2021 Astros: Spring training expectations

It is tough to picture the word spring merging with the fact that here in the Houston area it will hit 12 degrees this Monday. (And for my metric friends that is in Fahrenheit, not Celsius). We are facing the coldest long stretch here that I can remember since we moved here in 1966.

But a time zone to the east and hundreds of miles farther south, the Astros pitcher and catchers report next Thursday the 18th with the rest of the crew due on the 22nd. It will be in the ’80s in West Palm Beach that day and will be a lot closer to Spring normalcy than the rest of the country will be facing this week.

So what are the expectations for this spring training for this edition of the Astros?

  • This is the first time since 2015 that the Astros come to Spring Training with a team that had a losing record in the previous season. Yet our expectations are not those of fans of a losing club. They are the expectations of fans who had three straight years of 100+ wins slightly tempered by a 2020 that was too weird to register. The team did not have a good regular season, but they got on a run in the playoffs and at least gave the impression that a return to the 2017-2019 type team was possible in 2021.
  • The Astros were a very middle of the road offensive team in 2020. They were 7th in the AL in runs scored (279), 10th in BA (.240), 11th in OBP (.311) and 9th in OPS (.720). It is almost counterintuitive for the team to lose one of their biggest offensive cogs in George Springer and expect an improved offensive performance by the team. But with Yordan Alvarez returning, the expectation of better seasons from Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel and the further maturing of Kyle Tucker hope spring eternal.
  • Along those lines, we expect to see Yordan Alvarez return with two repaired knees that allow him to return to the transcendent performance we saw in the second half of 2019.
  • The starting rotation was above average and especially down the stretch when Jose Urquidy rejoined the rotation, was the strength of the team. The expectation here is that the quintet of Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr. Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy will form a solid base for the rotation. The expectation is that other than Greinke and possibly Valdez, none of these pitchers is likely to put up near the 175-200 innings normally required from starters.
  • As a follow up to that, the expectation is that multiple pitchers must step up to be the next wave of starters as it will probably take 10-12 starters to get through this much longer season than 2020. Chief among them is the enigma known as Forrest Whitley. It is critical that he finally put it together for this organization that has stuck with him through some tough times. But if he doesn’t this is where the many other arms down on the farm have a chance to show their stuff.
  • The bullpen was middle of the road, which was a huge surprise considering how inexperienced the relievers were as a whole. Ryan Pressly had never been the main closer on any team, yet he picked up the yoke and did a decent job of it. The expectation is that the youngsters / inexperienced pitchers in the bullpen, (Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor, Brooks Raley, Andre Scrubb) will be even better in their second go around. This is one expectation that might be a little over the top.
  • The expectation is that the moves made by the Astros front office to bolster the bullpen, the signings of Pedro Baez, Ryne Stanek and Steve Cishek, will give a boost to a group that lacked experience. Of course, there is still the hope (not an expectation) that the Astros will make one more move and sign someone like Trevor Rosenthal to give an even bigger boost to the back of the bullpen.
  • The fans also have expectations that the team will use Spring Training to figure out who their 3rd and 4th OFs will be behind Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker. Will it be Myles Straw, Chas McCormick, Steven Souza Jr., Jose Siri, Pedro Leon or even Norel Gonzalez?
  • The fans expect the team to sort out how the workload will be split behind the plate between the incumbent Martin Maldonado and the old newbie Jason Castro.

What are your expectations for the 2021 Spring Training for the Astros?

34 comments on “2021 Astros: Spring training expectations

  1. Norel Gonzalez was not on the invite list, so I expect we won’t see him in camp. I hope somebody steps it up and wins the CF job.
    I expect one of the starting rotation to have a problem and pitching depth gets tested right away. I expect a veteran bullpen arm to have the same problem.
    I can’t wait to see the final lineup Baker goes with to start the year. Hinch put a power guy in leadoff and Baker couldn’t bring himself to change that. Who leads off?
    Souza has never really hit well, even in the minors. would be a huge surprise to me if he made this team. Unless, he has changed his approach and improved his swing. Surprise me. I’m actually pulling for Chas McCormick to shine and win a job.
    Really anxious to see what Solis and Solomon have going, after two years has passed since they pitched competitively.

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  2. We have 45 days to determine what the team will look like this year. I expect the brain trust to know by early March if they have expectations on some of the youngsters that are not feasible. With that, I would expect a few pick ups around the time the other teams make their final cuts. And there is a chance that there are a couple or more FAs that have priced themselves out of the current market that might get a phone call from the Astros.

