Make some room

Why the roster expansion is significant for the 2018 Astros

Tyler White is earning his spot on the Astros' roster. Houston Astros/Facebook

This summer was an eventful one for Houston with Altuve, Springer and Correa hitting the DL among other injuries. Putting aside the tough losses to key competitors and those who remain on the DL, we have to look at the lineup that got the Astros through that stretch. With the roster expansion coming Saturday, this team will be ready for important matchups that are coming up such as those with Boston and Seattle.

There are two names that stand out in my mind when it comes to roster expansions: Tyler White and Max Stassi. These are two guys that have been playing quite regularly with the Astros, but we can't forget: that wouldn't be the case without all of Houston's injuries this season. Stassi and White are two huge reasons why the September call-ups are especially significant for this Astros team. The two have proven their worth to this team but still swing between Triple-A and the majors due to the depth of the Astros' clubhouse. As the rosters expand, these are just two of the players that the Astros will be able to rely on when the hits aren't coming, such as in Correa's 11-for-68 month of August, without having to worry about catching a flight to Fresno once another starter becomes healthy again.

White has made a few trips to Triple-A this season but was often called up following an injury. In the month of August, he has eight homers with 22 RBI in 22 games. With a .317, he is also the only Astro above .300 besides Jose Altuve, not to mention his clutch hits in late innings, such as his walk-off homer to win one of the biggest series the Astros have played this season against Oakland.

Max Stassi has also been a crucial member of the active roster through Brian McCann's absence. His ability to handle the Astros' starting rotation has earned him a regular spot in the lineup along with Martín Maldonado. They've proven to be a reliable duo behind the plate, but the corresponding move for McCann's return would have been inevitable. Through the expansion, McCann will be able to come up without anyone having to be sent down.

Kyle Tucker is likely to come back to the Astros and will hopefully bring the bat that's been incredibly hot for him in Fresno recently. Since being sent to Fresno earlier in August, the 21-year-old has crushed seven homers in seven games for 15 RBI, with a .531 average. Other possible call-ups include JD Davis, who has managed a .368 average since being sent down for Correa's return and Derek Fisher as Jake Marisnick remains on the DL. Cionel Perez, who maintains a 3.86 ERA in 2018, is also likely to come up as another left-handed reliever to add depth to the bullpen. If these guys can bring their Triple-A stats to Houston, it'll take the Astros to another level.

This is just another step towards another memorable playoff run. Especially in the wildly competitive AL West, these call-ups have the potential to really bring this team to the level they need to be at as they approach one of the most important stretches of their season. 

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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