Before you start laughing, this is a serious article. Despite their win/loss record, and the fact they’re destined to finish in the cellar of the American League West once again, there are reasons to watch the Houston Astros:
1. George Springer
The most obvious reason is George Springer. In 128 at-bats since being called up, he’s hit .268 with eight home runs and 25 RBI. While he’s also in contention for the strikeout crown with 49 already, the power potential is for real, and he’s already proving it at the age of 24. In the Astros most recent game, Springer was batting second behind Jose Altuve, but he’ll be the cleanup hitter soon enough, which is where he belongs. In 2013, while playing between double-A and triple-A, Springer hit 37 home runs in 492 at-bats. He may not be able to catch Jose Abreu for the home run lead among rookies, but there is no doubt this kid will put up monster home run totals for years to come. Go out and watch the show.
2. Jose Altuve
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If you’re like me and love that you don’t have to be 6’-6” and jacked to play baseball, then you’re probably as big of an Altuve fan as I am. At just 5’-6” Altuve has proven himself as one of the better second baseman in the game — and someone no one knows about because he plays for the Astros. If he played for the Red Sox, he’d be on every MLB commercial, kind of like another great, short second baseman. In 2014, Altuve is hitting .323 with a .366 OBP — numbers that are likely to come back to his norm of .290/.33 — and it’s impressive to see this little guy dominating the league. He’s also taking advantage of his speed more this year as he leads the American League in stolen bases with 17. If watching this little guy succeed isn’t exciting, then I don’t know what to tell you.
3. Dallas Keuchel
The Astros should be well-stocked with offensive talent for the future, but questions remain about who fills out the pitching rotation. One guy taking a step forward is Keuchel. In 10 starts this year, he’s 6-2 with a 2.55 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. In 70.2 innings he’s struck out 61 and walked just 12. Keuchel was taken by the Astros in the seventh round of the 2009 amateur draft and made his pro debut in 2012. During his first two major league seasons, he posted an ERA north of five. But now at the age of 26, he seems to be maturing as a pitcher at the major league level. Through 81 minor league starts Keuchel posted an ERA of 3.74 and WHIP of 1.23, which will likely be the norm for Keuchel at the major league level once his numbers level out, but I still think those are numbers the Astros will take. In two of his last three starts, he’s thrown a complete game, giving up zero earned runs in both, and in the start in between he lasted 8.2 innings before getting pulled. The evolution of a good, young pitcher is happening before our eyes, don’t miss it.
4. More is on the way
The Astros have one of the best crops of young talent in the game, many who aren’t far away from making their major league debut. Their top overall prospect, Carlos Correa, is hitting .314 in High-A ball with four home runs, 39 RBI and 10 stolen bases. Jon Singleton, another huge power bat to match Springer, has belted 13 home runs at triple-A, while hitting .272 and driving in 39. At age 22, Singleton could — and probably should –be called up this June. Their top two pitching prospects, Mark Appel and Lance McCullers, have both struggled early on, but they’re still averaging a strikeout an inning or better, and both are still on track to be solid additions to the Astros’ major league rotation soon.