People are expecting the Astros to be better this year! Maybe a lot better! But still very bad. But I look at the numbers, and with nearly every one in the projected starting lineup, I see glimpses of potential. What would this Astros lineup look like if everything that could go right went right - the absolute best case dream scenario? Pretty good, if you ask me.
Although this will be based on actual numbers, this is not analysis. This will not be a correct assessment of park effects, regression to the mean or adjusting for sample sizes. I AM NOT SAYING THIS WILL HAPPEN. IT ALMOST DEFINITELY WON'T HAPPEN. But it might happen. Plus, what else am I going to write about. Trucks?
C- Jason Castro
This is the only position that doesn't require a lot of dreaming. Castro put up a .276/.350/.485 line last year, in 120 games, good for a 130 wRC+ and 4.3 fWAR. Best case scenario is Castro does not regress, and stays healthy all season. Give him 140 games at those rates, he is a near 5 win player. That'll do.
1B - Jesus Guzman
I believe Jesus Guzman is the best bet to put up a great season at 1B for the 2014 Astros. His best case scenario simply assumes he hits as well, or better, outside of PETCO, as he he did last year. His home numbers last year were atrocious, with a 37 wRC+. Away from PETCO, however, he mashed to the tune of .279/.339/.526, good for a 140 wRC+. The Astros play precisely 0 games in PETCO in 2014. As long as he is not a complete butcher at first, that should be good for another 4 wins.
2B - Jose Altuve
Jose Altuve did not progress like I expected last year, and actually took a step back. However, he really had two very different seasons. Good beginning and end, and a bad middle. From the beginning of the season to May 13, 38 games, he hit .333/.371/.444. On May 13, he collided with Paredes, and missed a couple games. After his return, from May 18 to August 31, 87 games, he hit .237/.272./.296. Then, in September, he hit .357/.378/.461. If we assume the beginning and end were a fair representations of his abilities, and Paredes was responsible for the middle, we can imagine Altuve with a 120-130 wRC+ during a Paredes free season. Jason Kipnis's 4.5 WAR would be a fair ceiling for that kind of year.
SS - Jonathan Villar
I thought this one was going to be tough. But, it turns out, if you ignore enough tenants of statistical analysis, things get a little easier. Villar hit primarily in the leadoff spot in 2013 and hit an abysmal .212/.294/.274 in his 168 PA at that position. However, in all other batting positions, he hit .278/.338/.370 (over only 73 PA, but still). That's roughly league average. With Fowler on board, he won't need to bat leadoff, and I think we will all take league average offense from our shortstop as the weak link on the team.
3B - Matt Dominguez
Did you know that in the second half of 2013, Matt Dominguez hit .260/.323/.430, good for a 109 wRC+?The main differences between the first and second half were an unsustainably low BABIP of .235 regressing to a more normal .280 and a doubling of his walk to 7%. An entire year of that sort of production from an elite defender? Another easy 4 win season.
RF - George Springer
George Springer's wRC+ ticked up from 174 at AA to 175 at AAA last year. I see no reason why it can't tick up to 176 at the majors this year. Incidentally, that will match Mike Trout's 176 from last year. Will he also match Trout's 10.4 win season? Perhaps....
CF - Dexter Fowler
Would it make sense to suggest that Dexter Fowler will hit like he hit in Coors, despite no longer being in Coors, after doing the exact opposite with Jesus Guzman? Of course it does. Fowler will hit .311/.396/.478, for a 117 wRC+ and will out WAR Adam Jones.
LF - Robbie Grossman
I believe in Robbie Grossman. So, maybe the .413 BABIP which led to his .322/.351/.466 line upon his return to the majors is due for a regression, but maybe not this year. Have you ever considered that? If Chris Johnson can carry a .394 BABIP all the way to a 127 wRC+, why not good ol' Bob?
DH - Chris Carter
The Astros will concoct an elaborate ruse to convince Carter that every game is a road game. Everyone in the city will be in on it. The Truman Show will have nothing on the subterfuge that goes into convincing Carter that he is not in fact playing in Houston for 81 games. He will respond by matching his road line of .279/.360/.565 (153 wRC+) for the full season. He will finish 4th in the MVP race, behind Springer, Trout and Cabrera.