Astros 2022 Opening Day Season Guide- The Essentials

Updated: Apr 11

The season is finally here! We will be updating this Astros Essentials Guide as the season progresses. This is the quick and more condensed version of the off-season guide written in November.


The structure of these guides will be the same and be updated with input and changes as I receive and process it especially for the other teams.

  1. Analysis of the MLB projected roster

  2. Heatmap

  3. Projected Batting Lineup per Roster Resource

  4. Projected Pitching Lineup per Roster Resource

  5. Position by position ratings

  6. Greatest Strengths

  7. Greatest Weaknesses

  8. Top Prospects – focusing on those who can impact in 2022

  9. Payroll analysis- flexibility for trades or additional free agent signings

  10. Areas to Address before the trade deadline expires

  11. Season Prediction

We will put out a guide for the other teams in the league as the Astros play them for the first time and update the other teams before each series as needed.


Analysis of the Astros Projected Roster

(per Roster Resource on Fangraphs.com)


Heatmap

Here is the overall projected WAR of each team by position for each team as of April 6th, 2022. The key for this table is to understand where the Astros rank by position to understand their relative strengths and weaknesses as a team to the league. In short, the top team will be deep red, and the bottom team will be dark blue. The table attached is sorted by overall WAR.


Projected Batting Lineup per Roster Resource

Players in red will be on the injured list at the beginning of the season. For the Astros this means Meyers will be out with a return maybe in mid to late May.


Players in green are the key additions to the lineup. Pena will step into the starting SS role. Goodrum will be an additional utility player. See the articles linked with their names.


If Maldonado stays in the 9th spot as projected, expect him to emphasize even more getting walks early in counts. Later in his count expect Tucker, McCormick, Meyers, and Pena to be very aggressive in stealing bases. With this strategy, the Astros can try to turn even Maldonado strike outs into runner advancing at bats. If it creates a strike him out- throw him out double play, the the lineup can reset with Altuve leading off.

The stats shown here are PROJECTED 2022 stats. The table in green shows the league average OPS and wOBA for each spot in the batting order in 2021. It then shows the projected team performance vs. that league average.


As shown, almost all spots in the order are above average batting.


If I set the lineup, I would have Tucker 2nd, Brantley 6th, Maldonado 8th, and Pena 9th. This would then make the comparison table look like this.

I agree with the projections in that Tucker is going to have a huge year and that Brantley is likely to see the effects of aging on his offensive performance. With Tucker in the two hole, I would suspect the lineup would significantly mitigate for the loss of Correa's production.

This would allow Pena to have much better protection also. If Maldonado records the third out then Pena would become a second leadoff hitter which would likely be a good thing.


Projected Pitching Lineup per Roster Resource


The average ERA/ FIP in the AL

Starting Pitchers- 4.46/ 4.38

Relief Pitchers- 4.15/ 4.15

Projected stats in table are heat mapped vs. these averages

Players in red will be on the injured list at the beginning of the season. For the Astros this means McCullers is out and we do not know for sure when he will return.

Players in green are the key additions to the lineup. Neris will step into a key setup role in this bullpen and helps the bullpen significantly. See what we wrote about Neris here and here. Blanco is a somewhat surprising but very hopeful addition to the start of the season bullpen. He was closing in AAA last year.


Javier will start the year in the bullpen but is listed as a starter because I suspect he may get as many starter innings as relief innings in 2022.


Expect there to be strong competition in the bullpen throughout the first month of the season. The expanded April roster means that the Astros will carry 15 pitchers until May 1 when they will cut down to 13. Who is going to be optioned, DFAed, or released will depend on the relative pitching performances and who has options. The last five I have listed are the primary candidates to be off the active roster on May 1st. As shown, Taylor is likely the safest as he is the only current LHRP on the roster. Baez and Montero would have to accept a demotion to AAA and pass through waivers- which is unlikely. Abreu and Blanco may feel some pressure to perform in April to keep their place on the team. Monitor these five in April to understand what is happening in May and beyond with the bullpen.


Position-by-position Rankings

The Astros relative rank by position is shown below.


Greatest Strengths


  1. The Astros have several stars that project in the top five WAR in their position. These are likely to be the key to the Astros run scoring in 2022. Their batting projects to be third even without Correa.

  2. Alvarez- DH

  3. Altuve- 2B

  4. Bregman- 3B

  5. Tucker- RF

  6. Brantley- LF

  7. The Astros top three starting pitchers- Verlander, McCullers, and Valdez can compete with almost any other top pitchers. Starting Pitching projects to be eighth currently. Also, The Astros SP depth is quite remarkable. Review how many teams project to have SIX SP with a WAR of 1.4 or more- only the Astros. However, this is balanced with the reality of not knowing McCullers's return timing. The Astros have numerous #2/#3 starters. How many true aces do they have? Possibly three.

  8. Also, the ages of many of the Astros SP is very young with the exception of Verlander. The Astros have FIVE SP who are not 29 years old yet. Garcia, Urquidy, Javier, and others in the minors may surprise and outperform their projections.

Greatest Weaknesses

  1. Maldonado is a liability offensively. Even his strong defense is not enough to prevent the Astros catching from currently ranking 25th in WAR.

  2. Both Center Field and Shortstop are depending on rookies or second year players. Pena at SS and McCormick/ Meyers in CF may outperform their projections, but it is a performance risk. Read more about Pena here. Read more about McCormick and Meyers here.

  3. The bullpen could still use a strong LHRP. The overall bullpen ranks 11th in projected WAR but there are questions about who will get LHH out. Taylor can get LHH but is bad against RHH. This is detailed in the bullpen article here. Several folks believe Maton can be part of the answer here but his xWOBA vs. LHH in 2021 was a very average 0.314.

  4. Pedro Baez may be done. His velocity has dropped significantly from 2019. The Astros cannot afford to allow his projected season to become a reality.

Top Prospects – focusing on those who can impact in 2022

According to MLB Pipeline, these are the Astros top prospects.

Pena will start opening day.

Lee may make an impact as a September call-up.

Leon might possibly join in 2022 as well depending on how he performs in AAA

Brown and Solomon are the most likely to make an impact on the pitching in 2022.


The Astros have few prospects that are truly highly rated, but they have many that may contribute and may be ready in 2022. These may be valuable trade chips as well.


Payroll analysis- flexibility for trades or additional free agent signings

According to the Roster Resource payroll projection, the Astros currently project to have a $198M payroll in 2022. The CBA negotiations determined a new CBT level of $230M, the Astros have around $32M for transactions in 2022. I would expect them not to spend that entire payroll space before this season and to hold some for possible acquisitions at the trade deadline. Read more about the CBA and CBT here.


Areas to Address before the Trade Deadline expires

  • The Astros really need to add a strong LHRP. I expect there to be a trade for at least one if not two RP.

  • Pena's development as a SS is critical. If he is not ready, the Astros will need to decide if Goodrum is a good enough fill in for 2022.

  • McCullers's rehab is critical. If he is not progressing, then one has to wonder if aces Verlander and Valdez are enough or if another young SP emerges.

  • Korey Lee's development may be important as the year progresses. Is he a viable starting catcher in the postseason if needed?

Season Prediction- As currently constructed, the Astros project to win 89-93 games and finish first in the AL West. I will say 91 wins and a loss in the ALCS.


Please give me your thoughts on this guide and any questions you have in the comments below.


Select the category "2022 MLB Team Guides" to see the other team guides.


Check out all of the Content here at LarryTheGM. Before leaving, check out the Astros Article Index for all of the Astros articles in an easy to use index.


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