Keuchel chosen as AL Gold Glove finalist

Southpaw trying to become first Astros pitcher to win award

Keuchel chosen as AL Gold Glove finalist

HOUSTON -- Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel is one of three finalists at his position selected Thursday for a Rawlings American League Gold Glove Award, joining Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.

The winners will be revealed at 6 p.m. CT on Nov. 4 on ESPN2.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Prospect Velasquez untouchable in AFL action

Houston pitcher throws four scoreless innings, allows one hit while fanning two in victory

Prospect Velasquez untouchable in AFL action

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Salt River Rafters are following a really simple recipe for success: Start a Houston prospect and win a well-pitched game. Vincent Velasquez did the trick Tuesday, following up a gem by Mark Appel with four shutout innings in a 5-0 victory over the Peoria Javelinas.

Velasquez, ranked Houston's No. 8 prospect by MLB.com, allowed just one hit against a star-studded lineup for Peoria. The Javelinas had three of the top 100 prospects ranked by MLB.com in Tuesday's lineup, but Velasquez and three Salt River relievers held Peoria to just two hits for the day.

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Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Astros one step closer to moving spring facility south

Palm Beach County approves financing plan for new complex

HOUSTON -- The Astros cleared a major hurdle in relocating their Spring Training operations to Palm Beach County, Fla., on Tuesday when county commissioners voted to approve a financing plan for a new facility the club will share with the Nationals. The teams have 90 days to find a location for the complex.

County commissioners voted, 5-2, to allocate $108 million in hotel tax revenue for the facility, which will cost $135 million to build. The Astros have two years remaining on their lease at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., and are aiming to hold their first Spring Training in south Florida by 2017.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Appel deals, continues scoreless streak in AFL

Astros prospect throws five shutout innings, now at 12 consecutive in Fall League play

Appel deals, continues scoreless streak in AFL

After a disappointing start to the season at Class A Advanced Lancaster, right-hander Mark Appel righted himself in the last month of the season at Double-A Corpus Christi. Now, in the Arizona Fall League, he is pitching like the dominant starter the Astros expected when they made him the first overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Monday, Appel, ranked No. 41 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, threw five scoreless innings to earn his first victory in the AFL, as Salt River defeated Peoria, 4-2.

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Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Astros expected to raise payroll in 2015

Houston looking to bolster bullpen, offense

Astros expected to raise payroll in 2015

HOUSTON -- The Astros took a 19-game step forward in 2014 when they won 70 games a year after winning only 51. While a similar leap next season would be welcome, just how much better the Astros will be in '15 depends on the offseason.

Astros owner Jim Crane said last week the payroll will likely rise by at least $20 million -- up from $45 million in '14 -- and it could increase even more now that the team's television stalemate with Comcast is nearing completion. The Astros were paid only half their television rights fees in '13 and none this year and have been in court trying to recoup some money as they work on a new TV deal.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Astros name four coaches to Hinch's big league staff

Astros name four coaches to Hinch's big league staff

The 2015 Major League coaching staff for new Astros manager A.J. Hinch is beginning to take form, after the team named four new members Friday.

Trey Hillman was named bench coach, Dave Hudgens as hitting coach, Gary Pettis as the third-base coach as well as outfield/baserunning instructor and Rich Dauer as first-base coach and infield instructor.

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Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Listach won't return as third-base coach

Listach won't return as third-base coach

Astros third-base coach Pat Listach was informed by general manager Jeff Luhnow on Friday that he will not return next season.

"I'm very disappointed not to be coming back," Listach told MLB.com. "I understand it's a business, but at the same time I'm disappointed."

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Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Appel dominates again in AFL start

Astros pitching prospect makes it nine scoreless innings for Salt River

Appel dominates again in AFL start

SCOTTSDALE -- The Salt River Rafters were credited with a 1-0 victory over the Surprise Saguaros on Tuesday night in the Arizona Fall League, but the win may as well have gone to the Houston Astros organization.

Astros prospects Mark Appel -- the 46th-ranked prospect by MLB.com and the No. 2 prospect in the Astros organization -- and Andrew Aplin led the way with strong pitching and timely hitting. And Tyson Perez, another Houston farmhand, sealed the deal by picking up the save with a scoreless ninth.

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William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lawless sees great things in Astros' near future

Former interim manager believes club can take another leap forward in '15

Lawless sees great things in Astros' near future

HOUSTON -- When asked if he would like seeing a rematch of the 1985 World Series between the Royals and the Cardinals, Tom Lawless didn't have to think too long for an answer.

"I wouldn't like that at all," said Lawless, who managed the Astros on an interim basis in September. "That would bring bad memories back."

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Astros decline Albers' option, cut down 40-man roster

Houston outrights Guzman, Owens while clearing space

Astros decline Albers' option, cut down 40-man roster

HOUSTON -- The Astros cleared some space on their 40-man roster Thursday by outrighting first baseman Jesus Guzman and left-handed pitcher Rudy Owens and declining the option on veteran reliever Matt Albers.

