Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Major League Baseball regular season begins Sunday night in Houston, but the presence of the Astros means that the game will have trouble holding the interest of fantasy owners.
The Astros are by far the least fantasy-friendly team in baseball this season, with exactly one player holding an ADP inside the top 240 picks in Yahoo! leagues.
That player is second baseman Jose Altuve, who owns an ADP of 104.1 after hitting .290 with 33 steals last season. Altuve is Houston's best hope for a fantasy star, but it is only because he plays at a shallow position.
There are some recognizable names on Houston's offense, such as Carlos Pena and Rick Ankiel, but besides Altuve only one inspires much hope for fantasy owners: 1B/OF Chris Carter, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the Jed Lowrie trade.
With an unsightly strikeout rate (31.9 percent in 2012), there's no chance Carter hits above .250, but he got on base at a .350 clip last season despite hitting .239. Plus, the power is real.
Carter belted 16 homers in 218 at-bats last season and has displayed significant power at every level of the minor leagues. He hits a ton of flyballs and likes to pull the ball, so Houston's short left-field porch (315 feet) could help him hit 30 homers.
The pitching staff is littered with veterans we all have owned at some point in the past, such as Bud Norris, Erik Bedard Phil Humber, but those three combined to post a 5.23 ERA in 396 innings last season.
Norris is the most intriguing of the three since he owns a K/9 of 8.84 over the last three seasons and had a FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 4.20 against a 4.65 ERA last season. But he has consistently been awful with his fastball, posting a -55.9 wFB (fastball runs above/below average) over the last three seasons, and facing the dangerous teams in the AL West won't be easy if he can't rely on his fastball.
Lucas Harrell, a 27-year-old right-hander, took a nice step forward last season by going 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA and 3.75 FIP. He kept the ball in the ballpark with one of the best groundball rates in baseball (57.2 percent), but also walked 78 batters in 193 2/3 innings and had a 1.36 WHIP. Having some bad luck with BABIP, HR/FB or LOB% would cause his ERA to skyrocket.
Jose Veras could have some value as the expected closer since we know bad teams still provide save opportunities, but I expect the Astros to challenge the MLB record for losses this season, and chasing minimal save opportunities with a player who had a 1.51 WHIP last season doesn't seem to be worth the risk. If Veras does pitch well, there's no doubt he will be sold off in June or July to a contender looking for middle relief help.
It's going to be a long season in Houston, and it's likely that only fantasy owners who are having Astros-esque seasons will consider most of the players on this abysmal roster.