5 Houston Astros with a Chance to Make the Playoffs as a 'Stro

Jake Lapin@lapin_62094Correspondent IJuly 24, 2013

5 Houston Astros with a Chance to Make the Playoffs as a 'Stro

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    The Houston Astros may be in the cellar right now, but they are rebuilding with the hope of making a playoff run in the next couple of years.

    They have a handful of prospects developing in the minors that could be called up soon. Some guys have already made their debuts and have done quite well, such as shortstop Jonathan Villar and pitcher Jarred Cosart.

    The Astros do have a couple of key pieces in place. Catcher Jason Castro and second baseman Jose Altuve are both All-Stars. They are the current core of the team and should stick around for a while.

    The playoffs are not a realistic goal for Houston quite yet, but it will happen sooner than most people think.

    In 2003, the Detroit Tigers had one of the worst seasons in MLB history. With a record of 43-119, they just missed out on breaking an infamous record. By 2006, however, Detroit won the American League pennant and appeared in the World Series. The Tigers had a handful of players that were on both the 2003 and 2006 rosters.

    Bottom line, the Astros may be terrible this year—and possibly the year after that. However, Houston fans shouldn't give up just yet, because the Astros are making all the right moves to rebuild and get back to competing for a playoff spot.

    Here are five guys on the team now who should be around for better days in Houston. That means these guys are a part of the future and won't get traded for more prospects before then, like ace Bud Norris and closer Jose Veras.

5. Matt Dominguez

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    The Astros got Matt Dominguez in a trade with the Miami Marlins for Carlos Lee last year. He was immediately a highly ranked prospect in the Astros organization.

    Dominguez is best known for his reliable glove at third base. He is an above-average fielder in the hot corner.

    As of now, his bat is not as dependable as his glove. On the year, Dominguez is only hitting .230, but he has shown flashes of power. He has 12 home runs and 50 RBI, both of which are among the top half of third basemen in the American League.

    Dominguez is only 24, so he has a few years to develop his overall game with the Astros before they contend.

    He should be a consistent guy in the Astros' lineup for years to come. And in a few years, when the team makes a run, expect to see Dominguez over at third base.

4. Jonathan Villar

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    Jonathan Villar became an Astro after coming over in the Roy Oswalt trade of 2010. He was called up to play last Monday, and so far, he has done a great job. The Astros made room so that he is now the everyday starter at shortstop.

    Villar is a switch-hitter with tremendous speed. He has already wreaked havoc on the basepaths, including scoring the game-winning run from second base against the Oakland A's after a Derek Norris throwing error.

    He also has a solid glove at shortstop, which the Astros desperately need. Houston has the most errors in the entire league and needs another dependable fielder.

    Villar just turned 22 years old. He is still getting better, and now he has the opportunity to improve his game while playing in the major leagues. In a few years, he should be a key contributor for the Astros.

    With shortstop Carlos Correa, former No. 1 overall pick, still in the minors, Villar has a chance to prove himself now. He may not be the shortstop of the distant future, but he should still be a viable utility guy.

3. Jarred Cosart

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    Jarred Cosart was acquired by the Astros in the Hunter Pence deal in 2011. He only has two starts under his belt for the Astros, but the fans like what they've seen thus far. The hometown kid has exceeded expectations with two brilliant performances.

    In his debut, Cosart hurled eight scoreless innings, only surrendering two hits. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. To prove it wasn't a fluke, he tossed another gem in his first start in front of the home crowd. With his entire family in attendance, Cosart threw seven innings, allowing only one earned run.

    After two starts, he is 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA. It's too early to tell, but so far, this guy seems like the real deal. And he is only 23 years old.

    Cosart could be a big part of the Astros' future. He may even be the Opening Day starter next season. It's unlikely that he can keep this up, but he has shown promise to be a consistent starter for the Astros for the next several years.

2. Jason Castro

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    Jason Castro was the Astros' first round pick, No. 10 overall, in 2008. The catcher out of Stanford had a tremendous amount of potential, which he is finally capitalizing on this season.

    On the year, Castro is hitting .264 with 12 long balls and 33 RBI. He earned All-Star honors for his efforts, his first of potentially many more.

    It is rare to find a catcher with a strong bat these days, but Castro is a key hitter in the Astros' lineup. He has become a reliable everyday starter for the team, and his game is still developing. He's only 26 years old and has a lot of baseball left in him.

    Castro will be among the top Astros in a few years when they are out of the rebuilding stage and are trying to contend.

1. Jose Altuve

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    Standing at a mere 5'5", Jose Altuve is the face of the Astros organization. He was born to hit the ball, and that's what he's been doing the past few years for Houston.

    A former All-Star, Altuve leads the team in hits and batting average. He is hitting .282 with a .319 on-base percentage and also has a team-leading 24 stolen bases.

    The 23-year-old just signed a huge contract extension through 2017, as the Astros plan on keeping him around for a long time.

    Under Altuve's leadership, Houston is still far from contention, but when that day comes around, he will be the guy leading the charge. In fact, he has already been the Astros' best player for the past couple seasons.

    Again, the Astros are not ready to contend anytime soon, but when they are, you can count on Altuve to be an integral piece of the puzzle.