Larry The GM

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Astros: The Post Winter Meeting Christmas Shopping List

The Winter Meetings are over, and the Astros have yet to address their major needs. Let’s take a look at the key items on the Christmas shopping list for Jeff Luhnow. For each position of need we will show the best options for Free Agents and Trades.

In each category this analysis will focus on value. What can the Astros expect in value (overly simplistically represented by projected WAR) for the average annual value of either the player’s current contract or the average of what several sources project the free agent contract to be?

Priority 1: Catcher

Yes, the Astros signed Robinson Chirinos. No, Chirinos is not likely the starting catcher for the 2019 World Series Champion. A battery of Chirinos and Stassi would likely yield the 18th-best performance from catchers in the MLB. The Astros can and will do better.

For Christmas this year Jeff Luhnow will open his first gift box for Astros fans by signing a catcher.

xmas table 1.png

Looking at this comparison, you may conclude that the Astros should trade for Realmuto instead of signing Ramos. While that would be the better value, it would come at a significant cost trade-wise. If the Marlins were willing to make this deal, then Realmuto would be the potential answer.

xmas table 2 Realmuto.png

For this trade proposal and all future trades below, I will quote Steamer600 Projected WARs. This will show the value each player could have in 2019 IF they were allowed to have a full time job.

If the Marlins made this trade; Stassi (C), Davis (1B/3B), Fisher (OF), and Perez (RP) could easily start and be an upgrade for the Marlins. Martin would likely be starting games for the Marlins by the end of the year. Is that enough? I doubt it.

Reports are active that Ramos has signed with the Mets. I think the Astros will aggressively go after the switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal. With the heavy RHB lineup, a switch-hitting Grandal who splits more as an LHB would make perfect sense for the Astros. Let’s hope Grandal is in the catching gift box.

Priority 2: Starting Pitching

The Astros may want two starting pitchers to add to the rotation of Verlander, Cole, James and McHugh. If they do add two starting pitchers, then they will have options of sending McHugh or James to the bullpen. They’ll also have a much better buffer so that their pitching won’t be overly dependent on rookies and prospects.

The Free Agent Options

xmas table 3 Corbin.png

Given the options that are left on the free agent market, I think the Astros will go for the bigger starting pitcher impact in the trade market. I think they will sign a Morton-like low-risk high-reward possibility in Trevor Cahill, preferably for just one year.

So what are the trade options?

xmas table 4 Ray.png

First, here’s the package I would offer:

For Fulmer: Bukauskas/White/Devenski/Marisnick
For everyone else: Bukauskas/Armenteros/White/Devenski/Marisnick

Let’s go through the list, from the least likely to most likely:

Indians Pitchers (Bauer and Kluber): the Indians have pulled back their offering of these two, at least for now.

Noah Syndergaard: I believe the package I would offer would be insufficient for the Mets.

Robbie Ray: This is my preferred target, but the Diamondbacks are claiming he is not available.

Marcus Stroman: Toronto seems to be in a sell mode. Stroman’s 5.54 ERA was bad. His 3.91 FIP was better than Ray’s. Here is what the deal would look like. Would Toronto take it?

xmas table 5 Stroman.png

Michael Fulmer: As shown above, I would not offer same package for Fulmer, as I have less confidence in him. If the Tigers take the package without Armenteros, I might go for that.

What do I think will happen? Toronto seems to be in the biggest sale and shed salary mode. In that package, I am asking for Justin Smoak as well, to possibly upgrade first base (more on that later.) This also allows the Blue Jays to shed more salary.

For Christmas this year, Jeff Luhnow will open his second gift box for starting pitching for Astros fans by trading for Marcus Stroman (#3 starter) and by signing Trevor Cahill (#5 starter or for depth).

Priority 3: First Base/Outfield/DH

For the third gift box, the Astros could improve their first base (White 1.3 WAR, Gurriel 0.9), Corner OF (Reddick 1.9, Tucker 1.9, Kemp 1), and/or DH (the same players).

Below is a short list of options to improve these areas. Some of the options at first base also assume that White is in a trade for either Realmuto or a starting pitcher. How much the Astros can spend in this area is most likely dependent on deals made in the areas examined above. If the Astros are able to add Reddick to the deals for example, OF becomes an even great need to address and there is more payroll flexibility.

xmas table 6 Belt.png

The Trade Options

Brandon Belt would be relatively expensive but would be a significant upgrade at first base. Any deal for Belt would probably require Reddick or Gurriel to go to the Giants. I would not overpay.

