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Houston Astros

Players to Watch    Scouting Report | By the Numbers | Projected Roster

The X-Factor

Shane Reynolds is the Astros' ace, but for a team that once had the arms of Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard and Mike Scott, that doesn't mean quite what it used to. Now, with Darryl Kile gone to Colorado, Reynolds will be handed the ball on Opening Day and, from there, has no choice but to win 20 games. if the Astros hope to climb to the top of a weak division. Last season, when he missed five weeks with a knee injury, Reynolds was 9-10 with a mediocre 4.23 ERA, but he insists he's regained the form that allowed him to go 16-10 with a 3.65 ERA in '96. The Astros will thank their lucky stars if he's right.

Off-Season Moves

What They Needed: An ace to replace Darryl Kile. Pitching depth. A bit more pop in the outfield.

What They Got: Pitchers Pete Schourek, Sean Bergman and Doug Henry. Outfielders Moises Alou, Dave Clark and Carl Everett. Veteran third baseman Jack Howell.

What it All Means: With Alou joining Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio in the lineup, the Astros now have three Grade A sluggers in their primes. Plus, Everett and Clark are above-average hitters who give Houston outfield depth. But unless Schourek and/or Bergman pull an Ali and shock the world, losing Kile is an insurmountable obstacle that leaves Houston with a highly questionable starting staff. And no matter what his parents say, Henry is not the answer.

Scouting Report | By the Numbers | Players To Watch | Projected Roster

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