Written by Daniel Paulling
Published: 26 February 2009
The Astros probably won't go anywhere this season, but Minute Maid Park is a good place for right handed hitters with pop and Houston has a couple of those, plus an ace to go with them. And if that's not enough, there is also plenty speed to pick from for later rounds. Oh, and an old and (formerly) juiced up shortstop, if you need one.
Lance Berkman (1B):
With a little more luck (or a better team), Berkman might have multiple MVP awards.
The Big Puma posted another astounding season last year, and he should have been given greater NL MVP consideration for it. However, voters vote however they vote, and his season was overshadowed by other players. If you look at his career stats, you’ll notice something odd: Berkman has great seasons in even-numbered years and more mortal production in odd-numbered years. Don’t expect 2008 again, but do expect a lot.
Roy Oswalt (SP):
Oswalt’s ERA has risen each of the last four seasons, from a low of 2.94 in 2005 to 3.54 last season. Not too long ago, Oswalt was one of the best fantasy pitchers available, a Johan Santana-type ace. He’s still a fantasy ace, but if his decline continues, his fantasy value may drop to another tier.
Carlos Lee (OF):
It’s a challenge to consider Lee a second-tier player, but 30/100 outfielders are becoming more common. Lee doesn’t offer any speed anymore, but he should hit .300. He’s still toward the top end of this range, so don’t drop his fantasy value too low.
Miguel Tejada (SS):
Which Tejada are we going to get? On the one hand, it’s easy to say he’ll be negatively affected by the investigation by federal agents and the resulting negative press. On the other hand, Tejada is a free agent after this season, and in his walk year with Oakland, he won an MVP. Let’s just bet on a solid .280 with 15 homers and 75 RBI.
Hunter Pence (OF):
He may be a case of being a much more valuable fantasy player than actual player. If Pence could post .270/30/90 next season, and that is a legitimate possibility, he could give you a lot of value. However, he strikes out three times for every walk and was caught stealing about as many times as he successfully stole a base. Those may limit his future in the batting average and stolen base categories.
Michael Bourn (OF):
Bourn, like Pence, struck out about three times for every walk. Not many top-of-the-order types can live like that. He’s got the wheels -- Bourn stole 41 bases last year -- but you’ve got to ask how much that .229 batting average is going to go up. I’m steering completely clear, unless he starts walking more early in the season.
Kazuo Matsui (2B):
Stolen bases are a large part of Matsui’s fantasy value, but he needs to be healthy enough to get them. His career high in games played is 114. If Matsui could put together a years’ worth of at-bats, he could be flirting with 40 stolen bases, a .290 average and the high number of runs scored that comes with hitting in front of Berkman and Lee. Matsui is the cheap man’s Chone Figgins.
Wandy Rodriguez (SP):
Rodriguez produced a 3.54 ERA, the same as Oswalt, in 137.3 innings, making him one pitcher who flew under the radar. Combine that with nine wins, a solid strikeout (or so) per inning rate and you’ve got plenty of fantasy owners salivating. Why not, the thinking goes, expect him to win 14 games, strike out 160 and post another solid ERA? He, the response goes, just isn’t that good of a pitcher. Project about the same number of wins, about 140 strikeouts and an ERA about half a run higher. Solid, but nothing great.