In an effort to recap players with fantasy interest on each team, along with an eye on their future, Fantasy Alarm will cover each division in the Wraparound with fantasy tidbits on players from each team along with some to track as sleepers as 2020 preparation begins. Starting with this column on the American League West.
Riding a wave of analytics, and some bad publicity, to the World Series, Houston remains one of the top organizations in baseball. There will be some offseason intrigue with Gerrit Cole hitting the open market in free agency, Justin Verlander will be a year older and will Zack Greinke be enough to fill the void if Cole leaves? For now, here’s a recap of the most fantasy worthy players on the Astros:
Gerrit Cole - Ended the season on a 16-game winning streak. Led the majors in strikeouts (326) while setting the record for the fewest innings pitched (212.1) to reach 300 strikeouts in history. Cole also notched 21 games with at least 10 strikeouts including nine such starts in a row.
Justin Verlander - Led the majors in WHIP (0.80), opponents batting average (.172), wins (21) and innings (223.0). Also ranked second in ERA (2.58). During the year became the 18th pitcher in history with 3,000 strikeouts. Married to a super model, he’s a hero to all of us.
Alex Bregman - Certainly not a fluke. Bregman ranks among his peers in the American League: first in walks (119), second in on-base percentage (.423), third in slugging (.592), third in on-base plus slugging (1.015), tied for third in home runs (41), fourth in runs (122) and fifth in RBI (112). One of three players in 2019 with at least 100 runs, walks and RBI (Mike Trout and Juan Soto ). Also one of three players with at least 40 home runs, 110 walks and less than 90 strikeouts.
Yordan Alvarez - His 1.067 on-base plus slugging percentage ranks the sixth best ever by a player 22 years or younger since 1900. Set an Astros rookie record with 27 home runs. Among major league rookies Alvarez recorded the highest on-base percentage (.412), slugging (.655) and OPS. Racked up 78 RBI in his first 87 contests. From his debut on June ninth on, Alvarez had the second most RBI, third highest OBP, slugging percentage, fourth best OPS, tied for the sixth most home runs and ninth in average.
Jose Altuve - Do not overlook his second half during which Altuve slashed .325/.375/.622. He led the American League in hits (93) and total bases (178) after the All-Star break. Despite missing time, Altuve launched 31 home runs, 21 in the second half. Guess the power’s for real.
Roberto Osuna - Although he’s hard to root for, Osuna became the youngest pitcher to reach 150 career saves and led the American League with 38 this season. Will Harris chipped in with four wins, four saves and a 1.68 ERA in 68 outings.
Los Angeles Angels
In a season filled with turmoil and disappointment for the Angels, at least there’s Mike Trout . It’s crazy to think he still could turn in a career year in 2020. Health will be a determining factor with many guys on this list. This offseason will reveal the team’s trajectory in the year ahead.
Mike Trout - Set a career high with 45 home runs and finished second in the American League in the category despite being shut down on September eighth. Trout still scored 110 runs, drove in 104 and drew 110 walks. He reached 100 runs, 100 walks and 100 RBI for the second time in his career.
Hansel Robles - Those who reached for Ty Buttrey in drafts must be kicking themselves not taking Robles instead. Robles racked up 23 saves and retired 27 straight batters between August 21st-through-September 14th. After June first, Robles recorded a 1.52 ERA spanning 47.1 innings.
Shohei Ohtani - First Angel with at least 15 home runs and 10 stolen bases in each of his first two seasons with the franchise. Remember, next season Ohtani will return to the mound throwing his fantasy usage into disarray again.
Andrew Heaney - Missed time due to left shoulder inflammation. Made 18 starts in 2019 and racked up 14 strikeouts in a start versus Texas on August 20th. Health and his curve will decide his fantasy appeal in 2020.
Those plucky A’s made the postseason again but fell to the Rays in the play-in game. There’s so much under the radar fantasy goodness by the bay yet they go under drafted every year. Armed with a potentially talented young rotation, can Oakland usurp Houston atop the West?
Matt Olson - Just for Howard, needed to list Olson first. He missed 34 games but still crushed 36 home runs driving in 91 in only 127 games in 2019. Still set career highs in home runs and RBI while matching his best in extra-base hits (62). Led all American League first basemen in home runs. With him in the lineup, Oakland went 82 - 44, without him, 15-19. Stay healthy my first base target everywhere next year Matt.
Matt Chapman - Speaking of Matt’s, Chapman also set career marks with 36 home runs, 102 RBI, 102 runs, 73 walks and 75 extra-base hits. Appeared in 156 games during his breakout season.
Khris Davis - Will come at a discount in 2020, but note his .207 average from June first on with only 11 home runs and 44 RBI in 90 contests. He did suffer from hip and oblique injuries, so Davis could be a terrific upside power target at a depressed price.
