10 reasons the Astros will contend in 2021

The knee jerk reaction here is that the Astros contended in 2020 and came within one final rally of going to the World Series. But in reality, the Astros snuck into the last playoff spot in a field that had been expanded by 60% from five to eight for this most unusual of seasons.

If the normal cutoff had been in place the team would have ended up 7 games behind the first-place A’s in the division and six games behind the Wild Card White Sox and Indians. And here’s a reminder that finishing seven games back in 60 games is the equivalent to finishing 19 games back in 162 games. So what are the ten reasons that the Astros can really contend in a more normal 2021?

  1. Certainty – In some ways, there will be a lot more certainty for all the teams heading into the 2020 season. But the Astros had a lot of players that had no idea that they had a spot on the 25 man roster, much less that they would have a major role. Framber Valdez was fighting for any spot in the bullpen but became the Astros top starter. Cristian Javier thought he would be at one of the “other” camps at Corpus or the University of Houston, not a full-season starter. Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, and Andre Scrubb never thought they would be pitching high leveraged innings for the 2019 American League champs. Knowing they have a good shot at a role and what that role may help each of these players prepare for what is coming.
  2. Yordan Alvarez – In 2019 the AL MVP, Mike Trout, put up a .291 BA/ .438 OBP/ 1.083 OPS slash with 110 runs/ 45 HRs/ 104 RBIs in 134 games. If you project Yordan’s 87 game production in 2019 to 134 games – you get a .313 BA/ .412 OBP/ 1.067 OPS slash and 89 runs/ 42 HRs/ 120 RBIs. Not a bad comp is that? Perhaps he will be a flash in pan and certainly, he might regress a little, but Alvarez is a superweapon the Astros sorely missed in a mediocre 2020 offensive season
  3. Return of the MVPs – Alex Bregman fell just short of MVP in 2019, but he had established himself in 2018 and 2019 as the Astros MVP. Former MVP Jose Altuve fell with a thud in 2020 as did Bregman, but if they get back to just 90% of their norm it will be a huge improvement over very disappointing 2020s and a big boost to a revamped lineup that has to live without George Springer and has to slide Yordan Alvarez back into the mix.
  4. Carlos Correa plays for the big bucks – The upcoming season is critical to what Correa hopes to get in a free agent contract after the 2021 season. If he hits the sideline again and only plays in 100 games or so, teams will throttle back on those offers. If he plays a big chunk of the games like he did in 2016 and 2020, but puts up so-so numbers like he did in 2018 and 2020 his payout will be good, but not stellar. However, if he finally plays in 90+% of the games and puts up the type of production he showed in injury-shortened seasons like 2017 and 2019, he may be cashing his own Power Ball ticket. Author’s note – unless he is found to have visited Jeffrey Epstein’s island or said something nice about the former President, Correa will be in for more money than any of us can comprehend whether he stinks it up or plays well in 2021. But relatively speaking he could make or lose a ton of money in 2020.
  5. Spring Training – As others have stated including Dr. Bill in yesterday’s comments, the normalcy of a full uninterrupted spring training cannot be overvalued, especially for a team that suffered so much injury disruption (Justin Verlander, Jose Urquidy, Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock) in 2020.
  6. Addition by Subtraction – If some of the bad innings thrown by Joe Biagini, Chase DeJong, Humberto Castellanos, Nivaldo Rodriguez, Carlos Sanabria, Josh James and Devenski get replaced by better innings from Joe Smith, Pedro Baez, Ryne Stanek and others that could be a real boost.
  7. Return of Yuli GurrielIt has been speculated that Yuli played hurt for much of the second half of the season and playoffs in 2020. That would help explain the fall from his best season in 2019 (.298 BA/ .343 OBP/ .884 OPS/ 31 HRs/ 104 RBIs) to his worst year in 2020 (.232 BA/ .274 OBP/ .658 OPS). A return of the good Yuli would give this lineup so much more depth.
  8. The Three Young Guns Grow – You cannot complain about what the three youngest parts of the rotation (Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy) gave the Astros in 2020. But remember Valdez only had 107.2 major league innings under his belt entering 2020, Urquidy had 41 and Javier had 0. These pitchers all will mature and grow with more major league exposure and coaching.
  9. Tucker Takes OverKyle Tucker just turned 24 years old in January. He has only 108 major league games under his belt. He showed just a bit of his talent in his 2019 call-up and his 2020 short season. It feels like 2021 will be the season when he moves from budding star to star. His power/speed combination just needs a few tweaks to become a dominant player.
  10. More Newbies – Whether it is Cuban OF Pedro Leon or starters-in-waiting Forrest Whitley, Tyler Ivey, Luis Garcia, or Hunter Brown, some young buck(s) will make significant contributions to this team in 2021.