Justin Smoak would ideally be in the Stroman deal above. He is also a switch hitter who splits more as an LHB. Smoak would be an upgrade over White or Gurriel and could also DH.

Just say no to Edwin Encarnacion from a value perspective. Unless Seattle is willing to pay half of his salary or more, I am not interested.

Free Agent Options

Mike Moustakas: You might point out that Moustakas is a third baseman. Yes, he is, and he also has dabbled at first. From a perspective of pure value (Projected Cost/ Projected WAR), he is a great option. Moustakas is also an LHB.

Nelson Cruz: Several media reports have the Astros showing interest in Cruz. Given that he is a DH option only, and that he will want more than a one-year deal, I am not really interested.

I’ve saved the best option for last: Michael Brantley has expressed a willingness to play both OF and 1B. This flexibility would allow Brantley to start in LF until the Astros have 100% confidence in Tucker. Brantley could start at 1B over White and Gurriel. The down side with Brantley is durability (games played in 2018: 143, 2017: 90, 2016: 11). However, if Tucker, Kemp, Straw, White, Davis, Reed, and/or Gurriel are available as depth when Brantley is hurt, then the only real question is whether Brantley can be healthy in October.

For Christmas this year, Jeff Luhnow will open his third gift box for Astros fans, and upgrade the outfield and first base, by signing Michael Brantley. He will also get Justin Smoak in the previously mentioned Stroman deal.

This is the Christmas List:

  1. Sign Yasmani Grandal
  2. Trade for Marcus Stroman and Justin Smoak
  3. Sign Michael Brantley
  4. Sign Trevor Cahill

So, Astros fans, have you been naughty or nice this year?

Astros – The Off-Season Strategy Session – The Rotation

It is the offseason. When every hardcore baseball fan transforms from Manager of the Year (in their mind) to Executive of the Year (again in their mind.) We will continue with the Off-Season Strategy Session.

MLB Free Agents- Pitching

With the announcement that Lance McCullers has indeed had Tommy John surgery the Starting Pitching is now ranked fourth by WAR in the MLB by Fangraphs.com. The Depth Chart projections assume the following stats by starters.

Potential Starters via Baseball-Reference

If these projections are right, 2019 will indeed be a significant transition year for the starting pitching. In 2018, the Astros had 165.2 innings pitched by starters 26-years-old and under, and 126 of those innings were by Lance McCullers. The 2019 projection here is for 380 innings with McCullers giving them ZERO. Will the Astros do that? I do not think so.

The assumption at this point is that the Astros will turn their starting pitching over to the next generation of young talented pitchers including James, Valdez, Whitley, and Bukauskas. While I believe this is likely partly true, I believe Valdez will be working from the bullpen with Cionel Perez as a Sipp replacement. Also, I do not believe Bukauskas, who pitched six innings in AA in 2019, should be counted on for eight starts and 46 IP. As shown in the Rule 5 draft section, I am not sure Brady Rodgers is on the roster for this team.

What is also interesting in this projection for who is NOT in this list- Colin McHugh. Depth Charts continues to list McHugh as a relief pitcher. I believe McHugh will win the starting pitching spot over Peacock and have a season similar to 2016 (assuming he stays healthy.) I believe Peacock will continue to have a long relief role. Therefore, I think the real state of the starting pitching looks more like this.

Larry 11.png

This would mean there are 25-30 starts and 130-150 IP available. Given the other starters, this would ideally be an LHP. The profile for the ideal LHP in Minute Maid Park is one that tends to keep the ball in play and have a high ground ball percentage. With the Crawford Boxes so close an LHP with a high GB% is really best. This is the Dallas Keuchel formula. Following the same deep strategy analysis we did for catcher earlier, what are the Free Agent options?

Top LHP FA options

I am showing eight options for a left-handed starting pitcher free agent signing. Shown here are their stats in 2018, their Fangraphs Depth Chart projections for 2019. Also shown here are several sources projecting what their contracts will be and an average of these projections.

Finally, a “Value Assessment” is done. This is asking how much is each WAR likely going to cost the Astros. Obviously, the smaller the number; the better the value for the Astros.

Who is out there?

