This Astros wish list comes with a twist

3 critical things on the Astros second half wish list. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Astros head into the All-Star break with a 3.5 game lead in the AL West and in a tie for the AL's 2nd best record with the Red Sox. They also have MLB's best run differential at +136. To say this season has been a success so far would be an understatement. Not many saw this team being this good. I certainly wasn't expecting it. Anyone who said they saw this coming is most likely lying. In order to carry this momentum moving forward, there are a few things the team could use going into the proverbial second half of the season.

1) Health: A healthy roster would be ideal. Yes, I know this can be said for any team in the playoff race, but it's especially true for this team. As of this writing, too many key guys are dealing with some kind of ailment. Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa are currently out. Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez, and several others have missed time this season. Pitching staff ace Justin Verlander has been out all season after Tommy John surgery. If the team can stay healthy, look for them to make another run.

2) Bullpen arm: One area that has caused the team much grief this season is the bullpen. Closer Ryan Pressly was selected to the All-Star team. Outside of that, the bullpen has been shaky at best. Recently, general manager James Click made a statement about the team's activity going into the trade deadline. In his statement, Click said the team is willing to go above and way beyond the luxury tax threshold. That revelation goes against what most thought. Owner Jim Crane was thought to have given an order not to go over the threshold. Apparently, Mr. Crane has done an about-face, and it's come at the right time. Cubs bullpen ace Craig Kimbrel is on the market. Rumor has it that the Astros are one of the teams he's expected to land with. This would be ideal, considering the A's are another team rumored to be after Kimbrel. Plugging that hole would stop some bleeding and help this team immensely moving forward.

A wish list twist?

3) Outfielder: Brantley has been the most consistent outfielder. Kyle Tucker has proven himself to be worthy with his power numbers and improved batting average. Myles Straw and Chas McCormick are getting better with more playing time. However, in order for this team to make a good run, they could use another solid veteran outfielder. While Brantley and Tucker are pretty entrenched as the left and right fielders respectively, center field has been a revolving door. Straw brings speed, while McCormick has some impressive power numbers considering the amount of at-bats he's had. I listed this one last on purpose because it could be the smallest need of the three if Straw and McCormick continue to improve.

While news that the team is ready to be buyers at the trade deadline and not being afraid of the tax threshold is a welcomed idea, I'm waiting to see what they'll realistically be able to do. There are areas in which they need to be looking, but hoping for the guys currently on the roster to stay healthy is the most important. Considering the trades they've made in recent years and the sanctions from the sign-stealing scandal have dwindled the minor league system, it'll be interesting to see what they'll give up in a trade. When your window to win another title is still open, you go all out. It's time for Click and Crane to push all their chips to the middle of the table and call everyone else's bluff.

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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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