MLB Houston Astros

Top 5 Biggest Questions Facing 2014 Houston Astros

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Houston Astros' Question Marks

Troy Taormina - USA TODAY Sports

It’s no well-kept secret that the Houston Astros aren’t exactly on the top of the baseball world. There are plenty of areas that the Astros need to improve on before they can even start to think about competing into October baseball.

That being said, the Boston Red Sox went from the bottom to the top in one year, so the possibility is out there and very possible.

Obviously no one is going to come out and anoint the Astros as World Series favorites just because the Red Sox pulled off the unlikely feat this year, but the Astros are definitely going to do everything in their power to be as competitive as possible as soon as possible.

Jim Crane has already committed to this game plan, as he’s put forth a very large budget for the young and growing Astros.

The talent pool for the Astros is very promising, but they are still young. If the goal of the organization is to compete as soon as possible, they need to not only fill the holes but repair the broken pieces within the organization. They’ve already been putting in the work to get good quality coaches to guide the young team going forward, now they just need to put everything together and mesh as a team.

Looking at 2014, there are a lot of pieces and cogs within the machine that need to be fixed or replaced. So here are the top five biggest question marks facing the Houston Astros going into the 2014 season.

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5. Chris Carter

Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros put a lot of faith in Chris Carter in the 2013 season, as he was playing just about every day. His strikeout totals were record-worthy and his batting average rarely touched .220. Obviously, that kind of production won’t have any place on an Astros that hope to compete in the playoffs within a few years. If he can’t put it together in 2014, something has to change.

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4. Confidence

Troy Taormina - USA TODAY Sports

The fear arose last year that throwing up consistent losses day in and day out would wear down the confidence of the young core of players that had become every day players. Some players fizzled towards the end of the year, but guys like Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer continued strong until the end.

But that was for less than half a season. Given an entire year of questionable success, it will be key that the young players on the team not lose confidence going forward.

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3. Strikeouts

John E. Sokolowski - USA TODAY Sports

The jury is still out on hitting coach John Mallee. His unenviable position is hard to judge based on last years results. Given a team of young players and strikeout happy veterans, it’s almost impossible to fix in one year. But if 2014 shows no better results in the strikeout category, something has to be fixed, and it may have to start with Mallee.

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2. First Base

H. Darr Beiser - USA TODAY Sports

This could have been ‘Jonathan Singleton’ instead of ‘First Base,’ since it literally all hinges on Singleton’s success at the professional level. Hopefully he can produce given the huge amount of faith the Astros have put in him and not turn out like Brett Wallace who could just never put it together. If Singleton doesn’t work out, a newer, long-term solution needs to be found.

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1. Bullpen

Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports

Everything about the Astros 2014 season hinges on the bullpen. Their bullpen numbers were atrocious in 2013, as they held down dead last in just about every statistical category. So obviously something has to give. Just about anything would be an upgrade, but it has to be a long-term solution, not just a temporary fix. Therefore, any pitcher they snap up out of free agency as a reliever should treat 2014 as an audition.