Can The Astros Repeat In 2018?

added 01/13/2018 by Bob Hulsey

Greedy souls that we are, Astros fans are already wondering if their team can repeat their miraculous season of 2017 and parade around with the World Series Trophy again next November.

Other than acquiring a lefthanded reliever better than Tony Sipp (unlikely) or adding another catcher for depth (won't happen), I think this team is well-stocked already and adding a power-hitting outfielder to play in left or a third ace for the rotation is a bit of overkill that shouldnt be taking place this winter.

Looking one way, the Astros were one game better than the Dodgers and one game better than the Yankees who were one game better than the Indians and you can see how slippery the slope is back to an early exit. Don't let that worry you. Randomness will always be part of baseball no matter how much you spend.

Boston, New York and Cleveland all have young nucleuses to challenge the Astros' supremacy but who else could have a better record in the American League than Houston? Minnesota? Texas? Seattle? Nope. The AL West and the playoffs are virtually guaranteed despite the additions Anaheim and Seattle made.

What has changed since November 1st? The Astros have lost Carlos Beltran. They've lost Luke Gregerson and Mike Fiers. They'll miss Juan Centeno.

What have they gained even if the roster stands pat? Five extra months of Justin Verlander. Four extra months of Collin McHugh. Two extra months from Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers. One extra month each from George Springer and Carlos Correa.

They've also picked up relievers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon for depth and they probably have too many players who project to the 25-man roster as it is.

Out of Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock, which one would you banish to the bullpen? Which two if you add another starter like Yu Darvish or Gerrit Cole?

There's also Francis Martes, David Paulino and Brady Rodgers waiting in the wings should disaster strike.

Then there's a bench that could regularly include Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick and Evan Gattis and still be formidable. Where would guys like Derek Fisher, Colin Moran and Tony Kemp fit in? Their offense is so prolific that they don't need quality starts much of the time to win games. The Astros are like the Big Red Machine of the 1970s. Once the opposition endured Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey Sr., George Foster, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, the Redsí pitching merely had to be mediocre for Cincinnati to win titles. Similarly, once today's opposition has dealt with Springer, Reddick, Altuve, Correa, Gurriel, McCann, Gattis and Gonzalez, the pitchers should be working with a substantial lead on many nights.

Even if there is some regression in performance, the Astros are loaded. In my opinion, an extra arm or an extra bat isn't needed. That was true during the regular season. It was only untrue during the playoffs when Verlander's presence was definitely welcome. If the Astros survey the league at the All-Star Break and see that they need another arm or bat, they have the talent to go get one and will be four months further down the road to better see what they lack.

In the meantime, they may find they already have what they need in Fisher, Moran, J.R. Reed or Kyle Tucker for offense. If their progress is blocked, the Astros may never know what was already available to them at practically no cost.

From the beginning, the Astros' approach was to develop a core of inexpensive young talent to raise together and then add a few veterans to fill in the gaps. The plan has worked so well that they have talent waiting to crack the big time if only given the opportunity. In my opinion, chasing after Jay Bruce or Yu Darvish is a waste of resources that won't be needed until next September at the earliest. It seems smarter and more cost-efficient to promote players from within and then determine who is available to pursue in July.