Deep lineup key to Astros' perfect season

Houston's youth, new vets generating buzz

Deep lineup key to Astros' perfect season

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Astros squad each day this week. Today's topic: The perfect season.

HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel rebounds to win another American League Cy Young Award. Jose Altuve takes another step toward greatness and wins the AL Most Valuable Player Award, with teammate Carlos Correa in the hunt. Alex Bregman and George Springer make the first of what figures to be many All-Star Game appearances.

Along the way, the Astros finally solve the Texas Rangers, lead the AL West division from start to finish and take their fans on a magical joy ride that culminates with the team's first World Series championship.

Talk about your perfect season.

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That's the goal for the Astros, who are going for it in 2017. They have added veterans Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann to a deep lineup that includes Altuve, Bregman, Correa and Springer, Yulieski Gurriel and slugger Evan Gattis. Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh lead the starting rotation, and the bullpen is deep and experienced.

Across the Majors, goals set for 2017

"It seems like a new team," Altuve said. "We already had a good team the last couple of years, but it seems like this team they put the pieces together -- Beltran, McCann, [pitcher] Charlie [Morton] -- and the guys we have already. It is interesting what we're going to do. I know that people have a lot of high expectations, so do we. I think we are on the same page."

The Astros have youth, they have veteran leadership, they have depth and they're hungry, having missed the playoffs last year following their 2015 run in which they had the eventual World Series champion Royals on the ropes.

Luhnow on team chemistry

"There's just a general buzz and general excitement because we've added some names," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We've added some credibility on the position-player side to fill in some of the gaps on the guys that we've lost. We're going to miss the free agents that we lost, but we responded by bringing in some guys that have done some things in this game.

"Reddick's played in a lot of playoff games, McCann has played in some huge markets and some really big games, [Outfielder Norichika] Aoki has played in the World Series. You just can't substitute that type of experience easily. We pulled it off in one offseason and remade part of the back end of our batting order, but that optimism is pretty strong."

Yes, the expectations are there, but the team has plenty to prove. The Astros haven't won a division title since the 2001 National League Central, and they haven't won a playoff series since the 2005 NL Championship Series, though they eliminated the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game in 2015.

Enough about the past. This year's Astros are in it to win it.

"If we can avoid getting off to a bad start," general manager Jeff Luhnow said, "I think chances are good that we're going to be seeing baseball in October here."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.