The offense is ripe with possibilities. There are a lot of options, not enough roster spots, and tons of players who are having very good springs. There is a lot for an optimistic Astros fan to like.
As exciting as the hitters have been this spring for the Astros, the pitchers have been just as concerning. And that is not from a lack of options. It is from those options, for the most part, not pitching like they want to take advantage of the opportunity at hand. Granted there is still a lot of spring left and pitchers have just started to have their innings stretched out, but the way it looks now a lot of runs will be scored against Houston this season.
For that reason the fantasy baseball appeal of Astros pitchers in most leagues is contained to one man, the closer. Now the general consensus is that the Astros will not win a lot of games, which although is sometimes troubling and disappointing to hear, it is true. So therefore there will be fewer save opportunities for the Astros than for other teams. But still, a closer is a closer and a save is a save. And since there are only 30 closers at a time, supply and demand takes hold and whoever is closing games for the Astros will have some value. With that being said, let’s take a look at how your Astros pitchers project from a fantasy perspective.
Bud Norris: Not only is Norris expected to be the ace of the Astros staff, but he is the pitcher with the most fantasy upside. Prior to last year, it looked as if Norris was on track to becoming a top pitcher. That is not to say that it still can’t happen, but it does not look as certain as it did. But just because he will be at the top of the Astros rotation, it does not mean he should be on top of yours. But the fact that he can be counted on for 200 innings and almost as many strikeouts makes him a tantalizing option. Norris is still young enough to become the ace we thought he could be. Performances like his last start against the Blue Jays will continue to tantalize Astros fans making Norris worthy of a flier.
Lucas Harrell: Harrell is a pitcher who is better in real life than in fantasy. He does not strike any batters on a consistent basis and also allows a decent amount of baserunners. But Harrell eats innings, keeps the ball on the ground, and is able to limit the damage. Quite simply he keeps the Astros in the game and is a solid starter. While Harrell will be valuable to the Astros, he doesn’t have much fantasy value beyond being a spot starter depending on his matchup or as an option when he is making two starts in a week.
Philip Humber: Once a top prospect, Humber is now just fighting to stay in a big league rotation. He is not a strikeout pitcher and often has control problems leading to a lot of baserunners and then trouble for Humber. Both before and after his no hitter, Humber ran into trouble last season. A lot of his issues were due to his mental approach as well, but I don’t think he will ever live up to his status as a first round pick. This leaves him as a spot starter at best in fantasy.
Erik Bedard: At this point in his career Bedard is essentially a left-handed version of Humber. However he does have somewhat of a track record, albeit with a history of injury problems. He really should not be on your radar.
Brad Peacock: The hard throwing righty has a chance to open the season as the 5th starter. If he does not, then it would not surprise me to see him in the rotation for a good part of the season. He is a top prospect with strikeout potential and certainly someone that should be on your radar in deeper leagues. Jordan Lyles is another young pitcher to keep an eye on in deep keeper leagues, but I’m not sure you can expect much from him this season. Both Peacock and Lyles have a lot of potential, but try not to be blinded by it when building your fantasy team.
Jose Veras: To start the season, Veras is the closer which means he will get a few save opportunities. That obviously counts for something, and he will strike some batters out as well. Veras also does not have much experience as a closer, so you have to be a little skeptical here, but he is worth a flier.
All Other Relievers: Other than Veras no one in the bullpen has much value at all. At this point it is hard to figure who would be the closer if Veras falters or gets traded, so I would not put too much stock into trying to forecast who is the backup closer on a possible 100 loss team.