2016 Fantasy Baseball: Houston Astros Sign Doug Fister
The Houston Astros checked off the last offseason checklist item on Thursday when they signed free agent starter Doug Fister to a one-year contract for a guaranteed seven million dollars. The contract could possibly reach 12 million if he reaches all of the incentives in the contract. The move leaves Yovani Gallardo as the only plug-and-play starter currently on the market.
Why the Astros made this move
This one is pretty simple on its face. The Astros wanted to add one more veteran starter and Fister fits their needs on a number of different levels. The club was supposedly in on Yovani Gallardo, but Gallardo is seeking a four-year contract, and he would have cost them their first round draft pick. Now, the Astros get a veteran starter on a short term deal and they get to keep their precious draft choice. In terms of style, Fister also fits what they like to with their pitching staff.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Fister has a 50 percent career ground ball rate. His numbers in that department weren’t as good in 2015 as they had been in the past, but he suffered through a forearm injury early in the season and never really got it back on track. Part of that could be attributed to the injury and part of that could be attributed to the fact that the Nationals were an underachieving team. If we strip the win-loss records, ERA, and WHIP and focus strictly on the numbers pitchers can control, Fister compares favorably over the past three seasons to the pitcher he is aiming to replace.
- Doug Fister: 475.2 INN, 0.87 HR/9, 6.05 K/9, 1.74 BB/9, 51.3 GB%
- Scott Feldman: 470.1 INN, 0.92 HR/9, 5.74 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 50.7 GB%
Of course, saying you are better than Scott Feldman doesn’t exactly send chills down your spine, but when you reference where Feldman was with the Astros you can get some idea. However, it might surprise some of you to find out that Feldman has a 3.82 ERA over the past three seasons. Now, that isn’t good enough to get into their rotation. If Fister can even produce the peripherals above (and that includes a down 2015) he should outproduce what Feldman has done the past three seasons.
Feldman signed a front-loaded contract back in 2014, so he has one year remaining on his deal at eight million dollars. The Astros have the flexibility to either keep him in long relief until an injury (or ineffectiveness) gives him a spot in the rotation or they can deal him during Spring Training to a team desperate for a solid veteran. The savings could be applied into a veteran hitter or could be set aside to give one of their young guys a long term deal of his own.
What this deal means for you
Fister did not make the list of top 30 AL or NL starting pitchers coming into the season. However, he is a very solid bounce back candidate given that he is moving to a team with a stronger defense. The Astros finished third last season in defense efficiency rating (DER) according to baseball-reference.com. The Nationals finished 22nd last season in that same statistic. Extreme ground ball pitchers are more susceptible to good and bad fielding behind them. That being said, the Astros also have one of the best defensive outfields in the game. So, he should be covered either way.
When you are filling out your bench late in the draft, Fister would be a really good add. He slots nicely beyond the top 60 fantasy starters. In a 12-team league that means he would be a nice sixth starter for fantasy players to like to load up on innings during the week. As you might suspect, signing with a contender also gives him the opportunity to get some cheap wins. Chasing victories can be a shaky strategy because chasing victories means buying into the luck factor. However, picking him with a late round pick is a very calculated gamble that could pay off.