence in the lineup during his first 3 seasons with the Atros but he’s coming off a career worst season.  Speedster Michael Bourn led the NL in stolen bases for the 2nd consecutive season.  The team added Clint Barmes and Bill Hall this off season to add some veteran experience to their young infield.  While they are an upgrade in defense, they offer little in the terms of offensive ability.

Brett Myers becomes the staff ace after getting his career back on track with a strong season in 2010.  The rotation lacks big names but is fairly solid with guys like Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ putting up respectable numbers.  Brandon Lyon has the closer role to himself this year, after Matt Lindstrom’s departure, and he should be more than capable of handling the job.

Notable Losses:  Geoff Blum, Felipe Paulino, Matt Lindstrom, Tim Byrdak
Notable Pickups:  Bill Hall,  Clint Barmes, Sergio Escalona

The Astros’ success is going to be determined by the play of up and comers Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace, & Bud Norris, and the ability of veterans, like Carlos Lee, to live up to expectations.  Even if all those pieces of the puzzle fall into place, the Astros still don’t have enough talent to compete with their NL Central rivals.  Fortunately, they play in the same division as the Pirates, so a last place finish isn’t likely.

Prediction:  73-89, 5th Place NL Central

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