Evan Gattis, one of the Astros' key acquisitions so far this offseason, will be instrumental to the offense in 2015. Gattis, 28, has a strong split advantage against LHP, hitting .328/.548/.876 over 177 PAs, as compared to .241/.297/.469 against RHP. A powerful, feast-or-famine type offensive player, Gattis struck out 97 times in 108 games in 2014. Adding him to an offense already filled with strikeout-prone hitters (along with Chris Carter and George Springer) should push the team's K rate sky-high, but it also could result in a ton of home runs all season long.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
What can Keuchel do for his encore?
Dallas Keuchel was a revelation last season, emerging from obscurity to tally a 12-9 record and a 2.93 ERA - which is quite an accomplishment given the potent offenses in the A.L. He threw 200 IP last season with a league-high 5 complete games, so he's proven he can handle a heavy workload. As one of the Astros' premier starters, Keuchel can really put himself in the spotlight in the American League with another standout season - something he seems capable of, considering last season's success.
Jim Mone/Associated PressJim Mone
Meet the new boss
In A.J. Hinch, the Astros have a new manager with a limited track record of MLB experience. Throughout parts of 2009 and 2010, Hinch coached to a 89-123 record before being fired by Arizona in 2010. Hinch moved on to San Diego, where he was the VP of Professional Scouting under GM Josh Byrnes until the Padres hired A.J. Preller at the end of the 2014 season. With the Astros in a transitional period, how Hinch handles the balance of a team heavy on youth will be a key to watch as the season unfolds.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Will this be 'the year' for George Springer?
George Springer's rookie year in 2014 began with a lot of hype but fizzled out due to injuries that limited him to just 78 games. He mashed 20 home runs and 51 RBIs in that span, showcasing the massive power potential everyone hoped he'd have. However, that power was tempered by a huge strikeout rate: he struck out 114 times in just 295 official ABs. His defense was as inconsistent as his offense, as he'd make both brilliant plays and botch "easy" ones occasionally. There's reason to believe he'll continue developing in 2015, and if he does the Astros will have quite a useful young player on their hands.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Will Appel continue his maturation?
Phenom Mark Appel stumbled out of the gate in his first year in the minors in 2014, but wound up with some solid stats at Double-A Corpus Christi. While he's probably not in the Major League picture for 2014, you never know - young players can quickly make a name for themselves in the minors, as George Springer demonstrated. 2015 should be a big year for Appel whether or not he makes it to the Astros since, after all, he's considered a huge part of their future plans.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Valbuena & Straily: what will they provide?
Dexter Fowler was solid last year, but he was shipped to the Chicago Cubs for a pretty decent haul: starter Dan Straily and infielder Luis Valbuena. Straily showed promise with the Oakland A's in 2013 after blazing through the minors with an incredible strikeout rate, so if he's able to keep the ball down (and avoid the home run ball) he could be an asset for the rotation. Valbuena, meanwhile, is a versatile infielder whose primary position is third base. A streaky hitter, he finished .249/.341/.435 with the Cubs in 2014, but could possibly be inserted into a platoon with Matt Dominguez at third if that's how the Astros decide to utilize him.
Getty ImagesDavid Banks
Can Jose & the 'Stros make a move?
The A.L. West is one of the toughest divisions in the league. Last year's Astros team finished with a 19-game improvement from 2013's 111-loss team, and they're arguably better on paper right now than they were in '14. Any team with batting champ Jose Altuve (.341/.377/.453) on it has an automatic weapon, but the additions of Gattis, Valbuena and outfielder Colby Rasmus could help them get even better in 2015. However, the Oakland A's, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels are formidable foes, so the Astros can probably realistically hope for a fourth-place finish at best. But then again...you never know! The MLB can be an unpredictable sport.