The top 10 Astros in 2021

YIE (Yes, It’s Early), but after a month and a half of the season, who are the top ten Astros to date? Which Astros have brought the most to the table so far in the young season? Here’s one man’s opinion.

1. Yuli Gurriel. The top spot is not close so far (except for one teammate) as Gurriel, who looked like he was on a sharp decline in 2020, has come into this season and grabbed it by the neck. He is sporting a tremendous slash at .333 BA/ .411 OBP/ .983 OPS and is tied for second in doubles (11) and HRs (7) while easily leading the team in RBIs (30). His strikeout % is up a tad, but he has more than balanced that out by more than doubling his walk rate. His better batting eye is forcing teams to pitch to him, and when they do, he has been shredding them.

2. Yordan Alvarez. After missing 99% of the 2020 season, Yordan has picked up where he left off in 2019 as the consensus Rookie of the Year. His .347 BA/ .378 OBP/.993 OPS slash is one of the best in the AL, with him third in batting and 4th in OPS. His 24 runs, 7 HRs and 22 RBIs are extremely impressive in only 30 games, and if he had not missed 6 games during the COVID kerfuffle – he might be at the top of this list.

3. (Tied) Lance McCullers Jr. Lance has stepped up and is steadily working himself into the ace role on the team. His 3-1 record, 3.10 ERA, and 1.057 WHIP are all outstanding. If he can ever tamp down his tendency towards walks, like he did in his most recent eight-inning, one-run allowed win over the Angels, he can truly become elite.

3. (Tied) Jose Urquidy. Watching Urquidy leave the game on Wednesday night with shoulder discomfort gave the fans a bit of stomach discomfort as he has turned into such a reliable pitcher for the team. He’s tied for the team lead with 44.2 IPs and sports an excellent 3.22 ERA and 1.030 WHIP.  If he misses time and if Jake Odorizzi does not return soon (and pitches well), this could be a tough blow for the pitching staff.

5. Alex Bregman. For the first time in his career, Bregman has gotten off to a good start to his season, except for the time he missed due to COVID protocol. His .310 BA/ .370 OBP/ .861 OPS slash is good, and his 20 Runs/5 HRs/ 19 RBIs are above average, but he sure could have used the six or seven games he has missed. If Alex goes on his normal mid to late-season tear, he could easily climb this ladder. Note – his 10 walks / 22 Ks is his worst ratio since his rookie season.

6. Cristian Javier. It could be argued that Javier has been the Astros best starter, however through no fault of his own, he has not pitched near as much as the other starters and only has 31 innings (one more than Luis Garcia) on the year. His 3-1 record, 2.90 ERA, 1.000 WHIP and 11 Ks/ 9 IP are all at the top of the starters stats.

7. Michael Brantley. Brantley’s numbers are very good like they have been since he came to Houston. He is slashing a solid .312 BA/ .358 OBP/ .854 OPS, while his 21 runs, 3 HRs and 10 RBIs are a little above average. Ironically he has the same number of RBIs as Chas McCormick, who has less than one-fourth of ABs. But it should be remembered that batting 2nd, he has had in front of him a leadoff position that has functioned in the bottom 4 in the league and a bottom couple of hitters in the lineup (Martin Maldonado and Myles Straw) that have been worse than that.

8. Ryan Pressly. Pressly has looked more and more comfortable in the closer’s role this season. He has put up great stats – 2-0, 6 saves, 1.69 ERA, 10.1 K/ 9 IP, 1.7 walks / 9 IP with no home runs to date. He has made the fans more comfortable also when Dusty turns to the bullpen for the save.

9. Ryne Stanek. You cannot emphasize how important Stanek’s contribution has been to the team. He gives the Astros a second reliable high leverage option late in the game, and this was a total surprise heading into this season. He is 0-1 with 1 save, 1.76 ERA, 0.783 WHIP with only two HRs really hurting him to date.

10. Kyle Tucker. This last spot came down to Tucker and Carlos Correa. Correa has the better BA (.254 vs. .213) and OBP (.320 vs. .285), but Tucker has him beat in OPS (.741 vs. .725), Runs (22 vs.20), HRs (8 vs. 5  ) and RBIs (23 vs. 16).  Tucker has been a more inconsistent hitter, but frankly, a more effective one. Correa is undoubtedly the better fielder at a more important position, but Tucker has been surprisingly good in the outfield.

In team news, the Astros came back to take the series from the Angels after coughing up the first game with two inspiring wins on Tuesday and Wednesday night. They welcome their in-state buddies from the north, the Texas What’s Their Names, for a four-game series to end the homestand.

The Rangers are better than expected, which in their case is a little under .500 (18-20) and 2-1/2 games behind the 2nd place Astros. The Astros score almost a run more per game (5.14 vs 4.24 runs/game) have better starting pitching (3.78 vs. 4.53 ERA) and a slightly worse bullpen (3.92 vs. 3.82 ERA).

