Saturday, December 2, 2023

Uncustomed Heroes of 2023: Astros


The Houston Astros have been in all of the past 7 ALCS matchups. Perhaps solely by inertia at this point. 

The 2023 incarnation of the Astros was a different iteration of the team. For half the year they didn't have Justin Verlander, or many sure bets in terms of starting pitching in general. They also had Jose Abreu at 1st rather than Yuli Gurriel, which was honestly a step down, as well as more inexperienced options in the outfield as well as, for half the year, at 2nd. Yes, there were rookie successes abound, like Hunter Brown, Yanier Diaz and J.P. Sears, but it couldn't distract from the fact that the core of the 2017 keeps getting further and further away from the modern crew. Despite being the only team not to be stymied by the first-round bye, they were on borrowed time to begin with, and fell to their cross-state rivals.

Jake Meyers, though overshadowed by fellow young outfield piece Chas McCormick, was still responsible for some nice, dominant stuff this year. He only hit .227, but he had 10 home runs and 33 RBIs, while also being an impressive defensive outfield piece. With Brantley gone, he could be in the running for a more permanent outfield role.
2024 Prediction: If the Astros really think they have something with Meyers, he'll be a strong starter next year. If not, he'll be backing up somebody they traded for, and perhaps not lasting very long in Houston.
Ryan Pressly has been the closer in Houston for 4 years now, approximately 3 more than I figured he would. I genuinely thought they'd go for a surefire veteran closer after the 2020 season, but they knew something I didn't and trusted Pressly, and he's racked up 107 saves overall as an Astro. 31 of them came in 2023, despite turning in his least dominant year to date. The 34-year old struck out 74 while finishing with a 3.58 ERA. 
2024 Prediction: I am thinking that midway through this year, his last guaranteed, the Astros will begin to figure out whether they need to push someone younger [France? Maton?] into the ninth. I do expect a similar number of saves, though.

One of the Astros' more potent middle relief options, aside from Hector Neris, who'll be pitching elsewhere next year, was homegrown Bryan Abreu, who held a 1.75 ERA all year, and was the Astros' only reliever to strike out 100 batters this year. Abreu is young, durable, and has a season like this under his belt, so the Astros have to be overjoyed.
2024 Prediction: If he doesn't throw out his arm after a season like that, something similar, perhaps with a slightly higher ERA.

The Astros' feel good story of the year was Jon Singleton, who debuted in 2014, not long after George Springer did, but failed to produce at the MLB level and was out of baseball for several years. He wound up with the Brewers on a minor league deal, and once that failed, was back in Houston. The biggest exclamation point of Singleton's season was hitting 2 home runs in his first game back in Minute Maid Park. He never really matched that moment, despite some time on the Astros' postseason roster, but it was nice for him to finally earn his redemption.
2024 Prediction: I mean, does he have anything left to prove?

Coming Tomorrow: A whole bunch of A's rookies. 

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