2021 Houston Astros
Despite a losing record (29-31), Houston made the postseason for the fourth straight year while falling one win short of another trip to the World Series. The Astros won their only championship in 2017. Over the previous four years, Houston went 340-206 (62.3 percent).
Without Gerrit Cole at the front of the starting rotation, the Astros slipped to 13th in ERA (4.31). Their offense scored 279 runs (14th) with regression in home runs (69 – 20th).
The most significant loss in the offseason was OF George Springer, who signed with the Blue Jays. Houston decided to re-up OF Michael Brantley after losing Springer.
They lost CL Roberto Osuna, RP Brad Peacock, and OF Josh Reddick to free-agency. The only players added in the offseason were C Jason Castro, RP Pedro Baez, RP Steve Cishek, OF Steven Souza, and RP Ryne Stanek.
The top of Houston’s starting lineup has the same core of veteran bats. The ceiling of the offense hinges on the health and development of DH Yordan Alvarez and OF Kyle Tucker.
With SP Justin Verlander out for the season with TJ surgery on his right elbow, the Astros lack the front-end aces that helped them make multiple World Series appearances over the past four seasons. SP Zack Greinke has plenty of winning experience, but the back of the rotation has a lot to prove.
Last year RP Ryan Pressly took over the closing role, but he underperformed his previous success. Overall, Houston lacks the lockdown arms to bridge games from the 7th to 9th inning.
The Astros will win games due to the potential of their offense. If they want to make the postseason, Houston needs growth and improvement in their pitching staff.
1. 2B Jose Altuve
A year after the sign-stealing scandal in Houston, Altuve became a shell of his once-great bat. His contact batting average (.275) was about 100 percentage points below his path from 2016 to 2018 (.379, .403, and .371). He also finished with the highest strikeout rate (18.6) of his career.
Surprisingly, Altuve scored 54 percent of the time while coming up empty with runners on base (RBI rate – 10). His average hit rate (1.571) wasn’t far from his value in 2016 (1.574) and 2017 (1.583), when he had a combined 24 home runs.
Altuve has a ground ball swing, leading to a low fly-ball rate (29.7 – 30.9 in his career). His HR/FB rate (11.4) was better than his career average (9.6), but more than half of his breakthrough in power in 2019 (23.3).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: This season, Altuve has a much lower ADP (97) as fantasy owners have lost trust in his bat. From 2014 to 2019, he hit .327 with 564 runs, 114 home runs, and 179 steals over 3,562 at-bats. The missing link in his game is the loss of stolen bases (only eight over his last 692 at-bats). Last year he did miss some time due to a right knee injury. Let’s lower his bar to .280 with 80-plus runs, 15-plus home runs, and 75 RBI, with any stolen bases being a bonus.
2. OF Michael Brantley
Over the last seven seasons, Brantley hit .311 with 415 runs, 88 home runs, 428 RBI, and 67 steals over 2,832 at-bats. He has been tough to strikeout in his career (10.8 percent), but he did fade in this area in 2020 (15.0). Last year he missed some time due to a quad injury.
Brantley’s contact batting average (.359) has been in a tight area over the past four seasons (.351, .345, and .352) while lacking a high enough average hit rate (1.588) to deliver impact home runs.
He struggled with lefties (.231 with one home run and four RBI over 52 at-bats). Brantley has a low fly-ball rate (31.2) with a less than impactful HR/FB rate (11.4 – 8.9 in his career).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Brantley has a high average bat that offers about 80 runs and 80 RBI with 550 at-bats. I expect him to move to second in the batting, which may help in runs scored. His speed looks to be a lost asset. He has a mid-range ADP (150) as the 43rd outfielder drafted. Ultimately, his value in home runs will determine if Brantley was worth his 2021 price point.
3. 3B Alex Bregman
Bregman underperformed over his first 92 at-bats (.272 with 12 runs, four home runs, and 14 RBI). He then missed three weeks with a hamstring issue. When Bregman returned, his bat remained empty (.197 with two home runs and eight RBI over 61 at-bats).
His approach at the plate is one of the best in the game, highlighted by his outstanding walk rate (17.3) and sliding strikeout rate (12.0) in 2019. He continues to have a high average hit rate (1.865), but his contact batting average (.291) was a career-low last year.
