Jason Bourgeois is mobbed by his teammates after a walk-off win last week. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Since their 0-5 start the Houston Astros are a passable 12-14, but if not for some very glaring bullpen issues they could be orbiting .500. And while team records do not matter for the purpose of fantasy leagues, the Astros' shoddy play will cost their starters wins.
J.A. Happ and Bud Norris have two wins a-piece, while Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers have just one each. This will cost you fantasy points. Inevitably then, picking slightly worse pitchers on much bettter teams thus becomes a smart move sometimes.
You only have to look at Norris, and wonder, even if he continues at this pace all season, how many wins would he end up with? 12? 13? Jered Weaver leads the major leagues with 6 wins, as many as the entire Astros starting pitching staff.
It is gratifying to see Norris finally come good, and put it all together just like a lot of people on TCB have said he would do eventually. Do we send the employee of the month plaque to the Arnsberg residence? Probably. But Norris' total command of his slider was the difference against Milwaukee and hitters may pick up on that next time, but even when they knew they were getting sliders they still struggled to do anything about it on Sunday.
However it is also slightly irritating to read guys like Chip Bailey saying stuff as if it was new.
As good as Norris has been for the Astros, he has been even better for fantasy owners, with his excellent 10.86 K/9, low ERA and decent WHIP. His BABIP is still high, confirming that the Astros' defense has been pretty poor so far this season, but his 2.77 xFIP and 3.01 FIP, which is right around his 3.03 ERA would suggest that these results have been justified so far. His ownership has jumped to over 40% in all leagues and if he is still available in your league you should take him straight away.
Astros' Fantasy Stock Watch
They Live: Aneury Rodriguez and Mark Melancon will not have been picked at the start of the season in most, nay, all leagues, but right now lots of fantasy owners will be falling over themselves to pick both up.
Rodriguez may have been lucky with batted balls during his first start, but you just cannot argue with the overall result, as he twirled five innings of one-hit ball in his major league start. Watch the stampede to grab him, even if he does not hit the headlines like Baltimore's Zach Britton.
With Lyon on the DL and Wilton Lopez just back from injury of his own, Melancon becomes the de-facto closer. He has greater value, but it means that there is now weakness behind him in the seventh and eighth innings when he would have normally pitched.
Moving On Up: Jason Bourgeois and Clint Barmes. Bourgeois would be crafty pickup for those in desperate need of steals. Even with limited playing time he has amassed 11 stolen bases, tied for the NL lead with Michael Bourn and Jose Reyes.
The 29-year-old has had a phenomenal last week and a bit, going .520/.571/.720 with six RBI and six steals in six starts. And this is a guy who is probably going to slot back on the bench when Carlos Lee returns, because Brad Mills can do little else. Discussion of Lee below. Even if Bourgeois is benched, he probably adds value to your team through his steals.
With Barmes returning he will begin to eat into Sanchez's time at shortstop, and probably eventually take the lion's share there because of his defense. This will not help fantasy owners and unless Barmes returns to his 2009 numbers, which is extremely unlikely, he only provides very marginal value for fantasy owners. Might be worth a punt if you are short at the position.
Crashing and Burning: Brandon Lyon, Nelson Figueroa and Chris Johnson. Figueroa being scrubbed from the rotation deceases his fantasy value to absolute zero, Johnson continues to struggle mightily and Brandon Lyon will go on the DL and if and when he gets back his job as closer is probably gone. A rash of DFA's should probably ensue for all three in a lot of leagues. Johnson may be worth holding onto for another week or two and then if he has not got going by mid-May Mills may start playing Matt Downs more at third base.
Holding Steady: Brett Wallace. His BA might have dropped a few points but now he has established himself, Wallace may start to flash some home run power in the next month or two. He has flashed double power in April, but has just two home runs.
On the Wane: Carlos Lee and Brett Myers. Last night Brett Myers failed to go six innings in just his second start in an Astro uniform. Mighty impressive in his year and a bit with the team, but his last two starts are beginning to worry people. Some of this may be due to being unlucky on fly balls becoming home runs, as his HR/9 is 1.8 compared to last year's 0.9, and his HR/FB ratio is 15% up from 8.5% in 2010. If that number starts to go down, so should Myers' ERA.
Lee meanwhile seems to stir up all kinds of vitriol from Astros' fans. Despite his 3-run home run being crucial in a 5-0 win against the Brewers many will wince when they next see his name in the line-up card. The lineup just looks far more balanced with Bourgeois in it and considering the criminal OBPs Bill Hall and Johnson are putting up (.286 and .229), having Lee's .248 OBP back in there features three guys who are making far far far too many outs.
Bourgeois will almost certainly eat into Lee's playing time, but by how much? As a right-handed batter Bourgeois splits are marginally better against lefties, so a semi-platoon may or may not make sense for Brad Mills.
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