Justin Verlander's lat. Yordan Alvarez's knee. There are already a couple of injuries for two of the Astros most important players and we haven't even gotten to March 15. While both appear to be relatively minor — the whole "abundance of caution" taking on a meaning outside the coronavirus — the great equalizer in all of sports is injury. Whole seasons can be won or lost based on the health of a roster.
The mental and emotional pressure on the Astros after this offseason's cheating scandal will already be immense. Lord knows they won't want to deal with physical problems as well. But, if we are watching anyone on the roster for serious concerns, these five top the list.
The Astros ace is facing an injury similar to 2015 which cost him the first two months of the season. Verlander is an innings hog who had his fewest innings pitched of his career in that season. The biggest concern is that his injury doesn't linger. If he needs some time off and it helps him to get and remain healthy for the rest of the year, great. Even with their lack of starting depth, the team can survive a handful of missed starts from JV. It's the reason the Astros should and likely will proceed with extreme caution when handling their most important pitcher.
Since we are talking about actually injured players, who else has been taken a little aback by the fact that a DH is having knee issues? For a guy that doesn't play in the field and someone who relies heavily on his power hitting, that is a significant red flag, particularly given his admission that it was a problem for him almost all of 2019. Alvarez rapidly became one of the team's most important hitters last season. They have the depth to manage without him for a while, but they will need him as they get deeper into the season.
Lance McCullers, Jr.
Perhaps no player on the Astros roster has provided a more frustrating glimpse of talent only to be shuttered by injury than McCullers. He has never pitched more than 128 innings and missed all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. For all of his impressive skills, particularly his wicked breaking pitch, it's his inability to remain healthy that has cost him and the team so dearly. With Verlander ailing and a lot of question marks already in the rotation, the Astros can't afford another injury to McCullers. And if he wants to remain a starter in the majors, neither can he.
No injury has ever been more bizarre-slash-hilarious than the broken rib via massage therapist Correa sustained in 2019. The Astros shortstop is one of the most talented young players in baseball, yet he has remained frustratingly injured throughout much of his career, slowing his much anticipated ascent. A healthy Correa gives the Astros loads of options both at the plate and defensively in the field. Another kooky massage injury, and Correa's days with the Astros could be numbered.
Altuve has been the most important Astros player for the past five years. Two seasons ago, he limped his way into the playoffs and played essentially on one leg. At 29, he remains in the prime of his career, but like so many Astros, the wear and tear from long playoff runs strung back to back will certainly take its toll eventually. Hopefully, that is still a few years away because the team with Altuve is so much better than the one without him. He simply has to remain healthy for the Astros to compete.