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  3. Rays have made some bargain pitching sign ups the last few days. Archer for $6.5 MM, Hill for $2.5 MM and McHugh for $1.8 MM.
    At the worst that gives them some very experienced depth, but at best one or two of those guys could bring big time value.

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    • Haha, As pretty much the only diehard Astros’ fan household in Vermont, that’s normal for me 🙂 I only saw snow flurries once in the 10 years I lived in Houston (1961-1970)) so it must be reallllly weird for you guys!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was born in Wisconsin, but we moved South in the 60’s and saw snow rarely. After I got laid off in the early 80’s we moved to Arkansas and so we saw snow about once a year.
        I think we’ve been seeing snow about every 5 years lately – but I don’t know when we’ve seen 12 degrees
        Vermont always sounds so lovely – nice to hear from you Eric

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      • So was I, Sarge. Still remember it. We got a day off from school if I remember correctly. Snow in Bellaire, Texas!
        A few years later, we watched the eye of Hurricane Carla pass over our house there, too. Fun times and scary times.

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      • OP, I grew up in the City of South Houston during the 50s and 60s. Yes, I also remember Carla coming through. We have seen many changes in Houston haven’t we?

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  4. It is not snowing here today.

    The bullpen will be a work in progress. Raley, Taylor, Scrubb. I’m not convinced yet.

    Center could be a revolving door unless Leon owns Spring Training. Looking at the outside options, there is no FA center fielder I’d be enthused about. Bradley is not worth what he’ll ultimately get paid by someone. At this point I see Myles Straw in center on Opening Day. He’ll get his chance to lead the league in stolen bases. Lifetime the guy has a .462 OPS against lefties. A .542 at home. Weird stats. If he matches what he does against righties on the road, then he’ll get on base enough. And can a 25 year old guy learn how to bunt?

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    • Just think if he batted from the left side. He would be three steps closer to first base and the infield shift would be to the left side, making their throws a lot longer to first base.
      He would have 20 more infield singles hitting lefty and have the same amount of HR’s. Zero.

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  5. First and foremost expectation for me is a healthy Yordan. Second is that someone (better yet, sometwo) steps up in the outfield. If both expectations are dashed, I fear we don’t have the organizational depth to cover both holes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My memory being faulty, I decided to look up each month for YA in 2019.

      June BA .317 OPS of 1.139
      July .333 1.045
      August .309 1.095
      September .296 .999

      So it doesn’t look like any drop off for the first full season.

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  6. We haven’t talked about this.
    It’s probably going to make a big difference in baseball this year, just because of the fact that MLB has admitted it before the season even begins:
    MLB has de-juiced the baseball!
    It will affect guys with huge power a little.
    It will affect guys with moderate power moderately and it will affect guys with little power a lot.
    They are telling us they are cutting down on the distance the baseball will travel.
    Look for less home runs this year.
    Teams with a lineup of players capable of solid contact and high BA could do damage.
    Outfield defense could come into play with less balls over the fence and more bouncing around out there.

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  7. I keep this tab alive in my favorites and check it every day. It is updated almost instantly. For instance, all of those maroon NRI’s on the left were not there yesterday morning.
    If you advance by hitting “payroll”, it is a good running tab on this year’s payroll and subsequent years, too.
    However, just like GoStros1, they left off Ernesto Jaquez in the prospects’s list. It appears he has been removed from the defunct Tri-Cities roster, could be moving to the GCL Astros roster, but is currently somewhere on Weiland Island, pending further rescue.

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    • Op thank you for updating us on FG tabs.

      Jaquez will remain for me an afterthought, but Yeremi Caballos is not. I cannot get much confirmation on where he is. Here’s a kid in 2019 at age 20, who pitched 4 different levels & threw to a .120 BA, and 1.1 WHIP. Would be nice to know what’s up there?!

      Of the Jaquez group, I’m more intrigued seeing Diosmerky Taveras harness that 70-grade fastball. Brazilian 6’6″ Heitor Tokar, Alfredi Jimenez, Manny Ramirez and Angel Macuare. Astros invited two kids to Fall Instructs I didn’t know much about; Misael Tamarez, and Daniel Pecheco. Looking at their stats, you’d be left scratching your head, considering they were handily out-pitched by Beltre, Pereira, and especially the kid who led the league with 80 K’s in 49 IP, Jeremy Molero. These guys are all probably 3 yrs away from knocking on door, and were not NRI’s. Which speaks volumes for Alex Santos III.

