The Houston Astros are the defending World Series champions, and the roster looks like it has the chance to defend that title quite well. Some players have left the Astros, and other All-Stars have joined the squad. There are some young guns ready to break onto the scene, but best of all, baseball is back tomorrow. This is the Houston Astros 2023 season preview.
In August, I wrote about the Astros 2023 season schedule that released on a random Wednesday afternoon. The schedule doesn’t give me much worry throughout the months. Obviously, the AL West might be a tad bit better than it was last year. The Mariners are good, the Angels have the two best baseball players on the planet, and the Rangers spent a bajillion dollars again so they could be better than last year, and the Athletics absolutely stink. The AL West is prime for the taking once again for the Astros.
The Astros have the best lineup in baseball when healthy, and I don’t think it’s even debatable. Last season the Astros lost Michael Brantley to a shoulder injury, and the designated hitter in the lineup was basically in flux throughout the rest of the season. This year, the Astros have an influx of players that can be the DH day in and day out.
Once Brantley returns from injury, the Astros will have him, Yordan Alvarez, Yainer Diaz, Jake Meyers, David Hensley, and Chas McCormick available to be a DH on any given day. Talk about a plethora of options in the outfield as well as the DH. This gives me so much hope compared to last year’s World Series DH situation that we endured.
The question in the outfield is obviously the center field position. With left field being occupied by Brantley and Alvarez for the most part, and right field being Kyle Tucker’s, the third outfielder is the only conversation to be had here. McCormick and Meyers are the two answers for this question, but who has the upper hand headed into the season?
Chas ran away with the position late last season into the playoffs due to injuries and lack of bat production from others on the team. I believe Chas has earned the starting position in center field, but I’m not Dusty Baker, so I don’t get to decide that. Meyers had been looking strong towards the end of Spring Training and we all know Dusty loves him some Jake Meyers.
Now, let’s talk about King Tuck. With the new rules on pitchers not being able to step off the mound and try to pick off runners every single second of the game, the ban on the extent of the infield shifts, and the bigger bases, Tucker is in prime position to become a member of the 30-30 club. He posted a 5.3 WAR in 2022, along with 30 homers, and 25 stolen bases. He was almost there last season without any help from the rule changes.
I’m firmly in the camp that Tucker will be cemented in the MVP conversation throughout the season, and that could end up hurting the pocketbooks of Jim Crane. Tuck could become the first Astros player of this generation to earn a 10+ year deal, and he’s totally worth that. I don’t think the extension talks will happen this season because he’s not an unrestricted free agent until 2026, but Dana Brown has his work cut out for him to get this deal done.
The infield has a new face at the first base position. Welcome, José Abreu, to the death lineup. Jim Crane and company took care of business in free agency and added a former MVP first baseman to a lineup riddled with players in the MVP conversation for the last six years. What a wild concept.
Abreu steps in for Yuli Gurriel, and this is no slight to Yuli, but Abreu is an upgrade. Yuli will turn 39 years old during the season, and his 2022 regular season was a bit lackluster. I hate to see him go, but adding Abreu to the lineup certainly lessens the blow.
Abreu is 36 years old and will be starting his first year of a three year contract. He’s played in 150+ games in all but three seasons since 2014, and one of those years was the 60 game covid shortened season. He’s hit 30+ doubles in every season of his career, other than the covid year, and is almost always going to be a .300+ average guy. Those are absolutely absurd numbers to be adding to the Astros lineup.
On the other corner of the infield, our beloved Alex Bregman is so back. He had a slow start to his 2022 campaign, but after All-Star Break, Bregs looked like his 2019 self again. He posted 4.5 WAR and was lights out in the postseason. He’s an on-base machine, and I think he’ll sniff his 2019 numbers again this season. 30+ homers and 30+ doubles for the boy in 2023, book it.
At second base, Jose Altuve won’t be with the Astros until what appears to be summertime. Altuve got hurt during the World Baseball Classic with a fastball to his hands. He fractured his thumb and had to get surgery a few days later. The Astros have said his time table is 8-10 weeks until he may be cleared, so let’s just go ahead and prepare for June for Tuve to be back.