Bregman set career highs in runs (122), home runs (41), and RBI (112) while leading the baseball in walks (119) in 2019. His only downturn was a drop in steals (5).
His hard-hit rate (33.6) slipped to 236th with a step back in his HR/FB rate (11.3 – 18.6 in 2019). Bregman has a fly-ball swing path (41.4 percent – 43.0 in his career).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The fantasy bridge jumpers are bailing on Astros hitters this season, leading to a massive drop in his ADP (44 – 10th in 2019). I see a great value, especially if Bregman regains some of his lost value in stolen bases. In 2018 and 2019, he hit .291 with 227 runs, 72 home runs, 215 RBI, and 15 steals over 1,148 at-bats. High floor player that I am willing to give a pass while expecting a minimum of a .290/90/30/90 season.
4. DH Yordan Alvarez
Between AAA and the majors, Alvarez had an astounding season in 2019. 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 did 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 in 2019, his AVH (2.092) screams league-leading power while posting an electric CTBA (.447). Alvarez had success against both righties (.317 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI over 199 at-bats) and lefties (.307 with nine home runs and 25 RBI over 114 at-bats).
He had five home runs or more each month played with Houston, plus a high floor in batting average (.317, .333, .309, and .296).
His HR/FB rate (32.9) looks impressive, and it was supported by his minor league resume (33.3 in 2017 at A ball and 32.4 in 2018 at AA).
In 2020, Alvarez battled knee injuries that led to only two games played before having surgery.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: At age 23, it is disappointing to see Alvarez battle injuries while settling into a DH-only player. His bat has the skill set to lead the league in home runs and RBI with strength in batting average. With no negative injury news in spring training, Alvarez should be well worth the investment based on his early ADP (78).
5. SS Carlos Correa
I have to say Correa is the player that has cost me the most money in fantasy baseball since 2016. Last year he played a full season, but Correa finished with a weakness in run rate (32), RBI rate (14), and a career-low average hit rate (1.453).
On the positive side, he played a full season for the first time since 2016, which was helped by a 60-game schedule. Correa finished with a weaker approach (walk rate – 7.2 and strikeout rate – 22.2). He also lost his swing path, leading a career-low fly-ball rate (29.4) and HR/FB rate (11.1).
Between 2017 and 2019, Correa missed 192 games while hitting .278 with 184 runs, 60 home runs, 208 RBI, and six steals over 1,104 at-bats. These stats over 550 at-bats would come to 90 runs, 30 home runs, and 100 RBI.
As bad as Correa was last season, his postseason success (17-for-47 with seven runs, six home runs, and 16 RBI) opens the temptation window again in 2021.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Correa entered this season at age 26 while never repeating his excellent start to his career in 2015 (.279 with 22 home runs, 68 RBI, and 14 steals over 387 at-bats). His ADP (125) is favorable when considering his supporting cast and where he’ll hit in the batting order. The bottom line is Correa needs to stay healthy for 150 games. If so, a fantasy owner will be rewarded with a four tool player.
6. OF Kyle Tucker
The next batting star for the Astros has the green light for playing time in 2021, with Josh Reddick and George Springer removed from the equation.
Tucker’s approach moved closer to the league average (strikeout rate – 20.2 and walk rate – 7.9) while maintaining a high average hit rate (1.911).
His stats last season projected over 550 at-bats would come to 87 runs, 24 runs, 111 RBI, and 21 steals. Over his short time in the majors, Tucker has a lower HR/FB rate (12.0) than he showed in his top seasons in the minors (17.8 and 20.0).
Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .283 with 334 runs, 95 RBI, 382 RBI, and 121 stolen bases over 1,998 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The Astros may give Tucker a top of the order opportunity against right-handed pitching. He has the talent to offer a four-tool skill set, with his batting average looking like a neutral asset early in his career. His ADP (31) moved up at least 120 picks from 2019. Don’t dismiss a 30/25 type season with plenty of runs and RBI.
7. 1B Yulieski Gurriel
The drum didn’t beat in Gurriel’s swing in 2020, which came after his best season in the majors (.298 with 85 runs, 31 home runs, and 104 RBI). He had a sharp decline in his contact batting average (.266 – .337) while losing his clutch ability (RBI rate – 12) with runners on base.
