Fred Faour: Spring training is almost here. This is a great chance to get your Astro on

DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 13: Hunter Brown #58 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the second inning at Comerica Park on September 13, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Fred Faour: Spring training is almost here. This is a great chance to get your Astro on

It’s almost time again.

Pitchers and catchers report for spring training on Feb. 15, and the games are roughly a month away. It was just a few months ago when the Astros won their second World Series in a dominant postseason run.

Not much has changed. Gone are ace Justin Verlander and GM James Click. Owner Jim Crane was making most of the decisions anyway, and whoever they name as GM will be just fine as long as Crane is around. Verlander is a loss – his Cy Young regular season was magnificent – but the Astros are loaded with young starting pitching. It appears Yuli Gurriel will not be back but adding 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu to replace him is an upgrade.

So how much different will these Astros be?

The pitching rotation goes six deep, even without Verlander. Between Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Lance McCullers, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, and Hunter Brown, the Astros will match up with anyone. The bullpen brings back just about everyone as well.

The lineup itself could be the best in the American League this year with the addition of Abreu and the return of Michael Brantley. With Jose Altuve, Jeremy Pena, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, Abreu, and Brantley in the top seven, this group will be a nightmare for pitchers. If Chas McCormick can lock down center field, then the lone weak link batting is Martin Maldonado at nine, and he should be much better this season after battling injuries in 2022. Alvarez could easily have an MVP-type season. Tucker as well. This lineup will be so much fun.

Does it mean they will win again? There are no guarantees. But the Astros should dominate the division and be a serious force in the playoffs once again.

If you have never been to spring training, this is the year to make the trip. It is a great opportunity to watch your team, get access you can never get in the regular season, enjoy Florida and simply relax. You will see some future major leaguers and can get an idea of who the next key Astros will be.

There is nothing like a good spring training trip. I once went every year, caught some other teams, and spent a great deal of time seeing future Astros stars. I would drive to Florida (with overnight stays both ways in New Orleans, of course), and it was a fantastic road trip, and I highly recommend it. Since the lineup is pretty much set, there won’t be a lot of drama with the Astros. But you will get a great chance to get up close and personal with the best team in baseball and have a blast doing it.

Make your plans now.

It’s almost time.

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