Pa Jordan Shusterman
Posted by FOX Sports MLB

Welcome to Season 6 of everyone’s favorite — or least favorite, depending on who you ask — fall drama, Astros in October.

Yes, the sixth season in a row Houston Astros returned MLBthe postseason. Their quest for a sixth straight ALCS appearance and a fourth AL pennant begins this week in the ALDS against the Reds Sailors.

While we are all very familiar with the star cast members like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregmanand Justin Verlander over the last half decade, you can always count on a few new characters worth getting to know each year.

The producers’ ability to consistently update the cast around its core contributors while maintaining overall effectiveness is rivaled only by their main competitor in this genre of postseason television, the Dodgers Postseason.

With the Astros’ latest championship streak beginning Tuesday, it’s worth knowing the players who haven’t yet played major roles for Houston in past seasons.

Jeremy Peña

How were the Astros going to be replaced Carlos Correa the shortstop had one of the biggest storylines of the season. During the first few months, Peña did a tremendous job of keeping Correa in the past with his excellent defense and amazing power.

It seemed almost impossible for anyone to replace someone of Correa’s caliber so seamlessly, but Peña seemed to do it with ease, putting himself right in the AL Rookie of the Year conversation. He then hit something of a starting wall from June to August as the strikeouts piled up and his OBP plummeted, but Peña rebounded nicely down the stretch with a .790 OPS in September.

If his bat really wakes up, Peña has legitimate star potential in his first postseason, as he’s capable of delivering both stunners on defense and slashing hits on the game’s biggest stage.

Trey Mancini

After homering in his first start as an Astro, Mancini has struggled to really find his groove at the plate as he adjusts to life after Baltimore.

The good news is that this lineup is so good that Mancini’s production isn’t as important to the team’s success as it was with the Orioles. However, it’s safe to say he hasn’t had the impact the team envisioned when they acquired him — at least not yet.

As much as Mancini has struggled, his offensive potential is still far greater than other guys at the bottom of Houston’s lineup, such as Yuli Guriel, Jake Meyers or Mauricio Dubon.

If Mancini can turn him on when the lights are at their brightest, he will be another problem for opposing pitchers in this ultra-deep lineup.

Christian Vasquez

Vazquez’s strong first half made him one of the more attractive trade chips at this year’s deadline. A catcher who knows what he’s doing at the plate and also doesn’t exactly stink at hitting? He’s a damn good player.

However, the bat hasn’t changed at all since arriving in Houston with a .585 OPS as an Astro compared to the .759 mark he maintained with the Red Sox prior to the trade.

Vasuez is still a quality defender at the game’s most demanding position, but it’s still evident Martin Maldonado job, despite ​​his own offensive ineptitude, so Vasquez became more of a backup with Jason Castro for the season after knee surgery.

Vazquez already has one highlight reel in the postseason with last year’s shutout in the ALDS against Tampa Bay. Can he produce another one for his new team?

Hector Nerys

Honestly, it was a little surprising to see the Phillies finally end their postseason drought without Neris, who made his MLB debut (against the Astros!) back in 2014 in a game that featured Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, going 2- 3- 4. If Nerys returned to Philadelphia this season, he would be the longest-tenured player.

Instead, he went to Houston as a free agent in what turned out to be one of the more overlooked strong signings of the offseason. Fortunately, while his old friends in Philly are celebrating a National League Division Series berth behind the brackets, Nerys will also be able to make his long-awaited postseason debut this year with his new team.

It’s not just that Nerys waited a long time to get to the playoffs, it’s also that he made a lot of appearances before getting there. Since the start of the 2016 season, no pitcher in baseball has started more games than Neris at 442.

Known for his sneaky splitter, Nerys has reduced his reliance on his signature pitch a bit since joining Houston, throwing a higher percentage of fastballs than splitters for the first time in his career. He will still go for walks, but he has learned to climb out of both the four stitches and the sinker.

Most importantly, he has become much less susceptible to the long ball, allowing just three homers all season, a quarter of the 12 dingers he surrendered a year ago. His 2.35 FIP ranks 17th lowest among qualified players. Expect him to be used as one of the primary bridge guys Ryan Presley.

Brian Abreu

In fact, this is Aubrey’s fourth season in relief for the Astros, but this version of Aubrey is practically an entirely new addition.

​​​​​​While his clean stuff has warranted inclusion on Houston’s top prospect lists for years, it has yet to translate to major league results — Oubre posted a 5.75 ERA as a rookie in 2021 and overall did not appear for the Astros during their run to another AL pennant.

Things have come together for the 25-year-old right-hander this season, as he has pitched to a 1.94 ERA in 60.1 IP with a 35.5% strikeout rate, which ranked eighth among all qualified regular season players. It’s one of the best fastball/slider combinations you’ll see from any bullpen arm left in the postseason, and Aubrey also throws a quality curveball 10% of the time for good measure.

The eighth and ninth innings usually belong to Nerys, Rin Stanek and Pressley, but Abreu is another great weapon that Dusty Baker can use in a high-leverage spot.

Rafael Montero

Another discharge! For everything that was done with Kendall Graveman/Abraham Thoreau traded with the Mariners last year for both sides, Graveman ended up going to the White Sox in free agency while Houston kept Montero.

The right-hander reaped the rewards in what has been the best year of his career to date. Although he never established himself as a starter as many had hoped in his days as a high-profile minor leaguer for the Mets, Montero is now one of the rare players with a legitimately deep repertoire who regularly uses the four-seam , sinker, change-up and slider in his walks.

He stayed healthy and pitched for the Astros in a variety of situations throughout the season; his 2.37 ERA ranks in the top 30 among qualified relievers, and he has appeared in more games (71) than all but four relievers in baseball.

Hunter Brown

With such a solid rotation, Houston was able to slow down Brown’s transition as the organization’s top prospect. But even as the former fifth-round pick out of D-II Wayne State University acclimated to a bullpen role, he continued to produce the same results as a dominant starter in the minors.

The Justin Verlander Clone has a ridiculous arsenal, headlined by a 97 mph fastball and a wonderfully wicked curveball.

The big question here is if they find themselves in a deadlock at some point, can they get Brown back as the starter? Or is he strictly in the bullpen for this series and we’ll see him compete for a rotation spot next spring?

Either way, Brown is just another electric arm that Dusty Baker will be able to turn to this postseason.

Jordan Shusterman is half @Céspede’s BBQ and baseball writer for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.

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