The options are numerous depending on how much the Astros are willing to spend and if they are willing to sign a player who has received the qualifying offer. With the new CBA, if the Astros sign a player who has received the qualifying offer, they would lose their second-round draft pick. Remember; when someone signs Dallas Keuchel (assuming it's not the Astros), the Astros will receive a pick in the 75-80 pick range. For this reason, I suspect the QO penalty will not deter the Astros from getting the player they want.

None of this data is my own, and the projected statistics are not mine. Which option would you pick?

There appear to be three groups

Go Big- Keuchel and Corbin. Both of these players would be at least a four-year commitment and most likely a five-year contract at roughly $20MM/yr AAV. If the Astros go this route, it will likely be because they were unable to find a willing trade partner for a number 2/3 starter.

Go Small- Garcia, and Holland. These two players are the reclamation- risk/reward option. These two are likely to get no more than a two-year contract and may get a one year deal only. If the Astros go this route, they are willing to risk if this signing does not work out that the prospects will.

Just Right?- Happ, Gonzalez, and Miley. With these three it is imperative to understand the final contract parameters. If the predictions are right, Gonzalez and Miley are not likely to be a good investment. J.A. Happ is an interesting option if he can be signed for two years, the Astros are confident he will not drop off dramatically at age 36, and if the AAV is kept at a favorable level.

I am going to say other teams spend the stupid money and the Astros, if they do sign a Free Agent Starting Pitcher, sign J.A. Happ for two years for $25MM total ($12.5MM AAV.)

The trade options are also too numerous to analyze in this space. As shown in the Rule 5 Draft roster listing, the Astros have various trade chips of varying value that could be pooled for a number 2/3 starter. This is a very likely scenario.

Astros: The Off-Season Strategy Session - Rule 5 Update

Looking ahead at the Astros Rule 5 decisions today.

November 20 is the day the Astros have to decide who they protect and don’t protect on their 40 man roster. As you will soon see, this is a significant challenge this year. It is such a challenge I am revisiting my earlier submission to draw focus to this eminent activity.

On 11/2/18, the Astros signed Chris Herrmann in a classic quiet Jeff Luhnow increase your options and low risk- high potential reward type of move. His name shows in green in the table above. This move will set up other potential bigger moves at catcher will discuss in later sections.

On 11/17/18, the Astros made a quiet move you may not understand the consequences fully until after opening day. The Astros traded prospect Trent Thornton (who was likely to be lost in the Rule 5 draft) for needed IF depth Aledmys Diaz. As Eric Huysman highlighted already, Diaz is likely to replace Marwin Gonzalez as the primary utility player.

The following table shows what I believe will be the Rule 5 draft roster IF no Ramon Laureano type trades are made between now and 11/20/18 (the day Rule 5 rosters are set).

The table shows four types of players

  • Black font and shaded Green or White- players who will remain on the 40-man roster
  • Red Font and shaded Red or Pink- Players eligible for Rule 5 who are MOST likely to be added
  • Blue Font and shaded blue- Players eligible for Rule 5 who are not likely to be on roster- Draft eligible. Some of these are targets to be traded
  • Yellow shading- Players not yet eligible for the Rule 5 and ranked as top 30 Astros Prospects by MLB Pipeline.

Projected

Larry 9.PNG

The number is the prospect ranking in the Astros system. A study of this highlights that I have taken Brady Rodgers and Wil Harris OFF of the 40- man roster. There are two groups of additions.

  • Sure bets to be added- shaded red- Garrett Stubbs, Rogelio Armenteros, Riley Ferrell
  • Bubble candidates to be added- shaded pink- Drew Ferguson, Brendan McCurry, Jonathan Arauz

If the Astros added all of these the roster would be at 39 which leaves limited room for Free Agent signings. I think it is more likely one of the three bubble candidates will be added, and the roster will be at 37 players.

Also, as shown, the top prospects such as Whitley, Alvarez, Martin, Beer, and Bukauskas are not on the projected 40-man roster. It is highly possible at least one if not more of these players will be added to the roster in 2019. The Astros will want to be careful to have 40-man roster slots to add these players when they are ready.

What this shows is that the Astros have significant talent other teams may be interested in drafting in the Rule 5 draft. Many of these players may be used as Trent Thornton was to acquire either talent to fill gaps or non-Rule 5 draft eligible prospects. The list of these players is not even complete here but focuses on the highest profile players eligible for the draft.

Astros – The Off-Season Strategy Session - Part 3

Rule 5 draft and the roster- Who will be on the 40-man roster?