The matchups so far….

  • Thursday – Former Astro Mike Foltynewicz (1-3, 4.50 ERA) vs. Cristian Javier (3-1, 2.90 ERA)
  • Friday – TBD vs. Zack Greinke (2-1, 4.23 ERA) – Texas starter Kohei Arihara just went to the IL. This is possibly minor leaguer Wes Benjamin, who was with the team to start the season or reliever Hyeon-Jong Yang, who had an effective spot start earlier.
  • Saturday – Dane Dunning (2-2, 3.78 ERA) vs. Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.60 ERA)
  • Sunday – Mel Gibson, wait, Kirk Gibson, oops, Kyle Gibson (3-0, 2.28 ERA) vs. McCuller (3-1, 3.10 ERA)

The Rangers are usually a tough out for the Astros, and this season the Houston Nine have played worse on the whole against teams (Tigers, Rockies) that they should be beating. 3-1 or 4-0 would feel good as they head back out on the road.

53 comments on “The top 10 Astros in 2021

  1. I forgot to mention Christian Javier. He could have folded up early, but instead kept his composure through a couple of innings that came close to turning the game into a blowout. Instead, he battled and then settled into an excellent 7 inning start. Even with our injuries, he’s part of a rotation that few clubs can match.

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  2. Thoughts:
    – We were lucky to get the 3 runs during regulation to begin with – Culberson shied away from Altuve’s shot down the line turning it into a 3 run double. That is also the reason I never played 3B for the Astros. That and talent.
    – We were equal opportunity flailers last night. Every hitter left runners on base except McCormick, who might have if the wild pitch did not get him off the hook.
    – As daveb says – Javier looked like he might not get out of the second or third inning and then ended up giving 7 solid innings was a key to staying in this game
    – Both Abreu and Raley did great jobs in getting out of the superficial “jams” in extra innigs. Raley the last couple of times has looked a lot more like last season and left the mound with a bit of fire each time
    – A list of our failures last night….
    1st inning men on 1st and 2nd with one out – zippo
    2nd inning after Altuve’s 3 run double – Altuve stupidly gets himself doubled off 2nd on Brantley’s fly ball to the fence
    3rd inning men on 1st and 3rd with no out – nada
    4th inning men on 1st and 2nd with no out – zero
    5th inning man on 2nd no out – nil
    6th inning men on 2nd and 3rd 2 out – nothing
    8th inning man on 1st and no out – naught
    10th inning bases loaded with one out – goose egg

    – On the last one, I had complained about letting Straw hit with Gurriel on the bench and my son said that perhaps Gurriel would not have scored in the 11th on the wild pitch. Of course my thought is that if Yuli had batted in the 10th with the bases loaded and one out they would have been taking showers instead of playing the 11th.
    – I know it was a frustrating/sucky win, but at the end of the year it counts as a win and this one brought us within 1-1/2 games of Oakland
    – Wes Benjamin spot starts for the Rangers tonight. He pitched in 3 games in relief earlier this season and the stat that stands out is 6 walks in 5.2 innings.

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    • You know, Dan, from reading the various articles I can’t tell if Gurriel was being held out due to covid or because he has the sniffles. Last night it sure sounded like the former. Today it sounds like the latter. Dusty Baker thinks he’s cleared to work out today, but isn’t sure because of course we can’t do anything without lots of confusion these days.

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      • Devin – if it was COVID it surely was a strange way to address it as at one point I saw him standing maskless right next to a couple other players.
        Perhaps he was one of the last ones to get his vaccine(s) and was having a reaction to it….
        And yes we don’t get too many straight answers, though how many did we ever get under the regime of Herr Luhnow?

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  3. All 4 of the Astros farm teams won last night.
    CFer Jose Siri had a three-rbi double in the first inning and a grand slam in the second inning. Siri has 18 RBIs in 30 ABs. I thought the Skeeters would slow down once they got down to sea level in Round Rock, and they still might, but the slow down didn’t happen last night. Taylor Jones and the rest of the Skeeters are leading all of AAA in batting, which has taken the heat off of a pitching staff that is trying to establish itself after almost two years off.

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  4. Maybe not a smart idea but does anybody think about putting a better hitter in the number 8 slot because of , well the typical situation that we have there. It might work but then I’m not the manager (thank goodness for that)?

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      • Yeah but last night Brantley and Bregman were a couple of the guys who struggled with RBI situations too (though yes normally I would take them over Straw and Maldonado).

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    • Fair to say the Astros mopped up the UFA draft last year with Gomez, Sprinkle Peck and Gruller.

      Peck is a competitor, bulldog type says his coaches. He throws a 93 FS and has a solid change up.

      After being sidelined by muscular arm injuries during the 2019 season, Peck and his pitching coach Steve Less began working on his changeup for the 2020 season.

