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Houston Astros Opening Day Primer


2011 Record: 56-106 Manager: Brad Mills

The Astros have a new owner, new front office people, and next year, a new league as the Astros will move to the American League next year. As a National League fan living in Texas, that stinks, as the closest NL team to Texas is either St. Louis or Denver. Billings, Montana and Fargo, North Dakota are closer to National League baseball than most people in Texas. Think about that.

Player in the spotlight: Carlos Lee 1B

Lee is quite simply, the only recognizable name in the everyday lineup for the Astros on opening day. Lee is now famous for his albatross contract that has essentially anchored him in Houston with very little chance of being traded. Lee is due $19M this season and only near the trade deadline might a market develop to acquire Lee’s bat. If the Astros are to avoid another 100 loss season, Lee will have to hit like he did near the beginning of his contract from 2007-2009.

Biggest question mark in the lineup: Jed Lowrie SS

Lowrie would be another “name” in the Astros lineup if he wasn’t, surprise, injured again. Lowrie comes over from the Red Sox DL where he occasionally came off and played for weeks at a time. When healthy Lowrie is a good defender and a decent bat for a shortstop, but those days are few and far between. The likely outcome here is that the Astros try to rehabilitate Lowrie’s image durability-wise and move him for some more prospects. He certainly won’t be the cornerstone of a playoff team.

Pitcher in the spotlight: Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy represents, possibly, the only tradable commodity that Astros haven’t moved in the past two seasons. It would be shocking if he were to be in Houston when August 1st arrives. But until then, he’ll be the cornerstone of a young, developing pitching staff as they try to avoid 100 losses again.

Biggest pitching question mark: Brett Myers   Closer

Wait, there’s another pitcher who could be moved. Myers moves back to the bullpen for reasons unknown. It’s hard to believe that Myers will be more tradable as a reliever than a starter. For a team that should treasure each opportunity to win games and will need to finish those games strong, Myers will have to be good in those rare opportunities.

Prospect with a chance to make an impact this year: Jonathan Singleton 1B

This is a little bit of a stretch to expect Singleton to impact this year, but he should get a chance in September if he continues to progress as expected. Singleton came over in the Hunter Pence deal with the Phillies last summer and gives the Astros fans some hope for the future.

Prediction: 6th in NL Central

The goal for the worst team in baseball is avoiding 100 losses for the second consecutive season and for only the second time in club history. Unlike 1991, there aren’t any Craig Biggio’s already on the roster and it’s doubtful that they have Jeff Bagwell ready to burst upon the scene. This rebuilding job is going to be a long, hard slog. They acquired a boatload of prospects over the past two seasons, many from the Phillies, and they will need to have a solid success rate to get this team back into contention by 2014, at the earliest. The goal here is to find optimism with a team, and the Astros look like a winner by 2015. Other good news, this will be their last 6th place finish until MLB expands again.

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