Can the Astros do it again?
Win the World Series?
Make it to the ALCS for a seventh straight time?
Win an Opening Day Game for the 11th straight year?
Let’s start with the business at hand.
Today the Astros take on the White Sox at Minute Maid Park, 6:08 CT in the first game of the 2023 MLB season.
As is the case with every Opening Game, it’s a contest between aces, Dylan Cease of the Chisox and Framber Valdez of the Astros.
Dylan Cease was third in MLB in ERA at 2.20 and fourth in K/9. But Framber Valdez was no slouch either, 11th in MLB in ERA at 2.80. Both pitchers were tied for tenth in pitcher fWAR with 4.4.
The Astros enter the season projected to win the AL West as usual, and in some ratings, the AL favorite to go to the World Series again for the fifth time in seven years. And yet, they go into the season with several questions.
- Jose Altuve has a broken hand and will probably be out until mid-June.
- Other star players, Michael Brantley, and Lance McCullers, also start the season on IL.
- Yordan Alvarez came to Spring Training with a sore hand and only played in a few Spring Training games. How much will his hand hinder his production during a long season?
- Can the Astros’ league-leading starting rotation replace the production lost by the departure of Cy Young winner Justin Verlander?
To problem number one, the Astros can’t replace Jose Altuve, but they can hope that some combination of Mauricio Dubon and David Hensley can get off to a hot start and replace some of Altuve’s production.
Hopefully, Michael Brantley and Lance McCullers return early, but the Astros are deep in the outfield with any a combination of Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, rookie slugger Yanier Diaz, or surprise rookie rosteree, Corey Julks ready to fill the outfield void left by Brantley.
In the rotation, the Astros are counting on rookies Hunter Brown and possibly Ronel Blanco to replace some of the missing firepower from last year.
The Astros’ biggest off-season acquisition was also the White Sox’s loss, first baseman Jose Abreu.
The competition in the AL West is a lot tougher this year, so the Astros can ill-afford a slow April. They’ll have to overcome the early spat of injuries and stay close if they want to avoid having to play catch-up during the dog days of summer.
In some final news, the Astros designated for assignment J.J. Matejevic and Bligh Madris to make room on the 40-man for Corey Julks and Cesar Salazar, who were not on the 40-man roster but will be in the dugout tonight against Chicago.