The Astros are projected to be one of the best teams in baseball this year.
Thanks to Fangraphs depth chart projections, the Astros currently rank as the fifth best team in terms of projected wins and losses. That’s not bad before the season even begins, right?
How though are the Astros ranked this high as a team?
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Like everything in a team sport, it comes down to each player on the roster. It just so happens that Houston has plenty of good players on their roster. And quite a few are projected to play baseball well this upcoming season. Especially from the position players.
The usual favorites instantly come to mind when you think of favorable projections: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer. You actually don’t have to look at the stats to guess those guys are likely the team’s top players in some shape or fashion.
Anyway, to start this analysis I would like to concentrate on the projected WAR of all Astros players. And since I want to determine who is above average, I will use the scale provided by Fangraphs in their “What is WAR?” post. Right or wrong, I am going consider any player that has a projected WAR of 3.0 or higher to be truly above average. And while WAR is not the only, or best, way to analyze a player, I believe it does serve this simple analysis purpose well. We are also going to stick to position players as WAR is a bit more complicated to use exclusively on pitchers.
Currently Fangraphs projects that Correa, not Altuve, will finish with the top WAR on for all team position players at 4.9.
That is actually a full win better than the Astros second baseman who is projected to achieve a 3.9 WAR. It is a little surprising that Altuve, who has posted an average of 5.4 WAR over the last three seasons, is projected at a 3.9 WAR. But don’t forget that projections aren’t immune from being imprecise.
Springer, the team’s best outfielder, is projected to post a 3.8 WAR, which is just a hair behind Altuve. His projection is good enough for third best (surprise,surprise!) on the team behind only Correa and Altuve.
So to recap, all of the above rank anywhere from good player to All-Star level. One has a history of being a MVP-caliber player. The other two could possibly be if everything clicks. That’s not a bad start for any team. It is easy to say that they are all above average players.
Since we got the obvious players out of the way, let’s concentrate on the other guys.
The first one is none other than Alex Bregman, the Astros top draft pick from a few years ago. Now, I shouldn’t say that Bregman, who is projected to contribute a 3.1 WAR, being amongst the team’s projected leaders in WAR isn’t obvious. He clearly has a high ceiling and managed to provide glimpses into that potential last year. It’s just a nice development to see a former top prospect projected to play well.
The next spot belongs to a new Astro: Josh Reddick. One of the latest additions in Houston projects to contribute a 2.8 WAR. That is a tad outside of the scale I’m subscribing to though. But it would be easy enough to believe that he could end up being worth at least a 3.0 WAR next season.
Following Reddick, the next closest in WAR belongs to another new Astro, Brian McCann. His 1.9 WAR is followed by fellow catcher Evan Gattis with a 1.4 WAR. Yulieski Gurriel and Carlos Beltran then come in at 1.3 and 1.0 WAR, respectively. It is conceivable that any of those who fall in the role player category could contribute more to the Astros. Or less. It goes both ways in baseball.
All in all, the Astros that are projected to be above average are the usual suspects.
That isn’t surprising as Altuve, Correa, Springer, and Bregman are thought as the core in Houston. Then there is the possibility that Reddick and others surpass their initial WAR projections and enter the territory of good players (3-4 WAR).
At the end of the day though, these are just projections based on WAR. While imprecise at times, it is a generally reliable statistic to gain a sense of direction on how to value players in a snapshot. Let’s just hope that the Astros at least meet these expectations.