Spring training is officially underway, and it's time to get ready for your fantasy draft. As part of RotoBaller's ongoing effort to help you win your leagues, we're previewing all 30 MLB teams. In these articles, we discuss each team's offseason moves, as well as their hitters, pitchers, and prospects.
Today's installment covers the 2017 Houston Astros Team Outlook, and previews their potential fantasy baseball contributions.
Editor's note: for even more draft prep, visit our awesome 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It has lots of in-depth staff rankings and draft strategy columns. You will find tiered rankings for every position, 2017 impact rookie rankings, AL/NL only league ranks and lots more. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
The Astros failed to qualify for the playoffs, finishing a disappointing third in the American League West. Nothing they did this winter could be considered splashy, but Houston did add some useful pieces. They traded for Brian McCann and signed Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick to bolster the lineup, while the only arm of note they picked up belongs to back-end starter Charlie Morton. Morton replaces Doug Fister as Guy You Don’t Need to Care Much About in Fantasy Leagues. Speaking of players with limited fantasy relevance, the Astros bid adieu to a couple of them: Colby Rasmus, Jason Castro, and Luis Valbuena.
Jose Altuve is the clear top dog at second base, and Carlos Correa could well be the best shortstop in the game himself. Along with George Springer, they’re the stars of this lineup. Potentially making the leap to join them is Alex Bregman, whose hot hitting down the stretch has owners dreaming big. Beltran and McCann have been reliable vets for a long time, but they clock in at a combined age of roughly 847 years old. Should either suffer injury or require a nap, Evan Gattis will just be over here wondering why 32 home runs got him a one-way ticket to the bench. He could also see time in the outfield if and when Reddick gets hurt. Yulieski Gurriel will open the year as the starting first baseman and could be something. A.J. Reed is still around, too. Lot of interesting names here, is what I’m trying to say.
Given the roster crunch on the position player side of things, it’s reasonable to wonder if maybe the Astros should have tried harder to improve their rotation, instead of collecting corner fielders and DH-types. They’ll hope for a rebound from Dallas Keuchel, who won the Cy Young in 2015 but spent much of last season looking more like a fifth starter. Houston will also cross their fingers for a full season of Lance McCullers. The phenom dealt with both shoulder and elbow issues in 2016, and still struck out over 30 percent of the batters he faced. Collin McHugh’s ratios and home run rate have risen each of the last three years, but he remains a serviceable roster asset in many formats, and a quality streaming option in shallow leagues. Mike Fiers has followed the same trajectory as McHugh, and quit striking people out to boot. The first line of defense against injury or ineffectiveness will be Joe Musgrove, who flashed impressive form as a rookie last year.
Houston’s rotation will be supported by a bullpen that should be among baseball’s best. Ken Giles’ first season with the team was marred by a high BABIP and a few too many homers, but he still generated a ton of whiffs and figures to be a top 10 option in 2017. Should he falter again, veteran Luke Gregerson can fill in capably. Will Harris was one of three Astros pitchers with at least a dozen saves last season (the others, of course, being Giles and Gregerson) and has a 2.07 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over the past two years. Christopher Devenski was fantastic in a swingman role last season. He could end up in the rotation, in which case Michael Feliz has the stuff to take over as the multi-inning weapon.
Houston has a few interesting names on the farm who could make a fantasy impact in 2017, namely a pair of righthanders and a pair of outfielders. Francis Martes and David Paulino have similarly overpowering stuff, though Paulino’s injury history may make him more likely to end up as a reliever. Derek Fisher and Teoscar Hernandez are toolsy, if raw, and merit attention in AL-only and dynasty formats.
Altuve, Correa, and Springer are all elite fantasy assets. Bregman looks like a star in the making. With the exception of Jake Marisnick, arguably every other hitter who will get regular playing time should provide value to a fantasy roster. Healthy seasons for Keuchel and McCullers, or breakouts from one or two of Musgrove, Martes, and Paulino could make the rotation much stronger than it currently appears. The bullpen is stocked with quality relievers.
The Astros may not make that Sports Illustrated cover prophetic, but they do have the talent to do so.