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Starting 9: Crawfishboxes Bold 2019 Predictions

On one thing we all agree. The Astros are gonna be GOOD.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the bold predictions by the staff here at TCB. We encourage you to add your own in the comments or in Fanposts.

Brian Cohn (HH)

There are 2 predictions I am going to toss out there. The first is the same drum I’ve been beating for quite a while now:

Prediction: Colin McHugh - I think he dominates in 2019 to the tune of a 15-6, sub-3.50 ERA across 150+ innings for 3+ WAR.

WHY: I mean I wrote an article on why he should be in the starting rotation.He’s been the 29th most valuable pitcher since 2014 in WAR (despite innings being limited in the bullpen), The addition of the slider as his most devastating weapon only further expands an arsenal that is elite. I still think he’s the most underrated pitcher on our team and one of the most underrated in baseball.

Prediction: Robinson Chirinos - Shocks people with his offensive performance. .240+/.350+/.500+ with 20+ home runs for a wRC of 120+

WHY: Chirinos has actually been a solid offensive catcher over the past few years, with a similar season to this as recently as 2017. Chirinos’ swing is custom made for the Crawford Boxes.


I want to agree with you on McHugh. I’ve written TWO articles singing his praise. But watching him on TV yesterday I could not help but think there is something wrong. Not just Spring Training adjustment, yes he has a history as a slow starter, but something is wrong. Time will tell.

This according to Rotowire:

The Marlins teed off on McHugh in the second innning when they scored five runs, raising the right-hander’s spring ERA to 15.88. “I got behind a few guys,” McHugh told Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle. “My fastball wasn’t fooling anybody today. Wasn’t getting by anybody. I felt like every mistake I made, they hit hard. Frustrating. Nobody wants to have days like that, even in spring training.” ... Historically, McHugh has not been a dominant pitcher in spring training. His career spring ERA is 7.22, which stands in contrast to his regular-season 3.87 ERA.

Point is: his ERA this Spring is twice as high as his usual Spring ERA. It just brings back flashbacks of Mike Scott in 1991. He couldn’t get anyone out in Spring Training, they gave him the ball in two regular season games, and he retired after the second game after allowing 10 runs in seven innings. I know it’s not the same, but that’s exactly how McHugh looks right now.

Not a prediction, just that I’m “a little concerned.”

My prediction:

Correa and Bregman both hit over .300, Bregman and Correa each hit over 30 home runs, and Altuve hits .320 and 20 dingers. All three make the All Star game. In fact, let me make that Correa hits 35 home runs, damn it.

Why: Because they are really good. Watching Correa this Spring his swing has never looked better. He was so frustrated last year and now that his body is back, he seems like a Cobra ready to strike. THIS is the year he fulfills his amazing physical potential.

Watching Bregman this Spring it is obvious that he thinks hitting a baseball is just easy. He is beyond confidence. It doesn’t take any confidence for me to put the key in the ignition, put my foot on the pedal, and navigate to work. It’s easy. That’s how easy hitting is to Bregman now. There will be no slow start like in years past. But he remains driven like a mad-man to be perfect. I once thought that he would regress some after last year, but now I think last year was just a warm-up. Alex Bregman is not just a body playing sports, he is an irresistible, even diabolical life-force that seeks to consume the sport itself.

Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman are all going to the Hall of Fame. And THIS will be their greatest year as the most amazing infield trio in History.

It is GREAT to be an Astros fan these days my friends.


Brian Cohn (HH): I wholeheartedly agree on it being a great time to be an Astros fan. I’m a die hard McHugh supporter and don’t put a ton of weight into Spring Training stats. I’m less optimistic on the Bregman improvement. I’m optimistic on Correa after this spring, hoping his body is back to normal and he lives up to the hype.

bilbos: It’s not McHugh’s stats. He can’t get anyone out. He can’t break even 89 on his fastball. There’s something wrong with Collin. Here’s a prediction. If he doesn’t show marked improvement in his next outing McHugh starts the season on the disabled list.

Chris Perry: In my opinion, the difference between a prediction and a bold prediction is something stark. A bold prediction should be immediately recognizable as bold. It should evoke the response, “Wow! I guess in a continuum consisting of an infinite number of universes existing at different quantum states, this is at least plausible. But I wouldn’t go to Vegas and put a hundred bucks on it.”

Per that definition, some of my discarded not-quite-bold takes included: “Aledmys Diaz will outperform Marwin Gonzalez in 2019,” “Tyler White will be a lot better than his projections,” and even, “Myles Straw will supplant Jake Marisnick by the end of the year.” Likewise, it’s not necessarily bold to predict that Forrest Whitley will receive Rookie of the Year consideration, or Kyle Tucker, or even Josh James.

So I gotta go bolder. Here we go: The Astros will place at least five players in the Top 10 of American League MVP voting this season.

It’s bold because it has been since 2005 that a team has even placed four (Yankees: A-Rod, Sheffield, Rivera, Jeter). I’m not sure that five has ever happened. I doubt it. It’s hard to imagine one individual voter awarding half of those spots to the same team. So the way this would work is that the Astros will be so good that seven or eight of their players appear on most Top 15 lists, in some order, so that the average score puts five of them in the Top 10.

