2015 Houston Astros Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
by Alan Matthews - 2/21/2015
The darkest period in the history of the Houston Astros franchise looks like it might almost be over. In the midst of a total and utter rebuild and stripping down of the payroll, Houston led the majors in losses each year from 2011-13, not totaling less than 106. Even the expansion Colt .45's dropped only 96 games in their first season. TV ratings are at near-zero for Astros games in Houston and fans aren't exactly coming out in droves to the ballpark.
But 2014 finally gave a glimpse of good things to come as Houston called up some of its touted prospects and finished with 70 victories, a 19-win jump from 2013. Not too bad considering Houston had the worst offensive production in the majors from three positions: first base, third base and left field. I've seen some experts projecting a possible wild-card berth in 2015. I'm not ready to go that far, but I can see this club contending as early as next year with another step forward in 2014 and a big move or two next offseason.
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Despite some improvement last year, the team fired Manager Bo Porter, who was really in a no-win situation, on Sept. 1. He was replaced on a full-time basis after the season by A.J. Hinch. He managed Arizona from May 2009 until July 2010, when he was fired after a 31-48 start. Hinch was most recently in scouting for the Padres.
Astros 2015 Projected Lineup
Atop the order is one of my favorite players in the majors in second baseman Jose Altuve, who was the AL batting champion last season while hitting .341 and setting a team record with 225 hits. At 5-foot-5, the All-Star Altuve was the shortest player to lead the majors in batting since 1900. What I like more about him is that the Astros didn't want him to play in the season finale to protect his batting lead over Detroit's Victor Martinez as Altuve began the day with only a three-point edge. But Altuve insisted on playing and was 2-for-4. He was Houston's first-ever batting champion. Altuve also led the AL with 56 steals.
Batting second will be shortstop and new addition Jed Lowrie (.249, six HRs, 50 RBIs with Oakland). At No. 3 is one of those top prospects, right fielder George Springer. He' has major power, hitting 20 homers in just 295 at-bats. He didn't play after July 19 due to injury as Houston wanted to play it safe. At cleanup is DH Chris Carter, who finished second in the majors with 37 home runs. He also struck out 182 times in 507 at-bats. The Astros signed former Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus to a one-year deal, and he should hit fifth. He batted .225 with 18 home runs in 104 games with Toronto.
The rest of the lineup is left fielder Evan Gattis, acquired in trade from Atlanta, catcher Jason Castro, first baseman Jon Singleton (another touted slugging prospect but who hit only .168 in 95 big-league games) and third baseman Luis Valbuena, who was acquired from the Cubs for center fielder Dexter Fowler. It's Fowler who is the only significant loss from last year's team.
Astros 2015 Projected Rotation & Closer
I do think Houston will spend big money next offseason because it's a deep crop of free-agent pitchers expected to hit the market. This is a weak area for sure. Scott Feldman would be a No. 5 guy on a good team but is the presumed ace. He was 8-12 with a 3.74 ERA last year. Lefty Dallas Keuchel is slotted at No. 2 and led the team with 12 wins and 200 innings pitched with a solid 2.93 ERA. Collin McHugh was another surprise, going 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA in 25 starts. Neither Keuchel nor McHugh had ever been close to that good before, so we will see. Lefty Brett Oberholtzer (5-13, 4.39) and Dan Straily (most of last year in minors), who was acquired from the Cubs in the Fowler deal, look to close out the rotation. It's obviously a weakness.
The team's new closer is Luke Gregerson, who got a three-year, $18.5 million free-agent deal. He was 5-5 with three saves and a 2.12 ERA last season for the Athletics. Chad Qualls was the Astros' closer in 2014, saving 19 games and finishing the season with a 1-5 record and a 3.33 ERA. It's expected he moves to a set-up role.
Astros Futures Odds & 2014 Trends
At Bovada , Houston is +5000 to win the World Series, +2800 to take the pennant, +1600 long shot for the AL West and has an "over/under" wins total of 74.5 (both -115). At Sportsbook.ag, Carter is +1800 to lead the majors in homers and Springer is +3000. No season total yet for Carter, but Springer is at 27.5, with the over a -130 favorite. Altuve is given a total of 181.5 hits. The Astros were 91-71 against the spread last season and 71-87-4 O/U. On the moneyline, they were +102 units on the year.
Astros 2015 Predictions
FanGraphs projects the Astros to finish 78-84 and fourth in the AL West. That lineup should hit a lot of homers -- Houston was No. 4 in MLB with 163 last year -- but it's going to strike out a ton. And I mean a ton. A total of 263 hitters had at least 295 plate appearances in 2014, and five of the hitters who are expected to start for Houston were in the Top 19 in the majors for highest strikeout percentage (Singleton, Springer, Rasmus, Carter and Castro).
I think Keuchel could be a good pitcher, but McHugh was claimed off waivers by Houston so I don't expect a repeat of his performance. This team is going to play in many 7-6 games but also be shut out a lot because the Astros, other than Altuve, aren't going to put the ball in play much or get on base. I could see Springer winning a home-run title, but not quite yet. I will go slightly over that wins total and agree with FanGraphs for about 78 wins. Go over Springer's HR number.
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