Houston Astros (74-88, fifth place in NL Central in 2009)
Five years ago, the Houston Astros painfully knocked the Phillies out of playoff contention. Time flies. No more Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, or Roger Clemens. Despite having an entirely different core, the Astros have plenty of experienced players. In 2009, the Astros relied on Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, and Carlos Lee.
Although they had power hitters like Berkman and Lee, the Astros finished towards the bottom in runs scored. Their pitching was not much better, collecting a 4.54 team earned run average. Roy Oswalt, who was once a Cy Young candidate, had a poor year that was plagued with injuries. The only consistent pitcher was Wandy Rodriguez, who surprised us all with 14 wins and a 3.02 ERA.
The Astros made several moves this off-season, giving them a familiar look. Ed Wade, the Phillies former general manager, signed Pedro Feliz and Brett Myers, who join former teammates Michael Bourn and Jason Michaels.
The Astros weren’t done. With the departure of Jose Valverde, the Astros traded for Matt Lindstrom and found a new closer in Brandon Lyon. Lyon was given a very pricey three-year, $15 million contract.
The Astros made a significant amount of changes, but still have plenty of question marks. Does anybody know who Tommy Manzella is? He’s their shortstop. J.R Towels was once a highly touted prospect and will be given the opportunity to catch everyday. However, the 25-year old’s hasn’t been able to reach the Mendoza line during his time in the majors.
Berkman and Oswalt have both been bothered with injuries this spring. In addition, Wandy Rodriguez will have to prove that 2009 was not a fluke.
The outfield is set with Lee, Bourn, and the emerging star Pence, but they will not be enough to carry the Astros towards playoff contention.