Today, we start our trek around the American League West, finding out a bit about the Los Angeles Angels competition in the division. We begin by looking at the Houston Astros, who are coming off their third consecutive 100 loss season and are in the midst of a major rebuilding project. Greg Thurston from Climbing Hal’s Hill was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
1. What move this offseason will make the biggest difference for the Astros in 2014?
I think the biggest move the Astros made this offseason is one that probably flew under the radar with most fans — the hiring of pitching coach Brent Strom. I believe the extremely young staff can benefit tremendously from the well respected guru of pitching mechanics.
2. What free agent do you wish the Astros had signed?
With the state of the rebuild as it is, I didn’t expect the team to go out and sign any big name free agents to long term contracts. The one guy I would have like to have seen brought back was Jose Veras. He did okay as a closer for the Astros last year and had only good things to say about the organization. Apparently the Astros valued Matt Albers, Jesse Crain, and Chad Qualls above Veras. Maybe they were right. I hope so.
3. Who is the biggest key to your the Astros success this year?
The biggest key to the Astros success this season could actually be Lucas Harrell. After an outstanding rookie campaign in 2012 Harrell had a dismal showing in 2013. He seemed to lose his confidence and even became a pariah in the clubhouse. Harrell started off the spring with three excellent outings before unleashing a giant stinker in his fourth. If Lucas can get his head screwed on and pitch like he did in 2012 the Astros have a chance to be better than terrible.
4. What are your expectations for the Astros in 2014?
My expectations are still pretty low. I don’t see the team breaking what is already a 3-year streak of 100-loss seasons. I do expect to see some improvement, especially on the pitching side. As for the lineup. The young guys that have been playing this spring will form a pretty interesting lineup in 2015 or 2016. But this year is probably going to be another rough one.
Thank you once again to Greg for answering these questions for us. Tomorrow, we will continue the series with a look at the Oakland Athletics.