Now that we have established who is likely to be leaving the next step will be to assess who will be on the 40-man roster and does the roster address the holes left behind by the players that leave? As we do this we need to consider the Rule 5 draft.

The details of the Rule 5 Draft are available from the Queen of Astros Minor Leagues – Jayne Hansen here

https://whattheheckbobby.blogspot.com/2018/09/2018-rule-5-draft-primer-and-eligible.html

An Rule 5 eligible player is...

1) Anyone who signed prior to the conclusion of the 2014 season.

2) Any player who was 19-years-old at the time of signing after the end of the 2014 season or prior to the conclusion of the 2015 season.

3) Most 2015 drafted college players.

4) Any high school players drafted in 2015 will wait one more year.

What this means is certain minor leaguers whose name you know can be drafted away from the Astros if they are not added to the 40-man roster. The number of players the Astros will want to add from the 2014-2015 drafts partially explains their willingness to let the free agents previously discussed to walk.

On 11/2/18, the Astros signed Chris Herrmann in a classic quiet Jeff Luhnow increase your options and low risk- high potential reward type of move. His name shows in green in the table above. This move will set up other potential bigger moves at catcher will discuss in later sections.

The following table shows what I believe will be the Rule 5 draft roster IF no Ramon Laureano type trades are made between now and 11/20/18 (the day Rule 5 rosters are set).

The players in red font are currently NOT on the 40-man roster and the number is the prospect ranking in the Astros system. This brings the roster to 38 which leaves limited room for Free Agent signings.

Larry 4.PNG

Also, the top prospects such as Whitley, Alvarez, Martin, Beer, and Bukauskas are not on the projected 40-man roster. It is highly possible at least one if not more of these players will be added to the roster in 2019. Before we move forward, it is critical to understand there are only one or two roster spots even available to add a free agent this offseason.

MLB Free Agents

Earlier we said Catcher, First Base, Left Field, and possibly one Starting Pitcher are the biggest needs this offseason.

Catcher- Currently the Astros have three internal options (with 2018 stats per Fangraphs and 2019 projections)

Larry 6.PNG

None of these options inspires confidence. Starting Catcher is a HUGE hole for the 2019 Astros. Any of these CAN be a backup for this team. What are the viable options for a starter?

Best Available via trade

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The Astros fan base has clamored for Realmuto for a year now. He is salaried controlled for two more seasons. The Marlins have multiple needs. Using the same ranking system we did to evaluate the Astros roster earlier (10 is the top 3 teams at the position, and 1 is the bottom 3 at the position), this is how the Marlins rank and the potential tradeable assets from the Astros who could be offered.

Larry 7.PNG

To simplify the analysis here, the Steamer600 projection from Frangraphs.com projects a player into a full-time starter role and projects their full-season value. The Astros are highly unlikely to offer Tucker nor Whitley. However, you can see how many players the Astros MIGHT consider tradeable would be and upgrade for the Marlins in 2019; and as they develop, their projected WAR would also rise. What if the Astros offered Stubbs (1.4), Reed (-0.1), Alvarez (1.7), Bukauskas (1.2), and McCurry (0.2) for Realmuto (3.7)? Should the Astros give up that much for two guaranteed years of Realmuto?

Best Free Agent Options

There are likely three options for a free agent Catcher. Shown here are their stats in 2018, their Fangraphs Depth Chart projections for 2019. Also shown here are several sources projecting what their contracts will be and an average of these projections.

Finally, a “Value Assessment” is done. This is asking how much is each WAR likely going to cost the Astros. Obviously, the smaller the number; the better the value for the Astros.

LArry 8.PNG

This would indicate Grandal and Ramos are the best investments. I believe the Astros will sign one of these two rather quickly or they will get a more cost-effective contract with Maldonado (2 yr/$8MM total.) I believe the Astros will sign a catcher vs. trading for Realmuto.

As for the other positions of need, First Base and Left Field, I do not believe the Astros will sign a top Free Agent, at least not until February.

Next time, we will address what some of the options are at Starting Pitching now with McCullers out all 2019.

Check out the other parts of the series below.

Astros – The Off-Season Strategy Session - Part 1

Astros – The Off-Season Strategy Session - Part 2

***Stats from Baseball-Reference, Sportrac, and Fangraphs***

Astros – The Off-Season Strategy Session - Part 2

Contract decisions - who are the free agents leaving, option opt-ins/ outs, arbitration, and qualifying offers

In some ways, this article could come before the 2019 roster projection one. In either case, at the end of the 2018 season, the Astros front office will have free agents leaving with qualifying offers to offer, contract options to decide, and arbitration decisions to make.

