J.A. Happ and the Rest of the Young Astros Ready To Grow Up in 2011

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J.A. Happ and the Rest of the Young Astros Ready To Grow Up in 2011
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Happ and Castro ready to lead the Astros into the 2011 season

The Houston Astros decided about halfway through last season that it was time to enter that period that no fan wants to hear, and that is rebuilding. The Astros decided to trade away the only remaining players from that 2005 team that made the World Series.

They decided to finish out the season with a lot of rookies and young players, but if the way the Astros finished last year is any indication of things to come, this team is ready to grow up quick and make some noise in 2011.

Within three days, the Astros traded Roy Oswalt to the Phillies for J.A. Happ and two other players. One of those other players was OF Anthony Gose who they quickly turned around and traded to Toronto for first basemen Brett Wallace.

Two days later, Lance Berkman was traded for two minor league players.  Then players like Chris Johnson, Tommy Manzella, Angel Sanchez and Jason Castro were called up to the big time. Before Astros fans knew what happened, they had almost an entirely different team.

At the start of August last year the Astros had a record of 45-59 and many people thought it would only get worse with the fact they basically had a minor league team wearing a major league uniform.

However, this team showed some talent and grit down the stretch and actually finished the season 32-27 from that point, including a four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. The way the season ended gives Astros fans hope for this coming season.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Can Brett Myers be the ace that the Astros need?

Now at this point they will not be competing for a World Series, but a third place finish in the NL Central with a record above .500 is not out of the question and this a brighter outlook than what many fans thought back at the end of July. It looks like the Astros have found a player that will secure the hot corner for years to come in Chris Johnson, who hit .308 last season with 11 HRs and 52 RBIs in 94 games.

They also have two players with great potential in Brett Wallace and Jason Castro who benefited from the playing time in the majors last season. Add in Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee with Michael Bourn leading off and wreaking havoc on the bath paths and the Astros have the potential for a solid batting lineup

The Astros have also been able to build a solid pitching rotation by adding a couple of young pitchers. They were able to trade for J.A. Happ and called up Bud Norris last year who will be paired in a rotation with veterans Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers.

Bud Norris finished strong last season going 6-3 since August, Wandy was consistent throughout finishing 11-12 with a 3.60 ERA and 178 strikeouts. The real surprise last year was Brett Myers who finished the year 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA and 180 strikeouts. Myers pitched well enough that the Astros rewarded him with a two-year extension.

Now this team has a lot of questions surrounding them.

Will the young players be able to continue to improve and develop while playing at a high level? Will Brett Myers be able to step up and be the ace of this rotation? Will Clint Barmes and Bill Hall be able to be able to hold down that middle of the infield? Can Carlos Lee still play in the outfield?

It is hard to say at this point, however, I think manager Brad Mills has a team that will play hard and compete. I also believe that the future looks much brighter than it did back at the end of July and the dreaded “rebuilding period” may be shorter than first thought for Astros fans.

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