The Houston Astros enter the 2023 season as the defending World Series champions for just the second time in their franchise history. The Astros, who finished 106-56 last season, look to become the second team since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees to win back-to-back World Series titles.
Defending a championship isn’t always easy, but the Astros have a good shot at doing so. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect from the Astros this season.
Houston enters this season with a top-five starting rotation in the league despite losing the reigning American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in the offseason. The Astros pitching staff is relatively young, led by veteran Lance McCullers Jr. The Astros rotation should look similar to this:
The Astros also have a top pitching prospect in Hunter Brown, whose pitching style mirrors that of Verlander, that could likely receive another call-up to the big leagues should Houston decide to go to a six-man rotation.
2022 was a great year for Houston pitching. Everyone knows how great Verlander was last season, but let’s not forget how good Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier were. Framber made a name for himself last season as one of the best left-handed pitchers in the current game, as he set the record for most consecutive quality starts with 26.
Javier was also great, as his fastball became one of, if not the best, pitch in his repertoire. Javier, also known as “El Reptil” for his “cold-bloodiness” on the mound and ability to keep calm in challenging situations, held his own against some of the best lineups in baseball, as he threw two combined no-hitters against the Yankees and Phillies.
The rest of the pack was solid but did struggle at times. Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy held their own but often got hit around. McCullers started the season late, returning from an elbow injury that sidelined him for most of 2022. However, he struggled to find the strike zone, but his breaking stuff quickly returned to its natural unhittable form.
The bullpen remains one of the best baseball units; with Rafael Montero‘s return, the entire 2022 bullpen remains intact for this season.
Houston’s bullpen boasted a historic 0.83 ERA during the postseason, which set the record for the lowest ERA for any in postseason history. Highlighted by resurgent seasons from guys like Ryne Stanek, Bryan Abreu, and Ryan Pressly, the Astros bullpen was a force to be reckoned with.
As stated previously, the Astros didn’t lose any of their arms in the ‘pen, so outside of potential injuries, the Astros bullpen should retain their spot as a top unit going into 2023.
While the pitching is strong enough to carry Houston throughout the season, the offense more than holds its own. The Astros projected starting lineup for the 2023 season looks like this:
2B Jose Altuve
SS Jeremy Pena
3B Alex Bregman
1B Jose Abreu
RF Kyle Tucker
The Astros have a solid lineup that got even stronger during the offseason by signing free-agent first baseman Jose Abreu and re-signing outfielder Michael Brantley. Looking at the starting lineup, there isn’t a weak spot that an opposing team can attack, as every player can change the trajectory of a game with one swing of their bat.
Houston, on paper, is an offensive juggernaut that should easily cruise into the postseason. Although this season may be a bit tougher for the ‘Stros, with the rest of the American League West bulking up their rosters to give Houston a run for their money, the Astros should be able to claim their fifth division title in six years.
My prediction for the Astros this season is that they match their franchise-best record at 107-55, win the American League pennant, and win back-to-back World Series titles.
What’s your prediction for this season? Let us know in the comments below. Go Astros!
Main Image Credit
HOUSTON, TX – NOVEMBER 05: Members of the Houston Astros celebrate on the field after the Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, November 5, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)