Houston Astros preview: Does new division equal new direction?

Houston Astros pitcher Bud Norris strides toward home.
Bud Norris gets the nod as the Houston Astros’ opening-day starter. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Houston Astros are preaching patience and development, but in reality, they are practicing austerity. As we saw in 2012, the Astros are a long way from fielding a competitive major-league team. From 1996 through 2008, the Astros made the playoffs six times. During that span, they averaged nearly 94 wins per season. Let’s not forget the World Series appearance in 2005.

Unfortunately, Houston has won a combined 111 times since 2011. A 55-107 record in 2012 was the worst in franchise history. With Houston’s moves, or lack thereof, they could fare even worse in 2013.

Moving from the National League Central to the American League West will further suffocate the Houston Astros. The product on the diamond may be a little better than last year, but a more strenuous strength of schedule can’t be ignored.

Houston added some capable players in the offseason. In a trade which sent reliever Fernando Rodriguez and shortstop Jed Lowrie to the Oakland Athletics, the Houston Astros added a capable right-handed pitching prospect in Brad Peacock, first baseman Chris Carter and catcher Max Stassi. They also added designated hitter Carlos Pena and former Colorado Rockies starter Alex White.

Finally, the most positive change made for 2013 was the switch back to the orange and navy Houston Astros logo. Reminiscent of the logo used from 1965 through 1993, it adds rejuvenation to what will be a depressing season. I think I speak for all when I say we are glad the dreadful Space Jam-era star logo is gone.

Houston Astros position players

A question regarding who’s who of the current Houston Astros roster would stump the Schwab. Led by leadoff hitter and second baseman Jose Altuve, the lineup will struggle mightily to find an identity. The pint-sized Altuve hit .290 with 80 runs scored and 33 stolen bases a year ago. The next noteworthy player is DH Pena. It will be a struggle for Pena to hit above the Mendoza Line in 2013.

The outfielders will consist of Justin Maxwell in center, Carter in left field and Fernando Martinez platooning in right field with Brandon Barnes. Brett Wallace will see most of the action at first base while Matt Dominguez handles duties at third. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno swings a wiffleball bat while Jason Castro sits behind home plate.

Carlos Corporan is likely to backup Castro, while infielder Marwin Gonzalez and outfield veteran Rick Ankiel round out the bench.

Houston Astros pitching staff

The starting rotation will consist of Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Erik Bedard and Peacock. Whatever upside each of the aforementioned starters possesses is being railroaded by pitching in Houston. However, Norris and Harrell have been involved in trade rumors. Meanwhile, White could step into the rotation when necessary.

After losing closer Wilton Lopez via trade, the Astros will call upon Jose Veras in the ninth inning. Rounding out the bullpen will be Wesley Wright, Rhiner Cruz, Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno and Josh Fields.

Houston Astros opening day lineup

  1. Jose Altuve 2B
  2. Brett Wallace 1B
  3. Justin Maxwell CF
  4. Carlos Pena DH
  5. Chris Carter LF
  6. Fernando Martinez RF
  7. Jason Castro C
  8. Matt Dominguez 3B
  9. Ronny Cedeno SS

Houston Astros prospect watch

Suspended 50 games for smoking marijuana, first baseman Jonathan Singleton will be ready for big-league action in late 2013. Acquired by Houston in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, Singleton is eerily reminiscent of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard. With a potent swing and a side of dreadful defense, Singleton is still the best option at first base moving forward for Houston.

Shortstop Carlos Correa, the first overall pick of the 2012 draft, is drawing praise from scouts everywhere. With a plus arm and glove, he has the potential to win a Gold Glove at shortstop. Sprinkle in the untapped potential he has from the batter’s box and the ‘Stros could be developing the best power-hitting shortstop since Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki. Correa will not be on the fast track to the bigs, though. If anything, his estimated time of arrival is 2015.


If the Houston Astros fan base didn’t think things could get any worse, think again. While the current roster has a tad more sparkle this year, it will not be enough to win 60 games. It’s feasible that Houston struggles to win 50 games in 2013. The only thing scary about playing the Astros will be the echoes from an empty Minute Maid Park.

For a proud fan base that has cheered for stars such as Cesar Cedeno, Nolan Ryan, the Killer B’s, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, the near future in Houston is shameful. If anything, the Houston Astros will be a team to root for from afar, but at the end of the day, they are the worst team in professional baseball. It will take more than a Mighty Mouse-performance from Altuve to put this team over the top.

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