Beyond these ten reasons, you can point to the rock of the rotation Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr. being a year farther away from the TJ surgery, Jason Castro being a better catcher backup than Dustin Garneau, or even the team getting one year farther away from the scandal as pluses for the team.

This is a team that can contend and will contend in 2021.

 

48 comments on “10 reasons the Astros will contend in 2021

  1. So MLB has proposed to the players:
    – Season starts a month late
    – 154 game season – pay for 162 games
    – Expanded playoffs

    They think the players want to hold back on the expanded playoffs and use it as a negotiating chip for the new agreement after 2021…

    Like

    • Well RT after my last post where I had some forced pessimism I swung the other way today.
      They will miss Springer on and off the field but there is a lot of offense they can pick up with Alvarez along with returns to normalcy for Bregman Altuve Correa Gurriel I think this offense could jump back in the top five. So glad Brantley returned and Tucker should only improve.
      If they can avoid the injury bug with the pitchers – this should be a solid staff with some big arms a phone call away.

      Like

  2. One of the guys flying under radar in offseason moves is Dominican, Pedro Baez. We don’t get to see a lot of LAD games, so this might be as new for you as it is to me. Couple things stand out are how many on low pitch count 0-2; he comes right at you. Baez makes some really good hitters look completely unprepared, so late on their swings. Notice the flexibility in situations and all sorts of innings. Wicked in top of zone, with armside run & parks at 94 mph. Even though he’s been terribly consistent at around 135 ERA+, the Astros get lucky he had a slightly “down” yr for Dodgers which opens up our chance to swipe him.

    (Stats borrowed from TCB research)
    Hi Lev career .182/.253/.348
    With RISP .201/.283/.367
    Bases Loaded .146/.245/.268
    Versus LHB .181/.264/.320

    2020 Highlights

    2019

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought there was a lot to like about Baez when we picked him up. His numbers between 2014 and 2020 were very consistent and very good.

      Like

  3. Pingback: 10 reasons the Astros will contend in 2021

  4. Two more reasons the Astros will contend:

    11. Crane will Pay to Play. Our deep-pocketed owner has shown a willingness to acquire talent (Verlander, Greinke) at the trade deadline.

    12. We Trusty in Dusty. Our HOF manager gets his players to perform well. I think he has been unlucky in the postseason with his prior teams. Last year we were unlucky the whole season with all the injuries. WS or bust in 2021!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Crane has been very supportive of the team – supporting big moves to give the team a shot at the ring
      Dusty did a good job in a very difficult situation in 2020.

      Like

  5. I expect us to not only contend but to possibly get back to the World Series. The competition is much more fierce this year with a lot of teams beefing up over the winter. If our guys do what we expect of them we should be right back in the hunt again. A lot of the prognosticators don’t even have us making the playoffs so let’s serve them a big plate of crow.

