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.