Image: Michael Reaves/Getty Images
by Nolan Bruce
2021 Record: 95-67 (.586 win%, 1st in AL West)
2021 Payroll: $163,874,999 (10th)
Projected 2022 Lineup:
1. 2B Jose Altuve, .280 AVG/.351 OBP/.469 SLG, 4.4 fWAR
2. LF Michael Brantley, .291 AVG/.350 OBP/.446 SLG, 2.3 fWAR
3. 3B Alex Bregman, .268 AVG/.379 OBP/.484 SLG, 5.1 fWAR
4. DH Yordan Alvarez, .280 AVG/.358 OBP/.553 SLG, 4.0 fWAR
5. 1B Yuli Gurriel, .279 AVG/.343 OBP/.442 SLG, 1.7 fWAR
6. RF Kyle Tucker, .278 AVG/.349 OBP/.532 SLG, 4.3 fWAR
7. CF Chas McCormick, .230 AVG/.310 OBP/.386 SLG, 0.6 fWAR
8. SS Jeremy Peña, .245 AVG/.304 OBP/.423 SLG, 2.2 fWAR
9. C Martín Maldonado, .195 AVG/.282 OBP/.335 SLG, 1.1 fWAR
Projected 2022 Rotation (McCullers likely to replace Javier):
1. Justin Verlander, 175.0 IP/3.62 ERA/1.09 WHIP, 3.5 fWAR
2. Framber Valdez, 191.0 IP/3.53 ERA/1.34 WHIP, 3.3 fWAR
3. Luis Garcia, 168.0 IP/4.26 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR
4. José Urquidy, 145.0 IP/4.61 ERA/1.26 WHIP, 1.5 fWAR
5. Cristian Javier, 132.0 IP/4.52 ERA/1.34 WHIP, 0.9 fWAR
(5). Lance McCullers Jr., 101.0 IP/3.64 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 1.8 fWAR
Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:
1. Ryan Pressly, 66.0 IP/3.18 ERA/1.14 WHIP, 0.9 fWAR
2. Jake Odorizzi, 78.0 IP/4.20 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 0.5 fWAR
3. Héctor Neris, 75.0 IP/3.91 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR
The Astros let SS Carlos Correa, SP Zack Greinke, RP Kendall Graveman, RP Brooks Raley, RP Yimi García, and IF Marwin Gonzalez walk in free agency. Raley and Graveman were both formidable members of the bullpen and will be missed, but not as much as Correa, who has been a star since he was brought up in 2015 and has not been on a team that missed the playoffs since 2016.
In return, they signed SS Niko Goodrum (DET) and RP Héctor Neris (PHI). Neris is a solid reliever who will help to quell the impact of the two relievers who walked, and Goodrum may fill in during some games at shortstop. The team appears to be content relying on their depth and prospects to fill in for the rest of the losses.
2022 Season Preview:
The road to the 2022 AL West crown will not be a walk in the park for the Astros. After losing 3 productive relievers and star SS Carlos Correa, the Astros will need to look elsewhere to replicate their production. Lance McCullers Jr. will also miss a substantial portion of the season after his postseason injury last year. On top of losing these players, the Astros will also need to overcome other teams’ improvement within the division. The Rangers signed Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, the Mariners got Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, and Robbie Ray, and the Angels added Noah Syndergaard to the rotation and expect the return of Mike Trout.
In order to prevent these outside moves from cutting into their win total, the Astros will first need to rely on the return of stars Alex Bregman and Justin Verlander. Discussed further below, at their best, these 2 players have unparalleled impacts on their team. They’ll be forced to shoulder the load this season after missing time with injuries. The Astros will also be bringing up young hotshot shortstop Jeremy Peña to hopefully fill in for Correa’s production. Other wins may be found against Oakland, who sold all of their major pieces to enter a new rebuild phase.
More responsibility will fall on the stars of last year’s lineup Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez to continue raking if the team wants to maintain the best run production in the league. Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and José Urquidy have their work cut out for them as the season-long starting rotation behind Verlander. With some new faces and a lot to prove throughout the roster, the Astros mission for the 2022 season is clear: step up and do your job.
Record Prediction: 92-70
If things go according to plan for Houston, they should be able to hold on to the top spot in the AL West for yet another season, once again winning over 90 games. Variables like Verlander’s effectiveness, McCullers’ health, and Peña’s big league production could all go in the wrong direction and allow a team like the Angels or Mariners to pull together a division title, which is a real threat that the Astros were not in striking distance of just a year ago.
Player to Watch #1: 3B Alex Bregman
Entering his 7th major league season, Bregman is still only 28 and has superstar capabilities. In his last full season in 2019, he put up 8.4 fWAR in 156 games, tying him with Mike Trout at the top of baseball. As a result of injuries, Bregman was much less productive in 2020 and 2021, putting up 2.9 fWAR in a combined 133 games. Look for Bregman to get back on track as a clear leader for this new Astros roster without Correa.
Player to Watch #2: SS Jeremy Peña
With Correa heading off to Minnesota, the Astros are looking to rookie Jeremy Peña as the new big league starting shortstop. Peña put up a 97% fielding percentage and a 127 wRC+ (.944 OPS) in AAA in 2021, so as far as replacing a superstar goes, he looks as promising as it gets. He has shown the potential to hit double digit home runs despite being primarily a contact hitter, and he was drafted for his elite glove. If Peña can be a solid shortstop in 2022, talks about the team’s potential for regression will quickly turn into talks about AL Rookie of the Year.
Player to Watch #3: SP Justin Verlander
After missing nearly two full seasons due to injury, Justin Verlander returns to Houston for his age 39 season. Verlander was still elite in his last full season in 2019, with a 6.4 fWAR and a 2.50 xERA in 34 starts for an AL Champion Astros team. If Verlander can return to form, there is no question that the Astros will once again be the favorite in the AL West. Keep an eye on Verlander as an important predictor of the Astros success, and a player with simply electric stuff on the mound.
Categories: 2022 Season Preview