In terms current talent — ability to win games and potentially reach the playoffs in 2010 and 2011, irrespective of contract situation — the Houston Astros rank in the bottom fifth. The FANS project them to win just 72 games, and other projection systems, CHONE, THT and CAIRO, similarly see them as a low-70s team, if not worse.
The talent on the current roster is underwhelming. There are probably only four players who can be considered solidly above average (projected to be worth over 2.5 wins): Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez. Berkman and Oswalt, 34 and 32, respectively, almost assuredly have their best years behind them and are more likely three- or four-win rather than five- or six-win players. Also Berkman might not even be ready for opening day, with upcoming surgery to remove loose particles from his knee. Pence is a good, three-win corner outfielder. Rodriguez had a great 2009 with a sub-four FIP and over 200 innings pitched. He is arguably the team’s best player and a four-win season is with in the realm of possibility. These four guys are good players, but none is a true superstar, and collectively they form too small a core of good players.
After those four players, Carlos Lee and Michael Bourn are both projected at about two wins each by CHONE, with the FANS a little more optimistic. With Pence they form an okay outfield. But after that there is little talent on the roster. Joining Berkman in the infield is all-glove, no-bat Pedro Feliz; not-much bat, not-much glove Kaz Matsui; and Tommy Manzella, who is projected to play just below replacement level. If Berkman misses some time he will be replaced by another near-replacement leveler Chris Shelton.
The back three-fifths of the rotation is slightly more inspiring. After Rodriguez and Oswalt the Astros will go with Brett Myers and two of Bud Norris, Brian Moehler and Felipe Paulino. As Carson pointed out Paulino and Norris pitched fairly well last year, with xFIPs of 4.10 and 4.38, respectively, and even with likely regression, they would form a not terrible back end of a rotation. But the Astros might go with Moehler, who is likely a worse pitcher. The bullpen, led by Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom, and bench are poor.
This is a team with just very little talent. The team lacks a top-tier superstar, has few solidly above average players, and is going to start too many at- or near-replacement-level players in 2010. There are few teams, maybe just one or two, with worse talent or a smaller chance at reaching the playoffs in 2010. And the talent on the team in the second half of 2010 and 2011 could be even worse as a trade of Oswalt or Berkman, or both, is not a bad idea – except for the meddling owner may not allow it.
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