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Who could breakout for the Houston Astros in 2017

Ranking the top players for the Houston Astros with breakout potential in 2017

Heading into 2017, the stars on the Astros are all expected to have solid seasons and carry the club in a year where the team expects to be pushing for an AL West division championship.

While it is important for guys like Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer to be themselves and produce the way they are capable of producing, the Astros will also need young players to step up in order to get the team over the hump and contend for a World Series.

In this article, there are eight young players who, if given the chance at the major league level, can rise above expectations and breakout for the Astros in 2017. So, without further ado, let's get right to the list: 

8.) Preston Tucker

http://www.scout.com/player/157289-preston-tucker?s=278

After a promising rookie campaign in 2015, Tucker regressed in a major way last season. On the year Tucker received less playing time and played worse, and with the Astros' increased depth Tucker finds himself in a precarious position.

Tucker has little defensive value, so if he wants to find himself apart of the Astros short or long term plans, he'll need to produce with his limited at-bats.

Which isn't impossible. Tucker was extremely productive during his four years at University of Florida, and has proven himself at every level of the minors. 2017 is a big test for Tucker, and there is a small chance he becomes the breakout player many envisioned entering last season.

Tucker's 2017 Projection:

BA OBP SLG HR WAR
Zips .234 .289 .410 18 -0.2
Steamer .240 .294 .417 1 0.0

7.) Colin Moran

http://www.scout.com/player/158294-colin-moran?s=278

Moran did not impress in his 2016 rookie debut, but is again starting to prove why he was once heralded as one of the Astros' top prospects through Spring Training. In 41 plate appearance, Moran is leading the Astros in batting average, as he is hitting .389/.439/.611 with two homers.

Moran doesn't have a ton of power, but makes great contact on the ball and makes contact often. His defense is unspectacular, though he does have a strong arm.

It may be tough for Moran to find playing time behind a revamped roster, but his Spring Training performance definitely helps him out. If he does get a chance, he may prove to be a solid offensive prospect that many scouts saw in him when he came out of college.

Moran's 2017 Projection:

BA OBP SLG HR WAR
Zips .231 .285 .345 10 0.2
Steamer .237 .296 .346 1 0.0

6.) Tony Kemp

http://www.scout.com/player/130104-tony-kemp?s=278

Tony Kemp was not overly impressive in his 2016 rookie debut. Inconsistent playing time was at least partly to blame for Kemp's sub-par statistical season, and the depth chart hasn't exactly cleared up entering 2017.

What Kemp does have going for him is his versatility. While Jose Altuve is blocking Kemp from receiving playing time at his natural position of second, his speed makes him a useful backup outfielder/pinch-runner. 

Despite a lack of elite physical tools, Kemp has historically been very productive. He has over-achieved throughout his college and minor-league career, hitting for average while playing solid defense. Kemp lacks power, but has contact skills and has the ability to swipe bases. Playing time will be limited, but hopefully 2017 is the year Kemp finally brings his impressive production to the big leagues. 

Kemp's 2017 Projection:

BA OBP SLG SB WAR
Zips .247 .318 .337 18 0.2
Steamer .265 .332 .356 2 0.1

5.) Francis Martes

http://www.scout.com/player/201891-francis-martes?s=278

Though he was recently removed from the 25 man roster, Martes is going to get his first big-league shot at some point in 2017. And when he does, he'll need to impress. The Astros starting pitching staff is deeper than one would think, and with championship or bust expectations, Hinch likely won't give Martes an extraordinarily long leash as he acclimates to the big leagues.

When Martes is called up he'll need to bring his best stuff, and there's a good chance he does. Martes best weapons are his mid-to-high 90's fastball and power curveball, which he used to garner a 3.30 ERA (2.73 FIP) in 125 innings of work for the Double-A Hooks in 2016. In that time he fanned 131 batters while walking 47. 

However, he is still raw. Martes has considerable work to do on his command, ball movement, and secondary pitches, which hopefully he can work out in the minors. The Astros could use another big-time arm in the rotation, and hopefully Martes makes the most of his opportunity in 2017.

Martes 2017 Projection:

ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 WAR
Zips 4.60 4.43 7.49 3.98 1.2
Steamer 4.83 4.82 7.34 3.93 0.0

4.) AJ Reed

http://www.scout.com/player/178954-a-j-reed?s=278

When AJ Reed reached the Majors for the first time in 2016, things didn't go exactly as he'd hoped. He batted .164 in 141 plate appearances, adding 3 homers. He also struck out in over a third of his at-bats.

Reed looks to put that season behind him going into 2017, and though he won't start the season as an Astro, he'll get a shot to bounce back at some point next season. Reed is looking good so far in the Spring, batting .306/.444/.667 in 36 at bats thus far. He leads the team with 4 homers, and looks more poised, comfortable, and confident in the batting box than he ever did last season.

While Reed's value certainly took a knock last season, the pure and powerful stroke scouts fell in love with is definitely still there. I'm still hopeful he is the Astros' long-term answer at first, and hopefully he proves that this year. At the very least, I'd expect an improvement from last year's nightmare performance.

Reed's 2017 Projection:

BA OBP SLG HR WAR
Zips .241 .319 .439 23 1.3
Steamer .241 .318 .412 5 0.1



3.) Michael Feliz 

http://www.scout.com/player/201034-michael-feliz?s=278

Feliz has elite potential, but has become somewhat overlooked after a rough start in 2016. In his first full season with the 'Stros, Feliz struggled somewhat, putting up a 4.43 ERA on the year. However, the advanced stats showed a different picture, as his 13+ K/9,  3.24 FIP, 2.67 xFIP, and 2.54 SIERA are all quiet impressive for a player his age.  

With some better luck and another off-season to hone his skills. I wouldn't be surprised if Feliz ends up being one of the team's top relievers next season. With a 95 fastball Feliz projects as a solid starting or relieving prospect, but he will most likely start the season in the Astros' deep bullpen.

https://twitter.com/SamDykstraMiLB/status/841727773559398400

Feliz's 2017 Projection:

ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 WAR
Zips 4.38 3.93 10.09 3.46 0.9
Steamer 3.55 3.56 10.17 3.38 0.4

2.) Joe Musgrove

http://www.scout.com/player/157557-joe-musgrove?s=278

While Musgrove was impressive in his rookie season, I think he could really bust onto the scene in his sophomore campaign. In roughly 60 innings of work last season, Musgrove amassed a 4.06 ERA, while maintaining a healthy 3.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. 

Due to his low 90's fastball, projections and analysts alike see Musgrove as a league average starter, but I see more upside in him than that. Musgrove has a unique array of weapons, as his slider and one-seam sinker have an extraordinary amount of horizontal movement, while his fastball gets good vertical action.

If he can improve his already impressive command, there's no reason he can't put up top of the rotation stats without having insane strikeout numbers, similar to Astros' ace Dallas Keuchel.

Musgrove will start the season in the Astros' starting rotation, and will have high expectations entering his second season.

https://twitter.com/jakemkaplan/status/846036314562723844

Musgrove's 2017 Projection:

ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 WAR
Zips 4.29 4.06 7.88 1.48 1.8
Steamer 4.15 4.06 7.72 2.11 1.2

1.) Alex Bregman

http://www.scout.com/player/184114-alex-bregman?s=278

An obvious choice for our #1 candidate to be the Houston Astros' breakout star of 2017, Bregman has a chance to become one of the league's top young infielders in the upcoming season.

After a nightmarish 1-32 start to his Major League career, he rebounded nicely to put up a respectable 112 wRC+ on the season, hitting .264/.313/.478. Many young athletes would have struggled to handle the adversity that comes with performing poorly amongst high expectations, but Bregman showed impressive poise and leadership for his age.

Going into 2017, the question becomes just how good can Alex Bregman be? He already has top-notch skills and refinement for someone his age, yet he still has a lot of room to grow.

Many projection machines predict Breg to have a borderline HoF career, and hopefully 2017 is the start of a long and productive career for the former LSU Tiger.

Bregman's 2017 Projection:

BA OBP SLG HR WAR
Zips .266 .327 .448 18 3.1
Steamer .267 .330 .447 19 3.0

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