The Houston Astros wanted to make a splash in the offseason, and Thursday night, they added two big bats to their already loaded lineup. First, the Astros traded two pitching prospects – Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman – to the New York Yankees for catcher Brian McCann. Later in the evening, the Astros agreed to a four-year deal with outfielder Josh Reddick, pending the completion of a physical.
So, what does this mean for Fantasy Baseball?
Let’s start with McCann. With the emergence of Gary Sanchez and the Yankees coming out saying that Sanchez would be the full-time catcher for 2017, it made McCann expendable. With the Astros, McCann will have a role like the one he had with the Yankees in 2016, as he will split time between catching and designated hitter with Evan Gattis.
McCann will still prove to be valuable at the wasteland catcher position, but perhaps he will take a hit in his power numbers. McCann took advantage of the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium throughout his three-year Yankees career. Take a look at his home runs at home compared to his home runs on the road from the past three seasons:
2014: 19 home runs at home, four on the road
2015: 16 home runs at home, 10 on the road
2016: 11 home runs at home, nine on the road
That’s 46 of the 69 homers at home, which equals out to two-thirds of his homers over that stretch.
In his new home, Minute Maid Park, right field is 326 feet down the line, which is 12 feet further than at Yankee Stadium.
But taking into account all of McCann’s home runs over the past three years, his new home park may not hurt him too much, even if it is better for right-handed hitters.
McCann has shown signs of decline, as he’s posted a 94, 106 and 103 wRC+over the past three seasons, respectively (100 is average). His career number is 113. While his 35.5 percent hard hit rate in 2016 was up from his 31.7 mark in 2015, his home run to fly ball rate dipped from 14.9 to 13.7 percent. He has, however, maintained his pull rate over the past two years at 50 percent.
McCann could also help reinvigorate Dallas Keuchel after his letdown 2016 season. With the acquisition of McCann, the Astros are unlikely to bring back catcher Jason Castro, who was the fifth-best defensive catcher in 2016 per StatCorner.com with an RAA (runs above average) at 12.8. Castro, however, left a lot to be desired at the plate. Landing McCann is an instant upgrade at the plate, but he can also hold his own defensively, as he had a 5.7 RAA, 14th in the league. In a split situation, McCann finished 14th with 43 +Calls and his 8.1 oStr% was on part with Castro from a year ago (8.3).
Where McCann can help Keuchel is if Keuchel goes back to pitching to the black more in 2017 like he did in 2015, as compared to 2016 when he was leaving more pitches over the plate.
The days of being an elite option at the position is over for McCann, but given the other options, McCann is still a Top 12 catcher with 15-20 home run power.
Chronicles of Reddick
The acquisition of Reddick, on the other hand, makes things confusing in the Astros outfield. The Astros could go a few different ways with Reddick in the outfield with George Springer and Jake Marisnick, or Reddick could join Springer and Alex Bregman in the outfield with Yulieski Gurriel at third base. Either way, it crowds up the outfield, but Reddick, especially with the four-year deal, will see every day playing time.
Reddick had an off-year with his power last year, hitting 12 combined home runs in Oakland and Los Angeles. Oakland is notoriously known for being one of the worst stadiums in the league for power (29th in the league in 2016), and Los Angeles was in the bottom third, too (20th).
Reddick is joining an already loaded lineup in Houston, which should see his numbers return to those that he posted in 2015 with the Athletics with lots of protection surrounding him.
The signing of Reddick could also stall the progress of prospects Teoscar Hernandez and Derek Fisher. Don’t be surprised if Fisher, the Astros No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com who sources tell me was included in the original Vincent Velasquez/Ken Giles deal before a failed physical from someone involved in the deal resulted in a restructured trade, is dealt for pitching in the near future since the Astros outfield is locked up if the plan is to keep Bregman in left field to free up playing time for Gurriel, who the team signed to a five-year deal in July.
For both McCann and Reddick, the move increased their Fantasy value with the lineup protection that they have around them. I would be surprised if the Astros are done. Just imagine this lineup with Edwin Encarnacion or Miguel Cabrera in it. Neither are out of the realm of possibility.