For those of us in National League-only fantasy leagues, its our last shot at picking Houston Astros.
Pardon me if I pass on their starting pitchers.
The Astros had a team ERA of 4.51 last year and that included an ERA of 4.46 or worse from three of their regular starting pitchers.
As for the offseason, Houston's big addition to the rotation was Livan Hernandez. Yup, he's still alive...and playing.
The rotation will look similar to last year led by Wandy Rodriguez, who was the ace of the staff with 11 wins and a 3.49 ERA. Rodriguez has been the only consistent starter for Houston since Roy Oswalt departed and he has had an ERA of 3.60 or below for four straight seasons, but unfortunately has won more than 11 games just once during that span.
His strikeouts have dipped a bit in each of the past three seasons and I think at age 35 his stats will start to regress a bit, so I'm not as high on him this year.
If you are going to target an Astros starter, take a shot on one of their guys with greater upside.
I got Bud Norris a couple years ago when he was a rookie and held on to him for two shaky seasons before he finally had a breakthrough last year.
The hard-throwing right-hander would be my top pick among their starters this year after he had a 3.77 ERA in 31 starts last year. The wins weren't there, only six, and while that will increase a bit, don't expect more than 10 for any Houston starter. His ERA dropped a full point last year and he continued to strike out about one batter per inning, so his numbers should only get better this year.
Jordan Lyles was one of the top prospects last season and his call-up from the minors excited fantasy owners, but his debut was a dud. He had a 5.36 ERA in 20 games, including 15 starts. His numbers will improve and if you can get him cheap, take a shot, but don't invest too much in him because at 21 he is not a lock to be in the starting rotation, or even the majors, to begin the year.
Brett Myers was a pleasant fantasy surprise in 2010 when he had 14 wins and a 3.14 ERA in his first year with the Astros, but followed it up with seven wins and a 4.46 ERA. Like all the Astros starters, he is tough to trust so only worth a flyer if he drops in drafts or auctions.
J.A. Happ has hit the skids after thrilling fantasy owners as a sleeper in 2009 when he went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA for Philadelphia. His trade to the Astros has slowed his development and last year was a disaster as he went 6-15 with a 5.35 ERA. For a guy who was not a top prospect and surprised many with his 2009 season, it is hard to imagine he gets close to his numbers from that year again.
Kyle Weiland is generating some buzz as one of the top rookies this season after being traded in the offseason from Boston. The 25-year old had good numbers in the minors but struggled in a short stint with the Red Sox last season.
He will get a shot to be in the rotation and considering his competition for those spots, he could be there and worth a risk late in a draft or auction.
Henry Sosa is another contender for the rotation, but after going 3-5 with a 5.23 ERA in 10 starts, he's not worth a look in fantasy.
Aneury Rodriguez is also in the mix to start, but he's another guy to avoid after posting an ERA north of 5.00 last year.
So with all those less-than-desirable options to start, what about Livan Hernandez? Some fantasy owners who had him in 2010 when he had a 3.66 ERA may be willing to buy in again, but before you do, note that his ERA has been above 4.40 in the other four of his past five seasons including 4.47 last year with Washington.
Written by Steve Mims exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. Follow Steve on Twitter @nwsportscards
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