We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2014 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2014 Astros Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of James from Astros County.
1) George Springer is getting a lot of attention after his monster season in the minors last year. Do you see his success carrying over into the majors and what should fantasy owners expect from him in 2014?
That’s the big question for Astros fans. Despite having one of the all-time minor league seasons, we have simultaneously told ourselves and been told by others to fear all those strikeouts (26.5% strikeout rate in the minors). And even though that’s been offset by a .952 OPS and a 12.2% walk rate, it scares us half to death because we — as Astros fans — have come to believe that we simply cannot have nice things. Obviously, Springer’s minor-league power/speed numbers are quite nice, but it’s trying to figure out what he will produce at the Major League level (because service time will be an issue for him, in the Astros avoiding Super-Two status) that is driving us insane. My prediction is a .260/.350/.450 line for 2014 with 15 HR/20 SB in 2014. And then 75 HR/120 SB in 2015. Babe Ruth + Willie Mays territory.*
2) One of my favorite speedsters is Jonathan Villar. Would you take the over or under on 40 steals in 2014 and why?
I would take the over, but not by much. Villar got 18 stolen bases in 26 attempts last season (albeit in just 58 games), but there were times that you could tell the game was a little too fast for him. The Astros reshaped their coaching staff this off-season to specifically bring in someone to work with both Villar and Altuve (Tarrik Brock and Pat Listach). Add-in that Bo Porter fired outfield/base running coach Dave Clark and took over the base running instruction himself, and I think you’re going to see Villar get 90% of the SS playing time, and become more comfortable with the game. If you had asked for an Over/Under on 35 steals, I’d happily take the over. Forty steals would be absolutely fantastic.
Gah. I genuinely felt bad for Chris Carter last season. From 1962-2013, no qualified batter struck out at a higher rate than Chris Carter did last year (36.2% K%). That’s higher than Mark Reynolds in 2010, higher than Adam Dunn in 2012. I think the Astros are going to use him as much as they can, because there’s no reason not to give him every opportunity to succeed, but I think you’ll see him mainly at DH and 1B. I do think his numbers will improve in 2014, mainly because it’s hard for them not to, but I would buy on Carter (I wouldn’t buy on him early in your draft, mind you) because the power is clearly there.
4) Despite a low ERA in his ten games started in 2013, Jarred Cosart walked more batters than he struck out and that will cause a lot of fantasy owners to look the other way in drafts. What’s your take on the young pitcher and how do you see him progressing this season?
Aha! It’s well-documented that Cosart was seemingly an extremely lucky pitcher in 2013, what with his 1.95 ERA, 4.35 FIP, and .246 BABIP. That’s going to regress, and it’s not going to be pretty. But it might not be that bad. Cosart did see his peripherals improve when runners were on base, and he stranded an incredibly high number of runners. While I certainly don’t think he’s going to post a sub-2.00 ERA again, I think that he’ll perform a little closer to his FIP/xFIP numbers, which can still be a serviceable pitcher. Just keep the Astros’ offense in mind – Cosart isn’t likely to rack up a huge number of wins for your fantasy team in 2014. If you like Cosart, I’d stash him on your bench and wait for 2015.
5) Jeopardy! insulted the Astros this past fall when they referred to them as needing a “blowout preventer”. Which current Astro would you send to represent the team in an intellectual cage match with Trebek? …Are you a Jeopardy! man or a Wheel of Fortune man?
Yeah, that was messed up, Trebek. I’ve always been a Jeopardy! man, myself, but I’d gladly send catcher Jason Castro to stare down Trebek – he finished his degree from Stanford this off-season.