    On another issue, I’d like to thanks Dan and others on this blog who keep politics out of here. I know most of us have strong opinions on a lot of issues but as it was once said, “this is an Astros baseball blog.” My reason for this was due to me “discussing” recent golf tournaments and it wasn’t 5 minutes in the discussion before politics entered the fray. Then it got downright nasty with name calling and accusations. Oh how refreshing it was to come back to Chipalatta where a resemblance of sanity prevails. Thanks to all who make it fun. Have a great day to all.

    Like

    • It feels like MLB will be really top heavy this year. Luckily for us, if Oakland, Seattle, or Texas are competitive at all it will be a shock. Anaheim scares me a little – for some reason I think they’re going to be similar to the 2019 Nationals. I’m optimistic the Astros will not only contend but win the division as long as the young arms we saw last year do not fall off tremendously. The playoffs should be packed with star power this year though.

      Like

  6. One of the reasons I see the Astros contending is the number of players they have as mature depth. They have Diaz, Toro, Jones and Straw who have been thru the battles. They have mature players in the upper minors who would be ready to step up if needed and are into their 20’s and will be able to contribute.
    The Astros have very few youngsters in their Top 30’s prospects. They should have a good upper minors prepared to help out.

    Like

    • Absolutely, and I think therein lies the rub, Op.

      These prospect ranking services always choose the guy with equal or even lesser value just because he’s younger. Seems like a strange way to rank imo, because if a player like Enmanuel Valdez already mastered the level Luis Santana has yet to (and some question where Santana can match it), then it stands to reason Santana carries bigger question marks until he takes the next step. This is where it seems more useful to have a “Closest to Majors” mindset, because of the ‘tinstap’ thinking of, it’s really really hard to get past AAA.
      Astros prove time & again that 8th round Straw, or 19th round Jones can be molded into a fungible Unit, all running like a well-oiled machine. Might not have the big engine underneath, but they will run forever and win the long race in the end.

      Like

  7. A question totally out of left field – does anyone know anything about Francis Martes? Is he even with the organization any more? I think he just turned 25 and pitched a tiny little bit in the Dominican Winter League.

    Like

    • Martes=Afterthought. While I’m not sure, I doubt Astros “circle back” oops political Ha! Hold on, isn’t actually just speaking itself a “political” statement? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

      No, even though it’s unclear, Dan, it just goes to show that HOU has no need. I projected him to end up somewhere like Armenteros. Both guys were overweight, lacked flexibility and obviously that “extra needed” to overcome deficiencies. We have so many guys doing it the right way, I would advise against even taking a look. Especially with canceling 3 minor league teams, and with the amazing arms we got in Undrafted portion of Amateur Draft in ’20.

      I’ll give you a name that is right where Martes maxxed out, and right on the cusp. Colin McKee. He and his brother started following me on twitter lately, probably noticing that I’ve been high on him for a year. Totally under radar, he’s flirting with 3000 rpm’s and he’s taken the instruction well. This guy dominated AA in 2019, and just didn’t see enough time in AAA yet. 2021 will telltale whether he can stick.

      On this note for a moment, last night I went back to look at Pedro Baez’ prospect numbers.. You’d have a hard time convincing me that LAD wasn’t very smart in hiding him. Seriously, I would be employing the strategy of telling my great pitchers who ran risk of getting taken in R5 to “dog it a little.” How did this guy go from 1.3+ WHIP in AAA, to sub 1 right as he’s called up? Was Rick Honeycutt THAT good?! Makes me take the tin foil hat from Devin, and wonder anyway.

      Like

      • Yeah, I wasn’t pushing for Martes to be given a role, but just wondering about him, since he once was a “thing” before he got hurt and got PED’d.
        You never know about pitcher’s stats at the higher levels of the minors. They may be working on something – a third pitch or changing from 2 seamers to 4 seamers or working on arm slot and may be getting lit up for a bit while they are figuring out.

        Like

      • That’s exactly right, Dan. And so why don’t many Astros fans understand that about Forrest Whitley? Especially knowing we’d like to keep him every bit as long as we did with Georgie Correa Tuck & Yordan in Super Two/or Service Time. Things that make me go, “hmmm?”

