After their World Series win, the Houston Astros are ready to get back to work. As they themselves know, defending a championship is much harder than winning it in the first place. Ideally, they want everyone to be healthy to open the year, especially with Jose Altuve nursing a thumb injury. Unfortunately, one of the Astros' big pieces, Michael Brantley, doesn't seem to be returning from injury soon, per Chandler Rome.

“Michael Brantley will accompany the team back to Houston for the World Series celebrations next week and then return to the team's facility in West Palm Beach to keep ramping up. Dusty Baker made it sound like he'll need more than just the 10 days on the IL.”

Michael Brantley suffered a shoulder injury in the middle of the 2022 season, and was forced to miss the rest of the season. Since then, fans have been awaiting for his return. Brantley's solid bat and excellent defense was a key contributor for their many attempts at another World Series over the last few years. Fans might need to wait until after their opening series for Brantley's return.

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The Astros don't need to rush Brantley back from injury: they did just fine without him last year, after all. Yordan Alvarez moved into the LF in the interim. While his glove isn't as good as Brantley's, Yordan's MVP-level season as a hitter more than made up for it. Brantley's return to the lineup would likely mean Alvarez will return to the DH role: the perfect set-up for Houston.

The odds have historically not favored the defending champions in the season after their win. If there's any team built to potentially repeat, though, it's this Astros team. They have one of the best pitching staff in the league, and a hitting core full of elite talent. Can they replicate their dominant 2022 run?