By: Joshua ReeseBy Joshua Reese

Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – Sky’s the limit for the 2017 Houston Astros.

With a healthy pitching staff, plus the batting lineup general manager Jeff Luhnow has given Astros manager A.J. Hinch you could be looking at a team that will be a serious playoff contender.

It’s been a long road and a long journey for the team that was once considered the laughing stock of baseball.

Luhnow sold owner Jim Crane on a vision, much like the St. Louis Cardinals which he came from. Build through the draft, make the farm system great and add free agents when you can and now after years of incremental progress the team is on the cusp of becoming a perennial playoff machine.

“When we sat down to hire him we figured it was going to at least five years,” Jim Crane said before opening day. “The first year we really couldn’t do much of anything and each year we’ve made some improvement, now the expectation is to get into the playoff position every year and stay in it.”

Luhnow has done his best to keep improving the Astros year over year. Some of his choices didn’t turn out great but for the most part, Luhnow has done a really good job considering what he was given to work with in the beginning.

“It’s really hard to dispute the things he’s done,” Crane said. “You’re not going to get them all right, but you truly have to say he got a lot more right than he’s got wrong.”

Even with everything seeming to be going just like Luhnow envisioned, Crane won’t say he’s exceeded his expectations, just yet.

“We expected to turn the team around,” Crane said. “When we exceed expectations I think is when we win a world series, we haven’t done anything yet, so I’m not letting him off the hook on exceeding expectations, but we got to get into the playoffs and make a run.”

This season the Astros are primed to do just that, they might not win a world series, but no one will blink an eye if you say the team will make a deep postseason run.

Luhnow currently is under contract for an undisclosed amount of time. In 2014 he was given a contract extension and while the terms of the deal are not made public, if he can get the Astros to the world series this season, Crane might have to give him another undisclosed extension.