Marcus Semien - Tied a franchise record scoring 123 runs. Accrued the second most at-bats (657) in the American League, the third most extra-base hits (83), tied for third in hits (187) and total bases (343), tied for fourth in doubles (43) along with ranking fifth in multiple hit games (53).
Sean Murphy - Will be a popular catching target but there could be a little adjustment time ala the slow start by Danny Jansen this season. Murphy launched four home runs with eight RBI in 20 games with Oakland. He also hit .293 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 41 games at Triple-A.
Liam Hendriks - Led the majors with 25 saves from June 21st to the end of the season. Set a career high in strikeouts (124) in 85 innings.
Frankie Montas - Before his suspension, Montas was ninth in the majors in ERA and fourth in FIP, 10th in xFIP, 15th in strikeouts minus walks percentage and 11th in SIERA. Only four other pitchers ranked in the top 15 in each of these categories: Justin Verlander , Gerrit Cole , Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer .
While reading this, Frank DiPoto consummated a trade. Well, not really, but possibly. Seattle will be undergoing some retooling in 2020 with many jobs up for grabs. Do not sleep on the upside its catching tandem possesses but there’s more questions than answers with this roster.
Mallex Smith - Led the majors with 46 stolen bases despite appearing in only 134 games. Jury remains out on his fantasy relevance beyond a one-trick pony designation. For the risk averse, Smith could steal 60 in 2020 or end up in the minors if he hits below .230 again. Stay tuned.
Omar Narváez - Slashed .278/.353/.460 with 22 home runs and 55 RBI. Guess regression did not come for Narvaez in the Great Northwest.
Tom Murphy - In 40 games in the second half, Murphy hit .277/.346/.532 with 19 runs, nine home runs and 21 RBI. Perhaps he needed to get out of Coors to breakout?
Kyle Lewis - First player with a home run in six of his first 10 games in the majors. Spent 122 games at Triple-A with a .263 average, 61 runs, 25 doubles, 11 home runs and 62 RBI. This feels more likely going forward.
Daniel Vogelbach - Second left-handed hitter in team history with at least 30 home runs and 90 walks. Obviously Ken Griffey Jr.’s the other one. Vogelbach cratered in the second half batting .162 with only nine home runs his last 57 games. Consolidation or correction?
Austin Adams - For the save chaser crowd, a potentially volatile bullpen with a diamond in the rough. Adams logged 29 appearances with eight of his 13 earned runs happening in three contests. In the other 26 games, Adams owned a 2-1 record with a 1.55 ERA in 29 innings with nine holds. Heed his 20:3 K:BB at Triple-A over 10 innings when making late round save flier picks in the year ahead.
So many decisions with this lineup. Will Texas continue to give Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara prime spots in the batting order with each displaying volatile results so far in their careers? Can this franchise develop pitchers? They hit the jackpot with veterans Lance Lynn and Hunter Pence but with gaps all around the diamond, the Rangers need a full season from Joey Gallo along with some pitching depth to compete going forward.
Lance Lynn - Not sure the fountain of youth surfaced in Texas but Lynn underwent a revival. He won 16 games with a 3.67 ERA over 208 innings with a career high 246 strikeouts. Lynn recorded 16 starts of at least seven innings with 20 quality outings and 11 ultra-quality (seven-plus innings with two earned runs or fewer). Finished with double digit strikeouts in nine starts and tossed at least 100 pitches in 31 of his 33 appearances in 2019.
Danny Santana - Played in 130 games with 81 runs, 28 home runs, 81 RBI and 21 stolen bases. Entered last season with 13 career home runs. Juice or late breakout?
Rougned Odor - Salvaged his season with a hot September hitting .261/.337/.648 in 88 at-bats with 18 runs, nine home runs, 25 RBI (led the majors) and three stolen bases. However, also recorded less than a .200 average in three months.
Willie Calhoun - Reached safely in 65 of 76 starts while averaging a home run every 14.7 at-bats last season. Finished with 21 home runs and 48 RBI in only 83 games with Texas. Could 30 dingers be on tap in 2020?
Elvis Andrus - Notched his fifth season with at least 30 stolen bases and ranked third in the American League in the category. Just note, from July first on, his average dropped from .309 to .275 at the end of his season.
Joey Gallo - Oblique and wrist injuries stink for power hitters. Gallo’s potential breakout season cut short but he still hit 22 home runs in 70 games with a .253/.389/.598 slash line. He improved his walk rate but also let his strikeout rate ebb towards 40 percent. Do not pay full retail for his .368 BABIP which spiked his average.
José Leclerc - My apologies, bought the 2018 second half surge. LeClerc did convert his last six save chances, but struggled with command issues all year. His walk percentage of 13 percent ranked in the bottom seven percent of the majors.
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MLB.com - Game Notes