HOUSTON -- The Astros, led by American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Jose Altuve, had the most potent offense in baseball last year, leading the Major Leagues in runs, hits, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging while striking out fewer times than any other club.The bad news for
HOUSTON -- The Astros, led by American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Jose Altuve, had the most potent offense in baseball last year, leading the Major Leagues in runs, hits, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging while striking out fewer times than any other club.
The bad news for the rest of the AL is that the entire lineup returns intact this year and comes with a year of experience for younger players like Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The only key contributor the Astros lost on offense was Carlos Beltran, whose playing time was reduced as the season progressed.
The Astros are loaded and ready to mash their way to a repeat in 2018. MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineup of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the defending World Series champions might stack up:
LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
George Springer, CF
Alex Bregman, 3B
Jose Altuve, 2B
Carlos Correa, SS
Yuli Gurriel, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Evan Gattis, DH
Marwin Gonzalez, LF
Brian McCann, C
Depth. Power. You name it. The Astros were relentless offensively for most of the season. Ten players had at least 50 RBIs and eight hit at least 15 homers, both franchise records. They are the fourth team in history to have 10 players reach 50 RBIs.
What's more, the Astros finished the regular season with nine players with an OPS+ of 100 or better (minimum 325 plate appearances), becoming just the ninth Major League team in history to do that. When Gonzalez, who led the team in RBIs, can hit eighth, that's as potent as it gets.
Gonzalez got the majority of playing time in left field in the playoffs last year, but ideally he's moving around the diamond on a daily basis on the infield. When Gonzalez is playing the infield -- he's a natural shortstop -- and giving Correa, Altuve, Bregman and Gurriel breathers, there are questions about production from left field.
Derek Fisher, who started 20 games in left field last year as a rookie, could get a longer look this year, along with Tony Kemp and Colin Moran, both of whom are infielders by trade. Jake Marisnick, who had a breakout season on offense before getting hurt late in the year and missing the playoffs, could also factor into the left-field plans.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
The Astros could carry three catchers next season, which could open a door for Max Stassi to make the team. McCann returns as a starter at catcher and will be backed up by Evan Gattis, who will get plenty of time at designated hitter, especially with Beltran's departure.
Houston could still bring in another bat to compete for left field/DH, but it really doesn't have to do anything offensively. There's enough firepower and depth to make this the most powerful lineup going into 2018.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.