Dan Szymborski’s ZiPs projections for the Astros came out today, and the projections for that lineup are a depressing sight for Astros fans – or keeper-league owners with the misfortune of owning Astros. Let’s cover some of the low-lights, which happen to comprise the corner infield and middle of the lineup, here.
Brett Wallace: .261/.324/.414 with 17 HR and 59 RBI
We should have known this would be ugly when Bill James refused to project Wallace despite the fact that Wallace is probably the starting first baseman for the Astros this upcoming season. ZiPs projects a poor power output for a first baseman – his .153 ISO would prove to be barely above the .145 overall average last year, and squarely below the number qualified first baseman averaged (.203 ISO). Worse even are his plate discipline stats (32/129 K/BB). This kind of production might play while the Astros are in transition, but it won’t be a long-term solution, and if anyone steps to the fore and looks ready in 2011, they might even get a look this season. The only way that Wallace makes a good fantasy pick is if he drops too far (bench picks?) in a deep league draft – and even then, he’s probably a better late corner infield or utility solution than a first baseman. We always knew that Wallace had some stats that were inflated by his relative age and run environments, but these projections really hammer it home. This is why all his teams traded him.
Chris Johnson: .269/.303/.429 with 16 HR and 73 RBI
As bad as it sounds, having two mediocre corner infielders puts the Astros’ corner infield in the middle of baseball when it comes to at least one statistic. Their combined projected .160 ISO would have ranked 15th (tied with the Phillies!) in the league last year. Let’s hear it for the average guys! We all knew that last year’s .387 BABIP wouldn’t make it into the projections, and with his plate discipline last year (4.1% BB, 26.7% K) it’s no surprise to see that batting average plummet. What Johnson has going for him – that Wallace doesn’t – is his position. Last year, qualified third basemen put up a .174 ISO, which puts Johnson (.160 ISO) much closer to average at his position. The problem with these two men in fantasy, however, is that it’s much more likely that someone in your league values their upside just because of their age. And if they value their upside, they’ll pick them before you can. If your investment in Johnson is commensurate with the value of, say, the 20th-best third baseman in fantasy baseball – then he’s a value.
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