By Brian WindhorstThe Astros are in their first-ever playoff series, which means the spotlight is on their newest stars.
Here are some things we’re learning about the team’s young core and how they’re shaping up to start the year.
First, the big picture.
The Astros have a strong core, with the likes of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Beltran leading the way.
There’s also depth and athleticism in center field and shortstop.
That said, Houston has been hit with the biggest rebuilding project of any team since they took over the league in the ’90s.
They have a new ballpark, new coaches, new front office hires and a new clubhouse full of new faces.
They also have a lot of young players who haven’t lived up to expectations in the big leagues.
They’ll need to work hard to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Weiler rock drills are something of a tradition in Houston.
In the ’70s, they were used as a tool to track the development of pitchers.
They’ve become an everyday tool for pitchers to get a feel for a batter’s command and delivery.
They’re also great for identifying players who might have issues throwing strikes.
Houston had a lot more success in the majors with a Weiler drill than it has in the minors.
When they did have more success with pitchers, the Weiler drills became less effective.
When a pitcher starts to throw more and more pitches, he’ll throw more Weiler rocks and more strikes.
That will create a lot fewer opportunities for the hitters to make contact.
They need to make adjustments to their approach.
Houston has had success with Weiler rock drilling.
In fact, they’ve been a consistent source of success in both the minors and the majors.
They did it more frequently in their second season in the AL in 2013, and that was after the Astros acquired starter Wade Miley in the deal that sent Yordano Ventura to the Dodgers.
The Astros have been pretty successful with it.
They haven’t had a breakout season yet this year, but they’ve got a good core and the chance to win the AL West this year.
Houston’s young outfield is also solid.
Carlos Correia is a plus runner, while the Astros’ best hitter, Jose Valverde, is a decent defender at shortstop.
The infield will be key to their success.
Houston’s biggest problem in left field will be first base.
There is an abundance of power, but the team will need to find more quality hitters.
They will also need to improve at first base in a big way.
If they do, the Astros could have an MVP candidate.
The starting rotation is loaded.
They are expected to be among the top five in ERA.
They should have a dominant season and should have one of the best pitching staffs in the American League.
The bullpen is also good.
Houston has some solid options in the bullpen.
They had some success with Matt Barnes in 2013 and have had success pitching for Jake McGee and Jose Veras.
The team is also building up its closer.
They signed Wade Davis in the offseason and have a guy with the potential to become a big-league ace.
The rotation is solid.
Houston also has a solid pitching staff in left, center and right field.
They won’t have the best starter in the game, but he’ll provide quality innings and help the bullpen, especially at second base.
The lineup will be pretty crowded.
The lineup is loaded, so the Astros should be in good shape.
This team will have a chance to make a run at the World Series if it can keep the starting pitching healthy.
The best part about Houston’s rebuilding project is that it’s been done before.
Houston started their rebuilding project in 2007.
They were able to win a lot in the first year of the rebuild.
The last time Houston won a World Series was in 2013.
This rebuilding project should be a repeat of that.
They may not have a top-tier team, but if they can get the pitching right, it could make them contenders for years to come.
The Houston Astros have one thing going for them in this rebuild.
It’s a very talented core.
They just don’t have a big enough star.
The most likely candidate to win MVP is Mike Trout, but Trout’s contract might not be an issue for Houston.
The club might have to find a better fit in the free agent market.
They could also have to trade away some of their young stars.
Houston is rebuilding as quickly as they have in years, but there’s still a lot to be desired about their roster.
The young players are good, but Houston still has some big-name talent to build around.