With this Astros team, it is possible. Four Astros batters are projected to be in the Top 15 in batter WAR: Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer. It’s not a crazy scenario to imagine those players all posting years that are “up to their ability” and beating their projections, which would assure them MVP list consideration. On the pitching side, Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole are both projected as Top 5 pitching WAR finishers. That’s six players who have a legitimate chance to be Top five MVP-vote finishers in the AL. And there’s always the possibility (and the talent) for a surprise high finisher, like White or Tucker. Or maybe Collin McHugh’s new pitching philosophy learned as a reliever translates to a masterful season as a starter. Or Brad Peacock is “2017 Peacock” for the full season. It’s not so outlandish as to be dismiss-able.

So there’s my bold prediction. The Astros’ 2019 season will be so historic that they place five players among the Top 10 finishers in the American League MVP voting.

bilbos: Chris, you’re always down on poor Jake the Rake. I say he repeats his 2017 performance this year, somewhere around 120 wRC+ as a I recall. He showed vastly improved contact skills this Spring. His two homers weren’t cheap; one off Scherzer, the other off Wainwright. If he can avoid the high strikeout rate, with his speed, defense and power he should keep Straw at bay.

Exile in Saint Louis: The Astros stretch out the 4 person bench (Kemp, Marisnick, Diaz, Stasi) for as long as they can, which means only 7 bullpen arms. Kemp proves himself too good to let go. If Yuli or Reddick struggle, look for the Astros management to trade whichever one is struggling to a team with an injury at a corner. Kemp can’t be optioned, and is too good to pass through waivers, so the Astros choose Kemp. Kemp works himself into a LF/DH platoon-ish regular, getting 500 PAs, puts up a slash of something like 280/380/440, and turns into a 2.5 WAR player.

Astros Future:

I’ll throw a couple predictions in here but first I am going to start with a minor league prediction. My prediction is JB Bukauskas will be a top 20 prospect by the end of the season. He obviously has the tools and it showed last year when he finally got on track making it to AA in his first full season while striking out 71 in 59 innings.

On the major league side I will go with Michael Brantly. My prediction is he will finish top 10 in MVP voting. He is coming off a season where he hit .309 with 36 2B, 17 HR, 76 RBI and a 123 OPS+. I think the Astros offense, and Brantley, will improve and he has a career year hitting with Springer, Bregman, Altuve and Correa.

ScottyDouble: I’ll predict Brad Peacock returns to the form we saw as a starter in 2017, when he provided 3.5 WAR and was arguably the most important member of the pitching staff, pre-Verlander. Peacock’s K/9 and BB/9 were better than ever last season, but he surrendered more homers in 2018 than he did in twice as many innings in 2017. He probably won’t get enough innings to rack up 200K’s. I say Peacock will be the Astros most valuable starter outside of JV/Cole.

Chandler Rome wrote an article about the change in George Springer’s physique coming into Spring Training. Springer was already a physical specimen, so he didn’t need to change much. But it seems like a revamped Springer could also lead to a change in his approach, particularly on the basepaths. The Astros have been more aggressive on the bases this Spring, and so has George. I predict Springer—who has only 11 steals over the past two seasons combined—accumulates double-digit steals in 2019, something he has done only once in his career (16 in 2015).

Theo: This is sort of related to some of the other predictions here, but I’m gonna say that this is the year that the Astros score 900 runs, becoming the first team to do so since the 2009 Yankees. They almost did it in 2017, when they finished the season with 896 runs (the closest anyone has come in the intervening decade), but last year they dropped nearly 100 runs, all the way down to 797 and only sixth-best in the league.

Overall, though, I think that there’s reason to look to 2017 as the baseline 2019 is building off of; given that, a big step up from 2018 is almost certain, and edging out those last few runs to get over the 900 mark even seems doable.

Granted, there are some things from 2017 that will be hard to recapture, like Jose Altuve and George Springer having career-best (so far) years with the bat. But there’s also good reason to think that those two are better than how they hit last year (Springer’s 2018 in particular was his worst offensive season of his career). Furthermore, a healthy Carlos Correa could push them closer to 2017, and Alex Bregman’s breakout 2018 would be a marked improvement over his 2017.

But the non-core spots are the real spot for improvement in the lineup. Tyler White and Michael Brantley will be eating up a lot of at-bats that went to players like Nori Aoki, Evan Gattis, and 40-year-old Carlos Beltran. The spots where it gets dicey are with Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez; both posted shockingly-good years that they couldn’t repeat in 2018, and the options that are (or will be, in the case of Kyle Tucker) replacing them are better in 2019, but matching those 2017 numbers will still be a challenge. Still, that’s where the bold part of the prediction comes in; I think Tucker, Aledmys Diaz, Tony Kemp, and the rest can provide a useful-enough set of bats to help make up that difference somewhat.

Spencer: I’m all-in on the Carlos Correa offseason hype. He appears pain free, had his deviated septum fixed and added muscle to his frame and I think he’s primed to finally have the MVP-caliber season that fans have been waiting for. My bold prediction would be that he leads Astros hitters in WAR and finishes top 5 in MVP voting. Other than health, the only thing that has held Correa back as a pro has been passivity at the plate but I like him to have a better year on both fronts in 2019 and cross the 30 homer threshold for the first time.

On the pitching side, I’ve predicted that Gerrit Cole will win the AL Cy Young already on Twitter but I am not sure that that qualifies as a bold prediction. I’m very bullish on Josh James and think that he’ll make quite a few starts this year when all is said and done. It’s hard to make a call on him while his role is still murky but I expect him to top 100 innings with an ERA in the low threes or better and a strikeout rate over 26%.