      “I took last year off and did nothing but rehab for eight months and came back this year,” Peck said. “I spent a lot of time on my changeup last year when I wasn’t playing. That’s my main pitch and it’s the pitch that catches every scout’s eye. That’s what has really changed my game as a pitcher.”

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    • These are great stories – guys that have a bit of a chip on their shoulder from being overlooked – that was Altuve for sure

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  5. Can somebody tell me how the Astros pulled off an around-the-horn DP in the 10th inning last night without the runner from third scoring? I wasn’t watching.

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  6. I love stories like this. Seems he struck out 56 guys while walking 2 in 2020. He was listed at 6’1″, 170 in 2020 at Gwinnett. Now he’s listed at 6’2″ and 195.

    In those 4 innings of work, 9 K’s, 2 BB and a base hit. He must have something!

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    • Not any more than the others who have split time as Starters/Relievers, and have dynamic strikeout stuff.

      Some names to consider after Pressly is gone.

      1. Abreu
      2. Paredes
      3. Hansen
      4. Dubin
      5. Torres
      6. James
      7. JA Rivera
      8. Conine
      9. Jairo Lopez
      10. Garza

      Jairo Solis is possible, although more value in SP.
      Jonathan Sprinkle had 16 K/9 at SEMSU.
      Jimmy Endersby was masterful in his debut against the best farm in baseball yesterday (Rays).

      Peyton Plumlee is not really a candidate but he deserves a mention today. A 31st round pick, Woodpeckers were down 6-0 last night. Plumlee was one who helped shut the door 4 IP no runs or hits, 7 K. The farm is teeming with moldable arms! A new list every night.

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      • I knew I’d get some good stuff from you GoStros on this.
        Abreu is an interesting one. Sometimes he looks like a world beater and sometimes like world beaten. Paredes was always so fired up – sometimes too much maybe, but looked like he could come in and shut things down

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    • I think it is safe to say that the MLB guys who authored this article got Dubin’s name from an Astros source.
      However, there are a dozen guys in the Astros system who could develop into closers.
      Some of them are mentioned above. Some more could have the last name Brown. Some of them might already be in the system and being groomed and developed by the organization without a hint of what could be in their future.
      I’m convinced about one thing, though. I’m convinced that Click is not going to ignore relievers the way his predecessor did.
      Starters are going less than six innings more and more. As there are less starters who go deep into games, teams are going to need more than 1 closer.
      The automatic runner on second base has managers using their closers in non-save situations more and more, like Baker did last night. If they are going to continue doing that, they are going to need two closers, because you can’t have one closer appearing in 60 games a year.

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      • I had Ty Brown listed originally, and like Conine and Hansen, Astros said they’d like to take former Closers and stretch them out. So much can happen by then, especially with arms falling off the way they have.

        Another case in point is Nate Pearson and Jose Urquidy pitched the other night. Both are out for undisclosed time with shoulder impingement. I don’t see this situation getting any better, and have mentioned my theories here for 5 yrs now, based in nutrition clean food, weight training and stretching. Teams have all doubled down in these departments … and still the rash of injury is exponential.

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      • He’s the example I use that the different levels of minors are no longer viewed the same. He pitched at 4 different venues in 2019, I believe, because everyone was on a schedule, and there just weren’t many innings to dole out. Even Martes was pitching in AAA, and in DSL that year! It tells me the Astros aren’t interested in results as much as Pitch Quality, and repetitions. They’ll jettison a kid straight from A+ ball as they did with Garcia!

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  7. What happens tonight when Greinke melts down in the 4th inning?
    Brandon Blalac might not be available and the rest of the bullpen got used last night. That leaves Emanuel as the long man…..but for HOW long?
    Rangers are bringing up a kid from the minors tonight…..another lefty.
    I have to give it up for Abreu last night, that guy was a magician! And so was Javier! I gotta admit they have some pretty good young guys over there, and I’m soo glad I don’t have to see Odor again…..his play at the plate in New York reinforces what a dirty player he is. I try not to use the word hate, but in his case I absolutely despise him.

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  8. Framber, gone from out indefinitely needing surgery, to rehab in mid-May. Couldn’t be happier, this camper!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The Fayeteville Woodpeckers got a no-hitter tonight from three pitchers. Jayson Schroeder went 4 innings, Ernesto Jaquez went one inning and got the win, and Angel Macuare went the final 4 innings.
    Fayetteville wins, 5-0. LFer Zack Daniels had 3 hits and CFer Kenedy Corona had 3 hits.
    Sugarland beat Round Rock again and Corpus Christi beat Frisco again.

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  10. Good win, but even better a good game for Greinke. HE needed this game and so did the bullpen. I’ve been blessed to be able to see these games, so I’m jelouse of all of you who get to see them every night. Finally got to actually see Kent Emanuel, he’s a really good lefty, I wonder if their plan is to transition him to the rotation next year. Goodnight fellas and Sandy too wherever you are! Becky⚾

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