5 under-the-radar Astros who could have a big impact on the 2020 season

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

The Astros season will get under way shortly, and expectations should be high, if the season actually plays out. The everyday lineup is pretty much set, but the biggest question remains the starting pitching after Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. If a third elite starter can emerge, the Astros will be a force to be reckoned with. But there are some other players who could help as well. Here are 5 under-the-radar Astros who could have a major impact on the 2020 season:

5) Myles Straw, outfielder: Straw is super fast, and could eventually develop into an everyday player. But he is also a nice situational weapon as a pinch runner. With the new extra inning rule, he could be invaluable starting out at second base in the extra frame. Almost any hit would get him home. This could be a breakout season for Straw.

4) Jose Urquidy, pitcher: Urquidy was an emerging pitcher late last season, and could be one of the arms that could boost the rotation. If he could develop into a solid No. 4 or 3, it would make the season much more interesting. The bad news is he is not yet in camp, presumably because of the Rona. But by mid-season he could be a critical piece of a championship puzzle.

3) Aledmys Diaz, infielder: While not a starter, Diaz was a Marwin Gonzalez-type jack of all trades last season. With Yordan Alvarez not yet in camp, also presumably due to the Rona, Diaz could be a regular starter early in the season. If he performs at a career level, he will find more ways to earn playing time.

2) Josh James, pitcher: James has a big arm, and has shown flashes. This could be the year he puts it all together, either as a starter or in the bullpen. If so, he could be an invaluable weapon.

1) Lance McCullers, pitcher: It might be hard to call McCullers under the radar, but he has not pitched since 2018, has battled injuries, and has become a big question mark. In short, it is hard to count on him as a major contributor. But before his Tommy John surgery, McCullers had ace stuff and had shown flashes when healthy. With a shorter season, he should be available all year, and if he can take the next step and become a third ace, the Astros will be very tough.

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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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