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Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: HOUSTON ASTROS

By Eric C. Wright

Kissimmee, Fla.--The Houston Astros are up first as yours truly takes the Florida tour of the respective major league teams from a fantasy baseball angle.  My colleague Michael Wong will handle the Arizona leg as we cover all 30 teams as we start inching closer to the 2015 fantasy baseball season.  So without further delay, here is a closer look at the Astros with regards to what their individual players may contribute to your roster as the opener approaches.

PROSPECTIVE LINEUP

1.  Jose Altuve
2.  Colby Rasmus
3.  George Springer
4.  Chris Carter
5.  Evan Gattis
6.  Matt Dominguez
7.  Jed Lowrie
8.  Jason Castro
9.  Jake Marisnick

ROTATION
1.  Dallas Keuchel
2.  Colin McHugh
3.  Scott Feldman
4.  Brett Oberholtzer
5.  Dan Straily

CLOSER

Luke Gregerson

5-STAR PLAYERS

Jose Altuve:  What Altuve did in his batting-title 2014 campaign was ridiculous as he put up a .341 average and stealing 56 bases.  No just a pure speed guy, Altuve also hit 7 home runs and scored 85 times.  The batting average will come down a bit as Altuve's .341 is in outlier territory much like when  Jose Reyes won the batting title a few years ago but the rest of the package is repeatable.  Altuve can sneak in as a late first round pick due to the scarcity at second base.

4-STAR PLAYERS

George Springer:  Springer will be a star real soon but first he has to iron out his sky-high strikeout rate which takes a major toll on his batting average.  We saw with the stunted growth of Wil Myers that if the K rate does not get smoothed out, opposing pitchers will stop throwing balls to drive which could hurt Springer's power.  Still this is a future 40-home run bat who once he gets his stolen base timing down, will be a major power/speed gem.  Just don't look for an average higher than .265 for the time being.

Chris Carter:  I wanted to put Carter in the 3-star realm but his immense power is incredibly rare in today's game so it has to be greatly respected.  Basically Carter is the new Adam Dunn, right on down to the 35-plus home runs and .230 average.  Just be sure you are covered with .300 hitters if you dive in here.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Colin McHugh:  McHugh hinted at his 2014 breakout while he was coming up in the minors league for the New York Mets as he posted some big-time strikeout rates.  Still he struggled badly with a few organizations before finding new life with the Astros.  The stuff is very good and seems legit when looked at from an advanced stats level.  The many doubters will make McHugh's draft price very affordable once again which lessens the sting of any possible bust scenario.

Dallas Keuchel:  Like with McHugh, Keuchel took advantage of the less-pressurized environment in Houston to find his stuff and post very useful numbers in 2014.  Keuchel doesn't have the K rate or upside that McHugh has however so price accordingly. 

Evan Gattis:  This could a major breakout campaign for Gattis in 2014 as he landed in a great spot with the Astros where he is slated to be the team's everyday DH.  That means there will be less chance for the always injury-prone Gattis to get hurt, while also giving him a chance to see his highest amount of at-bats ever.  Throw in the fact Gattis still has catcher eligibility and top-notch natural power and the results could be staggering.  30 home runs is very possible here which stands out greatly at catcher.  Bid aggressively. 

2-STAR PLAYERS

Luke Gregerson:  Right now the veteran Gregerson has to be considered the favorite for the Astros closer gig, with Chad Qualls also in the mix.  Gregerson has been one of the best setup men in baseball the last four years but he has struggled when asked to close in the past.  Meanwhile Qualls was solid in his half-season stint at closer for the Astros in 2014 after he was almost out of baseball due to a string of ugly campaigns. 

Colby Rasmus:  The story remains the same here with Rasmus who is a good power bat that will struggle to hit .250 due to a very high strikeout rate.  He is now moving past his ceiling years which means what you see is what you get.

Jed Lowrie:  Lowrie has been a guy who can help in a pinch at both second base and shortstop which perennially have been very shallow.  He is capable of hitting .270 with around 15 home runs which is nothing to sneeze at but you can also certainly do better.

Jason Castro:  Barely have Castro as a 2-star guy as he took a major step back in 2014 like we said he would.  Recognizing the high K rate and ugly injury history, Castro is now getting pushed strongly by Hank Conger. 

Jon Singleton:  The signing of Gattis likely means that Singleton will begin the season in the minors which is where he belongs as he was not ready to go last season.  Another Chris Carter-type who can hit for good power but has no semblance of the strike zone. 

1-STAR PLAYERS

Scott Feldman, Jake Marsinick. Luis Valbuena, Chad Qualls, Matt Dominguez, Hank Conger, Dan Straily, Jonathan Villar

HEARD AROUND:  Privately the team wants Conger to beat out Castro for the starting catcher job as they feel he has more upside and calls a better game........Gregerson and not Qualls will get the first crack at the closer job in spring training games......Singleton has a very small margin of error to make the team as the arrival of Gattis removes most of the DH at-bats.....The Astros want someone to grab the leadoff spot so as to move Altuve down to second or third in order to take advantage if his 200-hit bat.....Talk that Rasmus could hit leadoff has been floated despite his average struggles......Springer has worked on his stolen base timing all offseason and is ready to let it go there. 




 

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