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MLB: Houston Astros Essential Season Preview

Updated: Feb 23

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Spring Training is Here! You will soon see why LarryTheGM will be the place for Smart Baseball Fans this MLB season. You should check out all of the options here. Click the picture or the link below.


Index

We will preview all thirty MLB teams. Please use the MLB 2024 Spring Training and Season Preview Index to access all of the team season previews indexed for you all in one spot.

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Season Preview

All of the Essential Team Season Previews build off of data that is presented in the "MLB League Season Preview Data." In this article I give the grading scale, the WAR data driving my season projections including the MLB heatmap, prospect source info, and payroll info.


In the MLB League Season Preview, I will provide you with the league wide data that will be referenced in the Essential Team Season Previews. You might find yourself referencing both as you look at these team previews.


Click the link above or the picture to the left above.

Get excited Spring Training is HERE! MLB's message for all of us- Baseball is calling.


With all of that out of the way, here is our first of the Essential Team Season Previews, and of course, we will start (and finish) with our beloved Houston Astros.


It is finally here the Astros Essential Season Preview!


Shoutout to Fangraphs.com for providing the data behind our essential previews.





Here is the outline for the content here.

  1. Batters

    1. Projected Lineup

    2. Bench

    3. Key Minor League Players

    4. Players on IL

    5. Critical Stats

    6. Player Grades

    7. Team Hitting Grades

  2. Pitchers

    1. Starters

    2. Relievers

    3. Key Minor League Players

    4. Players on IL

    5. Critical Stats

    6. Player Grades

    7. Team Pitching Grades

  3. Season Projection Data

    1. Projected team strengths and weaknesses

    2. Prospects that may contribute this season

    3. Payroll Flexibility

    4. Season Projection




Batters

  1. Projected Lineup

  2. Bench

  3. Key Minor League Players

  4. Players on IL

  5. Critical Stats

  6. Player Grades

  7. Team Hitting Grades

2024 Season Projections

I have put the batters in this table per what I expect the projected lineup to be. I then included who I think will be on the bench on opening day. Lastly, I included key players I expect will start in the minor leagues, but they project to get at least get some PAs.

2024 Hitters

The overall Hitting Grade for the 2024 Astros is B+. This is the same grade as the good 2023 offense.


As of right now there are not any major injuries for the position players.


The 2024 Astros project to be a really good hitting team as we will even show more later. The Core lineup (starters and bench) project to be even better than the core last year. The other thing to notice is that all of the players projected to get more than 200 PA and two of the most likely players to arrive from AAA (Julks and Cabbage) ALL are being projected to hit 89 wRC+ or better. No player with significant playing time has a projected grade below Dubon's C-.


My database has 518 hitters who project to have more than 50 PA in 2024. Only 52 of those players have a B+ projected grade or better. These are the hitting stars of today's MLB. The Astros project to have 5 of them. If your offense has five B+ or better players and no black holes like the Astros offense did last year, it will shock Astros fans how well the Astros score runs.


Compare that to the core roster last year.


2023 Season Data

2023 Hitters

With McCormick having possibly a career year in 2023 and the rookie Diaz having a better year than is projected in 2024 (albeit in a part time role), the Astros actually had six B+ or better players. They also had Abreu, Julks, and Maldonado delivering D+ or worse results.


Some of the differences between the 2024 projected data and the 2023 actual data is an inherent function of projected stats. Projected stats tend to mitigate variance. This COULD explain the shift in Jose Abreu's data but 2023 was the extreme outlier in his career. It is more reasonable to assume he will be somewhere in between his career stats and his 2023 stats in 2024. It is simply not reasonable to expect any of the 2024 core players (other than Kessinger in very limited PA) to be as bad as Maldonado was last year.


I think the 2024 run production will be more consistently good and less variance than the 2023 great to terrible run production.


Pitchers

  1. Starters

  2. Relievers

  3. Key Minor League Players

  4. Players on IL

  5. Critical Stats

  6. Player Grades

  7. Team Pitching Grades

2024 Season Projections

Similarly to the batters, I have put the pitcher in this table per what I expect their projected roles to be. I added the injured pitchers. Lastly, I included key players I expect will start in the minor leagues, but they project to get at least get some IPs.


2024 Pitchers

The overall Pitching Grade for the 2024 Astros is B-. This is slightly better than last year's C+ grade.


As of right now there are two major injuries to key pitchers- McCullers and Garcia. Both may return in the 2H2024. Both would be a significant boost to the staff.


The 2024 Astros project to be a slightly above average pitching team as we will even show more later. The Core pitchers (starters and relievers) project to be about the same as last year. Astros fans may be surprised by the overall mediocrity of the starting pitching.


