The Houston Astros made a massive leap in 2015 winning 86 games seemingly out of nowhere after winning only 70 in 2014. The coolest thing about the big jump in wins is that it means the rebuild Houston put together a few years back is beginning to pay off, and sooner than anyone expected. Now they head into 2016 with a winning mentality and a very skilled young team only getting better.
Ken Giles, Brendan McCurry, Cy Sneed, Wandy Rodriguez, Eury Perez, Jonathan Arauz, Cesar Valdez
Jed Lowrie, Scott Kazmir, Chris Carter, Vincen Velasquez, Mark Appel, Jonathan Villar, Hank Conger, Brett Oberholtzer, Harold Arauz, Thomas Eshelman, LJ Hoes, Robbie Grossman, Luis Cruz, Samuel Deduno, Oliver Perez, Chad Qualls, Joe Thatcher
Biggest Strength - Youth
The Astros just broke out last season after providing a textbook example of how to do a full team rebuild. The breakout happened sooner than most people expected because the core of the team is still so young. This means a couple of things should almost be expected to happen this season. First of all, the young players already playing at the MLB level should all still be improving as they haven't hit their prime athletic years yet (age 26-30). Secondly, since Houston did do the full rebuild a few years back, the farm system is still completely stacked with talent. This Astros team should be highly competitive now and for the next decade if they can keep the core together.
Biggest Weakness - High Strikeout Rate
While doing their rebuild, the Astros fully bought into 'new school' baseball in the process. One of the side effects of this is they ended up with many players that strike out at high rates. This doesn't seem to be an issue day in and day out for Houston, but it can cause prolonged cold streaks for the entire offense. The good news is that they have actually gotten a lot better in this aspect of the game over the offseason. They decided not to re-sign Chris Carter, who was the worst player on their team in regards to the strikeout issue and that by itself should move them forward and make this less of a weakness. Also, they do potentially have a couple guys ready to make the jump to the majors who could help as well - AJ Reed could take over first base from Jon Singelton and Tyler White could take over third base from Luis Valbuena. If and when this happens, the Astros probably won't even be known as a strikeout team anymore.
Something To Keep An Eye On - 1st Base Position Battle
As mentioned before, AJ Reed has a chance to take over at first base this season. Tyler White is actually in the first base competition as well because he might not be able to hold down the hot corner and is a very good hitter. Feels like the consensus thinks that a platoon of Marwin Gonzalez and Jon Singelton is not the best option for success in 2015 and it's hard to argue that point. Reed, who is the current top prospect in the organization, has a chance to be an absolute super star with his offensive upside. In high-A ball last season, AJ put up an eye popping 190 wRC+ and 1.088 OPS while belting 23 homers in only 385 plate appearances. After moving up to AA, he continued to rake and put 11 more homers into the seats while keeping his on base percentage above .400 in the process. He could be a total game changer. Tyler White profiles similarly as a bigger power guy who has power but doesn't sacrifice on base percentage to get it. It wouldn't be surprising to see both Reed and White eventually turn out somewhere between Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman production wise, something Houston fans should be excited about. Also in the mix for first base in 2016 is Colin Moran, but he is expected to stay in the minors and await the call to play 3rd at some point.
Projected Lineup… Lefties*… Switch Hitters^
- Jose Altuve - 2B
- George Springer - RF
- Carlos Correa - SS
- AJ Reed* - 1B
- Carlos Gomez - CF
- Colby Rasmus* - LF
- Preston Tucker* - DH
- Luis Valbuena* - 3B
- Jason Castro* - C
Max Stassi, Matt Duffy, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick
Projected Rotation… Lefties*
- Dallas Keuchel*
- Collin McHugh
- Lance McCullers
- Mike Fiers
- Doug Fister
Ken Giles - Closer, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Tony Sipp*, Josh Fields, Pat Neshek, Scot Feldman
Injured to start the season
Fantasy Bargain - Mike Fiers
Mike Fiers has remained under the radar for some reason despite always putting up nice K-rates and overall good pitching seasons. Fiers had a fairly good season last year striking out 180 batters in 180.1 innings while posting a 3.69 ERA and it was actually a down year for him. In seasons past, he has posted significantly better FIP, ERA and K-9 rates, so it's actually probably smart to expect a little more out of him in 2016 than what we got in 2015. Not to mention that he gets to play the whole year for Houston, who actually wins games for their pitchers. Fiers is falling way too far in drafts like he does every year. Go look at his numbers and draft him with confidence.
Overrated Fantasy Option - Jose Altuve
Altuve is a straight up stud, but he's been taken a little high in drafts. The scarcest commodity in fantasy is power, and Altuve is a speed guy first. Of course he gets on base at a good clip and hits at the top of the lineup so there's value there, but with ESPN ranking him as the number 6 overall player, the expectations are too high for you to get value out of him. If he falls into the second round it's probably worth drafting him then. Get power early.
Houston is a major player in the AL West at this point. They should be a great offensive team who hit tons of home runs, and they have good enough pitching to win a whole bunch of games. The addition of Ken Giles in the bullpen will make their bullpen a lot better and will help them lock it down with a lead late more than they did last year too. Overall, the Astros are worth about 90 wins this season and it will be either them or the Rangers taking home the title of the AL West, which looks like a weak division yet again this season.