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Fantasy Preview: Houston Astros
Hey, AL-only owners: Meet the Astros!
They’re not good, but they are rebuilding, which means you shouldn’t get attached to any of their mediocre veterans. On the bright side, they have some good prospects, and they seem to have a plan.
Traded for 1B/OF Chris Carter Carter comes over from the A’s after hitting 16 homers in 67 games last season. He’s 26 with big longball ability, and could power entire wind farms with his prodigious strikeout rate.
Signed RP Jose Veras Veras throws high-octane heat that misses many bats but doesn’t always go where he wants it. He’s expected to open the season as the Astros’ closer, but don’t expect him to have the job beyond July 31.
Signed 1B Carlos Pena Pena’s power seems to be diminishing, and his strikeout rate is going up. He’s slotted as the Astros’ primary DH. Take the under on a .209 batting average for Pena.
Signed SP Erik Bedard, claimed SP Philip Humber Someone’s gotta start every fifth day, right? Humber seems to have a good bead on a rotation spot, while Bedard might have to win a spring training battle.
Traded away IF Jed Lowrie and RP Wilton Lopez Lowrie will be a jack-of-all-trades for the A’s, while Lopez will try to keep the ball on the ground as a setup man in Colorado.
Greene’s Ks will keep his BA down, but his sneaky power/speed package can help you in deeper formats. Altuve is a speedy little guy who has his own unit of measurement. Wallace is with his fourth organization at age 26, but could hit 20-plus homers with a halfway decent batting average. Maxwell whiffed at a higher rate last season than Greene, Pena and Carter, which is no small feat. He might hit 20 homers with 15 steals, but it would be a minor miracle if he bats .240. Castro has some sleeper value, since he could hit double-digit homers with a not-horrible BA. Fernando will be the busier Martinez in right field because he bats lefty, but neither one is very good. Dominguez is a good-glove, no-bat third baseman.
Warning: The only Astro hitters that can be trusted to keep their jobs all season are Altuve, Castro and maybe Wallace. Everyone else is risky.
Harrell and his groundball-heavy repertoire weren’t bad last season (3.76 ERA). He’s not worth drafting in standard mixed leagues, but can be considered in deeper formats. Norris has a high K rate, which may be a tease. Bedard probably wasn’t as bad as last year’s 5.01 ERA suggested, while Humber could be a low-end AL-only starter, even after posting a 6.44 ERA with the White Sox. No more perfect games from him, though.
Veras figures to be the Opening Day closer, and if a manager says a guy is going to get saves, you should draft him. However, Veras’ history of bad control suggests that he’ll be a risky bet to keep his job. Also, if he does pitch well for a few months, you can be pretty sure that the rebuilding Astros will flip him for a prospect as fast as they can. If you pick Veras, be prepared to dip into the free-agent pool for more saves at some point (which you should be doing, anyway).
The internal candidates to replace Veras if/when there’s a change are Hector Ambriz, Rhiner Cruz and prospect Jarred Cosart. Some scouts think Cosart will become a reliever at some point, and since GM Jeff Luhnow floated that very possibility at the Winter Meetings, he’s the guy to keep an eye on. The Astros’ save situation could be a big mess, though.
Who’s the best fantasy hitter on this team?
The 5’5” Altuve, by a lot. He’s a top 100 player in the FOXSports.com composite rankings, and could be a .300, 10-homer, 40-steal guy if he improves just a bit at age 23. As a fellow short guy, I feel obliged to draft him.
Is anyone else in the lineup worth drafting in standard mixed leagues?
Castro, if you’d like to avoid the usual gaggle of 20-homer backup fantasy catchers with terrible batting averages. It’s also feasible to take a flier on Greene if you’re prepared to live with the bad BA and cut him if things don’t go well.
Should we stop waiting for Norris to get better?
What’s that? You weren’t waiting? Well, some people might be. Norris’ strikeout rate is still interesting, but it’s not great, his control improvement stalled last season, and he gives up too many home runs. Still, with just a little luck, he could be a nice, in-season pickup. Watch him. Sleeper: Lyles struggled to a 5.09 ERA last season, but he was 21 years old, so what did you expect? By throwing strikes and getting lots of ground balls, Lyles gives you some things to like. He won’t be a finished product at age 22, but he should get a little better. Think about him, AL-only owners.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B – Singleton hit 21 homers with an .893 OPS at age 21 in Double A last season – that’s impressive. He’s a future slugger who should take Wallace’s spot in the lineup by Opening Day 2014, if not sooner.
Carlos Correa, SS – Correa was drafted first overall last year, and turned 18 in September. He’s probably three years away from Houston, but is reportedly loaded with talent.
Delino Deshields Jr., 2B – DeShields struggled a bit at the plate after a promotion to high-A ball last season, but he turned 20 in August, so that’s not such a big deal. Also, HE STOLE 102 BASES. Two or three years from now, he could make some major fantasy impact.
George Springer, OF – Springer had 24 homers and 32 steals between A ball and Double A in 2012, but he strikes out a ton. However, some improvement this season could mean a starting job and some immediate fantasy impact in 2014. Springer is 23, so we should know about him one way or the other pretty soon.
Jarred Cosart, SP/RP – Mentioned above. Could spend all season in the minors as a starter, or close for the big club by midseason. His potential fantasy impact probably lies as a reliever.
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