Gurriel remains tough to strikeout (11.7 percent) with a low walk rate (5.2 – 4.7 in his career). His average hit rate (1.653) came in well below his breakthrough in 2019 (1.815), but it was still his second-highest level with the Astros.
He compounded his disappointing season with emptiness in his bat in the postseason (5-for-44 with no home runs and one RBI). Gurriel finished with his highest fly-ball rate (42.3), but his HR/FB rate (7.5) didn’t have a pulse (15.6 in 2019 – 10.7 in his career). His hard-hit rate (37.0) ranked 198th in baseball.
From 2017 to 2019, Gurriel hit .296 with 224 runs, 62 home runs, 264 RBI, and 13 stolen bases over 1,630 at-bats. His jump in power in 2019 came from a 10-week hot streak (.376 with 43 runs, 22 HRs, and 65 RBI over 218 at-bats).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His value going forward is now caught in the net of the sign-stealing scandal run by the Astros before 2020. This draft season Gurriel is the 29th first baseman drafted with an ADP of 276. Like Michael Brantley, he is a steady player who helps batting average with minimum impact in power in most seasons. I’ll price him as a .280/75/15/75 player.
8. C Martin Maldonado
Batting average (.218 in his career) remains a liability for Maldonado. His stats over the past two seasons combined came to .214 with 65 runs, 18 home runs, and 51 RBI, which works as a C2 in deep leagues if given 450 at-bats.
His walk rate (15.2) has been impressive with Houston when considering his value in this area (6.6) over his first eight years in the majors. Maldonado was very good with runners on base (RBI rate – 22) in 2020, which was also well above his career path (12.1 percent). He also finished with a jump in his contact batting average (.345) while striking out 30.0 percent of the time.
Houston brought in Jason Castro to compete for at-bats against right-handed pitching. Maldonado hit only .185 vs. righties in 2020 (.213 in his career).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Maldonado is a defensive catcher with the ability to have some nice power games. He tends to be tough to time, and more at-bats will wear your team down in batting average. With only one season in his career with over 375 at-bats, I would look elsewhere for upside at the C2 position in deep leagues. His ADP (450) prices him as one of the last catchers drafted in 15-team leagues.
9. OF Myles Straw
Straw could be a speed out for fantasy teams if he somehow falls into starting at-bats with Houston.
Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .305 with four home runs, 148 RBI, and 170 steals over 1,831 at-bats. In 2018 between AA and AAA, Straw picked up 70 stolen bases over 516 at-bats. His walk rate (12.5) had top of the order value in the minors, with a respectable strikeout rate (16.7).
His average hit rate has never been above 1.300, giving him a pure Judy smell (no home runs and low RBI).
Over the past two seasons with Houston, Straw hit .242 with 35 runs, no home runs, 15 RBI, and 14 steals over 190 at-bats.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: I don’t expect him to win a starting job for the Astros. Straw works the best as a base-stealer in waiting in draft champion type leagues with 50-man rosters. If given a couple of weeks of starts, he may fill the stat sheet with stolen bases while offering some help in batting average once he finds his stride in the majors.
2B Aledmys Diaz
Diaz gave Houston plenty of good at-bats off the bench in 2019, but he left some stats on the table after missing about nine weeks with hamstring and concussion issues.
After minimal playing time over the first five weeks (.216 with two home runs and 10 RBI over 51 at-bats), his bat started to rise over the next three weeks in May (.362 with three home runs and 12 RBI over 47 at-bats) while adding follow-through over finals two months of the year (.283 with 17 runs, three home runs, and 14 RBI over 99 at-bats).
In 2020, his season started with about five weeks on the injured list with a groin injury that came in his first game played. Diaz then battled a quad issue that cost him another couple of weeks in September.
Over five seasons in the majors, he hit .273 with 54 home runs, 186 RBI, and 13 steals over 1,380 at-bats. Diaz has a low strikeout rate (13.4) while his walk rate (6.9) is below the league average.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: If Jose Altuve or Carlos Correa has an injury, Diaz will be an attractive injury cover with the skill set to deliver streaky power. He flashed in his rookie season (.300 with 17 home runs, 65 RBI, and four stolen bases over 404 at-bats), showing his potential with starting at-bats.
3B Abraham Toro
Toro made the jump from AA to the majors in 2019 after a couple of injuries to the Astros’ infielders.
