Houston Astros

Manager: Bo Porter
Stadium: Minute Maid Park
2008 Record: 86-75 (4th in AL West)
Team Page | Roster | Schedule

LINEUP

08: Batting | Runs (11th in NL)
PLAYER B POS
Michael Bourn L CF
Kazuo Matsui L 2B
Lance Berkman B 1B
Carlos Lee R LF
Miguel Tejada R SS
Hunter Pence R RF
Geoff Blum B 3B
Ivan Rodriguez R C
OFF THE BENCH
Darin Erstad L OF
Jeff Keppinger R INF

PITCHING

08: Pitching | ERA (8th in NL)
ROTATION T POS
Roy Oswalt R SP1
Wandy Rodriguez L SP2
Brian Moehler R SP3
Mike Hampton L SP4
Russ Ortiz R SP5
BULLPEN
Doug Brocail R Setup
LaTroy Hawkins R Setup
Jose Valverde R Closer
 
Hard to imagine a team being worried about the loss of a .218 hitter, but the Astros know that no one handles a pitching staff better than brainy catcher Brad Ausmus, who signed with the Dodgers after eight seasons in Houston. "Brad was the guy who had his plan in place the night before the next game," says ace Roy Oswalt. Considering that the in-house options to replace Ausmus -- Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles -- have scant experience and a .217 combined BA in their brief careers, it's not surprising that the Astros signed probable Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, based on his strong performance for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. At age 37, Pudge has seen his receiving skills decline (Yankees pitchers Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte preferred throwing to Jose Molina last year), but he'll outhit Ausmus, and the Astros expect him to help guide a rotation that includes Brian Moehler, Mike Hampton (yes, that Mike Hampton) and Russ Ortiz. If Rodriguez can make that group look good, he should be a lock for Cooperstown.
-- Tim Kurkjian

ESPN The Magazine's Astros preview Insider

PROSPECTS

HITTER TO WATCH:

Chris Johnson could end up with time at third base if Jeff Keppinger doesn't work out, but there's no impact at all among high-level bats in Houston's organization.

PITCHER TO WATCH:

Bud Norris sits in the mid-90s, touching 98, with a slider up to 90 mph, so while he doesn't have great command he will strike some hitters out just on raw stuff.
-- Keith Law, Scouts Inc.

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SPORTSNATION

How will Ivan Rodriguez do in Houston? Can Miguel Tejada be one of the top shortstops in the National League? Has Lance Berkman joined Albert Pujols as one of the league's best first baseman? Register your vote.

NL poll page

Featured Comment

Ian Kennedy finishes the year on an NL team.


Vicious_ Vilma_51

National League fan previews

FANTASY

SLEEPER

Wandy Rodriguez has been a dominant-at-home, stink-on-the-road pitcher for much of his early career. He balanced his performance in 2008, to the point where he's more trustworthy on an every-start basis. All he needs to do to break out is stay healthy.

BUST

Miguel Tejada had 13 home runs and a .729 OPS in 2008, his worst numbers in either category since 1998. Tejada will turn 35 in May, there are steroid questions surrounding him and all his numbers are trending downward. Don't pay for past accolades.
--Tristan H. Cockcroft

INJURY TO WATCH

Lance Berkman. The Astros' first baseman began experiencing soreness in his left (throwing) shoulder in February. As recently as last week he was having trouble lifting his hand above his shoulder. The team is calling it biceps tendinitis and Berkman is brushing it off as no big deal. They had better hope it is just a little spring training aggravation and not a sign of something that continues to flare up during the season. After all, those chronic, nagging injuries generally start out as small annoyances. Only time will tell, but there is reason to keep a close watch on Berkman's status; it may become more of an issue if he cannot get back to the field before the season starts.
-- Stephania Bell

MORE

30 Questions: What can we expect from a posthype Hunter Pence?

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

  • Jayson Stark

    Stark
    No. 25 overall
    (5th in
    NL Central)

  • Tim Kurkjian

    Kurkjian
    No. 20 overall
    (4th in
    NL Central)

  • Buster Olney

    Olney
    No. 28 overall
    (6th in
    NL Central)

  • Rob Neyer

    Neyer
    No. 29 overall
    (6th in
    NL Central)

  • Jim Caple

    Caple
    No. 25 overall
    (5th in
    NL Central)