2015 Fantasy Outlooks: Houston Astros

Can Springer cut down on the strikeouts and become a points league stud?

The Houston Astros managed to drag themselves off the bottom of the AL West but not because they improved massively as they still only managed 70 wins to 92 losses. They have a powerful line-up in 2015 but there is massive disappointment value throughout. They could easily score 10 runs with 5 or 6 homers one day and 0 the next regularly throughout the 2015 season given the amount of all or nothing hitters they have. In the offseason they added Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus to add more power to what was already there in 2014 and then backed that up those additions by adding Jed Lowrie at SS to give them some form of average/on base presence. On the pitching side they added two potential closers in Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek and how that works out is still to be seen. On the flip side they lost a few prospects but there was nothing that was set to make a major impact in 2015.

Hitting

Predicted Line-up (courtesy of www.rosterresource.com)

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B
  2. Luis Valbuena, 3B (vs RH), Matt Dominguez, 3B (vs LH)
  3. George Springer, OF
  4. Chris Carter, 1B
  5. Colby Rasmus, OF
  6. Evan Gattis, DH
  7. Jason Castro, C
  8. Jed Lowrie, SS
  9. Jake Marisnick, OF

N.B. I am expecting Jon Singleton to make the roster as the 1B moving Carter to DH and Gattis to OF replacing Marisnick.

Fantasy Superstar: Jose Altuve, 2B

A wonderful 2015 was finished off with Altuve winning the batting award in the final game of the season by batting a stunning 0.341 over 660 AB’s. To go with that he stole 56 bases so you would probably expect he scored 100+ runs right? WRONG because of just how bad the line-up behind him was in 2015 he only managed 85 runs! Now 85 runs in on the high end but it should have been better and when he only hit 7 homers and knocked in 59 runs his value didn’t quite reach the peak it potentially could. This year the Astros have upraded their batting and I reasonably expect him to get close to that 100 runs mark while still batting around 0.320 and stealing 50ish bases. If the Homers and RBI stay the same then I would expect him to be in contention for best second baseman for fantasy in 2015 so a second round draft pick is well worth it to lock up the steals and get a really good run total with elite average locked in to your second base spot early.

Breakout or Bust?: George Springer, OF

Springer was called up two weeks into the season in 2014 and the results were frankly mixed. His average wasn’t superb at any point in the half a season he was present for but wow was there some power there. In 295 AB’s he hit 20 homers before he was shut down for the second half of the season with a quad injury. Now if we project that power over a full season of 550 AB’s then Springer would have hit 37 home runs in 2014. That is a fantastic total even if it comes at a sub 0.250 average but the issue is if he does go through a slump then his average during that period could really hurt you in the long run. The issue I have with Springer is that by being drafted in the 3rd/4th round there is no upside to him as a draft pick. Unless his average improves remarkably, which I cannot see happening, then his ceiling is a 15thish outfielder but if the whiffing gets out of hand we could potentially have a 30th ranked outfielder on our hands. For me Springer is simply not available at a value I can gamble on based on half a season but if he does start to drop in drafts then the 6th/7th round is definitely somewhere I would consider him.

2015 Gem: Evan Gattis, DH (Catcher eligible)

Why is Gattis only a 2015 gem you may ask? Well in 2015 he is going to be catcher eligible whilst playing in the outfield/DH meaning he could end up being one of 5 catchers to get over 500 AB’s and for the catcher position playing time is the biggest factor to their value. In 2016 though it is likely he will lose the catcher eligibility and will probably be outfield only. If we compare his roto score from projections to others catcher then he would be the 3rd/4th ranked catcher but he would be in the third outfielder range and that is something you are less likely to be excited about. Batting 6th behind Carter and Rasmus may not actually be that great for his RBI totals based on the fact Carter and Rasmus have two of the worst averages among everyday players in the whole MLB and when they are getting on the base paths they are often cranking out home runs. I wouldn’t be shocked if Gattis ends up moving up or down the batting order because this line-up has a ton of power in it especially if Singleton makes the squad. Right now the 8th/9th round is great value for Gattis in redraft leagues given he will be 10 homers better than any other catcher not named Mesoraco.

N.B. If you are drafting this week (17/03/15) then make sure you check the latest on his wrist discomfort as at the time of writing he has missed one game and is being held out of another but it is not expected to cause him to miss time

POWER!: Chris Carter, 1B (Only DH eligible in many leagues)

Who needs to hit for average when you can belt the ball out of the park 30-40 times? Carter was amazing for the second half of 2014 hitting 24 home runs whilst batting at 0.264. Unfortunately he was so bad in the first half of the season (O.K. he hit 13 homers) that he finished with a 0.227 average. If we can get something close to second half Carter for a whole year then we could legitimately be looking at 45 home runs. However, I think that is somewhat of a pipe dream and probably we are looking at 0.230-0.240 average with 35-40 homers, 80ish runs and 90ish RBI. Projecting him with those stats would have him sit just outside the top 10 at first base in 2015 but that is where we have an issue for fantasy owners. Carter won’t actually start the season with first base eligibility. Now I do expect he will earn at least first and possibly outfield but that could take a couple of months. In which time your utility spot could be filled with a guy who has the odd power surge but goes 0-4/1-4 most days and that will test your patience greatly if you have a 6th outfielders/three first baseman who are producing.

