The 2014 season saw the Houston Astros put together their best season in the last four years, as teh Astros lost less than 100 games for the first time since 2010. It was a surprising resurgence that benefited from several prospects emerging from the farm system, especially outfielder George Springer. Springer showed off a lot of power during his 345 plate appearance; as a result, he has given fans in Houston hope that 2015 will be different than the preceding four years.
Fans of the Astros’ have every reason to be optimistic heading into the 2015 season, as the front office quickly got to work shoring up some of the team’s weaknesses after the surprising 2014 season ended. The front office was extremely aggressive during the off-season, which has led to the Astros’ best (on paper) team in a while. And that should have every team, and fan base, in the American League worried about the 2015 Houston Astros.
3) The front office was busy during the past off-season
The 2014-15 off-season was an incredibly busy for Houston; as the front office not only signed a new manager, they overhauled their outfield, improved their shortstop position, and upgraded their bullpen. some of the Astros’ biggest off-season acquisitions included OF Evan Gattis, OF Colby Rasmus, SS Jed Lowrie, and RP pitcher Luke Gregerson.
While upgrading a bullpen that finished in dead last in ERA (4.80), 27th in FIP (4.11), and 24th in xFIP (3.90) was extremely important heading into the off season; arguably the team’s most important acquisition was CF Colby Rasmus from the Toronto Blue Jays. Rasmus marks a significant defensive upgrade in center field over Dexter Fowler — Fowler posted a UZR of -21.8 in ’14, Rasmus UZR was -9.1. Houston also has a tremendous amount of experience in the out field and gives the team a safety blank alongside Springer, whom is heading into his first full season as a MLB player.
Houston also hired AJ Hinch to fill the role of manager this past season. It’ll be interesting to see how Hinch fills the role of manager, and how he uses his new look bullpen.
2) The Astros’ offense is going to be surprise you
Houston featured a relatively punch-less (ranked 30th by Fangraphs) offense in 2014, but that is going to change heading into the upcoming season. Rasmus, Gattis, and Lowrie are offensive upgrades that should improve the team’s offensive punch. Of the three acquisitions, Gattis is projected to bring the power with a wOBA of .343 and a wRC+ of 111; while Lawrie appears to be the more consistent batter by hitting .258/.325/.394 in 2015.
These three players are should provide a bump in offensive production heading into 2015 that complements the already existing young core.
1) Houston’s outfield is going to be really good
We touched on this above, but by ditching Fowler for Rasmus the outfield defense took a major step forward for the Astros. While it remains seen how Rasmus handles the hill in center, he is taking over an interestingly shaped center field…especially with Tal’s Hill out in dead center. Rasmus will also take a lot of pressure off of Springer in right field, and help give cover to Gattis out in left.
With a deeper roster, improved offense, and outfield defense, the Houston Astros should be able to contend for a wildcard berth in 2015.