I’m just going to assume that Dusty Baker is going to have Mauricio Dubón as the starting second baseman to begin the year. David Hensley is going to get his fair share of at-bats and days as the second baseman until Altuve is back, but I just have a feeling that Dubón will be manning second base more so than not until this summer.
Hensley only had 29 at-bats at the end of last season before the playoffs, but he posted a 1.027 OPS in that time. Clearly, the sample size is far too small to make him the shoe in starting second baseman for the time being, but the HenDawg will be getting at-bats either has the second baseman, left fielder, or DH.
Lastly, our handsome shortstop, Jeremy Peña. JP3 won a Gold Glove Award, ALCS MVP, and World Series MVP as a rookie in 2022. Some would ask, “how can you do better than that?” My answer would be to do it all over again.
Peña was the replacement for a world class, number one pick, superstar Carlos Correa, and I don’t think many people expected him to come out of the gates and be a DUDE. He posted a 4.9 WAR in the regular season, and his counting stats weren’t other worldly, but he was just a rookie, and his 2022 postseason proved better than his regular season.
I can see Peña topping 30 homers, with Gold Glove defense, and becoming the every day two-hole hitter by the end of the season. The Astros are the kings of replacing All-Star players with more All-Star players.
When healthy I can see the Astros lineup looking a little like this:
Altuve – 2B
Jeremy Peña – SS
Yordan Alvarez – LF
Alex Bregman – 3B
Kyle Tucker – RF
José Abreu – 1B
Michael Brantley – DH
Chas McCormick – CF
Martín Maldonado – C
The Houston Astros 2023 season preview death lineup is looking quite incredible if you ask me.
I’m 1200+ words into a Astros season preview and I haven’t even begun to write about the pitching staff. What a blessing. The pitching for the Houston Astros has obviously been a huge reason why there are two World Series trophies inside Minute Maid Park now. There aren’t many new faces, but there is a face that we will all miss, Justin Verlander.
JV went and got his bag from Steve Cohen and the New York Mets, and I can’t blame the guy. He’s a sure fire Hall of Famer, he’s won multiple Cy Youngs, two World Series titles, he finally secured a World Series win in 2022, and he’s the best pitcher of his generation. He has nothing left to prove so why not go make $40+ million a year and live in New York City. I will miss him dearly, but the Houston Astros pitching staff won’t miss a beat without Verlander.
Opening Day, Framber Valdez will be taking the bump as the ace of the rotation. He lead the league in innings pitched, and also set a new consecutive quality starts record. The drip god was 17-6 last year, and really solidified the rotation as a DUDE. It’s hard to compete with Justin Verlander to become the ace of the rotation and, boy, did Framber come close. He ended up fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting, but arguably could have been top three. The navy blue Astros jerseys also got more run last season because Framber loves them so much. He’s my staff ace in 2023.
It appears that Lance McCullers Jr. will begin the season on the shelf due to more elbow tightness, but appears to be on track to join much quicker than he did last season. LMJ has been a fan favorite for the Astros, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. He had to become the ace of the rotation in 2021 with Verlander being out for the season, and he proved he could do it.
Clearly, injury concerns are an issue, but when he’s on the mound, the Astros energy is top notch. He only pitched in eight games last year for 47.2 innings, but it seems like he will be pitching much more than that this season. If the Astros get him back in May or even early June, that’s a huge win and alleviates a ton of pressure off some other guys in the starting rotation.
The best starting pitcher on this staff could possibly be Cristian Javier. He recently signed a five-year-extension with the Astros as Dana Brown made his first move as the Astros newest general manager. He appeared in 30 games last year, and started 25 of them en route to 194 strikeouts over 148.2 innings pitched. It’s wild to think that in 2020 we were talking about his “invisiball” fastball sparingly, and then in 2022 he was a part of two no-hitters including one in the World Series!
I expect El Reptil to be even better than he was last season, and that should scare hitters across the league. Give him 170+ innings, and this guy will be in the Cy Young conversation come the end of the 2023 season. He’s that good.
