For at least the last decade, the Houston Astros have been a veritable wasteland for offensively productive catchers. From years of service courtesy of the light-hitting Brad Ausmus to unsuccessful rookies like J.R. Towles and Jason Castro to a failed experiment with an aging Ivan Rodriguez to the punchless veteran Humberto Quintero, there hasn’t been an Astros backstop worth looking at in fantasy since the days before Craig Biggio was moved to second base. However, with the recent signing of Chris Snyder, that could all change here in 2012.
Now before you go getting too excited and start adding Snyder to your draft prep depth charts, keep in mind that he was actually added for insurance purposes. The team still wants to use Castro as their primary backstop, but after foot surgery here in the off season, he won’t be ready for spring training and his availability for Opening Day is now in doubt as well. GM Jeff Luhnow says that he was told Castro was ahead of schedule in his recovery, but rather than take the chance and be stuck with another year of Quintero, he opted to sign Snyder to a one year deal with a mutual option for 2013.
However, it is for that reason that you may be able to acquire Snyder for real cheap, which could give him a positive fantasy value in the end. While the team wants to go with Castro, his recent injury history might push him off for another season. Last year it was a torn ACL that kept him out for the entire season and now, this recovery from having a bone removed from his foot, could prove to be equally detrimental. The recovery time is supposed to be three months, but that may not include how long it takes for Castro to be fully comfortable both at the plate and squatting behind it. It is almost a certainty that he will have to partake in some extended spring training and perhaps then join the team’s Triple-A affiliate to work himself back into game shape.
The 31 year old Snyder, who is no stranger to injury himself, will need to come out of the gate strong to maintain a hold on the starting position. He needs to prove that he is fully recovered from the back surgery he had last June and can return to the 15-plus HR form we saw when he was with Arizona. Playing at Chase Field, Snyder always posted solid ISO numbers (>.150) and now that he returns to a nice hitter-friendly park, the hope is that he reverts back to those numbers.
He’ll also need to improve upon a few things such as his batting average and K%, both of which have been more of a hindrance to his fantasy value than anything else. You can’t expect that he’ll suddenly keep a K% below 20%, but perhaps with a little BABIP luck, he can bring that average up over the .250 mark. It will be tough, but not an impossibility.
The option for fantasy isn’t ideal here, by any stretch of the imagination. In a perfect world you would be able to get Snyder’s pop to start the year and then use Castro once he returns to balance out the batting average. However, the likelihood of that working out is pretty slim. Ultimately you’ll have to hope that Snyder performs well enough for the club to keep Castro down for most of the season and since that is just wishful thinking at this point, it really only makes him worthwhile as a complementary backstop in a two catcher mixed league or your deeper NL-only ones.