        Like

      • Yeah but…. there are two differences. Springer, Correa, Tucker and Alvarez all produced in the minors and produced very well. Whitley has had a mixed bag and has not produced quantity even when his quality was down.
        Second, he has had the perceived off the field problems – the non-PED drug suspension, the maturity questions, etc.

        Like

      • I admit those are good points. The maturity aspect does seem very real. I’d mainly chalk that up to the previous point that he knew all along he’s wasn’t gonna get the call, so he had some time to “play a little.” His friends said he doesn’t mind drinking a Bud Lite every now and again. It sort of fits into his over-confidence, and how things were just easier for him — he didn’t have to work at it so hard to make strides early on. His dad described how the change came about his freshman/sophomore yrs when he exponentially grew.

        And too, comparing him to those others who were quite serious, definitely a difference. There seems to be no question that is Strom’s opinion.

        But, French and Murphy are going to deliver their finished product this year. We’ll see in the next 3 yrs if the wait was worth it. I can count on one hand the amount of 22 yr olds that have dominated baseball in the last few yrs, so my message is always going to be patience. We’re not in same position as we were when Jordan Lyles was pushed at 19. If Forrest has the inevitable downfalls, he has options. I still think amid all this there’s no question he will be at least a mid-rotation guy by 2023.

        Like

  8. My previous comment makes me think of a video I saw yesterday. You all may have smallish interest, but you may also recall I was very high on Astros drafting Luke Little. Lefty kid who threw 105 mph last Winter. In the Mock Draft many months prior to, I had us taking him with #101st pick.

    Turns out Woody Williams at San Jac and others had recommended him to Astros, as well, and those coaches thought HOU would pull that trigger.

    Do you all remember what actually happened? We chose Tyler Brown, Vandy’s Closer who has a little baby with Down’s Syndrome instead. And sure enough Cubs took Little thereafter.

    The video I saw yesterday was Little looking like Sandy Koufax on steroids, and all I have to say is: Tyler Brown, “Bring It Home,” son. Earn it.

    I reasoned in the end that, as Astros chose Tucker instead of a more polished Benintendi; or when they chose Whitley instead of a more seasoned pitcher, management wanted this time to take someone who has a 3 yr path, and not a 5 yr plan to get to Houston.

    Like

  9. The elephant in the room has to be Altuve, as to success of 2021.

    But I’m going to pick on Bregman anyway. I’m not looking deep into numbers with the comment, more so the absolute and total disappearance in the ALCS. I mean if one wanted to be honest, and argument which I wouldn’t care to make because of all he means to us, was a turning point toward the WS.

    Aside from that, his performance has to be the singlemost important upcoming. IN every other position there is ample depth, but we’re really putting a lot of eggs in Alex’s basket. We do need him to have a terrific, MVP-like run we know he’s capable. He’s one that stands out since Springer is departed, as “he goes, so go the Astros.”

    With his off the charts work ethic, I look for him to be a driving force offensively. One of the things I can appreciate is that he’s never really vocal on those mound meetings. He strikes me as silent in the blind who only wants to be judged for his marksmanship, and I have to believe it will be the burning in his gut this time away, to come back and redeem his deer hunt of the league.

    Well, nobody can control the future, only “an infantile egomaniac thinks that” (Days of Thunder quote). But I wouldn’t mind if Bregman bordered on trying to manipulate the future, bring back a trophy the honest way.

    Like

  10. Some thoughts:
    *Fangraphs projections suddenly has the Astros as the best offense in baseball, even with a lousy center fielder. Mind you, this link updates itself, so the next time you look at it it will be different, depending on trades and free agent movement. https://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=ALL&teamid=21
    * Keeping up with the Rockets’ success after dumping their star players and coaches and GM, and wondering if the Texans try the same thing.
    *MLBPA rejects MLB’s proposal for the season and baseball is more screwed up than ever. Thinking baseball should move it’s headquarters to Washington, D.C.