The following players (with 2018 salaries) are now Free Agents, and some will receive a qualifying offer ($17.9MM for one year) to stay for one more year:

- Dallas Keuchel ($13.2MM)

- Charlie Morton ($7MM)

- Marwin Gonzalez ($5.12MM)

- Evan Gattis ($6.7MM)- not offered

- Tony Sipp ($6MM)- not offered

- Martin Maldonado ($3.9MM)- not offered. Potential to resign as a Free Agent

The total 2018 salary of these players was $41.92MM. This will come off the books.

Per MLB.com regarding qualifying offers

If the team that loses the player did not receive revenue sharing and did not exceed the luxury-tax salary threshold the previous season, its compensatory pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B (usually about the 75-80 picks). The value of the player's contract doesn't matter in this case. The 12 clubs that fall into this category are the Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, White Sox, and Yankees.

This would mean the Astros are likely to add one additional draft pick in the 75-80 pick range.

The Astros front office also has to decide whether to exercise options on the following contacts (these are complete):

- Brian McCann ($11.5MM net)- $15MM vesting option did not vest and the team did not pick up the option. He is now also a Free Agent. There was no way the Astros would retain McCann at the $15MM contract price. Many believe McCann may want to return to the Atlanta Braves where he began.

- Will Harris ($2.8MM)- $5.5MM team option not exercised but still eligible to be offered arbitration and retained.

McCann’s $11.5MM of 2018 salaries will come off the books. We will hold Harris’s contract for the arbitration section.

The following players are eligible for Arbitration and their projected arbitration amounts per rosterresource.com (2018 salary)

- Gerrit Cole- $13.1MM ($6.75MM)- offered and potential to negotiate a long-term contract

- Roberto Osuna- $6.5MM ($5.3MM)- offered and potential to negotiate a long-term contract

- Colin McHugh- $5.4MM ($5.0MM)- offered

- Carlos Correa- $5.1MM ($1.0MM)- offered and potential to negotiate a long-term contract

- Lance McCullers- $4.6MM ($2.45MM)- offered

- Will Harris- $3.6MM ($2.8MM)- might not be offered due to roster space

- Ryan Pressly- $3.1MM ($1.6MM)- offered and potential to negotiate a long-term contract

- Brad Peacock- $2.9MM ($2.44MM)- offered

- Jake Marisnick- $2.4MM ($1.9MM)- probably offered

- Chris Devenski- $1.4MM ($0.6MM)- probably offered

Essentially, I am assuming all of these players, except Harris, will be offered arbitration. The total 2018 salary here was $29.84MM. The projected 2019 salaries are $44.5MM.

Therefore, after all of these moves the

- Astros net losses are Keuchel, Gonzalez, Morton, Gattis, Sipp, Maldonado, Harris, and McCann

- The total salary off the books is $83.26MM

- The total arbitration expenses for 2019 is $44.5MM

Next, we will start the process of managing the 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 draft.

Read Part 1 here.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference, Sportrac, and Fangraphs***

Astros – The Off-Season Strategy Session - Part 1

It is the offseason. When every hardcore baseball fan transforms from Manager of the Year (in their mind) to Executive of the Year (again in their mind.)

I am no different. In fact, the boys at “Talking Stros” know me as LarrytheGM because this is my time of the year where I have the plan to restore the Astros to the rightful place atop the baseball world.

This year, rather than fill your Twitter feed with ideas, we will submit them for the record here at Houston Preeminence. Hopefully, this will serve as your roadmap and guide until pitchers and catchers report in February. Here, I am released from the tyranny of 280 characters, so buckle in for deep analysis here.

My passion is our team- the Astros, so let us take this systematic approach to go through the decisions already made and the decisions ahead:

  1. Review the strengths and relative weaknesses of this roster and what are the priorities for an upgrade
    1. Looking backward at 2018
    2. Projecting forward in 2019
  2. Contract decisions - who are the free agents leaving, option opt-ins/ outs, arbitrations, qualifying offers
  3. Rule 5 draft and the roster- Who will be on the 40-man roster?
  4. MLB Free Agents
    1. What are the biggest needs?
    2. Who can the Astros REALISTICALLY resign
    3. Who the Astros should target to sign and why
  5. Payroll Management- what does the likely payroll project to grow to over the next 3-4 years
  6. What does the LarrytheGM Astros 2019 roster look like
    1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this 2019 roster
    2. What are the key contingencies to reinforce the potential weaknesses
  7. Predictions for LarrytheGM 2019 Astros

The following sections will serve as your roadmap to the offseason and help you understand why the Astros are doing what they are doing.

