Houston AstrosOur expert from ScoutPRO.com,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.
Houston Astros Team Projection
The Astros have won less than 60 games in 3 straight seasons and have actually regressed even more over the last 2 years. Houston won a franchise low 51 games in 2013. Their pitching staff allowed a major league high 848 runs, which was 300 more than the best team (Atlanta). They allowed the most walks (606), had the 3rd lowest amount of K's (1084), and gave up the 3rd highest amount of HR's. Over the last 4 seasons, the Astros have averaged only 3.7 runs per game. Houston's offense finished 14th in the AL in runs (610), tied for 12th in HR's, and 1st in K's (1535). The Astros traded SP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes for OF Dexter Fowler. They also acquired OF Jesus Guzman from San Diego for minor league IF Ryan Jackson. Houston also signed SP Scott Feldman and added 3 relievers to strengthen their bullpen - Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls, and Matt Albers. This team is still a long way away from being a contender, but they do have talented draft picks pushing their way through the system. 2014 should be another long season, but it should lay the ground work for a much improved year in 2015.
1. OF Dexter Fowler
Fowler looked like he was going to have an elite season after his fast start in April last year (.305 with 8 HR's, 15 RBI, and 4 SB's). He hit well over the next 2 months (.282), but his production dropped off the table after that (2 HR's, 11 RBI, and 8 SB's). He suffered a right hand injury in late June, which led to a DL stint. When he returned, Dexter only hit .180 over his last 188 at bats with 2 HR's, 16 RBI, and 7 SB's. He developed a sore knee in late August that led to him missing most of September. His K rate (21.3%) remains high, but it was lower than his previous 2 seasons. On the flip side, his walk rate (13.2%) is very good and has improved in each of the last 3 seasons. Fowler has hit over .300 in the last 2 years against LH pitching, but only has 5 HR's in 267 at bats. Dexter is a career .298 hitter in Colorado with 27 of his 40 career HR's coming at home. He has only hit .241 on the road with a much lower SLG % (.361 - .485 in Denver). He tends to get nicked up, which has led to him missing 156 games over the last 5 seasons. Furthermore, his HR/FB rate (11.3%) has been much stronger over the last 2 seasons. Fowler has a 15 HR/20 SB skill set with some batting average risk.
2. 2B Jose Altuve
Altuve regressed slightly across the board in 2013, with the exception of RBI's (52). His K rate (12.7%) remains solid, but it was higher than 2012 (11.8%). His walk rate (4.8%) is real short and was lower than last year (6.4%). Jose is a better hitter against lefties (.321 - career) with much more power (6 HR's in 390 at bats - 8 HR's in 1033 at bats against RH pitching). Altuve is a GB hitter (49.2%) with a short FB rate (28.3%) and an even shorter HR/FB rate (3.2%). Jose is one of the smallest players in the league, but he did hit 10 HR's or more twice during his minor league career. He has stolen 30+ bags over the last 2 seasons, but was caught a league high 13 times in 2013. Altuve is a nice middle infielder than has more upside in power and could have more steals if he can improve his base stealing technique. Possible .300 average with a 10/30 skill set.
3. OF George Springer
It really makes no sense for Houston to start Springer in the minors this season. He played well in 219 at bats at AAA in 2013 (.311 with 18 HR's and 22 SB's). His K rate (24.2%) even improved from his AA results (29.7%). Overall, George has hit .299 during his minor league career with 223 runs, 62 HR's, 198 RBI, and 81 SB's in only 1026 at bats. Furthermore, his walk rate (12.2%) is solid. Without his huge K rate (26.5% - career), his skill set looks elite. His lack of contact makes him a tough player to project in 2014. If he struggles to make contact early in the year, he could be sent to the minors quickly. Just by looking at Chris Carter, we can see a minor league 23.5% K rate translating into a much higher K rate in the majors. Springer could have all the talent in the world, but he can't have elite success in the majors with a 35% strikeout rate. He has a 30/30 skill set, but we have no idea how far his batting average will fall in the majors.
4. C Jason Castro
Castro was a very good C2 in deep leagues last season. He was moved into a favorable part of the batting order and had a nice jump in power. His upside is limited by his lack of success against LH pitching (.242 - 29.7% K rate). Jason had a solid SLG % against righties (.506 - 30 doubles and 14 HR's) and was an above average run producer (16%), which is a good sign going forward. He played really well in August (.338 with 5 HR's and 14 RBI), but his season was cut short due to a right knee in September. Overall, his K rate (26.5%) is too high and it has regressed over his last 2 seasons in the majors. During his minor league career, his K rate was 15.2%. If he is going to maintain a positive batting average, he'll need to make a huge step forward in his contact rate. Castro does a solid job taking walks (10.2%). His HR/FB rate (16.5%) was a career high and his FB rate (35.2%) showed some growth. Overall, his 18 HR's will put him on fantasy players' radars this season. It looks like he traded contact for HR's, which will invite batting average risk this year. His minor league resume suggests his batting average has more upside. His next step is solving LH pitching. Possible 20 HR's and 75+ RBI's with more upside if he can steal more at bats at DH.
5. DH Chris Carter
It can't be a good sign when the first stat you see on Carter's results from 2013 is his 212 K's, which led the AL. This translates into a 36.2% K rate that was 4.3% higher than 2012. Carter is a banger with a huge AVH rating (2.018) that ranks up near the top of the league. Last year, he had 30 K's or more in every month of the season and never had more than 100 at bats in any month. His skill set looks the same against RH (.220 with 20 HR's in 355 at bats) and LH (.232 with 9 HR's in 151 at bats) pitching. Carter has a high FB rate (46.8%) with a plus HR/FB rate (20.7% - 25.4% in 2012). However, he can't hit a slider. Carter has plus power, but his K rate may lead to a sub .200 batting average. He hit .283 during his minor league career with at least a tolerable K rate (23.5%). If you are looking for low, low average power, CC is in play.