Luis Garcia and José Urquidy are your 3-4 or 4-5 starting pitchers at the back end of the rotation. That’s a laughable sentence to write down because both Garcia and Urquidy are guys that could be a few teams best two pitchers on other teams’ rosters.
Garcia threw 157.1 innings last year and struck out 157 batters. The rocking the baby pitching motion will be no more after MLB introduced new (or really reinforced) some rules. His pitching motion has had to change, but it appears that it’s made him even more dominant than his previous years.
Urquidy seemed to have a “down” year in 2022. He had a sub 4 ERA, but threw 164.1 innings over 29 total games. When that’s a “down” year for your fourth or fifth starting pitcher, then your starting rotation is other worldly. He was also bounced around in trade rumors at the deadline, but thank goodness James Click didn’t deal him for another bat.
Starting pitching depth is one of the biggest assets in the league to have, and the Astros have plenty of it. I expect Urquidy to bounce back and be even better than he has in the past.
Lastly for the starting rotation, we have to talk about Justin Verlander 2.0, Hunter Brown. He was a September call up last season, and only threw 20.1 innings in the short time he was with the squad. He had 22 strikeouts, to go with two wins and posted .9 WAR. That’s some Dude stuff in your first few Major League starts.
He’s essentially a carbon copy of young JV. His throwing motion. His pitch repertoire. Everything about the kid screams JV and future Cy Young Award winner. He’s got a fastball that will disappear before your eyes, and a 95 mph slider that will send you to your knees. Yeah, that’s the guy who will come into the season as the fifth starter before Lance McCullers Jr. comes back from injury. The Astros aren’t fair.
The Houston Astros 2023 season preview concludes with the dudes in the bullpen. The bullpen was a HUGE reason for the success of the team last year, and the gang is all back and ready to throw heat to close out games in 2023.
Ryne Stanek is entering a contract year and he was absolutely snubbed of an All-Star appearance last summer. I expect him to be just as lights out as he was last year, if not better after striking out 62 batters over 54.2 innings in 2022.
Rafael Montero was a throw in in the Kendall Graveman trade in 2021, and now he’s one of the key set up guys for the best bullpen in baseball. Funny how that works. He threw 68.1 innings last season and earned himself a brand new three year, $34.5 million contract in the offseason.
Ryan Pressly, or America’s Closer as we all know him now, is ready to line ’em up and cut ’em down once again in 2023. Press was asked to do a whole lot for this team last year throughout the playoffs and World Series, and he delivered. He posted 33 saves in 2022, to go along with 65 strikeouts over 48.1 innings. He also had a couple of two inning saves in the playoffs. The dude is built different.
I wrote about Bryan Abreu becoming a DUDE in 2023 here. Abreu has the stuff and velocity to become a guy that ends up getting stretched out to be a starter if injuries start to ravage the starting rotation. He’s got a Cristian Javier type of ascension waiting for him.
I haven’t even mentioned Phil Maton, Seth Martinez, Héctor Neris, Brandon Bielak, or Ronel Blanco yet. When I say that the Houston Astros are deep, I mean they are DEEP. This team is set up for success across the diamond.
The Houston Astros 2023 season preview concludes with my prediction for their record in 2023. I feel like this team got even better than it was in 2022 where they won the World Series. Obviously health will have to play a factor in this prediction. Without Michael Brantley, Lance McCullers Jr., and Jose Altuve to begin the season, April could be a sub .500 team, or it could already be dominating the division and well on their way to the first seed in the playoffs.
Injuries or not, I think this team will be 105-57 come October. That’s one less win than last season. Some outlets are predicting that the boys will only come in around 92-94 wins, and every single season the Astros come back and win 100+ games. It’s just the norm around this ball club.
Throughout the season there will be plenty of ups and downs, but that’s not to say it won’t be fun. This team has some of the best bats in the game, some of the best arms in the game, and one of the best managers in the game. They will absolutely be in the conversation for World Series contenders, and they could be the first team since the early 2000’s Yankees to be back to back World Series champs. Let the games begin.