MLB preview: Houston Astros
The Astros changed managers, with Brad Mills taking over for Cecil Cooper. That won't help with the continuing devaluation of the Astros roster. It seems now that the only thing stopping Houston from a likely extended stay in the NL Central cellar is Pittsburgh being in the division.
2009 record: 74-88 (17 games back in NL Central)
2010 projected record: 69-93 (29 GB)
C — Humberto Quintero
1B — Lance Berkman
2B — Kazuo Matsui
SS — Tommy Manzella
3B — Pedro Feliz
LF — Carlos Lee
CF — Michael Bourn
RF — Hunter Pence
SP — Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, Brian Moehler
CL — Matt Lindstrom
RP — Brandon Lyon, Tim Byrdak
Strengths: Berkman and Lee are still good bets for 100-plus RBI, though Berkman struggled last season and I'd expect Lee to start to decline soon. Between Bourn, Matsui, Pence and Manzella, there should be abundant speed in the lineup. The emergence of Rodriguez in 2009 and the addition of Myers should mean that Oswalt shouldn't have to carry an otherwise lackluster rotation ... which is good, given that he no longer looks like one of the game's elite starting pitchers.
Weaknesses: Either Lindstrom or Lyon should win the closer's job. No matther what, they'll be a huge downgrade from the departed Jose Valverde. Manzella and Quintero, along with the pitcher's spot, could make for one of the worst bottom thirds of a batting order in the game. Speaking of bad endings, I wouldn't trust either Norris or Moehler in a full-time starting role if I was an Astros fan. Nor would I count on guys like Byrdak, Chris Sampson and Wesley Wright being consistent out of the bullpen.