Over 442 at-bats between AA and AAA, he hit .324 with 17 home runs, 80 RBI, and four steals. Toro only has 16 games of experience at AAA (28-for-66 with one home run and 10 RBI) and 165 at-bats with Houston (.182 with five home runs and 18 RBI) over two seasons.
Over his four years in the minors, he hit .273 with 48 home runs, 210 RBI, and 17 steals over 1,333 at-bats. Toro does bring a good approach to the table (walk rate – 11.0 and strikeout rate – 17.6).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Toro doesn’t have a path to starting at-bats with the Astros unless he shifts to right field, which seems unlikely. Kyle Tucker would need to play center field, something he’s not done since 2017 in the minors. Toro must find his approach with Houston. He should have a 20 home run floor with a starting job and 550 at-bats. For now, only a bench player that provides insurance at 1B, 3B, and DH.
Garrett Stubbs (C): Stubbs will compete for the backup catching job for Houston in 2021. Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .272 with 25 home runs, 159 RBI, and 47 steals over 1,285 at-bats.
Stubbs will take walks (11.2) with a low strikeout rate (13.6). In his three years at AAA, he hit .273 with 11 home runs, 73 RBI, and 21 stolen bases over 578 at-bats. His glove is favorable while needing to get stronger to add more pop in his swing. May surprise while offering speed from the catching position.
The Astros only gave him 43 at-bats (.186 with no home runs and three RBI) over the past two seasons.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Stubbs is only a player to follow this season. He doesn’t have a clear path to at-bats in Houston, pointing to a fourth trip to AAA.
1. SP Zack Greinke
Before 2020, Greinke went 145-56 with a 3.06 ERA and 1,691 strikeouts over 1,864 innings over 10 years. He’s won 15 games or more in 10 of his previous 12 full seasons.
This season will be interesting to see how fickle fantasy owners will be when deciding to draft pitchers with a small sample size. Greinke finished with a 4.03 ERA, but his WHIP (1.134) suggested he underachieved in ERA. He was easier to hit (.256 – .245 in his career) despite throwing plenty of strikes (walk rate – 1.2 and strikeout rate – 9.0).
His AFB (88.2) was the lowest of his career and 1.8 MPH slower than 2019 (90.0). Greinke only had one pitch of value (changeup - .165 BAA). He has a tough time getting right-handed batters out (.305 with five home runs over 131 at-bats).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With fading fastball, Greinke also has a regressing ADP (108). He still throws strikes, and home runs haven’t been a problem over the past two seasons. In a way, Greinke now profiles as about the same pitcher as Kyle Hendricks while having a longer resume of success. If I remove his worst start on September 13th (five runs and eight baserunners over five innings), Greinke would have had a 3.62 ERA. I’ll gamble on the wins while expecting to post a competitive ERA and WHIP compared to pitchers getting drafted around him.
2. SP Lance McCullers
After missing 2019 with TJ surgery, McCullers turned in a season that closely mirrored his 2018 season (10-6 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.169 WHIP). His walk rate (3.3) improved slightly, while his strikeout rate (9.2) fell short of his career average (10.0).
Out of the gate over his first three starts, McCullers showed some rust (14 runs, 26 baserunners, and three home runs over 13.2 innings), with most of the damage coming in his third start (eight runs and eight base runners over 3.2 innings).
His arm was special over his final eight starts (2.18 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, and .182 BAA), which included no runs over his last 17.2 innings with 24 strikeouts. Unfortunately, his success didn’t translate as well in the postseason (4.91 ERA) due to seven home runs allowed over 14.2 innings.
He still needs to improve against right-handed batters (.253 BAA). His AFB (94.1) was a tad below 2018 (95.0 MPH). All three of his secondary pitches (changeup – .209 BAA, curveball – .221 BAA, and cutter – .222 BAA) graded well.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With a few more strikes thrown, McCullers looks positioned to have a breakthrough season. The trick here is getting 180 innings, which would be over 50 more than he has pitched at any level in his career. His next step is 14 wins with a sub 3.25 ERA and 200 strikeouts. It’s all about direction, and McCullers is on the rise with a favorable ADP (119).
3. SP Jose Urquidy
The Astros never revealed why Urquidy was late reporting to camp in July. It may have been tied to Covid, but Houston's upper management kept this issue under wraps.
