With the 2016 season nearly upon us, here are 10 things that Astro fans can get excited about.
Baseball is back
It's awesome to start the season with such optimism. If you're an Astros fan you haven't had this much optimism and excitement about the team in about a decade. April is truly the most wonderful time of the year. Other than Christmas. Unless you had a crappy Christmas. In which case, yeah! Go April!
The continued emergence of Carlos Correa as one of the best young players in baseball
The Angels have Trout and the Nationals have Harper, but Correa is the most exciting shortstop the league has had since Alex Rodriguez. Despite only playing a portion of the season last year, Correa was still the Astros' second most valuable offensive player in 2015, only narrowly trailing George Springer and handily beating out Colby Rasmus who placed third. Watching Correa's rare blend of talent, enthusiasm and leadership on the field will be a delight for Astro fans for years to come.
Watching George Springer continues to develop into a monster talent
Springer's ceiling could very well be higher than Carlos Correa's. If he can stay healthy, harness his power, and learn to generate more contact, then he's going to going to be an absolute beast in the team's lineup.
Having a guy like Tyler White around to make contact
White will start as the club's opening day first baseman. He's hit at every level in the minors and proved with his spring training play that he wanted the job as badly as any of the other first-base candidates. If White can hit in the majors anywhere close to how he hit in the minors, then he's going to be a welcome addition to all-or-nothing power approach of the 2015 Astros.
Colin Moran and AJ Reed
Though both didn't make the team out of spring training, they performed well enough that it's easy to see them both making appearances with the 2016 Astros. Reed looks like he could be another middle of order monster bat. If Moran has finally put it all together then the sting of passing on Kris Bryant to draft Mark Appel in 2013 might not make Astro fans dwell on how the greatest 3rd base-shortstop combo of all time would have looked like...as least sort of.
Along with Tyler White, Moran and Reed will mark a shift towards more complete hitters finding their way into the Astros' lineup, which some may welcome a change of pace from the one-dimensional sluggers of 2015 (Though none of them will have as cool a nickname as Trogdor). For Moran and Reed, their time is nigh.
Evan Gattis and the 2016 Triples race
El Oso Blanco Grande will start the season on the DL, but when he awakens from his winter hibernation he will once again be a top contender to lead the league in triples in one of the more underrated league races. Having lost the 2015 title by 1 triple to the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier, Oso Blanco vowed to change his normal off-season diet of fresh Montana river salmon to Gulf devil rays in preparation to devour the competition. Once he's back to his proper seasonal energy and girth levels, the results should be telling.
All the other young guys
The Astros' farm system is still loaded with great prospects like Frances Martes, Michael Feliz, Daz Cameron, Kyle Tucker, and others. Guys like Alex Bregman could even make an appearance with the team this year. Oh, and he's also supposed to be their top prospect. Sometimes he just gets kinda lost in the amazing infield shuffle the Astros have going on this year. The team truly has an embarrassment of riches concerning their young talent.
Having a legit lock-down closer
100-miles Giles baby! Luke Gregerson was perfectly serviceable as the team's closer last year, but admit it, it's way more fun watching a flamethrower blow away the competition at the end of big games. Giles will give fans fond remembrances of the Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge days (minus the Albert Pujols moonshots hopefully). Gregerson may very well remain in his position as the team's closer, and that's perfectly fine. If the game is on the line in the 7th, 8th or, 9th inning, we all know who skipper AJ Hinch is going to turn to.
Let's also not forget this: having a guy like Giles in the bullpen last year probably would have let the Astros beat the Royals in the playoffs, and let them make a legit World Series run. That's why the team gave up five prospects in order to get him.
Did someone say World Series?
We all know that 2016 is the year that Sports Illustrated picked the Astros to win the World Series, so that means it's pretty much gonna happen. Done deal. Right? Right. Not much more to say about that.
Dallas Keuchel and his beard owning the rest of the league
The defending Cy Young champ and his motley crew of guys who you thought were either underrated but managed a no-hitter, out of the league with an ERA over 8.00 or trying to bounce back on a 1-year contract are back to prove that are not to be taken lightly. Even if they can't crack 95 mph on the radar gun. Of course, we aren't even mentioning Lance McCullers who is awesome and has always been awesome. Between him and Keuchel, maybe the Astros get another Cy Young award. Either way, it's 2016, be ready for some baseball!