      Of the younger group stealing my attention; Valente Bellozo, who upon his call up pitched in the Quad Cities championship game and dominated. Jairo Lopez, who has cracked the top 25. And my #2 prospect, Hunter Brown, drawing comparisons to Tyler Glasnow’s curve, and parking at 98 mph! He has frontline starter written all over him ETA late-’22.

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  8. One of the things I’ll be interested this Spring re: players we expect to see in 2021 is the amount of work a Myles Straw *wants*, which would have a direct effect on those he’s trying to stave off; McCormick, Leon and Siri. Especially if things are similar to the way he described them with covid hotel lockdowns last regular season. In other words, in ST of the past, a Brad Peacock wanted to get his work done quickly and go fishing. other guys wanted to hit the golf course. This year, with competition stiffer, and nobody wantingto go back to the room and just sit, it will be curious how many starts each guy will get.

    Last year the best news of the Spring came from the back fields where we learned Solomon Solis and Ivey were all hitting 96 mph. A year removed from that, all three should be frontrunners as prospects, but because they lost the full year, it is Javier Paredes Garcia and Bielak who hold the experience gained advantage over them.

    I’d like to see Diaz getting lots of playing time in Spring because he’s usually a slow starer, but if he gets more innings, Toro and Jones will be behind the 8-ball yet again, and they need the reps if the alternative is starting in AAA a month later than usual. So many things I’m excited about, and yet, it’s feeling like 2021 is going to be a repeat of similarities from last season.

    Frankly, having laid it out this way, Astros best bet would be to play the regulars as much as they want instead. And yet they invited some real bottom rung guys, so I’m guessing there will be lots going on in back fields. It used to be really cool hearing from fans who made the trek with their kids, and to get those back field reports. I have a feeling that will be sadly lacking this yr again.

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    • I honestly think they invited so many younger prospects because they didn’t get to play last season and our top brass and coaches did not get a chance to see them.
      There are so many players who are going to Florida that nobody in the organization has seen play baseball. Spring training is going to be a revelation to us and the Astros. I hope they televise some games because there are so many guys I can’t wait to see play.

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      • Yes, they were able to invite up to 75 and looks like they sure used every spot.

        For the life of me, I cannot figure out how they could expand to that many players, but because the reasoning used for starting AAA later was that they wanted to keep Spring Training #’s down for social distancing. As it is, our entire AAA team will be at WPB, so what’s the point of starting minor league season later? I haven’t seen the MiLB schedule yet, you said you’ve seen it — do you know the answer to the rationale? Surely other teams have invited their AAA players too.

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    • Astros AAA roster will be in West Palm Beach at the same time as Astros. When the Major league club and the AAA club leave for Houston/Sugarland the Facilities will close for a cleanup and then reopen for the rest of the minor leaguers to report in early April. They will be there for a month and then make their way to there respective minor league season openers.
      None of the minor league schedules for the regular season are available yet.
      Pretty sure the Skeeters will start in April and the rest will begin in the first ten days of May, barring Covid problems.
      By the way, the minor leaguers will get raises between 38% and 72% depending on the level. Every minor league player will get a substantial raise.

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  9. We live 75 miles north of the Red River. It’s 7 degrees here with a steady 17 mph north wind and snow falling at a rate of an inch per hour. The low tonight is -1 degree, tomorrow night -5 degrees.
    We never have had this kind of weather in the 25 years we have lived here.
    The thing is, it hasn’t been close to 32 degrees for five days now.
    We should have about 8″ of snow by tonight. Snow predicted Tuesday and Wednesday with the temps staying below 25 degrees until Friday.
    We could easily have a foot of snow by Wednesday.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Their winter fur keeps them warm. It’s the water that is the problem. The mama cows are in a pasture with a moving creek so they are good. It’s the guys who depend on ponds that need to have a sledge hammer breaking the ice that is worrisome. The chicken have heat lamps as do the goats. The lambs have their wool and each of them has a jacket to wear. The dogs that want to be inside are inside and the one who doesn’t has places she can go including a dog house I built.
        We brought two expecting cows to the barn tonight, because cold weather can bring on an expectant calf. Some of the winter fur on these calves are three or four inches long. These girls get together and lay down and there is a lot of body heat when you put 9 1000 lb cows together.

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    • My friend sent pictures in Denton of firing up his grill for steaks tonight. He was dressed in shorts and flip flops, and said no problem it’s double digits there. 10 degrees Ha!

      Shoot, I recall 1973 I think it was. We (stepdad) were stationed at Lackland, and it snowed like crazy in San Antonio.

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