November 5, 2013
Fantasy Team Preview
Here in the fantasy section at Baseball Prospectus, we are trying a few different things this year, as you may or may not have already noticed. Our newest addition is a team-centric fantasy preview that will be paired with the release of an organization’s Top 10 Prospects List. Yesterday, Jason Parks and company unveiled the first installment of their highly awaited product: the Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects.
Today, we follow suit with a look at the rest of the organization from a fantasy perspective. We’ll march through projected roster construction, including lineup, rotation and back end of the bullpen. We’ll also touch on positional battles to watch out for as we head into spring and the triumvirate of the fantasy world: a player to target, a player to avoid and a deep sleeper.
The Astros as an organization, despite having the incredible wherewithal to hire a number of Baseball Prospectus alums, are very weak on the major league level. There’s plenty of help coming, as the prospect list covers, but 2014 is likely to be another rough season as far as production goes. Here is a look at what you need to know, as the Astros currently stand:
It’s extremely early in the offseason and there are a lot of moving parts here, as Houston has depth, although it’s not extremely talented depth. Grossman is likely to see at least half a season’s worth of at-bats as part of an outfield rotation. The other areas of upheaval (1B, CF) are likely to impacted by Houston’s farm system (Singleton/Springer, respectively), though it’s hard to know exactly when those players will make their presence felt. Aside from extremely deep leagues, I’d say it’s worth avoiding all of the above aside from Castro, Altuve, Carter, and Villar. Carter and Villar are especially flawed fantasy assets, but they’re good at what they do (power and speed, respectively). Given the dearth of firepower in this offense—and that extends to when the prospects arrive, as we’ve little idea how they’ll adjust—expect counting stats to be hard to come by even for the more talented members of the lineup.
There’s not much of interest here, but as above, it should get deeper as the season progresses thanks to call ups and the like. The one player worth mentioning is Max Stassi, as there’s a chance he could be carried as a third catcher/DH at some point early on, though Triple-A remains the most likely destination for him.
And you thought the lineup was bland. There is some hope here but it’s definitely one of those “better in real life than in fantasy” situations. Cosart is the most interesting arm when it comes to upside thanks to his electric stuff. The issue of course is that he seems to find more bats than he misses, and he’ll give back a lot of value in the WHIP department. Lyles is a matchup play and waiver add in generic leagues and worthy of owning as a backend end guy in deeper leagues. Oberholtzer impressed last season, though he did so more by limiting his walks than missing many bats. There can be value here in the right matchups, but the upside isn’t there. Peacock has some upside as he can miss bats (8.3 K/9), but he’s homer-prone enough that he may end up an option in the bullpen.
Projected Closer Candidates
Speaking of the bullpen, it’s a disaster. My money is on Fields getting the job, if not a free agent, because he strikes out more and walks fewer guys than Lo. That being said, there’s no bet I would take that he keeps the job the whole year if he does start with it. If all that’s not enough to turn you off, this is likely to be one of the worse teams in baseball, limiting the opportunities whoever they pick to be closer will get. Make no mistake, a closer on a bad team can still rack up saves, but neither of these two have the talent that make them worth the risk they’ll pose. Draft them, certainly, but make it at a point where you won’t mind replacing them immediately.
Positional Battles to Watch
Corner Outfield: L.J. Hoes vs. Robbie Grossman vs. J.D. Martinez
Center Field: Brandon Barnes vs. George Springer
Player to Target: Jonathan Villar
Player to Avoid: Jose Altuve
Deep Sleeper: Alex White
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @cdgoldstein