Meanwhile, right-handed pitcher Jorge De Leon was claimed off waivers by Oakland, leaving the Astros with 36 players on their 40-man roster. Clubs typically clear space on their 40-man roster this time of year so they can add some prospects they might be in danger of losing in December's Rule 5 Draft.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Dierker hosts golf tournament to raise money for at-risk kids

Dierker hosts golf tournament to raise money for at-risk kids

CYPRESS, Texas -- Larry Dierker made his Major League Baseball debut on his 18th birthday on Sept. 22, 1964 and struck out the Giants' Willie Mays in the first inning as a member of the Houston Colt .45s.

Dierker would go on to pitch 14 years in the majors until 1977, the first 13 years with the Colt .45s/Astros. He guided the Astros to the playoffs four of the five years he managed the club from 1997-2001, and he was a longtime broadcaster with the team.

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Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Chicago native Mallee leaves Astros for Cubs

Hitting coach was instrumental in helping young players such as Altuve, Carter improve

Chicago native Mallee leaves Astros for Cubs

HOUSTON -- When John Mallee was a young hitting coach in Class A in 1996, he was driving past Wrigley Field in his native Chicago and told his father he would one day coach on that field while wearing a Cubs uniform. The dream has come true.

Mallee, who spent the previous two years as Houston's hitting coach and helped Jose Altuve win a batting title this year, accepted the position to be the Cubs' hitting coach Thursday, giving him the opportunity to live near his home. Mallee is a Chicago native and his family lives in nearby northern Indiana in the offseason.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Orbit will join MLB All-Stars for Japan Series

Orbit will join MLB All-Stars for Japan Series

HOUSTON -- Astros mascot Orbit has been selected by Major League Baseball to join the All-Star team taking part in the 2014 Japan All-Star Series in November. He was the only mascot selected for the trip.

Orbit will join Astros second baseman and American League batting champion Jose Altuve, who is among the MLB All-Stars participating in the series. The MLB All-Stars will play a five-game series against "Samurai Japan," which is Japan's national team.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Appel sharp in Fall League debut

Top pick in 2013 fires three shutout innings; two D-backs prospects hit HRs

Appel sharp in Fall League debut

For right-hander Mark Appel, a trying start to his first full professional season has given way to the results expected from the top overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

Appel continued his turnaround Wednesday, as he threw three scoreless innings in his Arizona Fall League debut and Salt River defeated Scottsdale, 6-3.

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Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Accolades pouring in for hitting king Altuve

Astros second baseman's record-setting season recognized by club, CITGO

Accolades pouring in for hitting king Altuve

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve, two days removed from being crowned the first batting champion in Astros history, worked out Tuesday and said he wished he could have played another game. Even though the season is over, Altuve isn't slowing down.

The All-Star second baseman was the guest of honor at a private reception Tuesday night at Union Station, where he was presented with an award by CITGO in recognition for his 2014 season. In addition to leading the Majors in batting average (.341), Altuve led the Majors and set a team record with 225 hits and led the American League in stolen bases (56).

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hinch headed to Stanford Hall of Fame

New Astros manager won Pac-10 Player of the Year Award twice at university

Hinch headed to Stanford Hall of Fame

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch will be among seven former athletes and one coach inducted into the Stanford University Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday in Palo Alto, Calif.

Hinch, who was hired by the Astros last week, will be inducted with Nicole Barnhart (women's soccer), Notah Begay III (men's golf), Toi Cook (baseball and football), Laura Granville (women's tennis), Skip Kenney (men's swimming and diving coach), Anika Leerssen (sailing) and Heather Olson (synchronized swimming).

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hinch hits ground running in first day on job

Manager gets to know club staff, inspired by meeting with Altuve

Hinch hits ground running in first day on job

HOUSTON -- A.J. Hinch went right to work in his first day as manager of the Astros on Tuesday, a day that included a series of meetings, a tour of Minute Maid Park and a get-to-know-you session with All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve.

The work's only beginning for Hinch, who was hired Monday as the Astros' 18th manager. General manager Jeff Luhnow, speaking Tuesday night at a reception for Altuve at Union Station, said the 40-year-old Hinch certainly isn't without stamina.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Prospect Moran hitting stride at Astros instructs

Prospect acquired in trade impressing at Houston's instructs

Prospect Moran hitting stride at Astros instructs

Before the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Astros' shortlist for the top overall selection included North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran. The Astros scouts had evaluated Moran as one of the best college hitters in the country after he hit .345/.470/.544 with 13 home runs in 71 games for the Tar Heels.

The Astros ultimately took right-hander Mark Appel with the first pick and Moran went sixth overall to the Marlins.