My database has 695 pitchers who project to have more than 20 IP in 2024. Only 61 of those pitchers have a B+ projected grade or better. These are the pitching stars of today's MLB. Nineteen (19) are projected to be majority starters, and Valdez is the only Astros pitcher in that group. Forty-two (42) are projected to be relief pitchers; and Hader, Pressly, and Abreu are the three Astros pitchers in that group. As one would expect, the bullpen is the strength of the pitching.


Due to the nature of MLB pitching and injuries, the Astros have several pitchers that can project to pitch key innings for the team.


I expect the bullpen will be asked to carry a heavy load most of the year. If the Astros are ahead late, I think they will shut those games down.


Compare that to the core pitching last year.


2023 Season Data


2023 Pitchers

Similar to the hitters again the 2023 pitching had some really dismal pitching and some really great pitching. Again, it was higher in variance than the 2024 projected stats.


I do not expect Urquidy and Blanco to pitch as poorly as they did in 2023. I think Astros fans may be surprised that Verlander pitches more like his age than he has before.


Before we continue, you can see the kind of work we do for you at the site. Maybe you don't see is that I NEED your support to make it happen. The work I do is not easy because I strive to give you good content. To do that I need more support.


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Season Projection Data

  1. Projected team strengths and weaknesses

  2. Prospects that may contribute this season

  3. Payroll Flexibility

  4. Season Projection


Projected team strengths and weaknesses


Astros WAR

When looking forward and using this kind of data, it is the relative ranks that are the most important data.


The Astros project to be weakest at 1B still, CF, and SS.

The Astros project to have the third best offense in the league. They project to have the sixth best pitching. Overall, the Projected WAR says the Astros have the fourth most talent in the MLB.


Prospects/ MiLB Players


As shown in the "MLB League Season Preview Data", I pulled data focused on potential IMPACT of players not projected to be on the opening day 26-man roster. The data here for the Astros is far more extensive than it will be for other teams.


Data Sources


Here are the top 30 from each source

Prospects

The legend at the bottom shows you the source of this data. I have included what I believe will be the final two hitters and final two pitchers on the active roster from Roster Resource. This is to compare the potential of the other players in the table to get playing time replacing these four.


The data here is sorted on the ZiPS projections for 2024. The letter grade is on the same scale as other player grades.

Prospects Long

The legend at the bottom shows you the source of this data. I have included what I believe will be the final two hitters and final two pitchers on the active roster. This is to compare the potential of the other players in the table to get playing time replacing these four.


The following table represent what will be more typical for other teams.

Prospects Short


I show the MiLB players (yellow) that project to be better than the players projected to the active roster (orange) here. This will be something we want to monitor in Spring Training to see who actually gets the roster spots.


Payroll Flexibility

Astros Payroll

The Astros are increasing their real payroll cost in 2024 to $240M from $201M in 2023. Adding 20% to payroll cost while media rights revenues are dropping is not a situation that would normally lead to more increased spending.


The Astros are already over the CBT1 ($237M) with a CBT projected payroll of $255M. Expect Astros to make minor moves or shed payroll strategically (Urquidy?- $3.75M) to stay below CBT2 ($257M). Alternatively, it is Jim Crane's money, but large deals extending into 2025 make payroll options even more limited.


The Astros have Bregman who will become a free agent after this season. Rumors persist about extension options.


Tucker and Valdez are due for extensions after the 2025 season. It is unlikely that Bregman, Tucker, and Valdez will all be extended.


Season Projection


Put all of this together and the Astros track to be a better hitting team and about the same with pitching.


Astros Projection

The WAR projection shown in the "MLB League Season Preview Data" of about 89 wins seems a little low. I think the Astros will finish with a 92-70 record and win the AL West. Seems like that was the same prediction I had last year.


It is my favorite time of the year. Let's get ready for opening day by checking out all of the MLB teams here. Hopefully, the Astros Essential Season Preview will be a resource for you all year long. Use this to remind you what we expected and to see how the team progresses this season.


As the season approaches, we will revisit this Astros Essential Season Preview. For Premium members there will also be an Astros Premium Season Preview that will provide advanced metrics and show potential platoon options.


You can see the kind of work we do for you at the site. Maybe you don't see is that I NEED your support to make it happen. The work I do is not easy because I strive to give you good content. To do that I need more support.


Here is the MLB Network 2024 Astros Breakdown.




Support the Site


There are now three opportunities for you to support the

LarryTheGM.com website in 2024.



I give you the full url link, so you know this is not some scam link. It is legit. PLEASE help this site grow.


If you want the content that is planned, PLEASE step up and help the site.  If you don't care, then don't. Now let's get back to it.




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