Things continue looking up for the Astros

Astros roundup: Alvarez should be a shoo-in, Correa looks better than ever, and more

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Although last week ended on a sour note for Houston, they should still have their confidence high heading into a full week of games on the road. Between the offensive explosion that wowed everyone on Saturday, Yordan Alvarez powering his way into award conversations, to the team battling for the best record in the league, there's plenty of positives to break down for the Astros:

Alvarez should be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year

A little over two months ago, after months of buzz surrounding him with his minor-league success, we finally got to see the major-league debut of Yordan Alvarez. He wasted no time showing what he's capable of, hitting his first home run and driving in his first two runs in that first game on June 9th. Since then, he has not slowed down, and at this pace, it should be his award to lose.

One of the biggest arguments against Alvarez at this point is playing time. While his performance has been unreal, it has been over "just" two months, while other frontrunners have been with their teams much longer. Brandon Lowe, the leading candidate for most of the season, started his rookie campaign at the start of the season after being called up last August by the Rays. However, he has been sidelined by injury since July 3rd, allowing others like Alvarez to get into the mix.

Still, Alvarez's impact with his team so far is unmistakable. Comparing batters with at least 150 at-bats since his June 9th debut, here are some of the astounding numbers he has created (going into Sunday's games):

  • 51 RBIs, fourth, ahead of Mike Trout who sits fifth with 50
  • 17 home runs, tied for fourth-best with the likes of Pete Alonso and Cody Bellinger, and ahead of reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich who has 16 in the same time frame
  • .353 Average, fifth-best behind teammates Jose Altuve in fourth and Yuli Gurriel in second
  • .452 on-base percentage, second to only Ketel Marte
  • .743 slugging percentage, best in the league ahead of Yuli Gurriel in second with a .733 percentage
  • 1.175 OPS, best in the league and .037 ahead of Nelson Cruz in second

These aren't rankings against rookies or even just the AL; these are numbers against the entire league. So yes, while a cool-off could take him back out of the spotlight and lessen his chances, he has shown no signs of one coming. That means, if he can continue at this pace, I would expect him to be your AL Rookie of the Year.

Carlos Correa is back and looks better than ever 

Speaking of great stat lines over a limited sample size, Carlos Correa has looked great since returning from his rib injury. While it took him a few games to get going after returning on July 26th, if you look at just his month of August so far, you see that he's seeing and hitting the ball well.

Including Sunday's game where he made it back-to-back games with a home run, Correa has had a hot August going 13-for-35 with four home runs, 12 RBIs, and a .371 average for the month so far. Those offensive numbers don't factor in his defensive value, where he has been equally as impressive with several incredible plays and powerful throws to nail runners out at first base.

If he can stay in rhythm and play to his potential the rest of this year, he could be one of the many Astros in contention for postseason awards should they meet expectations and make it deep into the playoffs. Then, if he can bridge the rest of a successful 2019 season with a full, healthy 2020, he could be well on his way to earning either a significant extension contract with Houston or be one of the most sought after free agents when he hits the market at the end of 2021.

Who will be first to 100 wins?

As of now, it's a three-team race for the best record in the league: the Astros, Yankees, and Dodgers. The Astros spent a short time as the best of the three before the disappointing loss on Sunday bumped them back a game behind the Dodgers, and tied with the Yankees.

The Astros have arguably the most manageable remaining schedule of the three, and the Dodgers and Yankees will play each other for a series towards the end of August which could put one of the two one or more games down the ranks. That keeps Houston in the driver's seat to not only be the first to 100 but end the season with the best record and control home-field advantage through the playoffs, which we've seen in recent years to be a massive difference for the Astros.

This offense is downright offensive to opposing pitchers

Sure, the loss on Sunday stings a little bit for Houston, but the story of the series with Baltimore was still the absolute pounding the Astros put on Baltimore in the middle game of the series. Houston's bats could not stop connecting with the baseball, resulting in the 23-2 win. Not only did Yordan Alvarez get a chance to show off with his three home runs, but it also displayed just how potent this lineup is.

Ever since Altuve and Correa had to miss some time and Alvarez was called up, many, including myself, were salivating at seeing this lineup healthy and playing well at the same time. We now see what that lineup is capable of, and a 23-run game is no surprise. Sure, they'll have their days where they struggle at the plate, and they won't dominate some of the more elite pitchers for 20+ runs, the cliché "there's no easy out in this lineup" is as accurate as ever.

Correa, as mentioned, has been a big part of that so far in August, but you've got George Springer still smashing from the leadoff spot, Jose Altuve on a terrific stretch since his return from injury, Michael Brantley in the middle of a batting title race, Alex Bregman instilling fear into pitchers to generate a ton of walks, and that's just the top four of the order. If you make it through them you've earned the right to face the phenom Yordan Alvarez, a surging Correa, then one of the league's hottest bats in Yuli Gurriel. That makes it a less-than-fun day to take the mound when you're going against the Astros.

Let's not forget about pitching

All this talk about the offense, and we haven't even touched on Houston's pitching. The Cy Young race is heating up between Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, with Cole having a chance to close the gap after a rough outing by Verlander on Sunday. Wade Miley has been great as well, lowering his season ERA below 3.00 and living up to expectations Houston had for him when they grabbed him this past offseason.

Zack Greinke will make his second start for Houston on Monday in Chicago against the White Sox and has a chance to move 2-0 with his new team, though they would like to see a bit of a better performance than in his debut where he allowed five runs over six innings.

Houston's relievers received a big lift this weekend with the return of Ryan Pressly, and will likely have Brad Peacock join their ranks soon as well. Roberto Osuna had a rare blown save on Sunday against the Orioles, but as long as he can get that out of his memory quickly and clean things back up for the push to the playoffs, he should be fine.

We are officially in the playoff push, and with a ten-game division lead going into mid-August, we may see Houston have plenty of time to fine-tune their roster and gameplans before the calendar turns to October. As has been the story for much of this season, when you put together all of Houston's plusses and compare them against the few and minuscule minuses, the Astros are still the team the league should be looking to beat in 2019.

Astros rough offseason continues

Cole's deal with Yankees changes the AL landscape

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

In what came as a surprise to no one, former Astro Gerrit Cole is now a New York Yankee. Cole signed a record nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees.

While the Astros were never in the running to re-sign Cole, his signing with New York comes as a double whammy. The Yankees were only four wins behind the Astros during the regular season and pushed them to six games in the ALCS. Poaching Cole, who was 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts, easily flip flops the two teams. The Astros have no one to replace Cole's production, no matter what they do. The Yankees just added a legitimate ace, and stamped themselves as the new favorites in the AL.

For the Astros, it was an expected blow, and just the latest in what has been a rough off-season filled with scandal and now rumors that Carlos Correa may be on the block.

What's next for Astros?

Part of the price of success is your players have to get paid. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve are locked down, but Correa and George Springer are due for big deals, and the Astros have expressed a desire to keep the payroll under control. That is not good news for the 2020 Astros and beyond.

The Astros have an easy solution for Correa; moving Alex Bregman to short and Yuli Gurriel to third, and look for a cheaper option at first base. Correa's injury history has limited his production, so that's a loss they could stomach.

The losses mount

But there is no ready solution for Cole. Lance McCullers is expected back, and Jose Urquidy will get likely get a chance. They will also look for a bargain basement, Wade Miley type. But in general, the Astros - with or without Correa - will not be as good next season. While they will still be title contenders and there is plenty of time to fill some holes (they did, after all, trade for Cole two seasons ago), they won't be the favorites in the AL.

That honor now belongs to the Yankees.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome