The Astros won the American League pennant in 2021. They won again in 2022 and finished off the deal with a World Series win over the Phillies. After all that, you might think the window is closing. But with their young starting pitching and deep lineup, the Astros aren’t going away, and might have a World Series rematch with the Braves should they get there.
Expectations for 2023
ZiPS has Houston at 90 wins and winning the division. That’s the same as the Steamer-ZiPS blend projection (released Thursday). Per the Steamer-ZiPS blend, their World Series odds are the second-highest in the AL and fourth-highest overall; per ZiPS alone 9.1 percent chance at winning the World Series according to Fangraphs is the highest in the American League and third overall. They have to deal with Seattle, but honestly I wouldn’t be worried about the rest of their division. Being runners-up in 2021 and winners in 2022, there’s no reason they can’t get back there.
Offseason Additions and Subtractions
The Astros added two major-league level players to their roster for 2023. 1B Jose Abreu was added on a three-year deal. Matthew Gage was grabbed from Toronto. But they did retain four more via extension and re-signings. Michael Brantley was re-signed to a one-year deal. Cristian Javier signed an extension for five years. Rafael Montero re-upped for three more. Bryan Garcia, Ty Buttrey, Dixon Machado, Austin Davis, Rylan Bannon, Bligh Madris, J.P. France are in the mix in Spring Training.
The Astros moved on from seven players, most notably Justin Verlander from the deluge of Mets free agents cash. Jason Castro, Josh James, Andre Scrubb, Alex De Goti, Trey Mancini will not return. Will Smith is gone as well, but that’s basically addition by subtraction.
- Signed first baseman Jose Abreu to a three-year, $58.5 million contract
- Claimed infielder Rylan Bannon off waivers from the Cubs
- Re-signed outfielder Michael Brantley to a one-year, $12 million contract
- Acquired first baseman/outfielder Bligh Madris from the Tigers in exchange for cash considerations
- Claimed relief pitcher Matt Gage off waivers from the Blue Jays
According to Roster Resource, this is how the Astros roster is shaping up for the start of the season:
- Jose Altuve - 2B
- Michael Brantley - DH
- Alex Bregman - 3B
- Yordan Alvarez - LF
- Jose Abreu - 1B
- Kyle Tucker - RF
- Jeremy Pena - SS
- Chas McCormick - CF
- Martin Maldonado - C
Korey Lee - C
David Hensley - INF/OF
Mauricio Dubon - INF/OF
Jake Meyers - OF
Framber Valdez - LHP
Cristian Javier - RHP
Lance McCullers, Jr. - RHP
Luis Garcia - RHP
Jose Urquidy - RHP
Ryan Pressly - RHP
Rafael Montero - RHP
Bryan Abreu - RHP
Hector Neris - RHP
Ryne Stanek - RHP
Phil Maton - RHP
Seth Martinez - RHP
Brandon Bielak - RHP
You might start to think that it’s pitching, pitching, pitching. Young starters Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier are among Fangraphs’ top 30, and Lance McCullers Jr, Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy have the Astros set for years. Ryan Pressly and Rafael Montero have a lock on the eighth and ninth and are among Fangraphs top 13.
But really, that’s not even close to the incredible production the Astros look to be bringing to bear. Jose Altuve outhit his xwOBA by a ton and had a monster year that still would’ve been great if he didn’t get that kind of fortune. Alex Bregman had a great year after two not-so-great-for-him ones and looks like he’s going to keep torturing batters. Yordan Alvarez is so good that he makes the Astros’ LF/DH situation one of the best in MLB despite being one guy. There’s just not a lot of weakness up and down this roster, and the highs are very high.
Except, at catcher — though they probably don’t care. Yeah, the Astros are a little light at catcher. Martin Maldonado is the starter and is expected to add 0.5 WAR per ZiPS (1.1 per Steamer). On a stacked roster, Maldonado’s presence as a starter kind of sticks out, but the Astros clearly like what he does, given that he’s appeared in a Houston uniform in each of the past five seasons. Should Maldonado falter, it looks like the backup option is prospect Korey Lee. Michael Brantley is pushing 36 at DH and isn’t expected to add a lot of power, but Alvarez still exists. This is splitting hairs. This is a beyond solid roster.
Reinforcements from the farm
Hunter Brown is a fifth-round pick from 2019 and is Houston’s top prospects. the 50 FV starter lit up Triple-A with a 2.45 ERA (3.27 FIP, 3.59 xFIP) and 134 K in 106 IP. He had a cup of coffee in Houston with similar numbers. If the amazing young starting pitching fades or one has an injury, he will be first up, assuming he doesn’t make the team as a swing option. Unless they add a backup catcher, 45 FV and fourth-rated in the system Korey Lee may get the nod. Yanier Diaz catches as well and could provide some power this year.
Braves history/ outlook against the team
2022 regular season: 2-1 at home
2021 World Series: 4-2
2017 regular season: 0-2 in Houston
2014 regular season: 2-1 in Houston
Houston was a member of the National League West and played Atlanta in the division until 1994. They left for the American League in 2013. So there isn’t a lot of recent history but some big memories. Most notably was the 2021 World Series win. Last year, the Braves played the Astros in a three-game series at home with two games on national TV. One win was an eleventh inning walkoff which included a comical check-swing double by Matt Olson.
The Braves and Astros will meet twice in Spring Training on March 3rd and March 15th. Then the Braves will get the Astros at home April 21-23, which kicks off a 17-game span without a day off.