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The Astros are young. They’re convincingly-star-in-a-cable-series-about-high-schoolers young. They’re prepare-to-be-carded-for-the-next-ten-years-when-buying-beer young. They’re really, very young.

Recently acquired closer Ken Giles is only 25. Jose Altuve will be 26 in May. George Springer is 26. American League Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel is barely 28. Lance McCullers is 22. AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa is such a young 21 that his first ever beer came after the Astros' Wild Card victory over the Yankees. (His verdict? “It tastes bad.”) The projected starting lineup features just two 30-year-olds, Carlos Gomez and Luis Valbuena, both of whom are so newly 30 they’d be excused if they accidentally told strangers at parties that they’re still in their twenties. Evan Gattis, despite his impressive beard and stature, is somehow only 29. The Astros are young.

A lot of people can be young. Being young isn’t hard. We were all young once. Being young isn’t why we talk about the Astros the way we do. The Phillies are young. So are the Brewers. They probably won’t be very good this year or next. What makes us talk about the Astros the way we do, what makes us forgive their tanking and their apparent shenanigans with Brady Aiken, is that they aren’t just young. They’re good.

AL Team

Total Position Player WARP

Average Age

Toronto Blue Jays

29

29.31

Tampa Bay Rays

25.2

27.95

Boston Red Sox

22.2

28.44

Cleveland Indians

20.6

29.26

Seattle Mariners

20.4

29.06

Houston Astros

20.2

26.12

Los Angeles Angels

18.5

28.28

Texas Rangers

18.4

28.32

New York Yankees

17.8

29.17

Kansas City Royals

15

28.88

Detroit Tigers

14.5

28.71

Chicago White Sox

14.4

28.39

Baltimore Orioles

14.3

28.39

Minnesota Twins

13.6

26.41

Oakland A's

12.6

28.60

They’re sixth in projected position player WARP in the AL, and their position players have the youngest average age. Not just in the AL. In baseball. On average, they’re more than three years younger than the Blue Jays’ position players. They’re projected to score the second most runs in the American League at 749, behind the Blue Jays’ 766. They’re supposed to be very good, while being almost impossibly young. The Astros pitchers aren’t as likely to stare blankly at your 90s TV references. Their average age of 28.25 years makes them the seventh oldest staff in baseball and the third oldest in the AL; adding Doug Fister will do that to you. Still, their rotation has the sixth highest projected WARP in the AL.

Baseball always robs a few unlucky players of their durability every year, and age isn’t an amulet against injury. But being young often goes with being healthy, and even if the 25-man roster fails, the Astros have a very solid system to draw from. Michael Feliz, David Paulino, and Francis Martes are all MLB-ready, or a year away from being so, and A.J. Reed waits just off camera.

Perhaps nowhere is the combination of very young and very good more evident than in Correa. He’s younger than six of the 10 prospects to make our Astros Top 10. He hit 22 home runs and had 45 extra-base hits in 99 games last year. He’s not the first player in MLB history to hit at least that many home runs and extra-base hits in his age-20 season, of course, but the names ahead of him—e.g. Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle and Alex Rodriguez—all had at least 40 more games than Correa did. He’s the only shortstop other than Rodriguez to slug .500 in his age-20 season. His defense isn’t worldbeating but he has his share of highlight throws.

Perhaps in no other game did we see Correa’s high highs and limited limitations more than in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Royals. After being hit by a pitch in the first inning, he went 4-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI, before committing a crucial, game-tying error in the eighth. Any individual game of Correa’s won’t be perfect, but many of them will be spectacular. He’s the kind of player who will torture fans of other AL West teams, not least because they’ll want to hate him, but he’ll prove too affable and too talented for them to do so with any conviction.

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If last season saw the Astros slightly ahead of schedule in their quest for American League dominance, this season the team seems poised to build on 2015’s success and run wild with it. If long years of baseball experience have taught us that great leaps forward, by either a team or a player, are accompanied the next year by some regression to the mean, the Astros appear ready to buck that trend. What we appear to have in Houston is less a fluke than the culmination of Houston’s long, much publicized #process. That process has manifested in a team projected for 88 wins, tied for third with Boston in the PECOTA standings behind Cleveland’s 92 wins and Tampa Bay’s 91. It’s a modest increase from their 2015 record of 86, but it’s projected to be good enough for an AL West victory. Barring catastrophic injury in multiple places, or terribly bad luck, this looks like a playoff team. That’s what happens when you’re very good, and very young.

Thank you for reading

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boatman44
3/11
Hey Meg, they are very young and VERY good for the most part, and I have a betting slip at 16/1 that say's they will win the world series in 2016, and start a dynasty, far from New York, for the next five years or so :)
oxandmoon
3/12
There's something in this article, looks like a video, that I can't see in any browser I've tried (Chrome and Edge). It shows up like this: I'm pretty sure my browsers do support iframes, so I thought I'd let you know.
oxandmoon
3/12
Actually, it shows up fine in the above comment, just not in the article. Weird.
buddha
3/13
Same for me, definitely weird.
TexasDeac10
3/29
Apparent shenanigans with Brady Aiken? I think it's safe to say they were ultimately vindicated in that whole drama.