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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Carlos Correa had a big home run Saturday night. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With four wins in a row, including the first two of this series, Houston had a chance to keep their momentum going to lock up a series win on Saturday in this four-game set. Although Texas would make it interesting late, the Astros would hold them off to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 5

Astros' Record: 23-17, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia (1-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dane Dunning (2-3)

Action in the first

After getting trounced the night prior, the Rangers managed to grab early momentum with a run to start the scoring Saturday night against Luis Garcia. It came after a one-out triple set up a sac fly, giving Texas a 1-0 lead. Houston quickly took control back in their favor, though, putting up four in the bottom of the inning on a two-RBI single by Alex Bregman and a two-run homer by Carlos Correa, making it 4-1 Astros.

The scoreboard went quiet after that inning, with both teams slowing down at the plate. Garcia put together a decent night, allowing just the one run over five innings of work, erasing some runners throughout the night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 94 P.

Rangers tighten it up late

Bryan Abreu was the first reliever to enter for Houston, taking over for Garcia in the top of the sixth. He worked around a leadoff single, keeping it a three-run game, then returned for a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Correa led off with a double in the bottom of the inning, setting up a two-run Kyle Tucker homer, extending his recent hot streak and the lead to 6-1.

Ryne Stanek took over on the mound for Houston in the top of the eighth but worked himself into trouble with a single and walk to set up a three-run homer by Joey Gallo to make it a two-run game at 6-4. He would manage just one out before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Brandon Bielak. Bielak would allow a run while getting the final two outs, making it 6-5.

Astros secure the series

After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Ryan Pressly would try to notch another save and close the door on the Rangers. He would get the job done, sitting the Rangers down in order, keeping Houston's winning streak intact.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game set will start at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Lance McCullers JR. (3-1, 3.10 ERA), fresh off of a recent gem, will look to continue his success for the Astros, while Kyle Gibson (3-0, 2.28) will try to stay perfect on the season for the Rangers.

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