Most Astros fans have pegged the 2015 season as the one that the 'stros will have an opportunity to make a run at the playoffs. But in order to become a playoff contender we must first improve from a historically bad club to an average one. No one goes from a 100 losses to 95 plus wins.
So the race starts September, when players such as Asher Wojciechowski and George Springer come up. We are done employing marginal MLB players such as Carlos Pena and Ronny Cedano. The new look Astros, the Luhnow-stros, led by scrappy ball players such as Robbie Grossman and Jose Altuve should make it a point that another 100 loss season is unacceptable. 2014 is the year I believe that we will become a watchable teams, we have seen glimpses of the future in the form of Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Villar and that should continue until we build a strong enough foundation to compete.
So hear is what I believe will be the anatomy of the start of something special for the 2014 season
Catcher- Our all star Jason Castro has a lock on this position, he is one of our best hitters and should be hitting his statistical prime when we become contenders. Coaches rave on his make up and leadership skill, so he is the one that will be able to keep the clubhouse in check after rough stretches. As for the backup I am as pretty big Carlos Corporan supporter, he is capable of being the back up while we let Perez, Stassi, or Garcia force their way to the bigs.
First Base- I am not sure how much stock I should put into Brett Wallaces recent hot streak, but if he continues to hit this way it is highly possible that he could be a starter on a contending team. The only problem is that he has is that the best First Base prospect in the bigs is right behind him in AAA. Singleton is not likely to be called up until after super 2 status so Wallace will have until then to prove that he is worthy of being here in the future.
Second Base - Jose Altuve. A lot of people are down on him, but I just don't get it, he steals bases, he hits for average, he plays good defense, he's been an all star and oh yeah he's only 23. I do hope to see an increase in walks but that basically the only flaw in his game.
Third Base- Basically everything I said about Altuve can apply to Dominguez, if he can manage to improve his average and learn to take four balls he should be the least of our worries.
Outfield- Robbie Grossman has somehow made me fall in love with him, he gets on base, he's clutch, he plays good defense, the dude is just a gritty player. Every contender should have a Robbie Grossman on their team. If Springer does what we all hope he does, we got ourselves a elite center fielder for at-least the next decade. Right Field is one of the bigger question marks going into next season, I would let Hoes, Krauss, and Barnes fight for it, but ultimately I beleive that it will eventually be manned by Preston Tucker.
Rotation- This is gonna make or break the team, in all likely hood we go into next season with Jarred Cosart getting the opening day nod. I don't think anyone else has done enough to justify a locked in spot in the rotation.
Bullpen- Blow it up.
So this is how I have the 2014 opening day lineup
LF Robbie Grossman
2B Jose Altuve
CF George Springer
C Jason Castro
1B Brett Wallace
RF LJ Hoes
DH Marc Krauss
SS Jonathan Villar
Bench: Corporan, Carter, Elmore, Cheap Free Agent
Rotation: Cosart, Peacock, Bedard, Obie, Wojo
Bullpen: Lo, Stoffel, Zeid, Cisnero, Keuchel, Lyles, Fields
Midseason callups: Singleton, Tucker, Appel, Tropeano, Stassi
September callups: Fontana, Folty, Perez
If everything works out I could see us finishing 79-83, but ultimately this is going to be the year the year we start a winning culture. It will be an interesting year to see how these young guys develop.