NL Central 2012 Preview: Looking Far(ther) Ahead

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6. Houston Astros

2011 Results: 56-106 (6th, Missed playoffs)

Key Losses:

RF Hunter Pence (trade)

CF Michael Bourn (trade)

2B Jeff Keppinger (trade)

Key Pickups

SS Jed Lowrie

SP Zach Duke

RF Jack Cust

The poor ‘Stros. Maybe 2013 will treat them better in the AL. The Houston Astros 2011 campaign was fraught with peril, but the Astro faithful had eyes on the horizon with a slew of young talent that was getting national attention despite (or in spite of) the team’s dismal overall performance.  But, in a not-at-all shocking turn of events the productive core of the team was sold away in mid-season, either to be merciful to Bourn, Pence, and Keppinger or because this is a team that is legitimately afraid of success. It was a promising team and the future looks bright for the farm system moving ahead, just don’t expect much from this team until after the all-star break at the earliest.

In 2012, the team is moving in a different direction. I won’t say it’s going down because, well, it can’t go any further south. And as you know, there is no such thing as retreat – you simply advance in a different direction. Houston is putting a lot of faith in the pick-up of Jed Lowrie from Boston – a highly touted prospect at one time who has not yet shown the breadth of his talent in the Majors. Pitchers Kyle Weiland and Zach Duke will be fighting for spots in the rotation all season. Jack Cust was brought on to give veteran help off the bench. Time will tell if the moves Houston made – small as they may be – are going to pan out this season, or if the team is simply cutting its losses in the Senior Circuit and looking to greener pastures.

2011 at-a-glance:

Batting Average – .258, 10th in MLB, 5th in NL

OBP – .311, 23rd in MLB, 11th in NL

SLG – .374, 24th in MLB, 13th in NL

OPS – .684, 24th in MLB, 13th in NL

ERA – 4.51, 28th in MLB, 16th in NL

Look for most of these numbers to stay about the same going into 2012. The team filled some of the holes left by their trades and free agency losses, but a lot of it is patchwork with younger and/or unproven talent. There are a few prospects on the pitching depth chart that may get a shot at the end of the year, but it will have little to no impact in my mind. A sad swan song for the 6th team in the NL Central.