2020 Houston Astros Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
We had been going from bottom to top from last year's MLB standings in writing these 2020 season previews, but we are going out of order today to talk about the Houston Astros because they ARE the storyline entering the year.
I'm not going to take a deep dive into the sign-stealing scandal that has enveloped the sport - and it's not over yet, because MLB still hasn't put out its findings on the Red Sox cheating - because you surely know what happened by now. This writer can't remember players ripping other players/teams publicly like this before. Usually, MLB is a brotherhood but guys like Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner and Giancarlo Stanton, among many others, are absolutely destroying the Astros for what they did.
Did Rob Manfred screw up by not penalizing any players or making Houston's 2017 World Series title void? Maybe. But the commissioner had to promise the players immunity to get all this information and there are also labor laws regarding the CBA as to what Manfred could potentially do to players.
There is NO question in my mind that the Astros are going to be booed heavily in every road stadium this season - probably starting this Sunday (Feb. 23) "at" the Nationals in a Grapefruit League game. Those teams open the exhibition slate Saturday in Houston's spring home so that shouldn't be so bad for the Astros players.
I'm previewing Houston now because there are some great props out at the various sportsbooks regarding possible retaliation from opposing pitchers this season:
*-"Over/under" 83.5 Astros batters hit by pitch (MLB modern day record is 103 by 2008 Indians).
*-Will Astros have most players hit by pitch in 2020: Yes -220, no +155.
*-Who is hit by pitch most on team in 2020? Alex Bregman even, George Springer +200, Jose Altuve +300, Carlos Correa +350.
*-Who is the first player hit in a regular season-game? Bregman +350, Correa +400, Altuve +400, Springer +450.
*-How many times will an Astros player charge the mound in 2020: O/U 1.5 (under is -300 favorite).
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Those are great. Houston opens the regular season March 26 vs. the Angels, but the fun should start March 30 in Oakland - A's pitcher Mike Fiers is the one who started all this in an interview.
Astros 2020 Projected Lineup
The sign-stealing scandal cost Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch their jobs; the sportsbooks didn't really alter their Houston futures much if at all in the wake of that. Hinch has been replaced by Dusty Baker. Terrific regular-season manager over his 22 seasons in the dugout but his teams tend to choke in the playoffs. Baker was last with the Nationals in 2016-17 and they made the NLDS both years - losing Game 5 at home in both.
The Astros ranked third in the majors in runs last year and should again have one of the best lineups in baseball as everyone of note is back. Again, though, we don't really know how much being aware what pitches were coming helped this team. I don't believe for a second that the sign-stealing was stopped after 2018 as has been reported.
There are legitimate MVP candidates everywhere but at right field in Josh Reddick and at catcher in Martin Maldonado. Jose Altuve already owns an AL MVP, George Springer a World Series MVP, and Carlos Correa and Yordan Alvarez AL Rookie of the Awards. Alvarez won his last year, called up in June and hitting 27 bombs with 78 homers in just 313 at-bats. He did struggle in the playoffs, though.
And yet I'd say the best hitter in the group is Alex Bregman, who was second in the AL MVP voting and led the team in homers (41), RBIs (112), OBP (.423) and WAR (8.4).
Here's the projected lineup:
OF George Springer (R)
2B Jose Altuve (R)
3B Alex Bregman (R)
OF Michael Brantley (L)
DH Yordan Alvarez (L)
SS Carlos Correa (R)
1B Yuli Gurriel (R)
OF Josh Reddick (L)
C Martin Maldonado (R)
Springer is set for free agency after this season, so I expect a monster year. Correa having a problem staying healthy would be one worry. Maldonado can't hit at all but is good defensively.
Astros 2020 Projected Rotation & Closer
There's no sugar-coating losing the best starting pitcher in baseball as the Astros did when Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees in free agency. Sorry, but no pitcher is worth $324 million. Even one who finished second to teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award balloting in 2019. Cole led majors the with 326 strikeouts and a 185 ERA+ while finishing 20-5 and AL-leading 2.50 ERA in 33 starts.
Will Verlander start to slow down at age 37? He was fantastic last year at 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA, 300 strikeouts and a 0.80 WHIP. Winning another Cy Young just cemented the fact he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Zack Greinke came over from Arizona during last season and wasn't quite as good in the American League. Lance McCullers Jr. will be on an innings limit after spending 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Jose Urquidy was fantastic in the 2019 playoffs but has 41 total regular-season innings under his belt.
Brad Peacock was a candidate for the No. 5 spot but is dealing with a recurrence of nerve damage in his neck and might not be ready for Opening Day. Peacock will head to the bullpen when healthy but is a great swing guy. Josh James, Austin Pruitt and Framber Valdez will battle for No. 5.
Here's what the rotation should look like:
Lance McCullers Jr.
Roberto Osuna is a jerk off-the field but is a terrific closer, going 4-3 with 38 saves (tops in AL), a 2.63 ERA and 0.88 WHIP last year.
Astros Futures Odds
Houston is given an "over/under" win total of 96.5 (both are -110). The Astros are -275 favorites to win another AL West title, +280 to win a third pennant in four years and +600 to win the World Series. Verlander is +800 for another Cy Young. Bregman is +1700 for MVP, Springer +2200, Altuve +3300 and Alvarez +6600. Alvarez is +1400 to lead the majors in homers and Bregman +2500.
Astros 2020 Predictions
This team has won at least 101 games and the AL West each of the past three years while getting to at least the ALCS in each. Of course, Houston blew a 3-2 lead in last year's World Series and lost to Washington.
I am fascinated to see this group play in 2020 as the players could rally around each other with an "us vs. the world" mentality or all this noise might drag the Astros down. That lineup is fantastic but the rotation has questions. Houston repeats in the AL West, but go under that win total. I'm throwing a few bucks on Springer to win MVP in his walk year.
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