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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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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