    Like

    • I can sure see this being a deep offensive team, especially if Altuve, Bregman and Gurriel return to their average production and Alvarez is as real as he seemed.
      I’ve been actually watching some of the Rockets and it has been enjoyable.
      Granted they are beating some of the lesser teams right now, but they are showing what happens when you play tough defense, rebound and most importantly, move the ball. Like when I used to play
      This stuff happening between the player’s association and the league does not bode well for the next contract negotiation after the 2021 season. They only seem to agree on the ball being round.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Looking at the WAR for the Astros’ lineup – not only do they have the best numbers in baseball, but there is room for better.
      – Bregman is predicted to get 6.0 WAR after putting up 7.6 and 8.5 in 2018 and 2019
      – Yordan is predicted to get 3.6, when he put up 3.8 in only 87 games in 2019
      – Brantley is predicted to get 2.7 when he put up 3.6 and 4.2 in 2018 and 2019
      – Yuli is predicted to get 0.8 when he had 3.3 in 2019
      – Tucker is predicted to get 3.5 when he put up the equivalent of 4.1 in 2020 (if you project it over a full season).

      It will be fun to watch

      Like

    • You know that I respect you, but I would rather not bring back anyone from the 2017 team that left and went to another team and talked publicly about “it”. Let that ship sail away and let us man the ship we now have.

      Like

      • Old pro – the day after the Astro players addressed “it”, new Mets player Marisnick along with J.D. Davis were asked about “it” and Marisnick said he was sorry for his part in it and how it affected fans and other players.
        I don’t see why, if he was the best choice to come here (and I have no idea if he is the best and if he is even interested), why that would disqualify him. He was not like Mike Fiers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, 1OP, I just recently watched the video of Jake meeting the press in New York for the first time. I had not seen it before. I was a bit perturbed. He could have said less. Maybe that’s why he has not been signed by the Astros.
        He also had 16 homers in 259 plate appearances in 2017. With an .815 OPS, Jake might have been the biggest beneficiary of the ploy.

        Like

  11. Farm news! The first calf from our registered purebred Shorthorn bull and heifer was born today. It’s a little heifer and she could be the first of many show calves born in our herd. She can be a show heifer for two years and then enter the herd of breeding stock. She is my oldest granddaughter’s calf, because she bought the momma last spring with her own money from her show winnings.
    Life!

    Liked by 2 people

      • The Astros I’ve read are trying to get 12,000 in stands per game. Will be interesting to see how that plays out.

        Like

    • Think about all the bubble guys Astros will have to decide on.
      These are the names pretty much in ink, as I see it for 26-man.

      Greink, Urquidy, LMJ, Valdez, Javier
      Pressly, Smith, Paredes, Raley, Baez, Stanek, Taylor

      Yuli, Tuve, Correa, Bregs, Diaz
      Straw, Tucker, Brantley, Souza, Alvarez
      Maldy, Castro

      This leaves 2 spots open to pencil in for realistic shot on OD;
      Abreu, Whitley, Garcia, Scrubb, Pruitt, James, Bielak, Dubin
      McCormick, Stubbs, Toro, Jones.

      The also-rans in ’21;
      Nivaldo, Ivey, Solomon (possibly Solis)
      Siri, BDLC, Leon.

      Then the NRI’s who deserve a look see;
      Torres, Conine, Dawson, McKee.

      Just wow!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I am not wanting Big Fudge back, but we have to be honest, he was a slightly better minor league hitter than Myles Straw. He is a premier defensive centerfielder. The last time I saw Myles Straw in the outfield, he appeared below average to me. All that being said, Jake would improve the team but he is more expensive, apparently will never be any better than a bottom of the order hitter, and Myles could improve over time.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s