Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Where do the Astros go from here? Part two of the series. Read Part One here.
What happens to the Astros when/ if they lose Correa, Gonzalez, Verlander, Greinke, Raley, Graveman, and Yimi Garcia to free agency?
In short, they will still be VERY GOOD. In the first part of this series, I teased that there is an untold story about the impact of rookies on the 2021 Astros and how this may lead this team into Generation 3. The 2020 season has led some to have divergent listings relative to rookie eligibility in 2021. For this analysis I will provide the more conservative list that aligns with input from baseballreference.com.
The 2021 Astros Rookies are
How old are the Astros relative to the other teams?
Dynasties often fade when the collective age of a team gets old. When looking at the team by age, let’s compare the Astros average age vs. the rest of the MLB. For this analysis we will use a player’s “baseball age.” Per the MLB definition:
“A player's baseball age indicates how old he is as of July 1 in a given season.”
I also weighted the age by the PA and the IP. This is a more accurate reflection of the age of a team than just averaging the ages of the players on the roster.
By this analysis, the Astros are one of the older teams in the MLB. A few things should be noted however:
The Dodgers and the Giants are both older
The Blue Jays and the White Sox are two other really good AL teams that are on average younger than the Astros.
The Mariners are imminent to become the Astros main competition in the AL West as the Oakland Athletics are the oldest team in the MLB.
It is also interesting to consider the WAR contribution of players by age on the Astros and compare this to the rest of the MLB. The data here is through 9/21/2021
First, the batters
The Astros are getting significant contributions from older players like Gurriel and Brantley. However, they are getting HUGE contributions from 24-year-olds Tucker and Alvarez.
Next, the pitchers
The young stud pitchers for the Astros (McCullers- 27, Valdez-27, Urquidy-26, Garcia-24, and Javier-24) give the Astros far more WAR than league average from players in that age range. I said in the first part of this series that the 2015-2017 international signing classes that gave the Astros Valdez, Urquidy, Garcia, and Javier for almost no financial investment are “the greatest prospect achievements of the Luhnow era.” Now you can see why. The Astros are getting pitching contributions from younger players that almost no one else is.
Let’s looks at the combined WAR contributions of players 25 and under, players 26 and under (which adds Correa, Urquidy, and McCormick), and players 27 and under (which adds Bregman, McCullers, and Valdez.)
This data shows a similar but perhaps clearer message than the WAR age graph. The Astros have a young core of significant WAR contributors as both hitters and pitchers that is either first or second best in baseball. It’s not enough to be young like division rivals such as Texas and Seattle. The Astros young contributor are some of the best players on the team.
So how could this play out even if the Astros lost every single player that goes to Free Agency in the next two off-seasons? To illustrate the remaining rosters, we will also assume they don’t sign anyone.
This is where the Generation 3 players we mentioned also in part one of this series contribute. The new rookie additions are highlighted in red.
What the roster could look like in 2022.
The potential loss of Correa will hurt. Let us all hope the Astros can negotiate something both sides can agree. Assuming Correa and Gonzalez are gone, the most likely internal option for 2022 will be the promotion of Jeremy Pena, who many consider the Astros top prospect. Jose Siri is also likely full-time addition to the Astros OF. Look for Alvarez and possibly Tucker to train more for 1B in the off-season. Bregman is also a possibility to fill in for Correa at SS. Overall, the lineup would still likely to be very good.
The loss of Verlander and Greinke are actually the most manageable losses in 2022. The bigger challenge will be losses to the bullpen of Graveman, Raley, and Yimi Garcia. Will internal options step up, will the Astros pursue top end bullpen arms, or will they re-sign their own relief pitchers? Given this list of 19 pitchers, even a trade is possible. If the Astros make the right bullpen moves this off-season, the Astros pitching may be as good in 2022 as it was in 2021.
Projecting forward to 2023
Before the 2023 season, the Astros could be losing mainstays Brantley, Gurriel, Castro, and Diaz. That is a significant loss of production and likely leads to at least one free agent acquisition. Who depends on the development of several players
- Is Alvarez a viable first baseman in 2023?
- Is Korey Lee ready to be the main catcher?
- Is Yainer Diaz a REAL catching prospect and is he ready to catch at an MLB level too?
- Where does Pedro Leon play?
If these Gen 3 players are who we think they might be, the offense will continue to be very good.
The 2023 season is likely to bring the promotion of three very high upside SP. Who moves to the bullpen will be key. In 2023 the team will lose Pressly and Montero. Will there be more free agent signings, trades, shifting of SP to RP, or development of RP?
What the Astros have seen as they migrated through Generation 2, several non-hyped prospects coming from seemingly nowhere to become significant contributors, is also what the Astros will need in Generation 3. That being said, the much-maligned Astros system seems more than capable of filling in for the expected free agent losses.
Don’t worry Astros fans the Dynasty dream is alive.
Statistics from fangraphs.com