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Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Broadcast pioneer Cardenas a Frick Award finalist

He created first Spanish-language MLB program, called Astros games for 16 years

HOUSTON -- Rene Cardenas, who created the first Spanish-language Major League Baseball broadcast in 1958 while with the Dodgers and later called games in Spanish for the Astros for 16 years, has again been named one of 10 finalists to be recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cardenas was named on Friday as a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He was also named a finalist for the award in 2010 and '11.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Crane provides updates on Astros at charity event

RICHMOND, Texas -- Astros owner Jim Crane headed to the suburbs on Monday morning for a very special round of golf.

The golf was for a good cause as the Astros held their Astros Foundation annual golf classic at Shadow Hawk Golf Club to benefit the Urban Youth Academy, with Crane joining former Astros legends Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, and president of business operations Reid Ryan and other former players and sponsors.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Golf Classic brings out big names for charity

Astros Foundation's second-annual event expected to raise more than $300K

Golf Classic brings out big names for charity

RICHMOND, Texas -- Former Astros players Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens were the main attractions Monday afternoon at Shadow Hawk Golf Club at the second-annual Astros Foundation Golf Classic, which was expected to raise more than $300,000 for charity.

Local business leaders committed $10,000 per team to be paired with a former Astros player or other local celebrity for the tournament, which was delayed briefly by rain. A silent auction also brought in a substantial amount of money to benefit programs like the Urban Youth Academy and the Astros' Community Leaders project.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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McHugh named AL Rookie of the Month

McHugh named AL Rookie of the Month

HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Collin McHugh has been named American League Rookie of the Month for September.

McHugh is just the fifth Astros player ever to win a Rookie of the Month Award, and the second this season, joining outfielder George Springer (May 2014), outfielder Hunter Pence (May 2007), right-hander Kirk Saarloos (July 2002) and right-hander Roy Oswalt (August 2001). Pence, Saarloos and Oswalt all won NL Rookie of the Month awards.

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Biggio hosts Sunshine Kids party at Minute Maid Park

Astros legend a spokesman for non-profit organization

Biggio hosts Sunshine Kids party at Minute Maid Park

HOUSTON -- The roof at Minute Maid Park was partially open Tuesday morning, protecting the kids from the sun but not from the overwhelming humidity that offered no reminder the calendar had flipped to October. That still wasn't enough to stop the fun.

Astros legend Craig Biggio and his wife, Patty, played host to dozens of kids at their annual Sunshine Kids party on the ballpark's playing surface. Children of all ages got the chance to bat against Biggio and run the bases and outfield before being treated to lunch, an autograph session and an Astros goodie bag.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Astros hand managerial reins to Hinch

Astros hand managerial reins to Hinch

HOUSTON -- When it came to checking the boxes of what the Astros wanted from their next manager, A.J. Hinch filled many of them. He has a vast tool set as a former big league player and former Major League manager, and he even spent time as a club's vice president and assistant general manager.

The 40-year-old Hinch on Monday was given perhaps the most important challenge yet of his career when the Astros -- in a news conference at Minute Maid Park the day after the season ended -- tabbed him to be the 18th manager in their history.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Altuve to play for MLB All-Stars in Japan games

MLB All-Stars to participate in five games against national team in November

Two of baseball's top hitters and one of its brightest young stars have been added to the roster of Major Leaguers that will represent Major League Baseball in the Japan All-Star Series in November.

The league announced on Tuesday that American League batting champion Jose Altuve, National League batting champion Justin Morneau and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper were added to the roster, which already includes Robinson Cano, Adam Jones, Yasiel Puig and Albert Pujols.

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Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hinch eager to start getting to know players

New manager has strong handle on talent pool, now wants to connect personally

Hinch eager to start getting to know players

HOUSTON -- A.J. Hinch said all the right things when he was introduced to the media at a press conference Monday at Minute Maid Park as the Astros' new manager, which wasn't easy considering how many questions he was peppered with throughout the day.

Hinch spoke about his family, his passion for baseball and what he plans to do to turn the Astros into a winner. He was even asked about his relationship with former manager Bo Porter, who is a former teammate and was on his staff in Arizona.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Hinch hiring a bold move by Astros

Hinch hiring a bold move by Astros

Baseball's most interesting front office made another gutsy, fascinating hire on Monday by naming A.J. Hinch the new manager. Not the first for Houston, probably not the last. Onward. Here's to years of success and a long, happy marriage.

"From afar, it feels like the right guy at the right time," Josh Byrnes said.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Astros hope to boost offense, look to youth next season

Young core of Altuve, Springer and Keuchel will lead club going forward

Astros hope to boost offense, look to youth next season

HOUSTON -- When asked what his top priority will be this offseason in terms of improving the Astros, general manager Jeff Luhnow didn't hesitate in saying offense.

The Astros were an improved offensive team from a year ago, thanks to Jose Altuve's remarkable season, the arrival of George Springer, the acquisition of Dexter Fowler and the second-half resurgence of Chris Carter. Still, the Astros relied too much on the home run and had the lowest production at the corner infield spots with third baseman Matt Dominguez regressing and rookie first baseman Jon Singleton struggling in his debut.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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