Late Round Power: Colby Rasmus, OF

By batting Rasmus directly behind Carter the Astros are doubling down on both power and poor average in the middle of the line-up. There is a real chance Carter and Rasmus could hit 65-70 homers between them batting at four and five but there is also a chance they could go 5-10 for 40 across a week’s worth of playing time. Rasmus does offer great late round power but in order for it to be worth drafting him you have to be extremely secure in your teams average or he could drag you down into the bottom of your leagues average for the sake of a bit of power.

Even Later Power: Jon Singleton

Right now Singleton isn’t being drafted in roto leagues but I think he wins the first base job and therefore will be going late in drafts. Singleton batting in line with Rasmus and Carter could be the most powerful three in the league but it could also be the only three who managed 10 hits between them in 50 AB’s. In a full season 20+ homers is possible for Singleton but that could easily come with a 0.200ish average which much like Rasmus could sink you towards the bottom of the standings in that category. Right now the value is worth a flyer late in a 14 team league because I genuinely think he will be better this year but whether he can get that average up enough for top 20 first base relevance is touch and go for me.

Sleeper Alert: Jed Lowrie, SS

Another man currently not being drafted in 12 team leagues but one I think probably should be given the weakness of the middle infield general in position. As either a starting SS for you or a MI Lowrie could give you a decent amount of runs, homers and RBI and a 0.280 average. You won’t get any steals from Lowrie but if you haven’t felt the sickening urge to fill your SS position then he is a guy I would (and have) targeted in the last round of 12 team leagues with the view to getting top 10 SS production.

Any Other Business?

Valbuena and Dominguez look set to be a very unimpressive platoon and hopefully the Astros see some sense and put Lowrie in the 2 hole so we can get better value out of him considering currently the 3B platoon is a fantasy black hole. Castro is in the two catcher range but he isn’t someone I would go out and reach for even in that format because if Gattis struggles in the outfield then he could steal some of Castro’s playing time. Marisnick will offer some steals but the average they come it make him not worth the bargain. Add in that I don’t see him having a regular job come opening day and frankly he is someone I can’t believe I have wrote this much about!

Pitching

Projected Rotation:

  1. Scott Feldman
  2. Dallas Keuchel
  3. Collin McHugh
  4. Bret Oberholtzer
  5. Dan Straily

DL: Brad Peacock

No fantasy superstar in this staff but both McHugh and Keuchel are being drafted as fifth starters with the potential to finish the year as something better than that. McHugh is the most exciting as he has strikeout per innings potential while delivering a similar ERA and WHIP to Keuchel. Both are worth grabbing if you need a 5th starter in the middle rounds. I expect Houston to be better this year but I don’t expect miracles so 10-15 wins is a possibility for these two starters. Outside of those two there is not a lot of upside currently in the rotation but there is some exciting potential to talk about soon.

Projected Bullpen

CL: Chad Qualls

SU: Luke Gregerson

SU: Pat Neshek

MR: Josh Fields

MR: Tony Sipp

MR: Joe Thatcher

LR: Roberto Hernandez

We have an interesting bullpen in Houston as we have three potential closers in the mix during spring. Ideally one guy wins out and locks the job down so we don’t have to use a roster spot on a committee that will be impossible to judge. Gregerson is the leader from what I am reading but Neshek is getting drafted in some leagues. The guy sliding under the radar is Qualls meaning if he comes out of nowhere to win the job then he should be available on the waiver wire. If you are looking for saves late then I would say grab Gregerson first, then Neshek and then add Qualls to your watch list and make sure you monitor the news.

Prospect Report

  • Colin Moran, 3B: The issue with being a prospect behind a committee is that for you to get called up you need both to be so bad that the team decides the best thing to do is replace them both. Moran has decent value in keeper/dynasty leagues as Houston isn’t afraid to throw their prospects out there if they have the talent. He is probably the starting third baseman for the Astros in 2016 but he may not get called up until September this year.
  • Domingo Santana, OF: Santana is facing a fight to get called up this year with Springer and Rasmus locked in while healthy and Gattis likely the other everyday outfielder. Behind them you have Marisnick, Grossman and Hoes who I expect will get a shot first. Has long term potential but at best we are looking at a late call up this season.
  • Mark Appel, SP: With the collection of underwhelming talent in the Houston rotation seeing Appel in midseason would not be a massive shock but to expect more than 15 starts this year would be being extremely optimistic. More likely he will be competing for a starting rotation spot in spring next year than early this year. As a #1 overall draft pick the talent is there and if he does get called up with a view to a few starts he is worth a speculative pickup.

 

 

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