The Astros had a down year last season, and are looking to rebound as they head into the 2008 season. GM Ed Wade brought in Miguel Tejada, Michael Bourne and Kazuo Matsui to help bolster the offense surrounding sluggers Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman. The GM also traded away incumbent closer Brad Lidge and brought in Jose Valverde from the Arizona Diamond Backs. They made a lot of moves, now lets see what will work and what won't.
Projected Positional Starters
CF- Michael Bourn
2B- Kaz Matsui
SS- Miguel Tejada
1B- Lance Berkman
LF- Carlos Lee
RF- Hunter Pence
3B- Ty Wigginton
C- J.R. Towles
Projected Starting Staff
Ace - Roy Oswalt
2 - Wandy Rodrigruez
3 - Woody Williams
4 - Brandon Backe
5 - Chris Sampson
Closer- Jose Valverde
Middle Revlievers - Geoff Geary, Doug Brocail, Oscar Villarreal, Mark S. McLemore, Dave Borkowski, Chad Paronto
Players to Draft
Carlos Lee, LF - Perennial threat to hit 35HR with 15SB, and a lock for 100+ RBI. He is really an elite bat, who consistently goes under the radar a bit. He is consistently healthy and plays in 150+ games every season, to boot. He is prone to first or second half slumps, so be a bit weary if you draft him in a Head to Head league.
Lance Berkman, 1B - Slumped badly at times last season but still managed a stellar year. For the season he hit, .278 with 35 HR but the numbers are a little deceiving because he picked it up in the second half hitting .295 with 19 HRin only 69 games. Look for Berkman to have a fine 2008 season adding to his HR totals and driving in more runs with the benefit of a more potent lineup.
Miguel Tejada, SS - Is still one of the better hitting SS in all of baseball despite having a down year in 2007 - perhaps the B-12 shots were wearing off. Look for a Renaissance season from Tejada in his move from hitter friendly
Hunter Pence, RF - Pence had a fine rookie season, putting up double digit HR and SB totals. His minor league numbers indicate that this was no fluke and you should expect the young slugger to improve this season. He is projected to be moved down in the bating order, which is causing some to rank him lower than he should be. He is a good hitter, and a good hitter will hit no matter where he is in the lineup.
Roy Oswalt, SP - The ace will get plenty of run support with the new offense in town, so he should be a lock to win 17 games. He had a fine season last year and while his ERA numbers were a bit higher than they were in previous years, they were still very good. Some might say Oswalt's numbers might indicate some regression in his play, however, all pitchers should be so lucky as to regress to a 3.18 ERA. He is a top tier pitcher, in the echelon of Josh Beckett and Roy Halladay, but may be drafted with the likes of Chien Ming Wang and Brad Penny due to an off year by his lofty standards.
Jose Valverde, CL - Had a career season last year and will be counted on to shoulder the closing load this season in Houston. He has been injury plagued in the past and that has kept him from developing into the elite closer he was last year. Even if he gets hurt there is no one in this bullpen who could take his spot for an extended period of time.
Michael Bourn, CF - Speedy center fielder could put up 2007 Juan Pierre type numbers in his first season as a full time starter. He should struggle to get on base a bit, but is still a good bet for 40 stolen bases this season.
J.R. Towles, C - It is tough to find a good catcher in the draft, but Towles could be a good late round sleeper candidate. With guys like Dioner Navarro getting a lot of pre-season draft hype, Towles will slip under the radar and probably won't be drafted in most leagues. His minor league numbers show he can hit and incumbent catcher Brad Ausmus has already given his full support to the youngster. Of course, Ausmus could take at bats from him if management decides to go with a more veteran catching presence as the season wears on. Keep an eye on the Astros catching situation in spring training.
Players to Avoid
Kaz Matsui, 2B- Is known to be injury prone and has plenty of players behind him who could take his spot should he struggle. He does not provide a whole bunch in the power department and there are going to be a lot of players you could and should draft before him. Don't be fooled, 2B is remarkably deep this season, biting on a guy like Matsui isn't worth it in any round of a fantasy draft.