The Houston Astros finished last in the National League in runs scored (583-3.6 per game) and batting average (.236) in 2012, so they certainly will need to improve dramatically offensively with their move to the American League this season. Outside of second baseman Jose Altuve, there is little for fantasy baseball owners to take notice of in Houston’s lineup at this point.
The fantasy options got even thinner when the Astros traded shortstop Jed Lowrie to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for three young players earlier this month. The most notable player coming to Houston, at least in terms of fantasy value, is first baseman Chris Carter, who hit .239 with 16 home runs and 39 RBI in 260 plate appearances for Oakland last season. Will the move make Carter a viable fantasy option?
The Astros have Brett Wallace in place at first base, but the team has already hinted at giving Carter a shot to play left field. Off-season free agent signing Carlos Pena is likely to be Houston’s primary designated hitter, but Carter could see some at-bats there due to Pena’s struggles against left-handed pitching (.206 career batting average).
Carter’s major league resume is not long, with just 384 total plate appearances over three seasons, but his power potential (144 home runs in the minors from 2007-2011) remains intriguing. It would take a major improvement in his contact rate (62 percent with Oakland last season) for him to offer much in batting average, but with more playing time likely to come in Houston his home run and RBI totals could take off in his age-26 season.
Carter enters the season eligible at first base in fantasy leagues (55 games in 2012), but it should only be a matter of time before he adds outfield eligibility as long as he gets a chance to play left field.
Here is my projection for Carter in 2013:
Batting Average: .240
Runs Scored: 60
Stolen Bases: 2
Carter’s fantasy value will be driven largely by playing time this season, but he should be in the Astros lineup on a regular basis with the team in rebuild mode. With a significant amount of at-bats, perhaps even slightly above my projection, a noteworthy home run total should come in a hitter-friendly home park. That alone makes Carter worth a late draft pick in AL-only leagues.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.