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Starting Nine: Astros Opening Day 2016

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TCB Staff answers two questions with the Astros starting the season on Monday.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros start the 2016 season on the road against the New York Yankees. The Crawfish Boxes staff has crawled out of their hibernation holes to answer two questions for the upcoming season:

Which team in the AL West do you think is the Astros biggest competition this year?

What is your bold predictions for the Astros in 2016?

Time to let the writers run wild:

Soxandstros

I'm going with a dark horse in Seattle. I think the Rangers have age and pitching problems and won't be the main competition this year.

Seattle didn't add any stars, but they did add depth at many positions, upgrading the catcher, first base, and centerfield positions. Their starting pitching looks strong. If the revamped bullpen holds up, I think they will be a serious threat to win the AL West.

Bold predictions:

1) Carlos Gomez will lead the team in WAR
2) Tyler White will keep the starting 1B job all season
3) Luis Valbuena will lead the team in home runs

Anthony Boyer

I don't think there's any question about it: The Astros' biggest competition will be from the Astros themselves.

This is still a young, largely inexperienced team. They're fresh off a surprise playoff run. Many of this team's starters have yet to play a full season in Major League Baseball, and none of them - save perhaps Colby Rasmus - knows what it feels like to enter a season as the favorite.

If this team can stay healthy and gut out 162 games, no one has more talent (with more help on the way, no less). But they still need to show up and do the work.

Brian Stevenson

Bold Predictions:

1. Astros players will win the MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year awards in this same year, along with at least three each of Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves.

2. The Astros will have their second 100+ game winning season.

3. The Astros will lead the Majors in runs, home runs, and team SLG while finishing in the top five in SB and team ERA.

Biggest Competition:
I'm going out on a limb with Oakland. Just normalizing their bad luck from last year will be a huge boost, and they remade their bullpen almost entirely. They already have a solid balance of pitching and offense, too. If it's not them, it's Texas...but I really think it might be Oakland.

JasonMarbach

Bold Predictions For 2016:

1. George Springer, not Carlos Correa, is team MVP - but both are very good.

2. Jose Altuve falls short of 200 hits but increases his OBP by at least .010 over last season's .353 mark.

3. Tyler White, if he stays healthy, will get at least 400 plate appearances this season and finish in the top 5 in rookie of the year voting. AJ Reed will debut in the first 10 days of June and be the everyday starter at first by the All-Star Break, and he'll finish top 10 in rookie of the year voting. Joe Musgrove makes his first start for the Astros no later than August.

4. Collin McHugh posts an FIP around 3.90 and an ERA over 4.

5. Ken Giles saves 35+ games.

6. Carlos Correa finishes top 10 in league MVP voting, and Springer finishes top 5.

I agree that the Mariners are the most concerning team. Even without the additions they made, they're better than they played last year. A new, less average manager and positive regression from Robinson Cano (a full season like he finished the season) and Taijuan Walker will go a long way towards making them a legitimate threat, methinks.

f22a4bandit

I'm not too sure who ends up as the main challenger for the Astros, but it's most likely the Rangers. The Texas Rangers will have a decent rotation, but that depends on how well Yu Darvish bounces back from Tommy John. I think their window will start to close this season but they'll still remain competitive. They still have very good hitters in the lineup.

Seattle is probably the next most likely competitor for the Astros. Their new GM seems like he, at least, knows about baseball. The Mariners will need outstanding pitching throughout the season to make a real run at the playoffs.

The Angels... Well, they're in for a sharp decline this season. I don't think they'll figure much into the race for the AL West.

The Oakland Athletics might make things interesting. They were perhaps the unluckiest team in baseball last year. However, their rotation isn't great and their hitters need to improve to finish anywhere beyond fourth in the division.

My bold predictions for 2016

1) Carlos Correa wins AL MVP

2) Dallas Keuchel is better than last year and wins a second consecutive Cy Young

3) The Astros trade Evan Gattis, resulting from the call up of AJ Reed and moving Tyler White to DH

4) Marwin Gonzales jacks 20+ HRs

5) The Astros win the World Series in 7

CRPerry13

Which team in the AL West do you think is the Astros biggest competition this year?

