2020 Fantasy Baseball: Houston Astros Team Preview

Full fantasy baseball stat projections for Astros hitters and pitchers. What to expect from George Springer, Jose Altuve, Justin Verlander and more.
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Houston Astros

After winning their first World Series title in 2017, the Astros improved in wins in back-to-back seasons (103-59 and 107-55). Twice in the past two years, Houston lost in the playoffs to teams with chemistry on their side. Boston took them out in the 2018 ALCS (4-1), followed by a game seven loss in the World Series last year to the Washington Nationals. Since 1996, the Astros have made the postseason in 10 different years with one other appearance in the World Series. In the franchise's 58-year history, they made the playoffs 13 times.

Their significant loss in the offseason was the dynamic arm of Gerrit Cole, who jumped to the New York Yankees. The only signing to the major league roster was C Dustin Garneau. Houston added RP Austin Pruitt via a minor deal with Tampa.

The Astros scored the second-most runs (920) in the team's history, which led to the third-place ranking in baseball. They hit 288 home runs (third) with 891 RBI (third). On the pitching side, Houston finished third as well in ERA (3.66) with 47 saves and a major league-high in strikeouts (1,671).

In 2020, offense shouldn’t be a problem with the core of star players returning. Last year they added a couple of developing bats (Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker), which will add more depth and explosiveness to their lineup this season. The biggest question surrounding the Astros’ batters is the fallout of the sign-stealing program they used in recent years to gain a competitive advantage.

Houston has to take a step forward in pitching after losing the best arm in baseball in 2019. They regain SP Lance McCullers, who missed all of 2019 with his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The Astros have an elite arm in their minor league system (Forrest Whitley), but he was a mess in 2019 (7.99 ERA over 59.2 innings). The Astros do have talent in their starting pitching depth with some major league experience. Their bullpen should rank high again this season.

The Astros will be a top contender again in 2020 with underlying motivation to prove their off-the-field issues weren’t the keys to their success over recent years. This club is in the mix for another 100-plus win season, but their road to the championship looks to be a fight with the Yankees with Gerrit Cole standing tall in October.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF George Springer

In each of the past three seasons, Springer missed some time due to injuries. Last year his bat was explosive over the first 48 games (.308 with 41 runs, 17 HRs, 43 RBI, and four SBs over 185 at-bats), but he missed the next month of the year with a hamstring injury. Other than batting average in July (.247), he played at the same level after the All-Star break (.282 with 49 runs, 21 HRs, and 50 RBI over 248 at-bats). 

His approach (strikeout rate – 20.3 and walk rate – 12.1) came in above his career resume while showing growth in his AVH (2.021) and CTBA (.383). Springer remains a leadoff hitter for Houston, which created weak RBI chances in each of the past three seasons (292, 296, and 312) despite a middle-of-the-order RBI rate (18.0) over this stretch. Springer ranked 64th in hard-hit rate (44.8) while setting a career-high in his HR/FB rate (29.5). His swing path remains ground ball favoring (44.6 percent in 2019 and 47.2 in his career). 

With an ADP of 45, fantasy owners should expect three strong categories (runs, HRs, and RBI) with some help in batting average and a handful of steals. I expect 40-plus home runs, and I would be excited if the Astros moved him to the middle of the batting order.

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2. 2B Jose Altuve

Other than his lost five weeks of the season due to a hamstring injury, the most significant disappointment with Altuve in 2019 was the massive regression in steals (six). He set a career-high in home runs (31) thanks to a big move in his AVH (1.846 – 1.471 in his career), but his contact batting average (.356) regressed for the second straight year. 

Altuve had the highest strikeout rate (15.0) of his career with fade in each of the past three seasons. His walk rate (7.5) fell short of his growth in 2016 (8.4), 2017 (8.8), and 2018 (9.2). He bashed his way through April (nine HRs and 20 RBI over 113 at-bats), but his batting average (.248) had risk. After the All-Star break, Altuve regained his previous form (.325 with 59 runs, 21 HRs, and 49 RBI over 286 at-bats). Even with 31 home runs, he ranked 284th in hard-hit rate (272nd in 2018). His fly-ball rate (32.5) remains short, but Altuve did have a huge spike in his HR/FB rate (23.3 – 7.7 in 2018 and 9.5 in his career). He played the best against lefties (.331 with 11 HRs and 22 RBI over 130 at-bats). With nine seasons under his belt in the majors, Altuve looks well on his way to 3,000 hits (1,568 hits over 4,985 at-bats). There is no doubt he’s a great hitter, but the uptick in power doesn’t look repeatable, and his speed can’t be trusted heading into 2020. 

His ADP sits at 31 in the high-stakes market. This season I would draft him hoping for an edge in runs and batting average. Expect him to post a minimum of a 20/80/20 year in the other categories.

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3. 3B Alex Bregman

Bregman continued his push toward the upper echelon of players in Major League Baseball. 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). He had growth in his average hit rate (2.000) and a rebound in his contact batting average (.344). Bregman set career highs in runs (122), home runs (41), and RBI (112) while leading the league in walks (119). 

His only downturn was a drop in steals (five). His hard-hit rate (37.5) came in at 219th, with more improvement in his HR/FB rate (18.6). His swing path delivers plenty of fly balls (45.9 percent – 43.1 in his career). Last year he crushed left-handed pitching (.350 with 16 HRs and 38 RBI over 163 at-bats) with his best play coming after the All-Star break (.338 with 61 runs, 18 HRs, and 56 RBI over 237 at-bats). Developing into an excellent middle-of-the order bat with a chance at 250 combined runs and RBI. 

