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Houston Astros

There appears to be no stopping the Astros. The defending World Champions didn't lose any significant pieces over the offseason and they added erstwhile Pirates ace Gerrit Cole to give Houston a three-ace hand on the mound with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. The only area of "weakness," if you can call it that, might be at DH, as Carlos Beltran has retired and projected everyday DH Evan Gattis is really best-suited to be a platoon player. The Astros have a lineup wherein George Springer is a leadoff man because there's so much power throughout; they have the league MVP in José Altuve to set the tone; and they have a starting rotation that could boast three 20-game winners. They're really good.

Of course, this is baseball, and anything can happen. There's precedent for teams to collapse under their own weight, sometimes a key injury can derail a whole season, weird things can occur. But it's a lot more likely that Houston will end up wining over 100 games again.

Players to Watch

verlanderJustin Verlander: Verlander was a perfect 5-0 with an ERA of, get this, 1.06 after being traded to the Astros from Detroit late last year. That level of performance surely isn't sustainable for the 35-year-old, but it doesn't have to be with the Houston lineup scoring in bunches for him. JV already has a spate of awards to his credit—Rookie of the Year (2006), Cy Young (2011), AL MVP (also 2011), ALCS MVP (2017), six All-Star nods—and probably isn't done winning 'em.

correa.pngCarlos Correa: The 2015 Rookie of the Year, Correa was an All-Star for the first time last year en route to an outstanding .315/.391/.941 season total. He hits for average, for power, chooses his pitches wisely, and plays a solid shortstop. Oh, and he's just 23, so he and José Altuve should be together in the Houston infield for years to come.

bregmanAlex Bregman: Being on a team with so many stars has cost Bregman some attention, but without many outside Texas noticing, the former first-round draft pick has become one of the most productive third basemen in the bigs. Last year's .284/.352/.475 line was good for a top-ten finish in all three categories at the position. He doesn't rate as highly on the defensive side, but at 24 has plenty of time to improve.

Manager

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A.J. Hinch: The former A’s, Tigers, Royals, and Phillies catcher has had substantially more success in his second managerial gig. After scuffling to a .420 winning percentage in less than two full seasons with the Diamondbacks, Hinch has gone 271-215 thus far with the Astros, including, of course, last year's World Championship. Baseball America's Manager of the Year finished third in the official AL Manager of the Year voting, likely because, come on, most managers could win with the team Houston fielded last year. But Hinch is well-liked and respected by his players and gets the most out of a highly talented group.

Familiar Face

No one on the Astros' roster nor on the coaching staff has played for Seattle. 

Franchise History

Houston Astros AL(2013 - present)
 
World Champions:2017
League Champions:2005
Division Titles:1980, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001

— Notes —

Yuri Gurriel: After recovering from hand surgery to remove his hamate bone, Gurriel will have to serve a five-game suspension for his behavior during the World Series. Gurriel mocked the Dodgers' Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish by making racist remarks and an offensive gesture that was caught on camera, and for good or ill, the Commissioner's office decided to allow him to continue playing in the Series and delay his punishment until the start of this season. For his part, Darvish didn't hold a grudge and accepted Gurriel's apology. "He played in Japan, and I have respect for him," Darvish said. "As citizens of the world, if we can learn from this and take a step forward, I think this could be a good thing."

Marwin González: González played six different positions last year (and in 2016), showing equal competence at all of them. He also switch-hits. One of these days he'll probably try pitching, and who wants to bet he won't strike someone out? He's the first player to appear in 19+ games at five different positions since Cesar Tovar in 1968.

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It is with an appropriate amount of sadness that we regretfully must announce that The Grand Salami will no longer publish a print edition starting with the 2018 season.
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