The Texas Rangers will be the Astros' biggest competition this season in the AL West. First, the Angels are a disaster from top to bottom, and the A's can't seem to get out of their own way when it comes to micromanaging their rosters. The Mariners are improved, but they still have a shallow and anemic offense outside of a disappointing Robinson Cano and ancient Nelson Cruz. For the Rangers, I am not impressed by their pitching staff outside of Cole Hamels. Obviously, if Yu Darvish gets and stays healthy, he could return to ace-level form, but that's a fairly sizable "if", and behind those two fellows are a whole bunch of yawn. But the Rangers have a stout offense, and might be second in the AL in runs scored (after the Astros, of course!). Roughned Odor is an MVP-candidate in the making and is primed for a huge leap forward. Despite their ages, Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder are still two of the best pure hitters in baseball. I personally believe that Delino DeShields will have a big year and could end up scoring 100 runs with 75 stolen bases. It's a great lineup. However, aging players and the creative addition of Ian Desmond to play Left Field (which he has never played in the majors) makes me think that the combination of non-top-shelf pitching and below-average defense will keep them from closing within 5 wins of the Astros.

What are your bold predictions for the Astros in 2016?

If I'm going to go on record making bold predictions, I'm not going to limp in and give un-bold ones. So here are very bold predictions. Starting Pitcher Collin McHugh will be the best pitcher on the staff, and will finish Top 5 in Cy Young Award voting. George Springer will be the first player since Alfonso Soriano in 2006 to join the 40/40 club. Tyler White will hit 25+ home runs. Colin Moran will be the everyday 3B by June 1, and will hit .300 in 2016. The Astros will win 110+ games. Think I'm wrong? YOU'RE wrong, and so is your mom.

Nreck13

Bold Predictions:

1. Carlos Gomez, George Springer, and Carlos Correa all reach the 25/25 mark.
2. Colin Moran is called up before AJ Reed, but both receive 200 plate appearances and contribute down the stretch.
3. Collin McHugh is the team's statistical ace after pitching to an ERA just above 3 and racking up more strikeouts than Dallas Keuchel.

Bonus: Chris Carter hits 40+ home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers with a batting average just under .250

Biggest Competition:

It has got to be the Texas Rangers. The Mariners look like an improved club and Oakland should see some regression back to better luck, but until we prove we can beat the Rangers head to head they have to stay at the top of the list. I know they have some age at key spots both in the field and on the mound, but if they can find some extra rest days for guys like Adrian Beltre and avoid any major injuries I actually like the mix of veterans and youth they have in Arlington.

erniebreakfast

Which team in the AL West do you think is the Astros biggest competition this year?

I would have to say the Rangers. Last season I didn't think they would be, but they were. I don't know if it is something quantifiable (like their hitters just match up well against our pitchers, or they just perform better at our park), but they destroyed us last season. They went 13-6 against us and 20-34 against the rest of the division. Maybe they just got up for the Astros because of our new and budding rivalry. Either way, both teams are similar to last season, so I would have to say how we fare against the Rangers this season will have a big influence on the division standings, just like 2015.

What are your bold predictions for the Astros in 2016?

Marwin Gonzalez will continue to improve at the plate as he has the last couple of seasons. He and Evan Gattis will be traded near the deadline for Stephen Strasburg. At the same time, A.J Reed will be called up to claim his throne at first base, and Tyler White (who is...surprise...hitting at this level also) will take over the DH duties full time. Carlos Correa will finish in the top 3 in the MVP voting, and Dallas Keuchel will defend his Cy Young award. Jonathan Lucroy is still not an Astro, and who needed him because Jason Castro hit .265 with 16 bombs.

Dave Spradley

I think the biggest competition in the AL West will the Rangers for sure. They have a decent team and some good young guys from the farm that they can call up to reinforce the team.

The Rangers also just seem to have the Astros' number for whatever reason. Maybe it's just a statistical glitch but they have a history of crushing Astros pitching, so we'll see what happens this year with an improved Astros squad.