Astros Fantasy Baseball Week 8: Making Wholesale Changes - Jim Crane Style

If the Astros lose today against the Toronto Blue Jays, and I'd say the odds are pretty good, then they would drop to 15-30. That number rings a bell doesn't it? I am also informed by Astros County that we were 15-29 last season, although our pitching was much better, while our batting was much worse. 

Ever since Jason Bourgeois landed on the DL, and this came just after my column two weeks ago, the offense has tailspinned, scoring 33 runs in their last 11 games, going 2-9. Everyone bat in the lineup has gone frigid. As a team they have managed just two steals since Bourgeois' departure, and worst of all, production in the #2 spot of the lineup has plumbed new depths of awfulness. 

Since May 7th Angel Sanchez, J.R. Towles and Clint Barmes are a combined 2-40, with seven walks and a HBP. I'd steer clear of those three then....

With the Astros' sale to Jim Crane pending approval by Major League Baseball, you wonder whether we will see wholesale changes before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, or we will have to wait until Crane officially takes ownership, something that may take two to three months to finalize. 

However it isn't as hard to ring in the changes in your fantasy team.

This week alone I have picked up Todd Helton, Matt Wieters, Ryan Ludwick, Tim Hudson, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake Peavy and Anibal Sanchez from free agency, which is quite a pitching haul. However, my real problem is my offense, which seems ok at every position, but I'm getting thrashed by some slugging powerhouses in my league. 

I dropped Towles as he has no real value playing at maximum three days out of five and has cooled off spectacularly, going 0-22 in his last eight games, walking just twice. 

On the up: Wandy Rodriguez and Matt Downs. The only bright spot on the week was Wandy's start in Atlanta, tossing eight shutout innings, but this was soon eclipsed by Brian McCann's two late home runs. That one swing of the bat not only robbed fantasy owners of a Rodriguez win, but also a Melancon save. 

Given his career home/road splits, this start was a very promising performance. Two reasons why we should sit up and pay attention: his BB/9 is down to a tiny 1.95, and his LOB% is 81.5 even with a .317 BABIP. We know the defense has been lousy behind Astros' pitchers, but you wonder if Rodriguez can stay succcessful by keeping that left on base rate so high. Part of this is probably his allowing a lot of singles as his H/9 is at 9.9. 

Of the three best Astros hitters this season, two started the season as utility players. Brett Wallace's numbers remain solid, but the other two have been Downs and Bourgeois. In limited playing time Downs has three home runs, and an OPS of .917. He is a man worth keeping an eye on, because when Jeff Keppinger returns Brad Mills will be forced to shake up his infield. 

The situation is already complicated, and should be muddied even further by Bourgeois' return whenever that happens (this supposes that Bourgeois does in fact plays some second base). Angel Sanchez is the obvious fall guy in any scenario, with Barmes firmly stationed at shortstop for his defense. Other less likely possibilities could be Bill Hall getting DFA'd, benched, or maybe even Chris Johnson sent down to fix some issues in Triple-A. 

Worth keeping an eye on: Max Ramirez, Bourgeois, Keppinger and Brian Bogusevic

Rather optimistically I am expecting all hell to break loose over the next few weeks if and when Ed Wade gets Jim Crane's tacit mandate to start blowing up this team. One of these moves could be getting rid of Carlos Lee. Could he play first base for another team? Unlikely, had anyone seen his joke of a play during Aneury Rodriguez's last start. Bourgeois would be the obvious beneficiary, but so might Bogusevic. He has shown a decent average, a smattering of power and good speed, and might be worth picking up if his playing time looks like picking up.

If Towles continues to slump and Ramirez, who is playing in Oklahoma, starts to light it up, Brad Mills might, and I say might, decide to give Ramirez a shot. 

The other two are worth keeping an eye on when they are activated. Keppinger should give you a solid average, but has little power. Bourgeois is worth having for the steals alone. 

Fit to drop: Where do I begin? Unless you are in an NL only league, only a handful of Astros' players are currently bringing value. Sad, but true.

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