Astros Acquire Gerrit Cole: Fantasy Impact

The Astros added starting pitching depth by trading for Gerrit Cole. How will the 27-year-old fair in the American League West?

The Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series, but they are not resting on their laurels. After what was thought to be a confirmed trade but was retracted, the Astros have officially traded for starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. The Astros now have one of the best rotations in the league. What will the move to the American League West mean for Cole and his fantasy value?

Cole has one season with an ERA under 3.00 and WHIP under 1.10. Yet, there were a few teams that were interested in acquiring his services for the next couple of seasons. But why? While the ratios may not be ideal, the peripherals are in line with a top-of-the-rotation type pitcher.

He has a career 8.4 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 over his five years. This season may have been a down year but there is still a lot to look forward to. In 203.0 innings, Cole posted a 4.26 ERA, 1.251 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 with a 12-12 record.

Cole does not have much experience pitching against his new opponents. He has a combined five starts against his four division rivals and only two on their home fields, Angels and Rangers. He will have a bit of a disadvantage by not being familiar with his opponents. The other negative is the addition of the DH to opposing offenses.

Cole saw his ground ball and fly ball rates regress below his career averages by about three percent each. He also allowed harder contact than normal.

The Rangers and A’s finished third and fourth in team home runs last year. The Mariners were 17th and Angels down the list at 24th. Cole will need to improve on keeping the ball down and away from hitters. The AL West is home to some pretty good power hitters and lineups overall.

The good news is that he improved his swing stats last season. His swinging strike rate went up one percent, first-pitch strikes went up two percent and his contact rate went down three percent. With two of his new opponents ranking fourth and fifth in team strikeouts, Cole may be able to reach a 9.0 K/9 for just the second time in his career.

Cole will likely be the No. 2 starter between Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh are also in the mix for rotation spots. But, as I mentioned in a previous piece, McHugh may start the season in the bullpen.

Going over to Pittsburgh are Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran and Jason Martin. Musgrove is the main piece. While he struggled as a starter last season, he dominated in the bullpen. He posted a 1.44 ERA, 0.862 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 and 1.44 BB/9 out of the bullpen. The Pirates may use him as a starter though.

Feliz is another good reliever. The ratio stats may not say so, 4.94 ERA and 1.345 WHIP over the last two seasons, there is something to be had. Feliz is a hard thrower with the ability to strike out batters, 165 strikeouts over 113.0 innings. He does tend to give up the long ball but moving to the NL Central may help curb some of those fly balls.

Moran has seen limited playing time over the last two seasons. He was expected to be the next third baseman but the breakout of Alex Bregman prevented that from happening. Moran hit .308/.373/.543 in Triple-A last year. Roster Resource has Moran has the starting third baseman. He is a sleeper pick in NL-only or deep leagues.

The final piece is Martin. There isn’t much to get excited about as Ken Rosenthal tweeted he is likely a reserve outfielder. He slashed .273/.319/.483 in 320 Double-A plate appearances.

Cole is still hard to project. While I don’t think he’ll post an ERA over 4.00, the move to a hitter-friendly division says otherwise. He will throw close to 200 innings, striking out over 180 in the process. Expect an ERA and WHIP close to 3.80 and 1.23, respectively. I would draft him in Round 10 as your third starting pitcher.