Hey Chris! Time for our weekly installment of Crawfish Fantasy. I wanted to start off today's segment taking a look at our hometown boys to see if they are helping anyone from a fantasy standpoint.
My first focus is on a player I have been touting (and owning) since Spring Training: current AL player of the week, Jason Castro (or as some have taken to calling him on the game threads, future HOF Jason Castro!). Currently sitting at .279-6-16-21-1, he is the #6 fantasy catcher in AL 5X5 leagues, behind only Napoli, Santana, Mauer, Arencibia and Wieters. Which of those catchers could have been had on draft day for five bucks or a late round pick? None of them, which is why Castro has been the most valuable catcher in AL-only leagues to date.
If you play in a mixed league, he is still fantasy relevant, coming in at the #11 spot, trailing Molina, Posey, Gattis, Buck, and Rosario. The last 3 were cheap buys on draft day, but who among us thinks Buck is going to stay on this list? Not I ! Which makes Castro a top 10 catcher at this point and worth owning everywhere. Adding to his value, is the fact that Bo Porter likes him so much, he is often DHing on his off days. Most catchers not named Mauer or Posey only play five games out of seven or four out of six, as the catching spot is so grueling, they need more days off. But the elite play 1B or DH on off days. Castro is becoming one of those.
Chris, who do you like off the Astros at this point?
Castro has been a steal for fantasy owners this season. Just in the past 30 days, he was the 2nd most valuable AL catcher overall (after Joe Mauer), and 5th in Mixed leagues. During that time, he hit .291 / .879 with 5 HR, which was third-most among all catchers during that time. Fantasy owners and Astros fans alike hope that we are finally seeing the 2008 first round pick blossom into the player we hoped he could be.
Obviously, Jose Altuve is still a top-10 fantasy second baseman, just as he was last season. Aside from him though, I have a name that might surprise you: Matt Dominguez. Dominguez plays a position (third) that is as scarce as can be in Fantasy Baseball. I could argue that this season finding a quality third baseman is every bit as difficult as finding a shortstop, and maybe even as hard as filling the catcher position. During the last calendar month, Dominguez hit .226 / .702 with 11 runs, 7 home runs ( !! ), and 17 RBI. He's not a five-category contributor because of that batting average, but his other stats make up for it. According to Yahoo! ranks, for the last 30 days, Dominguez ranks as the 8th best AL third baseman and 14th-best in mixed leagues. His seven home runs ranked 3rd in the major leagues during that time among third-sackers.
Here's the crazy part: At first, I was tempted to dismiss Dominguez' May performance as a hot streak because he does not have the reputation of a quality hitter. However, his May BABIP currently sits at an Mariana Trench-low .210! Since his (short) career BABIP is .275 and that he managed .299 last season (close to league average), the stat indicates that Dominguez is actually in the middle of a streak of very bad luck. With a normal BABIP, some more of his line drives will fall for hits instead of outs, and his fantasy stats will improve accordingly! At this point, I am recommending that fantasy owners who are hurting at the 3B position or are in very deep leagues jump all over Dominguez. At the least, he's a decent bench player at a hard-to-fill position, but at best, the stats currently indicate he could sustain or improve his May performance, except in the home run category. Buy, buy, buy! He wasn't a first-round draft pick for just his defense, after all; scouts had to think his bat could grow into his fielding skills, to value him that highly. Maybe Dominguez has began to justify that faith over the past month.
Honorable mentions: During the past two weeks, J.D. Martinez has been a top-75 outfielder. He's worth a bench spot in deep leagues, particularly AL-only ones. Jose Veras is ranked seventh in saves in the AL over the past month (14th overall), and has held elite-level WHIP and K/9 numbers (0.90 and 9.45). He should be owned in all formats, even shallow mixed leagues.
So Astros fans can happily own a catcher, a 2B and a 3B without having to leave the home front! Nice......but how about the outfield? Unless you own Chris Carter, with all of the up and down that THAT entails, the pickings have been mighty slim, other than some small contributions from JD. Ankiel is gone, Grossman is back in AAA, so where does that leave fans looking for "Astros in the Outfield?"
In an AL Only league, if you need an injury replacement, or are looking to take a flyer, how about the newest addition of "30 days of summer".....centerfield style. Bo Porter has indicated that Brandon Barnes is next up in CF, and quite frankly, he has earned a shot. Hitting almost exclusively against lefties, Barnes in 73 ab's has a triple slash of .315/.390/.458. Now he is going to bring his own brand of hard-nosed, grinding (and very good) defense, and all around prospecty goodness to a ball park near everyone. Chris, what do you think about BB as at least a summer replacement?
I dunno, outfield is incredibly deep and so I hesitate to invest in Barnes at this point. He's probably worth placing on one's watch list, but there are certain red flags that show he should be kept at arm's length in most leagues. Don't get me wrong, I think he's a really hoopy frood. But because of his defense and awesome attitude, he's more valuable in real life than he will be in fantasy baseball. An Astro-nomical .447 BABIP currently bolsters his admittedly nice offensive numbers. That means almost half of the balls he puts into play have fallen for hits this season. The level of improbability related to that rate could power a small starship to light speed and beyond. As a fan, I applaud that Barnes is finally getting a legitimate shot to establish himself in the majors, because I feel he has earned it. As a fantasy owner, guys like Denard Span, Colby Rasmus, Seth Smith, and Lorenzo Cain interest me more because of their upsides, and should be available in all but the deepest leagues.
I do think Carter should be owned in most leagues because of his power and dual positional eligibility. His May strikeout rate has come down to "only" 34% after striking out 40+% of the time in April, and he doesn't show the approach of a guy who will continue to hit .200 for the rest of his career. Adding Carter right now is 'buying low' because he will continue to collect HR, RBI, and contribute a bit in OPS. He's Adam Dunn without the brand name, and a fantasy owners should not be ashamed of that. Finally, I have written in the past that I believe in J.D. Martinez. He won't be a superstar, and any expectations of regular 25/100 seasons are just silly. But he contributes in every category except stolen bases, and he won't hurt you in any of them. In very deep leagues, he could be a serviceable everyday outfielder, and in medium leagues or AL-only leagues I think he'd make an excellent off-day fill-in -- the type of player a manager needs at least one of to keep three or more outfield roster spots occupied in a daily league.
I just noticed that we have discussed no Astros pitchers as fantasy-worthy except for Veras. Hopefully that changes when the Astros promote Jarred Cosart in a few weeks. Fantasy owners: if your league uses an NA spot and you want to grab a player that most other managers have missed, take a look at Cosart. In the offense-friendly Pacific Coast League, he sports a nifty 2.65 ERA with a 9.44 K/9. He has the tools to wind up as the best Astros' starter for 2013 and an interesting late-round keeper option in fantasy leagues.
How about you, readers? Are you holding secret hopes about any other Astros on your fantasy rosters?