His first start didn’t come until September 5th, when he allowed two runs and seven baserunners over 3.2 innings. Urquidy pitched a minimum of six innings over his final four games, leading to a 2.42 ERA, 0.885 WHIP, .194 BAA, and 15 strikeouts over 26 innings. Over four games in the postseason, he allowed seven runs, 18 baserunners, and four home runs over 15.2 innings.
Urquidy averaged 93.7 MPH with his fastball. Batters only hit .189 against his four-seamer, while his changeup (.162 BAA) proved to be an edge.
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.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His only negatives from his short stats last year were a high HR/FB rate (1.2) and weak strikeout rate (5.2). The latter looks to be an outlier based on his career path (9.8 strikeouts per nine in the minors). His ADP (206) looks very attractive if Urquidy pitches up to his minor league resume in command with a push forward in strikeouts. At the very least, a 3.75 ERA with 150 strikeouts, but I expect him to beat both of those numbers.
4. SP Framber Valdez
Valdez went 26-21 with a 3.79 ERA and 439 strikeouts over 367.2 innings over five seasons in the minors. His walk rate (3.5) has always been high in the minors. The light bulb started to click in 2019 at AAA (5-2 with a 3.25 ERA and 69 strikeouts over 44.1 innings).
Over his first two seasons in Houston, he walked 5.7 batters per nine innings, leading to a messy 4.60 ERA and 1.523 WHIP.
In 2020, Valdez pitched well over his first five games (1.72 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 31.1 innings). Batters roughed him up over his next four starts (20 runs and 35 baserunners over 26 innings), but he rebounded over his final two contests (two runs over 13.1 innings with 19 strikeouts). Valdez went 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 24 innings in the postseason.
His improved success came from the best command (2.0 walks per nine) of his career.
Valdez brings an above-average fastball (93.9) while relying on an electric curveball (.122 BAA) and a viable low-volume changeup (.235 BAA).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: His ADP (104) is an area where his 2021 stats could go either way. If his growth in command repeats, Valdez looks to be a value selection. I’m fearful of his walk rate, as any regression could be devastating to his ERA and WHIP. I’m going to let him beat this year.
5. SP Cristian Javier
The Astros hope Javier can build off his minor league resume (26-11 with a 2.22 ERA and 512 strikeouts over 377 innings) in 2021. Houston used him as a starter and reliever in the minors.
His highlight season came in 2019 between High A, AA, and AAA (8-3 with a 1.74 ERA and 170 strikeouts over 113.2 innings. He did issue 59 walks (4.7 per nine), but batters only hit .130 against him while pitching better as a starter (1.70 ERA).
Over 12 games with Houston last year, Javier went 5-2 with a 3.48 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 54.1 innings. Batters struggled to hit him (.188 BAA), but he did serve up 11 home runs (1.8 per nine).
Right-handed batters only had eight hits in 79 at-bats (.101 BA). His AFB (92.6) came in below the league average. He offered a plus slider (.081 BAA) while his four-seam fastball (.206 BAA) was tough to hit.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Javier isn’t there yet in his command (walk rate – 3.0 in the majors and 3.9 in the minors). He did struggle with his first-pitch strikeout rate (44). His ADP (211) is in an attractive area. Wins could fall short of expectation if he doesn’t throw enough strikes to pitch in the seventh inning. There is a lot to like about his game to target in drafts. Houston will win games, and Javier should be an asset in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts.
SP Rogelio Armenteros
Over his first four seasons in the minors, Armenteros went 29-13 with a 3.18 ERA and 481 strikeouts over 430 innings.
He pitched exceptionally well at AAA in 2017 (8-1 with a 2.16 ERA over 58.1 innings with 72 strikeouts), but his overall game regressed when asked to repeat the level in 2018 (8-1 with 3.74 ERA and 134 strikeouts over 118 innings) and 2019 (6-7 with a 4.80 ERA and 85 strikeouts over 84.1 innings).
Houston gave him five appearances in 2019, which led to 18 good innings (4.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts).
His walk rate (2.5) was better than his minor league career (3.2) while adding a high strikeout rate (9.0).
His fastball came in at 91.0 MPH while offering a plus changeup (.217 BAA). His curveball (.250) looks to be league average at best.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Armenteros will have to work his way through the bullpen to earn a starting job for the Astros. He has enough experience at AAA where Armenteros should start 2021 in the majors.
SP Forrest Whitley
The Astros drafted Whitley 17th overall in the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft.
Over his first three short seasons in the minors, he went 6-8 with a 3.28 ERA and 203 strikeouts over 137.1 innings, with more of his success coming in 2016 (2.83 ERA and 143 strikeouts over 92.1 innings).
In 2018, MLB suspended him for 50 games for failing a minor-league drug test. After returning to the field in June, Whitley pitched well over his first three outings (no runs over 12 innings with five hits and 18 strikeouts). He struggled over his last five games (6.91 ERA) due to walks (eight over 14.1 innings) and an oblique injury that led to a couple of IL stints.
Whitley was a complete bust in 2019 (7.99 ERA and 1.726 WHIP) while forgetting how to throw strikes (walk rate – 6.6) and serving up too many home runs (11 over 59.2 innings). After a six-week stint on the injured list with a right shoulder injury, Houston tried to drop him down in class to get his confidence.
Over his final eight games, he posted a 4.65 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 31 innings between High A and AA.
He missed all of last season with a right arm issue.
Whitley features a mid-90s fastball with upside while offering a plus slider and curveball. He started working on a cutter, and his changeup has a chance to hit the ground running in the majors.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: The Astros believe Whitley will be ready for spring training. I don’t like his path as health remains a significant problem. When adding he’s never pitched over 95 innings in any level, Whitley is only a follow until he proves his worth in the field.
CL Ryan Pressly
In 2018 and 2019, Pressly developed into one of the top eighth inning arms in baseball. He has a 2.44 ERA and 173 strikeouts over his last 125.1 innings.
With Roberto Osuna developing a right elbow injury four games into the season, Pressly took over as the closer for Houston in early August.
His arm didn’t look right over his first nine games (5.87 ERA), leading to two blown saves in five chances. Pressly did come into the season with right elbow soreness. He regained his form over his final 14 appearances (2.03 ERA, .204 BAA, and 20 strikeouts over 13.1 innings) while converting nine of his 11 save tries.
Pressly lost momentum in his walk rate (3.0), with strength in his strikeout rate (12.4).
His AFB (95.0) was a step back from 2018 (96.5) and 2019 (95.5) while featuring a plus slider (.200 BAA) and a step back in his curveball (.250 BAA).
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With more length to 2020, Pressly probably would have corrected his slow start to the year. His finish to the year should position him well in the closer ranking this season. He has an early ADP of 115. Possible 40-plus saves with help in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts while keeping an eye on his right elbow in March.
RP Pedro Baez
Over seven seasons as a top setup man for the Dodgers, Baez went 21-15 with a 3.03 ERA and 369 strikeouts over 356 innings. His only three saves came over the past two seasons.
His walk rate (3.6) has been a problem over the last four years while seeing a drop off in his strikeout rate (6.9) in 2020.
Baez finished with his lowest average fastball (94.5 MPH) of his career (97.8 in 2015). All three of his pitches (four-seam fastball – .231 BAA, changeup – .128 BAA, and slider – .091 BAA) were tough to hit last year, which has been the case in his whole career.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: With Houston, Baez takes over the eighth-inning role while also providing insurance for saves. Even with no real closing experience, he has the arsenal to get batters out. Ideally, Baez needs to throw more strikes to improve his chances late in games.
RP Bryan Abreu
Over six seasons in the minors, Abreu went 18-15 with a 4.48 ERA and 368 strikeouts over 287.1 innings. Most of his struggles came at rookie ball (5.40 ERA). He looked much better in 2018 between Low A and A (6-1 with a 1.49 ERA and 90 strikeouts over 54.1 innings.
His struggles start with a high walk rate (5.5) while adding a high strikeout rate (11.5).
The Astros gave him four appearances out of the bullpen in 2020, which led to one run over 3.1 innings with seven walks and three strikeouts.
Abreu has a mid-90s fastball with a plus-plus curveball.
2021 Fantasy Outlook: Live arm with high upside if/when Abreu figured out how to throw more strikes. In 2021, He should start the year at AA with an eye on helping Houston in the bullpen.
2021 Fantasy Baseball Team Outlooks