Bregman is young enough to see a rebound in speed while having the feel at the plate to push for a batting title. He can be had with the 10th overall pick in most drafts in 2020 while gaining an extra notch of value for me due to his shortstop qualification. Possible .310 with 125 runs, 35 home runs, 125 RBI, and 10 steals. In 2019, he ranked as the 9th best hitter in SIscores.

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4. OF Michael Brantley

Brantley remains a top professional bat, but his value this season may get lost with so many players hitting home runs in 2019. He has an ADP of 129 in the early drafts season as the 34th outfielder off the board. His final stats from last year placed him 54th in SIscore rankings while being drafted as the 83rd hitter in 2020. 

Brantley continues to be tough to strikeout (10.4) with a league average walk rate (8.0). His CTBA (.352) has been in a tight range over the past three years. He did show growth in his AVH (1.615). Brantley finished with the most RBI chances (417) of his career, with a slight fade in his RBI rate (16). His HR/FB rate (14.0) was a career-high, but he still hits a low number of fly balls (30.8 percent). Brantley did most of his damage against righties (.323 with 19 HRs and 68 RBI over 412 at-bats). He hit over .300 in four months (April – .331, May – .327, July – .349, and August – .378) while fading in September (.179 with three HRs and ten RBI over 78 at-bats). 

Not the best bat on the team, but his lefty swing does keep him in the mix in the Astros' middle of the lineup. He could hit anywhere from first to seventh in the batting order with possible changing value on many nights. Buy the batting average with the hopes of double-digit steals. Brantley should be slightly above neutral in runs, home runs, and RBI.

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5. 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 the field for 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 AVH (2.038) and strength in his CTBA (.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 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 102 as the 14th shortstop off the board. His ceiling is explosive, but it is tough to ignore his 192 missed games over the past three years. Top-ten talent with a chance to bat over .300 with 100-plus runs, 40-plus home runs, and 120 RBI. 

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READ MORE: 2020 Houston Astros Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Justin Verlander

Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball in 2019 based on SIscore (16.07). He led the American League in wins (21), starts (34), innings pitched (223), and WHIP (0.803). Over three seasons with Houston, Verlander has gone 42-15 with a 2.45 ERA and 633 strikeouts over 471 innings. Last year he finished with 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career with strength in both his walk rate (1.7) and strikeout rate (12.1). 

Over the past three years, Verlander struggled with home runs (1.2, 1.2, and 1.5 per nine). He had an ERA under 2.50 in every month except June (4.02) due to 10 home runs allowed over 40.1 innings. He pitched well against both righties (.182) and lefties (.163). Even with great success in 2019, Verlander did look shaky in the postseason (1-4 with a 4.33 ERA and eight home runs allowed over 35.1 innings). Over the previous five seasons, Verlander has pitched more up in the strike zone (fly-ball rate – 45.5, 47.7, 42.7, 51.4, and 45.2) with a negative spike in his HR/FB rate (16.0) in 2019. His AFB (94.8) fell short of 2017 (95.8) and 2018 (95.6), but batters did struggle to hit his four-seamer (.221 BBA). All three of his secondary pitched graded as elite (changeup – .163 BAA, slider – .145 BAA, and curveball – .194 BAA). 

A volume arm with some cracks in his resume, but overall, Verlander looks poised to build on his success in Houston. He has an ADP of 14 in the early draft season. His floor should be a 3.00 ERA with 250-plus Ks and 15 wins while his ceiling falls in line with his resume for the Astros.

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SP2 Zack Greinke

Over the last decade, Greinke went 145-56 with a 3.06 ERA and 1,691 strikeouts over 1,864 innings. He’s won 15 games or more in 10 of his previous 12 seasons. His path puts him in the Hall of Fame. Greinke needs 95 wins to reach 300 for his career. In 2019 between Arizona and Houston, he went 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA and 187 strikeouts over 208.2 innings. 

His walk rate (1.3) was the best of his career, but his strikeout rate (8.1) continues to fade. Greinke pitched well on the road (10-4 with a 2.64 ERA and 105 Ks over 112.1 innings) with similar success against right-handed (.235) and left-handed (.221) batters. He tends to allow a low number of fly balls (33.1 percent – 34.9 in his career) with some improvement in his HR/FB rate (10.9). His AFB (90.1) was a career-low. He still holds an edge over batters due to his changeup (.214 BAA) and curveball (.169 BAA) while mixing in six other pitches. 

His rise looked to end in 2016 (4.37 ERA), but Greinke only went 50-23 with a 3.11 ERA and 601 strikeouts over his last 618.2 innings. Viable SP2 in deep leagues with an ADP of 70. Buy the upside in wins while understanding he’ll help in ERA and WHIP. 

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CL/RP Roberto Osuna

It’s hard to believe that Osuna led the American League with only 38 saves. He finished with strength in both his strikeout rate (10.1) and walk rate (1.7). Over the first seven weeks of the year, his arm looked special (12-for-12 in save conversions with one run allowed 21.1 innings with 19 Ks). Osuna lost his way over his next 27 games (5.19 ERA and 30 Ks over 26 innings) due to six home runs allowed. His bad days led to five blown saves in 19 chances. He pitched well over the final quarter of the season (1.53 ERA and 24 Ks over 17.2 innings). 

Osuna allowed four runs and 12 baserunners over 10 innings in the postseason in 2019 with nine strikeouts and two saves. His AFB (96.9) was the best of his career. Batters struggled to hit his cutter (.140 BAA), slider (.163 BAA), and changeup (0.98 BAA). One of the better young closers in the game with 154 career saves at the age of 24. Osuna has all the tools to rank in the top tier of 9th inning arms in baseball. An excellent buy based on his ADP (84). His next step is a sub 2.00 ERA with a 100-plus strikeout and over 40 saves.

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Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Houston Astros Team Outlook

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