6. 3B Matt Dominguez
Dominguez had a solid season for the Astros in 2013. He showed power and hit well with runners on base (17% RBI rate). His K rate (16.3%) is strong enough where he has neutral upside in batting average. His walk rate (5.1%) is real short, but it did improve. Matt struggled with both RH (.244) and LH (.235) pitching. He had a breakout in power in May last season (8 HR's and 19 RBI). Over the last 3 months of the year, Dominguez hit .253 with 10 HR's and 33 RBI. He hit .256 during his minor league career with 67 HR's and 346 RBI in 2,189 at bats. His batting average has had risk at all levels, but his K rate suggests he may hit higher when he develops more in the majors. I like how he progressed last year and he might even be the best option for the Astros to bat cleanup in 2014. Dominguez looks like a steady 20 HR bat with 80+ RBI upside. He has no value in speed (1 steal in 2886 at bats in the majors and minors).
7. 1B Jonathan Singleton
Last year, Singleton was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for marijuana. He played well in 2012 at AA (.284 with 21 HR's and 79 RBI) and it appeared he was ready to make the majors last season after some time at AAA. His season didn't start until June and he struggled when he was at AAA (.220 with 6 HR's and 31 RBI in 245 at bats). His K rate (30.3%) was brutal at AAA, but it is 22.3% overall during his minor league career. His walk rate (14.7%) has been elite during his career. Singleton is a nice prospect, but he doesn't look like an elite player. His biggest competition for at bats in the majors is Brett Wallace, so the bar isn't set too high. I'm banking on Singleton winning the job out of spring training.
8. OF Robbie Grossman
The last outfielder slot on the Astros could be a revolving door. Grossman doesn't have a high skill set and his K rate (24.2%) was too high in the majors (22.4% in the minors). He did show a willingness to take a walk in the minors (14.3%). Robbie is a career .269 hitter with 34 HR's and 103 SB's in 2,165 minor league at bats. He hit .329 in the majors against lefties in limited at bats (73). Houston gave him full time at bats in August last season where he hit .301 with 3 HR's, 16 RBI, and 3 SB's before going down with an oblique injury in September. The downside was that he struck out 35 times in 123 at bats with only 5 walks. Low upside player with possible 10 HR power and 20 stolen base upside, but it looks like he will have some batting average risk (which leads to less than full time at bats).
9. SS Jonathan Villar
I know many fantasy scouts are touting the Astros farm system, but all I see is swing and miss hitters. Villar was called up in July last season and took over the shortstop job for Houston. He showed upside in speed, but his K rate (29.5%) was too high. On the bright side, he was willing to take a walk (10.0%). Villar is a career .260 hitter in the minors with 39 HR's and 193 SB's in 2010 at bats (583 K's - 25.2% K rate). He has double digit power with 40 SB upside if he can keep the job all season. Houston's #1 prospect Carlos Correa is a shortstop, so Villar doesn't have a long window to prove himself.
10. 1B Brett Wallace
After looking at Singleton, I thought he wasn't ready to made the step up to the majors out of spring training. With a deeper look at Wallace, I say Houston has no choice but to start with Singleton in the majors. Wallace has hit only .242 in 971 major league at bats with 29 HR's and 102 RBI. His K rate (36.5%) has regressed in his last 2 seasons in the majors and it was a career high. His minor league resume looks attractive (.309 with 74 HR's and 278 RBI in 233 at bats) and his K rate (21.2%) says he should be a much better player. Overall, his skill set looks equal to, if not better than Singleton. It appears Wallace is a AAAA player. His minor league stats are padded by 1336 at bats at AAA where he had been much older than his competitors. I can't dismiss that the light bulb might go on, but his K rate in the majors tells me to stay away. If I'm making a bet on the starting first baseman in 2014 for the Astros, I'll go with Singleton.
11. C Carlos Corporan
He is a career .222 hitter in the majors with 11 HR's and 44 RBI in 424 at bats. Last year, he had a spike in power (7 HR's in 191 at bats). Carlos is expected to be the Astros backup catcher in 2014.
12. MI Marwin Gonzalez
He is a no upside player. Marwin hit .260 with 17 HR's and 51 SB's in 2011 at bats in the minors. Over the past 2 seasons, he has hit .227 with 6 HR's and 9 SB's in 409 at bats in the majors. Gonzalez will compete for a backup role with the Astros.
13. CO Jesus Guzman
Jesus is a career .259 hitter in the majors with 23 HR's and 127 RBI in 842 at bats. Earlier in his career, he looked like he had more upside based on his minor league resume (.3065 with 108 HR's). He should be the #1 player off the bench for Houston this year.
14. OF L.J. Hoes
He is a career .286 hitter in the minors with 24 HR's and 88 SB's in 2360 at bats. His K rate (14.4%) is even in a positive area for a Houston hitter. Last year, Hoes hit .282 in 170 major league at bats with 1 HR and 7 SB's. He will compete for at bats with Grossman.
15. OF Marc Krauss
Last year, Kraus hit .209 with 4 HR's and 13 RBI in 134 at bats with Houston. His K rate (30.8%) was in line with most of the other Astros prospects. He hit .277 during his minor league career with 73 HR's and 287 RBI in 1763 at bats. Also, Marc had a 21.8% K rate in the minors. Possible option at 1B or in left field.