This information is separated into two sections. Sections 1-4 are below. Sections 5-7 will be presented next week.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the 2018 roster

What if we could evaluate the Astros roster position by position to get OBJECTIVELY a sense of where the roster was strongest and weakest? My method evaluates the wRC+ each team accumulated at that position and rank that relative to the other teams in MLB. To do this, I used the Fangraphs.com output of team statistics by position in ranking to the other 30 teams. Players are sorted into their primary position for this analysis. For example, the Astros had 86 wRC+ from the catchers in 2018, and this was ranked 14th in the MLB.

Methodology note:

I will address a potential flaw in this analysis. The wRC+ stat does not account for the effect of defense on the value of payers at a position. I would prefer to use WAR and I will in the forward-looking 2019 analysis. WAR is a counting stat and the way Fangraphs sorts the data the Astros actually would rank low at Shortstop because the games Marwin Gonzalez and Alex Bregman played at SS are counted into their primary positions. Given this data sorting, I have chosen to use wRC+ to look back at 2018 and WAR for projecting 2019.

To simplify the value of each position, I took the ranking (14th for a catcher in the example) and reframed on a rating scale of 1 to 10 as such:

Larry 1.png

Therefore, the catching position would be scaled a 6. The table illustrates this wRC+ methodology for each position and for pitching based on ERA. For context, one can compare the Astros with the other LCS teams here, and you can see the 2018 Astros compare very favorably.

Larry 2.png

What is interesting to note is that the Astros had no REAL weaknesses. The lowest rating score is Left Field at 5. The other LCS teams all had at least one position that ranked in the bottom 3 in the MLB. This balance for the Astros helped make them an EXCELLENT regular season team and reflects the depth they had at all positions.

However, as we project forward to decide how to improve the team for 2019, this balance makes it somewhat challenging to decide what areas must be addressed first. If every position is average or above, how you take the average and make them better everywhere? THIS is the challenge the 2018 roster would provide us if we assumed EVERYONE would return for 2019. Since that will not happen, the next step is to project the relative performance by position in 2019 given who is committed to the roster currently.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the current projected 2019 roster

We will address the likely roster decisions in the next article, but for this analysis, we will utilize the projected Depth Chart rosters (under the team's tab) in the Fangraphs.com. These projections are very much fluid as teams make options decisions and either sign or release players. A similar ranking methodology will be deployed but using the projected WAR as the basis.

Larry 3.PNG

This analysis highlights that Catcher, First Base, and Left Field are the positions that project to lag at average or below. Again, the Astros roster projects to have no positions that are bottom of the league weaknesses. I am not positive I believe that.

Catcher- Projected currently as Stassi and Stubbs (backup). It is likely that the Astros will do SOMETHING to replace McCann. As it is today, I would consider the Astros catchers to be at or near the bottom of the MLB. This is a key priority for this offseason.

First Base- Projected as Gurriel and White (backup). As Gurriel ages his contract also contracts ($10MM in 2019 and $8MM in 2020). The playing time between Gurriel vs. White at 1B may shift more to White especially if Gurriel deploys more as a utility backup. More on that later.

Left Field- Projected as Kemp and Tucker (backup). I believe Kyle Tucker starts during most of 2019 to prove he is the top prospect and future star the Astros hope he is. Therefore, I expect the roles to be reversed here with Kemp playing a utility outfielder role or possibly packaged in a trade.

Almost shockingly, the Fangraphs projection still frames the Astros Starting Pitching (without Keuchel, Morton, and McCullers for about half the year) as the number TWO starting pitching staff. The projected staff includes Verlander, Cole, James, McCullers, Peacock, Valdez, Whitley, Bukauskas, and Rodgers. Clearly, they believe Josh James will be given every opportunity to succeed. Interestingly, McHugh in this projection lists still as a Relief Pitcher. I expect that will change. I believe the Astros will get at least one experienced pitcher to add to this group and the last Starting Pitcher will come from the list of the last 5 pitchers listed.

With the look back at 2018 complete and understanding what some project for 2019 in mind, let’s look at the overall likely roster changes for 2019.

Check back for part 2 soon.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs***