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
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
Tucker's 2017 Projection:
7.) Colin Moran
Moran did not impress in his 2016 rookie
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:
6.) Tony Kemp
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
Kemp's 2017 Projection:
5.) Francis Martes
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
Martes 2017 Projection:
4.) AJ Reed
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
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
Reed's 2017 Projection:
3.) Michael Feliz
Feliz has elite
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.
Feliz's 2017 Projection:
2.) Joe Musgrove
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
If he can improve his already impressive command, there's no reason he can't put up
Musgrove will start the season in the Astros' starting
Musgrove's 2017 Projection:
1.) Alex Bregman
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
Bregman's 2017 Projection: