Final Record: 101-61
Home Runs: 2nd
Stolen Bases: 8th
The World Champion Houston Astros were a fantasy powerhouse in 2017. In fact, they were the #1 team in fantasy baseball with 11 players inside the top 100 overall. As a team, the Astros led baseball in runs scored and were 2nd in home runs. The pitching staff was 2nd in team strikeouts. The scary part is they have the potential to be even better in 2018. They’ve already traded for Gerrit Cole to shore up an already great rotation. Is there more to come?
Let’s take a look towards 2018.
The Superstar: Jose Altuve
The #2 overall player in fantasy baseball two seasons in a row, Altuve has a solid case to be the #1 overall player taken in 2018 drafts. His average stat line over the past two seasons is 24 HR 88 RBI 31 SB 110 R and a .341 average. That’s pretty darn good. Expect these numbers to be a baseline for 2018 as I see potential for more RBI which only increases his overall value.
The Sleeper: Josh Reddick
Prior to the Cole trade, this spot was probably going to Brad Peacock. The reliever turned starter seems to be headed back to the bullpen on a full time basis in 2018. We may still see spot starts from him, but it sure would be nice to have him as a full time starter with his incredible 11 K/9. As for Reddick, what if I told you he was a top 100 player last season? Well, he was! Reddick, who went virtually undrafted in 2017, was #98 overall and the #33 OF in fantasy. He did this with a career high slash line of .314/.363/.484. His OPS of .847 was even better than his 2012 season in which he hit 32 HR. He had a higher OPS than Francisco Lindor, Mike Moustakas, and Jay Bruce to name a few. Despite only 13 HR, Reddick was solid across the board with 82 RBI 77 R 7 SB and a career high 34 doubles. I see those numbers getting better in 2018 and even if they stay the same, you’ve got a top 100 player going between pick 150-200.
The Guy to Avoid: Lance McCullers Jr.
McCullers Jr. might be on someone else’s sleepers list and I wouldn’t blink. He has all the stuff to be a consistent top 30 SP. My hang-up with him last year was the high walk rate. He cut that walk rate down to 3 BB/9 in 2017. Sure the strikeouts suffered, but he still managed a 10 K/9. The career FIP has been 3.14 and last year was 3.10. This tells us he was a bit unlucky in his 2017 ERA of 4.25. My hang-up this season is the injury concern. McCullers Jr. has just 199.2 innings pitched over the past two seasons combined. It’s hard to envision him getting more than 130 innings in 2018. He’s also incredibly streaky. He had a 10 start stretch over the course of May and June where he had a 1.86 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over 58 innings. He then finished the year with a 8.53 ERA over his final 7 starts. Sure, he missed all of August and only made 3 starts in September, but his fantasy owners had to deal with this. In addition to that, he never recorded more than 5.1 IP in any of those final 7 starts. This makes wins hard to come by. Houston is going to control his innings again in 2018. I’m not spending a top 100 pick on him and his current ECR is 98 overall.
The Prospect To Watch: Kyle Tucker
Tucker enters 2018 as the #8 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline. After hitting .288 with a .932 OPS in 48 games at high A, Tucker was promoted to Double-A. In 72 games, Tucker hit .265 with 16 HR and 47 RBI at that level. He’s also a solid base stealer with 32 stolen bases in 2016 and 21 stolen bases over his 2017 minor league year. The only problem is the playing time. The Astros big league lineup is stacked and Tucker could very well stay in the minors all of 2018. I’m telling you to keep an eye on him because if he gets the call, either through injury or by other means, he’s a 5 category player and probably a top 50 OF the second Houston gives him a full time job.