Breakout: OF Kyle Tucker
Tucker came out of the gate with eight hits over his first 66 at-bats with two home runs, four RBI, and 18 strikeouts, which helped Yordan Alvarez blow past him on the prospect depth chart in the minors.
Over his final 397 at-bats at AAA, he hit .290 with 32 home runs, 93 RBI, and 28 steals. Tucker now has 870 at-bats at AAA with plenty of success (.297 with 58 HRs, 190 RBI, and 50 SBs).
Houston gave him 67 at-bats in September, where his bat did show a spark (.269 with four HRs, 11 RBI, and five SBs).
Based on his approach with Houston in 2019 (strikeout rate – 27.8 and walk rate – 5.6), he’ll have some growing pains early in his career.
In the minors, his walk rate (9.7) projected well with a favorable strikeout rate (18.4).
He has an ADP (160) from March until the middle of May with a low of 92 and a high of 261.
Josh Reddick remains in the mix for starting at-bats, but it is time for Tucker to be in the lineup every day. Reddick had left shoulder surgery last November. The extra time off should help his recovery.
The Astros have too much talent in front of him in the starting lineup to earn a more favorable opportunity in the batting order. Tucker should be a .270 hitter out of the gate with a 25/25 skill set. Breakout player of the year candidate.
Stud Upside: DH Yordan Alvarez
Between AAA and the majors, Alvarez had an astounding season. He hit .325 with 108 runs, 39 home runs, 124 RBI, and five steals over 526 at-bats.
His strikeout rate (25.5) was high with Houston, but he did show league average value in this area in the minors (20.9). Alvarez will take plenty of walks (14.4 percent in the majors and 12.4 in the minors.
Over four seasons on the farm, he hit .311 with 56 home runs, 218 RBI, and 18 stolen bases over 927 at-bats.
With the Astros, his average hit rate (2.092) screams league-leading power while posting an electric contact batting average (.447).
Alvarez had success against both righties (.317 with 18 HRs and 53 RBI over 199 at-bats) and lefties (.307 with nine HRs and 25 RBI over 114 at-bats).
He had five home runs or more in each month played with Houston, plus a high floor in batting average in each month (.317, .333, .309, and .296).
His HR/FB rate (32.9) looks outstanding, and it was supported by his minor league resume (33.3 in 2017 at A ball and 32.4 in 2018 at AA).
Last year the Astros gave him most of his at-bats at DH, which helps keep him healthy. Alvarez does have some injuries on his minor league resume.
Potential four-category beast with an ADP of 43. A cleanup bat where 40-plus home runs should be expected almost annually over the next decade. Some fantasy owners may avoid him based on his play in the postseason (.241 over 58 at-bats with one HR, three RBI, and 21 Ks). His next step is adding first base or outfield to his position eligibility.
Comeback: SS Carlos Correa
I have to believe my fade in the high-stakes baseball market is tied to the underachieving Correa. I’ve owned a piece of him in some fashion in every season that he’s been in the majors.
His game looked electric over four months in his rookie season in 2015 (.279 with 22 HRs, 68 RBI, and 14 SBs over 387 at-bats). He flashed again in 2017 (.315 with 24 HRs and 84 RBI over 422 at-bats).
Correa missed one-third of the season in 2017 and 2018 while only seeing 75 games last year.
His stats in 2019 projected over 550 at-bats would deliver 83 runs, 41 home runs, and 116 RBI. He had a spike in his average hit rate (2.038) and strength in his contact batting average (.380).
Correa will take walks (10.9 percent), but his strikeout rate (23.4) has been a negative over the past two seasons.
He missed two months last year with a cracked rib and much of the final six weeks of the year with a back issue.
Over the first 50 games, Correa hit .295 with 26 runs, 11 home runs, and 35 RBI over 190 at-bats. His HR/FB rate (25.6) was the best of his career while adding more loft to his swing (fly-ball rate – 39.6 – 31.8 in his career).
He has an early ADP of 104 as the 15th shortstop off the board. His ceiling is explosive, but it is tough to get away from his 192 missed games over the past three years. A top-ten talent with a chance to bat over .300 with 100-plus runs, 40-plus home runs, and 120 RBI while having a favorable draft value.
Sleeper: SP Jose Urquidy
Urquidy didn’t look like much in 2019 based on his ERA at AA (4.09) and AAA (4.46), but he did flash elite command (1.7 walks per nine) with growth in his strikeout rate (11.7).
Houston gave him five starts in July, which ended with mixed results (5.87 ERA). As spot starter back in the majors in September, Urquidy created some intrigue for the 2020 season. He posted a 1.50 ERA over 18 innings with ten hits allowed and 16 strikeouts highlighted by his start on September 11th (one run over five innings with ten Ks).
His AFB (93.4) is league average while featuring a plus changeup (.143 BAA) and a sharp slider (.214 BAA). He did struggle with right-handed batters (.300).
Over four seasons in the minors, Urquidy went 17-13 with a 3.37 ERA and 351 strikeouts over 323.1 innings. He did lose some development time in 2017 due to a right elbow issue that required TJ surgery.
Fantasy owners have priced him as full time start this year based on his ADP (214). His command is ready, but he needs to clean up his mistakes that land of the fence. Possible 3.75 ERA with double-digit wins and 150 strikeouts if they played a full season of baseball.
Sleeper: SP Josh James
James had a breakthrough in his game in 2018, where he pushed his way from AA to the majors. His success was driven by a much high strikeout rate (13.5) in the minors helping him to become tougher to hit (.190 BAA). Even with growth in his stats, he still walked too many batters (3.9 per nine).
Last year James posted an elite strikeout rate (14.7) with Houston in the bullpen, but he walked more batters (5.1 per nine) with plenty of damage in home runs allowed (1.5 per nine). His failure came from too many disaster outings (nine games with two runs or more allowed), which accounted for 26 of his 32 runs allowed.
James pitched poorly at home (6.54 ERA), where he allowed nine of his ten home runs over 31.2 innings.
His AFB (97.4) was electric while losing the feel for his four-seam fastball (.266 BAA). He had success with his changeup (.129 BAA) and slider (.159 BAA). The key here is the command of the fastball in and out of the strike zone. James is trending toward a starting option in 2020 with an ADP of 290.
His best value should be in strikeouts, while his WHIP will have the most downside.
READ MORE: 2020 Houston Astros Fantasy Team Preview