Composite image by Jack Brame
After winning their division over the weekend, Houston is set to take on the American League Central Division champion Chicago White Sox in the ALDS.
This is the first time these two clubs have played postseason baseball against each other since the 2005 World Series.
The Astros won the regular season series 5-2 and outscored the South Siders 35-21.
As playoff rosters are being constructed for both teams, here are some key players to watch when the Astros meet the White Sox in the ALDS.
The Astros "Magnificent Seven" can compete with any lineup in baseball.
This offense led the league in batting average, hits, RBI's and runs scored this season.
They are top 10 in home runs and walks as well.
One of the best players for the Astros this season has been the American League batting title winner Yuli Gurriel.
The 37-year-old is the second-oldest player to win this accolade in either league behind Barry Bonds (38) who won it in 2002.
Gurriel, along with his teammate Michael Brantley, finished with the highest and second-highest batting average in the American League respectively.
Both players hit above .300 for the year, and have gotten on base consistently all season.
Yordan Alvarez supplied the power numbers this year, as he led the team in home runs (33) and RBI's (104).
The 3rd-year slugger played a handful of games in the outfield this season, and could be used in the field or a designated hitter in the playoffs.
Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker had career years in homers with 26 and 30 respectively.
Finally, Jose Altuve is having a better season than he did in 2020 and Alex Bregman has returned to form since his quad injury sent him to the injured list back in June.
Here is what the postseason lineup could look like for the Astros.
2B Jose Altuve
LF Michael Brantley
3B Alex Bregman
DH Yordan Alvarez
1B Yuli Gurriel
RF Kyle Tucker
SS Carlos Correa
CF Jake Meyers
C Martin Maldonado
This is one of the best batting lineups in baseball and could be the determining factor in deciding a playoff series.
Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5) and Framber Valdez (11-6) have been a great one-two punch for the starting rotation this year. The former will start Game 1 on Thursday and the ladder will most likely take the mound Friday.
Valdez had some issues with command as of late and leads the majors with 76 walks, but is great at not allowing home runs, with only a 0.7 HR/9 on the season.
The White Sox have a right-handed heavy lineup, but his elite curveball makes him a great asset to have against these righties.
With the announcement from Astros' manager Dusty Baker that veteran pitcher Zack Greinke could come out of the bullpen this postseason, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy to be the likely Game 3 and Game 4 (if necessary) starters. Jake Odorizzi could be an option out of the pen as well this postseason.
The White Sox rotation will most likely be Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Carlos Rodon.
These starters went a combined 2-3 against the Astros this year and look to be a formidable staff to face in the first round.
Although Ryan Pressly had an All-Star season this year, the Astros still needed to improve their bullpen at the trade deadline.
Houston acquired Kendall Graveman from their division rival Mariners, and Yimi Garcia from the Marlins, while moving Cristian Javier to a full-time relief pitcher role.
These corresponding moves improved the bullpen dramatically, and gave the Astros many opportunities to hold leads throughout the season.
According to FanDuel, The Astros are -124 to win the series and the White Sox are +106.
The ALDS will start on Thursday at Minute Maid Park with the game start time still TBD.
McCullers will get the start Game 1 and will most likely face White Sox ace Lance Lynn.
Here is how the ALDS format will play out.
Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 7 at MMP
Game 2: Friday, Oct. 8 at MMP
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 10 in Chicago
Game 4 (if necessary): Monday, Oct. 11 in Chicago
Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, Oct. 13 at MMP
The Houston Astros were in need of some serious help in the bullpen with Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek likely leaving this year in free agency.
The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo. pic.twitter.com/hDYuBLn2Kv
— Houston Astros (@astros) December 6, 2023
While some fans were getting concerned about the quiet offseason, the club has made two moves this week to get the ball rolling.
First the team signed Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher, and now they have added some relief pitching.
The Astros traded pitching prospect Carlos Mateo to the Royals for RHP pitcher Dylan Coleman.
Coleman appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons for KC, including 68 games in 2022 and 23 games last season. He has a career 3.88 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He’s fastball (95 mph), slider (81) and cutter (90) and walked 57 batters and struck out 99 in 92 2/3 innings.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) December 6, 2023
Coleman is under club control for the next several years, and made just over $700,000 in 2022. With the Astros right up against the tax threshold, this is a good way to add to the bullpen without having to hand out a large contract.
The Royals had a tough roster decision to make with Coleman, and the Astros made the decision easy for them by making the trade.
Something to note
There's a reason Kansas City wasn't determined to protect Coleman from the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his decent numbers over the last three seasons, 2023 was a rough year for him, posting an 8.84 ERA over 23 games.
In fact, Coleman pitched more innings (30.2) for the Royals AAA team than he did for the big league club (18.1) in 2023.
Hopefully, the Astros can get him back on track this season with some help from their highly touted player development program.
You can watch some of his 2022 highlights above.