Falcon Points

After the off-season from hell, what do the Astros look like on the field in 2020?

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Astros apparently have a new manager in Dusty Baker. They soon will have a new GM. They have the same basic lineup as last year.

So with all the off-field turmoil, suspensions that became firings and high profile scandals, how will things play out on the field where it matters most?

One outlet had the Astros as the SEVENTH best team in baseball heading into the season. We will spare you the need to click on the story, and just tell you they had the Yankees, Dodgers, Braves, Rays, Nationals and Twins ahead of Houston.

Still a potent lineup

Unless you believe the only reason the Astros hitters were any good was the cheating scandal (and hey, there are those who think that), this is still one of the best lineups in all of baseball. While decisions will have to be made after the season on several key pieces (George Springer, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley most notably) for 2020 they are still loaded with Springer, Altuve, Bregman, Carlos Correa, Yordan Alvarez, Gurriel, Brantley, Josh Reddick and Kyle Tucker all returning. No team outside of LA or New York can boast that kind of lineup. Jake Marisnick is gone, but presumably that opens up innings for Myles Straw, an exciting prospect with terrific speed, something the Astros do not have at that level in the lineup.

The bigger issue

The article's main issue is with the Astros starting pitching. Behind ace Justin Verlander and Zach Greinke are a lot of question marks. But few teams can match the Astros 1-2 punch. The names behind them though hardly inspire confidence. Lance McCullers will be on a pitch count coming off Tommy John surgery. Jose Urquidy has too small of a sample size. Forrest Whitley remains a myth. Austin Pruitt could be a sneaky good addition, however, and the Astros can always add someone at the trade deadline. More on that in a moment.

What about the bullpen?

The Astros lost Will Harris, but bring back Ryan Pressley, who was dominant until getting hurt, the controversial Roberto Osuna and Joe Smith on the back end. Josh James might be a contender to start, along with Brad Peacock. If not, they will help in relief. Harris was great for them last year, but the Astros in the past have done a terrific job of finding pitchers like that. Which brings us to the final question...

Loss of Luhnow

While the loss of A.J. Hinch can be mitigated - managers are not all that difficult to replace - life after GM Jeff Luhnow is a major question mark. Luhnow could be trusted to add players at the deadline (Verlander in 2017, Greinke in 2019), find some hidden gems (Charlie Morton) and add players that fit the Astros analytics approach. Will they still be that kind of team? Will Baker buy in if they are? Pitching coach Brent Strom remains, and should continue to work his magic. But will Luhknow's replacement be able to find the right kind of arms for him? Will the new analytics team be as effective?

These are all valid questions.

However...

Putting them seventh seems more like wishful thinking from a bitter media. The 2021 Astros will have serious questions and in fact might plummet out of contention entirely, depending on what moves happen in the next 12 months. But for 2020? Sure, Verlander and Greinke could both fall off the map, the other starters fail to stabilize and the team simply does not get it done. But that is a lot to go wrong. More likely, the lineup continues to pound the ball, Verlander and Greinke carry them and someone else emerges as decent 2-3 rotation pieces. That being the case, the only team that enters the season in the AL better on paper is the Yankees, who were almost as good as the Astros last season and poached one of their best weapons, and figure to be healthier in 2020.

Distractions?

Yes it has been wild off-season. But other than Luhnow, does it have any real impact on what happens on the field? Probably not. There could be some regressions - Alvarez most notably - but the offense has more than enough weapons. Straw could wind up being a sneaky good weapon. Tucker could finally emerge. If that happens, the so-called distractions will have minimal if any impact on the product on the field.

So yes, seventh seems a but silly, but fortunately, baseball scribes with their biases don't determine what happens on the field. The players do.

And the Astros still have plenty of those.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Christian Wood has been the difference between winning and losing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Although the Houston Rockets' season looks completely over, this team still has a ton of upside. The Rockets six-game winning streak was fueled behind Christian Wood and John Wall's performances. Unfortunately, Wood has been out for nine games straight due to an ankle injury. Those nine games Wood missed resulted in losses. The Rockets have not won a game since February 4 th against the Memphis Grizzlies.

What is the next step for the Rockets? Tanking? Trading individual players? All this could be possible for the Rockets to move forward. The Rockets could possibly look into finding younger players. So, it won't come as a surprise if PJ Tucker is dealt by the deadline. This team needs a fresh start after the James Harden era. Possibly finding new teams for Danuel House and Ben McLemore should be considered. Plus, Eric Gordon deserves a chance to compete for the playoffs too. He is having a phenomenal season on a bad team.

Trade scenarios

Why not send Eric Gordon, Victor Oladipo, and Ben McLemore for Kelly Oubre and Eric Paschall? Everybody wins. The Golden State Warriors get two perimeter and versatile scorers, minus Oladipo's shooting struggles. That could also help Steph Curry with extra scoring, so he does not continue to burn himself out. Here's another trade scenario that I thought was interesting. As Zak Noble of "Ball Is Life" gave me scenarios on my podcast titled, Zo's Podcast, he suggested the New York Knicks, as well as the Warriors. It allowed me to plug in the pieces. So, with this last one, House and Tucker would fit perfectly with the Knicks. Tom Thibodeau could bring the best out of House, while allowing Tucker to play the power forward position alongside Julius Randle. The Rockets would receive Nerlens Noel who would play behind Wood.

A reason to be optimistic?

The optimism stands behind Kevin Porter Jr. Porter's G-League play has been impeccable. He completed the first triple-double in the G-league this season. Porter's play could be like his idol, James Harden. His game revolves around pick-n-roll, splitting picks, step-backs, and versatile dribbling. Harden used to be a ferocious dunker around the rim, which Porter does a lot more. Porter leads the G-league with 23.7 points per game, averages 7.4 assists a game, which is third in the league, and he's leading the league in points and assists. He is the main reason the Rio Grande Vipers stay in games. Porter playing point guard has allowed him to be an aggressive scorer and playmaker. He sees the floor well while playing point guard. That helps Porter find teammates, attack driving lanes, and find his shot. Porter's IQ when it comes to reading screens is unbelievably good. There were concerns about some troubles in his past. But Porter has shown leadership, which is pivotal. Encouraging his teammates to become better and giving each player confidence.

"[I've] been making notches every day with everything off the court. [I've] been trying to be a better person, better player, and better leader down here," said by Porter after scoring 27 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds in a Vipers win. "[I've] been [focused] on my guys down here, trying to get them right. Trying to get their bag."

Porter's offensive rating is 106.9 while having a net rating of -0.3, which is impressive. His true shooting and efficiency percentages are above 50%. Porter has a chance to become the NBA G-League MVP. Coach Silas loves the progress Porter is making in the G-League.

"He is moving in the right direction playing the point exclusively, making plays for his teammates. He is super skilled in his ball handling. And when he gets back, he is going to be a huge part in what we are doing. Him getting in shape and the success he is having down there is important to build on that. When he gets back, hopefully, he will be able to fit right in."

Looking ahead

The NBA Draft will be critical for the Rockets, so will they tank? Honestly, they could, but it depends on how much they play Wood when he gets back. It was reported by Kelly Iko of The Athletic that Wood was 80%. Wood could possibly help the Rockets win more game this season but how many? If the Rockets want a chance to get Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, or Jonathan Kuminga, tanking must become an option. They could lose their top four pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder if consistent winning occurs. Here is my analysis below on the top three players in the 2021 NBA Draft.



Hopefully, a great idea comes along with the Rockets' future in mind. The upside is there for the Rockets' front office, but they have to be the ones to figure it out.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome