Fantasy Breakdown: Houston Astros for 2021

A preview of Houston Astros' lineup, rotation, and bullpen for 2021.

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

 

At A Glance

 

Amidst the constant booing from every other team’s fanbase, after the offseason reveal of their 2017 cheating scandal, the Houston Astros finished 2nd in the AL West with a 29-31 record. In a 60 game season, this Astros club underachieved offensively and never reach their full potential. The team hit .240/.312/.408 with the league’s 17th best wRC+ (99). Although they finished 20th in walk rate, they also led the league in strikeout rate, punching out just 19.7% of the time. The lineup on paper was very good, but after losing Yordan Álvarez to injury and down years from both José Altuve and Carlos Correa, there were definitely some missing components. Fortunately, the Astros rotation picked up the slack. The emergence of Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier helped the staff turn in the league’s 13th best ERA and FIP. The rotation’s 15.7% K-BB rate was the league’s 11th best ratio. The bullpen was solid, but not spectacular. Power-arm Roberto Osuna only logged four innings, but rookies Andre Scrubb and Enoli Paredes, with the help of veteran Ryan Pressley, stepped in to fill the void.

The Astros look to be in a great position for the 2021 season. While they will be losing star outfielder George Springer, they should be getting back a fully strengthened Álvarez. The lineup will be stacked at the top but will pose some questions about depth. The rotation won’t change, albeit any injuries, and should be another strength for Houston. Osuna will walk due to free agency, but the bullpen will remain solid with some decent depth.

 

Hitters

 

Projected Lineup

 

Infielders

 

José Altuve (Second Base)

2020: 32 R, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 2 SB, .219/.286/.344|2B # 23

2021 ADP: 108.73 (2B# 10)

 

By wRC+, 2020 was Altuve’s worst season of his career. His .219 batting average and strikeout rate 0f 18.6% were also both career worsts. Altuve stole just two bases across his 210 PA, furthering his decline in the stolen base category. However, I don’t think 2020 was anything short of a poor season in a small sample size for Altuve. His xwOBACON was abnormally low, while his BABIP was also well below his typical marks. Altuve has never been a hitter with awfully hard contact, but he’s a spray-hitter who hardly misses and rarely strikes out. There weren’t any big changes in his plate discipline and contact statistics, so I would expect a nice rebound for the Astros leadoff hitter in 2021. Look for him to be a great source of batting average, runs, and maybe even homers.

 

Alex Bregman (Third Base)

2020: 19 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB, .242/.350/.451 | 3B # 31

2021 ADP: 36.40 (3B# 5)

 

Although he was still an above-average hitter, Alex Bregman had a bit of a down year by his standards in 2020. Like a lot of Astros hitters, it may have just been a poor start to the season that skewed his overall stats because of the shortened season. Bregman is another case that poses the question, “how much do we value last season?” He hit the ball hard at a similar rate, was in the top 10 percentile in strikeout rate, and top 4 percentile in whiff rate. Bregman’s xSLG took a big hit, but his batted ball profile minimally changed. Bregman may never be a 40 home run hitter again, he just doesn’t hit the ball hard enough on a consistent basis to do so, but his elite contact rates and plate discipline make him an exceptional hitter for OBP, runs, and RBI. Expect him to be in the middle of another top-heavy hitting lineup.

 

Carlos Correa (Shortstop)

2020: 22 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 0 SB, .64/.326/.383 | SS # 27

2021 ADP: 126.83 (SS# 13)

 

Any given year could be Carlos Correa‘s big year. The 26-year-old hasn’t played a full season since 2016 but has shown some elite hitting in small samples. In 2017 he held a 152 wRC+ across 481 PA and in 2019 he produced a 143 wRC+ across just 321 PA. However, in between those years have been some not-so-impressive seasons. Correa’s 2020 season was one that fell flat. His walk rate dropped by almost 4%, while his xSLG was well below his year-to-year average. Correa has consistently put up years with hard-hit rates north of 40% but has paired it with ground ball rates north of 40% as well. In 2020, he hit a ground ball nearly half the time he made contact. If 2021 Correa can elevate the ball, we might see a rebound closer towards those 2017 and 2019 seasons. Still, health will remain in question for the shortstop. A healthy Correa can provide value in RB, runs, and be a 20-30 home run hitter.

 

Yuli Gurriel (First Base)

2020: 27 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB, .232/.274/.384 | 1B # 24

2021 ADP: 304.10 (1B# 32)

 

After signing a one year contract worth 7 million with the Astros, Yuli Gurriel will be returning to the only team he’s played within his 5-year career. As a hitter, Gurriel does exactly what the Astros lineup did really well in 2020, he doesn’t strike out or whiff. However, Gurriel also shares a lot of the same poor characteristics. His barrel rate is in the bottom 13th percentile, his walk rate is in the bottom 12th percentile, and he struggles to consistently hit the ball hard. It’s great that he doesn’t strike out or whiff, but we have to wonder at what expense. If it’s going to sacrifice potential power, how great is it? Gurriel hit 31 homers in 2019, but given his soft contact profile, it’s beginning to look a lot like an outlier. If the hitters ahead of him are productive, he might still be a decent option for RBI. He also may hold a batting average that pushes the .300 mark, but he shouldn’t be a top firs basemen on your radar.

 

Jason Castro (Catcher)

2020: 8 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB, .188/.293/.375 | C # 49

2021 ADP: 569.80 (C# 45)

 

Jason Castro is returning to Houston on a two-year deal worth $7 million. In 2020, Castro hit two home runs and posted a 85 wRC+. He struck out 35% of the time, contributing to a terrible .188 batting average, but still walked at a 13% rate. However, Castro only had 92 PA in 2020. In 2019, he saw 275 PA and produced a 103 wRC+. His ceiling might just be that of a league-average hitter, but Castro has always been great at drawing free passes and can hit with a little pop.

 

 

Martín Maldonado (Catcher)

2020: 19 R, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB, .215/.350/.378 | C # 12

2021 ADP: 457.03 (C# 35)

 

It feels weird saying it, but Martín Maldonado had a good offensive season in 2020. He only had 165 PA, but he was a 110 wRC+ hitter. He walked 16.4% of the time, which is abnormally high for him, and he made some of the worst contact you could make. We all know he’s not the catcher you want for 2021. Just avoid him and take a risk on a younger option.

 

Outfielders

Michael Brantley (OF)

2020: 24 R, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 2 SB, .300/.364/.476 | OF # 54

2021 ADP: 156.53 (OF# 41)

 

Michael Brantley re-signed with the Astros on a two-year deal worth $32 million. Brantley is coming off another great season where he produced a 135 wRC+, his second best mark of his career. Brantley’s walk rate was up from 8% to 9.1%, he was in the 88th percentile in strikeout rate, and finished in the 93rd percentile in whiff rate. Brantley doesn’t make the hardest of contact, but has a strong hit tool that plays well in the batting average area, posting three straight seasons of at least a .300 average. He will draw everyday at bats and hit in the middle of a stacked lineup. Look for Brantley to get plenty of RBI chances and a ton of hits.

 

Yordan Álvarez (UT/DH)

2020: 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, .250/.333/.625 | DH # 7

2021 ADP: 88.20 (UT# 55)

 

Arguably the best hitter in the Astros lineup, Yordan Álvarez missed about the full 2020 season due to season-ending knee surgery. But, Álvarez in 2019 was a 178 wRC+ hitter across his 369 PA, hitting 27 home runs and slashing .313/.412/.655.  He walked 14.1% of the time and struck out just 25.5% of the time. He was in the 98th percentile in xSLG, 98th percentile in barrel rate, and 97th percentile in xwOBA. In short, Álvarez can mash. A healthy Álvarez will probably be the best hitter in their lineup and provide plenty of value in every offensive category (besides steals).

 

Kyle Tucker (OF)

2020: 33 R, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 8 SB, .268/.325/.512 | OF # 5

2021 ADP: 32.77 (OF# 8)

 

Kyle Tucker was everything the Astros could have expected from him in his first full season. He hit to a 125 wRC+, showed a solid hit tool to all fields, a little bit of power, and plenty of speed on the bases. The left-handed hitter looks to be an all-around quality hitter that can help move the train from the top of the order. Although he doesn’t walk much, it’s because of his great contact ability. He didn’t whiff much, and when the pitch was in the zone, he made contact 82.6% of the time. Tucker will provide plenty of runs while doing fairly well in the average and power departments.

 

 

Myles Straw (OF)

2020: 8 R, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 6 SB, .207/.244/.256 | OF # 39

2021 ADP: 469.87 (OF# 109)

 

Myles Straw has yet to play a full season at the MLB-level, but as of right now, is a projected starter. Straw’s bat is pretty weak and his ceiling is probably that of a league-average hitter. In his 224 MLB PA, he has hit .246/.327/.322 and produced an 83 wRC+. Straw has shown decent walk rates throughout the minors, so he might still have strong plate discipline at the MLB-level, but his hard hit and barrel rates are atrocious. He struggles to hit the ball hard enough to be any kind of offensive threat. However, he has great speed that could make him a cheap source for stolen bases.

Watch List Considerations

 

Aledmys Díaz (UT/INF) is worth noting here. He took over the role of a utility infielder in 2020, and while he was only a 97 wRC+ hitter, he provides versatility at many positions with some power potential. Díaz hit .271/.356/.467 with nine homers across 247 PA in 2019.

 

Starting Pitchers

 

Zack Greinke (Locked In Starter)

2020: 3-3, 67.0 IP, 67 K, 4.03 ERA, 1.13 WHIP | SP # 41

2021 ADP: 113.43 (P# 42)

Repertoire: 41.2% 4-Seam Fastball, 27.2% Changeup, 15.9% Slider, 15.7% Curveball

 

With Justin Verlander sidelined with Tommy John surgery for the 2021 season, Zack Greinke will be looked at as the Astros ace. Greinke threw 67 innings in 2020, turning in a 94 ERA- and a 64 FIP-. The main discrepancy between his 4.03 ERA and his 2.80 FIP stems from a .321 BABIP that looks like an outlier when compared to that of Greinke’s previous seasons. Greinke is pretty middle-of-the-pack when it comes to allowing contact, but he finds success because he does a decent job of avoiding hard contact. Additionally, he rarely walks hitters. His low walk rate places Greinke’s 21.2% K-BB% 13th among qualified starting pitchers in 2020, right behind Luis Castillo. Greinke will be entering his age 37 season with one of the league’s worst average fastball velocities. If there’s a pitcher who finds ways to work with what they have, it’s certainly him. Greinke will be a solid option for innings and there’s a decent chance he still turns in a solid ERA. However, I’m not sure how many strikeouts he’ll be adding up.

 

Framber Valdez (Locked In Starter)

2020: 5-3, 70.2 IP, 76 K, 3.57 ERA, 1.12 WHIP | SP # 11

2021 ADP: 96.03 (P# 34)

Repertoire: 54.8% Sinker, 33.5% Curveball, 9.7% Changeup, 2% 4-Seam Fastball

 

The left-handed Framber Valdez threw 70.2 innings in 2020. He struck out 26.4% of hitters and pitched to a 3.40 pCRA. Valdez gave up quite a lot of hard contact but made it work because of how well his sinker induces grounders. His 60.3% ground ball rate led the league among qualified starting pitchers. Although his sinker is his main pitch, he has a solid curveball that has high spin, got whiffs 41.9% of the time, and held hitters to a .189 xwOBA. Valdez has yet to exceed 100 innings in an MLB season but should be in line to surpass that milestone in 2021. Look for him to eat innings while inducing easy outs.

 

Lance McCullers Jr. (Locked In Starter)

2020: 3-3, 55.0 IP, 56 K, 3.93 ERA, 1.16 WHIP | SP # 52

2021 ADP: 122.57 (P# 44)

Repertoire: 41.7% Sinker, 37.6% Curveball, 18.4% Changeup, 1.8% Cutter, 0.5% 4-Seam Fastball

 

Lance McCuller Jr. threw 55 innings with a 24.7% strikeout rate and a 29.7% whiff rate. It was the first time he took the mound after missing all of the 2019 season. His 4.08 pCRA was roughly league average, falling in line with what his ERA and SIERA tells us. McCullers relies on a heavy curveball that found a whiff 42.1% of the time. However, when his curveball didn’t lead to a whiff, it led to damage indicated by the .461 SLG the pitch held last season. McCullers has shown top notch strikeout stuff at times but has never been able to put together a full season. His season high in innings is only 128.1 IP, coming in 2018. He might be worth a shot late in a draft, but health will still be a concern for him.

 

José Urquidy (Locked In Starter)

2020: 1-1, 29.2 IP, 17 K, 2.73 ERA, 1.01 WHIP | SP # 98

2021 ADP: 203.70 (P# 72)

Repertoire: 54.5% 4-Seam Fastball, 20.5% Changeup, 13.1% Slider, 11.9% Curveball

 

José Urquidy only threw 29.2 innings, and may have held a 2.73 ERA, but he was nothing spectacular. A statcast percentile ranking drenched in blue on his player page, Urquidy gave up a ton of hard contact while struggling to find whiffs and strikeouts. He managed an unsustainably low BABIP of .209, leading to a 4.71 FIP. His pCRA- of 118 tells us the same story. He did not pitch well. However, Urquidy’s sample size at the MLB level is still only 70.2 innings, so it’s not very big. Nonetheless, we have still yet to see any one of his pitches be a true great pitch. Unless one of his offspeed pitches proves to be improved, Urquidy won’t be a solid source for strikeouts.

 

Cristian Javier (Locked In Starter)

2020: 5-2, 54.1 IP, 54 K, 3.48 ERA, 0.99 WHIP | SP # 26

2021 ADP: 196.33 (P# 70)

Repertoire: 63% 4-Seam Fastball, 25.5% Slider, 7.2% Changeup, 4.3% Curveball

 

Cristian Javier threw 54.1 innings in his debut season, striking out 25.2% of hitters and walking 8.4%.  By pCRA he was a league average pitcher. Javier struggled to find whiffs at a high rate but made up for it by mitigating hard contact. His hard hit rate, xwOBA, and xERA were all in the 90th percentile, while his xBA was in the 92nd percentile. He has below average fastball velocity but well above average curveball spin. His curve and slider both found a whiff at least 30% of the time and held hitters to an xwOBA below .150. We are dealing with some small sample sizes of pitches since he only threw his curveball 38 times in 2020, but both breaking pitches looked sharp. Javier showed tremendous strikeout potential in the minors and we might see that stuff show up in 2021.

 

Relief Pitchers

 

Bullpen Roles

 

Ryan Pressly (Closer)

2020: 12 SV, 0 HLD, 21.0 IP, 29 K, 3.43 ERA, 1.33 WHIP | RP # 17

2021 ADP: 130.93 (P# 46)

 

Ryan Pressly thrived in the closer role in 2020, converting 12 of 16 save opportunities while striking out 31.9% of hitters. It was his third consecutive season striking out at least 31% of hitters he faced. Although allowing a decent amount of hard contact, Pressly did a solid job of avoiding the damaging barrels, limiting walks, and getting whiffs. He held opposing batters to a .247 xwOBA (top 7th percentile) and pitched far better than his ERA indicates. Pressly’s pCRA- of 74 says that he was far better than the average pitcher in 2020. Posed to take over the closing role again, Pressly should see plenty of save opportunities in 2021.

 

Joe Smith (Setup)

2020: Did not play | RP # N/A

2021 ADP: Undrafted (P# N/A)

 

Joe Smith is set to return to play after opting out of the 2020 season. In 2019, he threw just 25 innings with a 1.80 ERA and 3.09 FIP. Routinely a pitcher that pitches to contact, Smith is not a big strikeout or whiff pitcher. Instead, he induces ground balls, weak contact, and keeps the ball inside the park. His primary pitch is his slider, which held opposing hitters to a .099 xwOBA and found a whiff 28.8% of the time in 2019. Smith will probably be in competition with Enoli Paredes for the setup role. He should be a lock for solid innings and some holds, but he won’t be a good source of strikeouts.

 

Enoli Paredes (Relief)

2020: 0 SV, 4 HLD, 20.2 IP, 20 K, 3.05 ERA, 1.40 WHIP | RP # 107

2021 ADP: 593.30 (P# 302)

 

Enoli Paredes may end up seeing more hold opportunities than the aforementioned Smith. The 25-year-old right-hander made his big leagues debut in 2020, throwing 20.2 innings with an 82 FIP- and a 111 pCRA-. Although he limited barrels and posted a solid whiff rate, Paredes gave up a lot of hard contact and free passes. His 12.2% walk rate was in the bottom 17th percentile. His slider held a solid whiff rate, but his fastball got tattooed. Hitters posted a .393 xwOBA and .484 xSLG versus his 4-seamer. Paredes has the stuff to be a solid strikeout reliever, but he comes with a lot of volatility.

 

Brooks Raley (Relief)

2020: 1 SV, 6 HLD, 20 IP, 27 K, 4.95 ERA, 0.95 WHIP | RP # 140

2021 ADP: Undrafted (P# N/A)

 

I’m a Reds fan at heart, so I went absolutely bonkers when they traded Brooks Raley to the Astros for a PTBNL. I couldn’t figure out why an organization that is actively trying to be at the forefront of pitching development, one that practically adopted Driveline, would sell an arm like Raley for free. His surface numbers might not that look great, and in just 20 innings the results weren’t fantastic, but Raley has the stuff to be a very good arm out of any bullpen. In 2020, he showed four pitches with a whiff rate over 30%, and while his main pitch – a cutter- averages just 86.8 MPH in velocity, it held hitters to a .235 xwOBA. His slider, which is absolutely filthy, had the 12th most horizontal movement versus the average slider. And while his whiff rates were nothing short of good, Raley was also a master at controlling contact. He was in the 100th percentile in average exit velocity and 99th percentile in hard-hit rate. His fastball and curveball are both high spin pitches and he still does a solid job at limiting walks. I’m not sure where Raley stands in save or hold opportunities, but I see an arm that will be great at racking up the strikeouts.

 

Blake Taylor (Relief)

2020: 1 SV, 5 HLD, 20.2 IP, 17 K, 2.18 ERA, 1.21 WHIP | RP # 94

2021 ADP: 592.70 (P# 298)

 

Blake Taylor is similar to Raley, but without showing as sharp of stuff. 2020 was the first MLB season for the 25-year-old lefty, but he was in the 99th percentiles for both average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. His .252 xwOBACON was also top in the top 10% of the league. However, Taylor struggled in both the walk and strikeout departments, posting a measly 5.7% K-BB rate. However, Taylor has been praised for having plus stuff as a prospect and is projected to be a “semi-wild middle relief piece”. If Taylor proves to have swing and miss stuff, he might be valuable for some strikeouts and holds as a middle relief option.

 

Andre Scrubb (Relief)

2020: 1 SV, 2 HLD, 23.2 IP, 24 K, 1.90 ERA, 1.48 WHIP | RP # 123

2021 ADP: Undrafted (P# N/A)

 

Andre Scrubb debuted in 2020, throwing 23.2 innings and striking out 23.5% of hitters but struggling with command and walking 19.6% of batters. His walk rate was the third-worst among qualified relievers. But, Scrubb was in the 92nd percentile in barrel rate and 99th percentile in hard-hit rate. He could use some more swings and misses, but limiting hard contact will keep him very productive as a relief option. However, if he doesn’t fix his command issues he won’t be a sub-2.00 ERA talent, indicated by a 127 pCRA-.

 

Austin Pruitt (Relief)

2020: Did not play | RP # N/A

2021 ADP: Undrafted (P# N/A)

 

Austin Pruitt missed the 2020 season due to a hairline fracture but is expected to be ready to go for the upcoming season.  He’s thrown nearly 200 innings at the MLB level with a 4.17 FIP and 4.23 SIERA. Pruitt has not been a big strikeout pitcher in years past and struggles to miss bats. However, he has posted decent ground ball rates and has been average at limiting hard contact. Still, he won’t provide much fantasy value.

 

ADP data taken from NFC ADPs. Pitcher rankings are currently combined. When SP and RP positional rankings will be updated when made available.

2019 Positional Rankings from Razzball’s 12-team Player Rater (ESPN).

 

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)

Kyle Horton

Kyle is a former Division 1 baseball player and Cincinnati Reds fan. Please follow him on Twitter @Hortonimo, he already told his mom that you did.

  • Avatar Jason says:

    Great write up! I’m working on a dynasty trade in a 16 team points league. Pitching depth is important but lineups are short so you need studs in your lineup and depth isn’t a huge deal. In the deal I would give Kyle Tucker and Luis Patino for Yordan Alvarez. All the players are cheap and the league is slanted towards homeruns. A solo homerun is worth 2 points and a SB and a BB are both worth .3. In that setup would you make the deal?

    Thanks!

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