Astros Return MLB's Strongest Batting Lineup

(SportsRadio 610) -- No matter how you view the Astros' past trangressions, it is undeniable they return the strongest lineup in Major League Baseball.

Last season, the Astros led MLB in slugging and on base percentage. They also had the highest batting average, walked the most and struck out the least. 

Weaknesses among this group are hard to find. Alex Bregman, George Springer and Yordan Alvarez are among the league's best sluggers. Bregman is one of the most reliable batters to get on base. 

Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel are nightmares for most pitchers. 

Correa's ready to get back on the field.

Carlos Correa (@TeamCJCorrea) after another of his daily workouts is ready to rejoin his teammates & has a message for #Astros fans: “Thank u guys for your support.I know you guys are gonna be watching on TV. We’re gonna try to win another championship & bring it back to Houston”

— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) June 25, 2020

"It's about time we get to play baseball again. We miss it way too much," Correa told Mark Berman of Fox 26"I feel like the whole team has been staying ready. A lot of guys have been doing their work, staying ready like an offseason type of workout. These three weeks are going to be quick, but we're going to be ready."

Here is a refresher on the key pieces to baseball's most prolific batting lineup.

George Springer #4 of the Houston Astros hits a leadoff double against the Washington Nationals during the first inning in Game Six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas.Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

George Springer, OF

The free agent-to-be put up  a .591 slugging percentage, which was eighth in the league, just behind his teammate Bregman (.592).

Springer sets the tone for the Astros and is arguably the game's best leadoff hitter. Other than Bregman and Yordan Alvarez, Springer was most likely to get on base for Houston last season (,383). 

This could be the last season fans get watch Springer in an Astros uniform.

A huge pay day awaits him. Believe Springer as motivated as ever. 

Jose Altuve swings vs. the YankeesUSA TODAY Images

Jose Altuve, 2B

The 2017 American League MVP (legitimate, no asterisk) had possibly his best season at the plate in 2019. 

Altuve put up career highs in slugging, on base percentage and batting average. 

His reputation took a hit during the offseason because he became a primary face of the sign stealing scandal, despite evidence suggesting he was among the least involved of the relevant players. 

The buzzer-tattoo conspiracy, and Cody Bellinger erroneously suggesting Altuve stole the 2017 MVP from Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, have been a sidenote to the fact Altuve is still a boss at the plate.

 “José Altuve, that’s Mighty Mouse,” Dusty Baker said at the West Palm Beach, Florida training facility in February. “He’s a bad little dude. He’s one of the best players, I think, that I’ve ever seen. I was talking to him yesterday. I always wanted to win a batting title as a player. I came in third a couple of times and this dude has three batting titles.”

Alex Bregman home runUSA TODAY Images

Alex Bregman, 3B

The Baseball Messiah. 

If only Mike Trout didn't exist, this would be the reigning American League MVP.

That's because Bregman is as disciplined and as skilled as anyone at the plate.

Bregman tied with Bellinger to lead MLB in wins above replacement (values the number of wins a player is worth), and was second in offensive WAR.

Only Trout and Christian Yelich got on base at a higher percentage than Bregman. And just four players scored more runs than Bregman. 

Michael Brantley HomersUSA TODAY Images

Michael Brantley, OF

Like Springer, this could be Brantley's last season with the Astros. What a shame it would be, considering Brantley just signed a two-year deal in 2019 and Houston fell short of the World Series goal by just one game last season. 

Brantley was the left-handed bat the Astros needed before they found out how good Yordan Alvarez really is. 

So, they ended up with two strong left-handed hitters who contributed. 

Brantley's strongest season was in 2014, his first time as an All-Star with the Cleveland Indians. He also won a Silver Slugger Award that season.

But 2019 is arguably the second best campaign. 

Brantley knocked in 90 runs for the Astros (fourth on the team) and it was only the second time in his career with 90 or more RBI (97 in 2014).

At spring training in Florida, Springer talked about wanting to be more like Mike and sometimes shadowed him around the facility.

Carlos Correa HomersUSA TODAY Images

Carlos Correa, SS

Perhaps the Astros' most talented all-around player, Correa was limited to 75 games with nagging injuries. Correa suffered a fractured rib during a massage after a neck injury from spring training slowed his start to the season.

Correa has gained favor with Astros fans since becoming the defiant voice of the team in light of the sign-stealing scandal. No one will forget how he defended teammate Altuve against Bellinger on MLB Network.

Now, it's time to put that same energy into the field and at the plate. 

While he missed significant time in the regular season, Correa eventually put it together in the postseason with three home runs in the American League Championship and the World Series, and a walkoff double in game 2 against the Yankees. 

Correa said during spring training that he changed his diet, sleep and workout regimen so he could be more durable in 2020. He said he's in the best shape of his career and feels in control of his body.

"I never trained like this in the offseason, never eaten like this in the offseason," Correa said in February, before it was realized there would be a shortened season. "So I did everything right for me to go out there and play this whole year."

Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros hits a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the second inning in Game Seven of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas.Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Yuli Gurriel, 1B

The only Astro to bring in more runs than Gurriel last season was Bregman, who finished second behind Mike Trout in American League MVP voting. 

He is one of six Astros with a slugging percentage and OPS well over the league average.

Gurriel drove in at least four runs in each of the Astros' three postseason series last year. He's hit three home runs in the team's two World Series appearances since 2017.

I'll never forget him tying game 5 against the Dodgers with this incredible three-run shot. That game, which is one of the best in recent memory, was nowhere close to over. But it wouldn't have even started without that home run.
Like Springer and Brantley, Gurriel hits the open market after this season. This could be the last time Astros fans see the pineapple hairstyled Gurriel smacking baseballs over the fences at Minute Maid Park.

Yordan Alvarez #44 of the Houston Astros hits a single against the Washington Nationals during the second inning in Game Seven of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Yordan Alvarez, DH/OF

Alvarez, the reigning unanimous American League Rookie of the Year, was the biggest revelation for the Astros last year. 

Though his performance trailed off in the postseason, Alvarez is a promising young hitter. He set an Astros rookie record with 27 home runs last season.

The question about Alvarez, who turns 23 on Saturday, is whether his knees will allow him to play in the outfield, but if he can bring that ungodly .655 slugging percentage and 1.067 OPS the way he did in 2020, it bolsters the lineup to entirely different level.