FALCON POINTS

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

5 under-the-radar Astros who could have a big impact on the 2020 season
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Jose Urquidy, Astros

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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Justin Verlander will start for the Astros on Friday night. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros (22-28, third in the AL West) vs. Oakland Athletics (21-31, fourth in the AL West)

Oakland, California; Friday, 9:40 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Astros: Justin Verlander (2-2, 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 26 strikeouts); Athletics: Ross Stripling (1-8, 5.19 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 32 strikeouts)

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Astros -170, Athletics +142; over/under is 8 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: The Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series at home against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Oakland has a 21-31 record overall and a 12-14 record in home games. The Athletics have hit 65 total home runs to rank third in the AL.

Houston is 22-28 overall and 8-13 in road games. The Astros have a 13-4 record in games when they did not allow a home run.

The teams match up Friday for the fifth time this season. The Astros lead the season series 4-0.

TOP PERFORMERS: Brent Rooker has 11 home runs, 17 walks and 32 RBI while hitting .286 for the Athletics. Max Schuemann is 12-for-35 with a double and two RBI over the past 10 games.

Kyle Tucker leads Houston with 17 home runs while slugging .638. Alex Bregman is 9-for-38 with three home runs and six RBI over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: Athletics: 2-8, .225 batting average, 5.25 ERA, outscored by 27 runs

Astros: 7-3, .272 batting average, 3.13 ERA, outscored opponents by 20 runs

INJURIES: Athletics: Esteury Ruiz: 10-Day IL (wrist), Darell Hernaiz: 60-Day IL (ankle), Alex Wood: 15-Day IL (rotator cuff), Paul Blackburn: 15-Day IL (foot), Joseph Boyle: 15-Day IL (back), Freddy Tarnok: 60-Day IL (hip), Luis Medina: 60-Day IL (knee), Sean Newcomb: 60-Day IL (knee), Aledmys Diaz: 60-Day IL (calf), Miguel Andujar: 10-Day IL (knee), Ken Waldichuk: 60-Day IL (elbow), Trevor Gott: 60-Day IL (elbow)

Astros: Oliver Ortega: 60-Day IL (elbow), Bennett Sousa: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Penn Murfee: 60-Day IL (elbow), Luis Garcia: 60-Day IL (elbow), Lance McCullers Jr.: 60-Day IL (elbow), Jose Urquidy: 15-Day IL (forearm), Kendall Graveman: 60-Day IL (elbow)

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