Tuesday, March 7

Houston Astros: Postseason Ready, If They Can Get There

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

I'll go ahead and get this one taken care of right now; yes, Roger Clemens might come back. No, I'm not assuming that he will - or that if he'll even come back with the Astros. Therefore, I'm proceeding like 1) he won't be back and 2) if he is, it won't be with these guys. If he does come back, he'll slot in as the ace (duh).

Roy Oswalt is quietly one of the best pitchers in the NL, though - good, but not decent K rate, and last year, he learned how to get guys out without having to resort to strikeouts, which is key to success, especially in Minute Maid (that is, if you're inducing grounders). He can compete on a level with any ace in the division, if not the league. Andy Pettitte rolls in as a solid #2; I don't think he'll perform to the level he did last year, but even if he regresses somewhat, it shouldn't be a horribly bad regression.

The questions come up when you're talking about the rest of the rotation. Brandon Backe is starting to mold himself into at least a decent pitcher, as evidenced from the last month of last season. If he'll continue with that improvement is another question entirely, though. Of course, yet another question is if the back end of Wandy Rodriguez and Ezequiel Astacio will do anything of use. My guess is they might - never know, they're young - but probably not, especially in that bandbox.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Roy Oswalt
2nd: Andy Pettitite
3rd: Brandon Backe
4th: Wandy Rodriguez
5th: Ezequiel Astacio

Fantasy Value:

Oswalt and Pettitte will provide great numbers as a fantasy #1/#2 (or 1 1/2). Backe will probably be passable in NL-only and deep leagues, and I'd stay the hell away from anyone else not named Clemens.

More information:
Brandon Backe
Roger Clemens
Andy Pettitte

Closer / Bullpen:

Okay, excepting Brad Lidge's utter implosion in the playoffs, he was pretty damn good last year. I've got some concerns about his mental state entering the year, but I seem to be in the minority with respect to that. Still, he should be the best closer in the division (maybe 2nd behind Izzy, but that's it).

Of course, the setup guys are top-notch, too. Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls are some of the best setup guys in the division. As a result, they can basically turn any game into a 6-inning affair, which will help take the load off the starters. Granted, because of the quality of this bullpen, it's also really tempting to overuse them (this was a problem last year), so there is a burden on some of the pitchers (read: Oswalt / Pettitte) to give some guys a break from time to time.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Brad Lidge
8th inning: Dan Wheeler
7th inning: Chad Qualls
Sit. Right: none (one of the above)
Sit. Lefty: Mike Gallo
Mop-up: TBA

Fantasy Value:

Brad Lidge, of course, is totally worth it. Wheeler and Qualls are worth it in pretty much any NL league (except for really small ones) and most deeper leagues (above 14 teams, I'd say).


Brad Ausmus has yet another year on him, although it's not like they expected much offensively from him anyway. He's there as a defensive stopper, no more. Of course, it is helpful that they don't really need his bat with this lineup, either.

As of now, the official depth chart has Jeff Bagwell at first base. Personally speaking, I kind of doubt it, but if he can go, more power to him. I'd expect to see Lance Berkman here myself. Bags is old, but a complete fan favorite at this point, even if his production is weakened. Berkman, on the other hand, still has plenty of power and will provide a spark in the middle of the lineup at either first or left.

The other Killer B - Craig Biggio - is back at second this year. Amazingly enough, he's not slacked off that badly; of course, he's not the powerhouse he was, but he's still serviceable. Youngster Chris Burke waits in the wings again this year. Poor kid can't catch a break.

Adam Everett is a throwback shortstop. Remember that time a long time ago - say, 10 years ago - when shortstops were good on defense and couldn't hit to save their lives? Yup, that's him, right there.

Morgan Ensberg is good stuff - since he's been getting playing time (I'm still bitter about 2004 when Jim(m)y Williams decided on the Worst Platoon Ever). Of course, that's not really any surprise to me, but whatever. He'll get the job done in the middle of the lineup.

Projected Infield:
C: Brad Ausmus
1B: Jeff Bagwell / Lance Berkman
2B: Craig Biggio
SS: Adam Everett
3B: Morgan Ensberg

Fantasy Value:

Well, if you couldn't tell from before, I'd recommend Berkman and Enberg highly, Biggio with some reservations (Burke with even more), and Bagwell if you're playing in a vintage league. That's it.

More Information:
Jeff Bagwell
Lance Berkman
Chris Burke


So you want to be an outfielder and you're not named Chris Burke? Well, we've got a spot for you here in the Astros outfield, even if you might end up playing first. Just in case you don't, then we'll go ahead and put Lance Berkman in left field until you tell us otherwise, okay?

Got a whole lot of speed? Welcome to center, Willy Tavares. Put some speed at the top of the lineup and run crazy for us, okay?

So let's say you went from one of the best offensive parks in baseball to playing in Atlantis, and now you're back in a bandbox. Then you'd be Preston Wilson, and you'd be in right field. Nobody's quite sure what you'll do, but we're guessing you'll do closer to your Coors numbers than your RFK numbers.

Projected Outfield:
RF: Preston Wilson
CF: Willy Tavares
LF: Lance Berkman (and maybe Burke)

Fantasy Value:

Preston should provide good value, moreso if everyone wrote him off after last season's effort. Tavares is fast, and Burke, if he can get ABs, should be good.

More information:
Preston Wilson
Willy Tavares

Extra Stuff:

Houston is almost the complement to St. Louis - the upper tier of pitching, when there, is actually slightly better than what St. Louis has to offer, and the difference becomes more pronounced when you factor in the possibility of Clemens returning to these guys. Their regular season totals probably won't be as flashy, but still.

Again, the offense has some question marks - namely, if Chris Burke will have any role or not, and if he does, where it will be. Bagwell and Biggio are getting old - they both only have so much left. Fortunately, there's someone to fill in both gaps, and they both shouldn't go down this year. If they both do, there will be a hole somewhere, but the dropoff won't be that drastic (and it leaves a convienent 8-spot in the lineup open). The lower end of the lineup is spotty, too.

Bottom line? If they make the playoffs, watch out. I'm just not sure it'll happen - the NL Central is deep this year.