The Houston Astros had a better-than-expected 2008, finishing with a winning record and in third place. They shouldn’t be expecting another miracle year this season. The rotation, after ace Roy Oswalt, is packed with question marks. Shortstop Miguel Tejada admitted to lying to federal investigators. Deportation is an unlikely option, but he may face some punishment. And Lance Berkman has his amazing seasons in even-numbered years. Check it out.
2008 record: 86-75
Right handed power hitters love Minute Maid Park.
2008 finish: third in NL Central, 11 games back
Home field: Minute Maid Park
Sipping the Orange Juice
1B Aaron Boone (Signed from Washington Nationals)
RP Doug Brocail (Re-signed)
RP Jose Capellan (Signed from Kansas City Royals)*
RP Danny Graves (Signed from Minnesota Twins)*
SP Mike Hampton (Signed from Atlanta Braves)
RP LaTroy Hawkins (Re-signed)
OF Jason Michaels (Signed from Pittsburgh Pirates)
SP Russ Ortiz (Signed from free agency)*
RP Chad Paronto (Re-signed)
Gone like Enron
C Brad Ausmus (Signed with Los Angeles Dodgers)
2B Mark Loretta (Signed with Los Angeles Dodgers)
3B Ty Wigginton (Signed with Baltimore Orioles)
SP Randy Wolf (Signed with Los Angeles Dodgers)
* - Signed to minor league contract
Strength – Potential in the rotation
The pitching could be a strength of this team. Wandy Rodriguez posted a good season last year, and Brandon Backe is another year removed of Tommy John surgery. Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz, two veterans, are healthy after injury-marred 2008 seasons. If everything falls into place, the Astros could be sending quality pitchers to the mound every night. That’s a big if, however.
Weakness – Offense
Carlos Lee and Berkman form a good punch in the lineup, but question marks abound in the lineup. How will the federal investigation impact Tejada? Is Hunter Pence going to continue developing? Is Michael Bourne going to reach base?
2B Kazuo Matsui
CF Michael Bourn
1B Lance Berkman
LF Carlos Lee
RF Hunter Pence
SS Miguel Tejada
3B Geoff Blum
C JR Towles
Mike Hampton / Russ Ortiz
CL Jose Valverde
RP Geoff Geary
RP LaTroy Hawkins
Can the Astros catch a few lucky breaks? They brought two pitchers in Hampton, Backe and Ortiz all suffered injury-plagued 2008 seasons. Tejada, who is a free agent after this season, and Pence, who should continue developing, could stretch the lineup. If this team catches a few lucky breaks, it may contend in a weak NL Central.
The Astros are likely to stay around the 85-win plateau. This isn’t a disappointment; rather, fans and players must not let a better-than-expected 2008 falsely color their predictions of 2009.