The Houston Astros are once again one of the top teams in the MLB as the 2022 season begins to reach the homestretch. They have taken over the top seed in the American League from the New York Yankees for the time being, and are running away with the AL West division for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

Houston is unsurprisingly one of the favorites to win the World Series this season, and for good reason. They have a deadly pitching staff and a lineup that is immune to losing players. Despite watching stars George Springer and Carlos Correa leave in free agency recently, the Astros haven’t missed a beat this season.

The Astros made some big moves at the trade deadline that showed the rest of the league they meant business. But even with the deadline in the rearview mirror, there are still moves Houston could make to solidify their status as one of the top teams in the majors. Let’s take a look at those moves and the impact they could have on the rest of the Astros 2022 campaign.

3 moves the Houston Astros need to make

3. Promote Hunter Brown

The Astros don’t have a very deep farm system, but their top prospect is clearly nearing a promotion to the majors. Hunter Brown is the Astros only prospect currently in the MLB’s top 100 list, and it may be time to give him a call up to the majors.

Brown has been used in a variety of roles at Triple-A with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys (what a name) this season, and he’s excelled no matter the role. Brown has a 7-3 record with a 2.45 ERA and 118 strikeouts. He has started 13 games while making seven appearences out of the bullpen, so he could be used in a number of different roles for Houston down the stretch.

It makes sense to ease Brown into the action out of the bullpen given how good their starting rotation has been this season. Houston’s bullpen hasn’t been bad, but you can always use quality arms, and it feels like adding Brown to the bullpen would give him a chance to thrive as he starts his major league career.

2. Start Christian Vazquez at catcher

One of the bigger moves the Astros made at the trade deadline was picking up catcher Christian Vazquez from the Boston Red Sox. The move was supposedly done to send Martin Maldonado, who is hitting just. 187 on the season, to the bench in favor of Vazquez. So far, that hasn’t happened.

Since the deadline, Vazquez has started only four games, and taken 16 at-bats. He’s gotten virtually no chance to get in rhythm, and Maldonado has remained behind the plate for the most part. It’s a curious decision considering how Houston swung a trade for Vazquez to presumably replace Maldonado, not back him up.

Vazquez has vastly outproduced Maldonado at the plate this season, and seemed like a solid upgrade at the deadline. Maldonado is a superior defender behind the plate, but you can’t really justify Maldonado’s miniscule batting average being in the lineup everyday. Houston clearly acquired Vazquez for a reason, and it’s time for them to give him some at-bats so they can improve their lineup.

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1. Bench Yuli Gurriel

Yuli Gurriel put together the best season of his career in 2021 when he led the American League with a .319 batting average. 2022 hasn’t been much of the same, though, as Gurriel has struggled mightily, and it may be time to send him to the bench for the rest of the season now that Trey Mancini is on board.

Gurriel’s numbers in 2022 (.240 BA, 7 HR, 32 RBI, .667 OPS) are a far cry from his dominant 2021 campaign. Gurriel’s WAR of 0.0 shows how he has had virtually no impact on the Astros success this season. Houston has pretty much gotten by without Gurriel doing anything this season, which is partly why they went out and traded for Mancini, who can fill in at first base and in the outfield. Mancini should send Gurriel to the bench more often than not.

Gurriel still has some value in that he can play first quite well, but his bat has been a minus all season long, and the Astros finally got their replacement in Mancini from the Baltimore Orioles. Mancini could techinically replace Chas McCormick, who is hitting .232 in left field for Houston, but he’s still managed to hit 11 home runs and get on base more than Gurriel.

Gurriel has become a key contributor for the Astros late in his career, but it appears he may have hit a wall and begun regressing. If that’s the case, Houston now has the resources to send Gurriel to the bench, and it seems like it may be time to make that move happen.