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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Houston Astros

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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The Houston Astros' 2012 campaign is going to mark the end of an era.

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Beginning as the Colts .45's in 1962, the Houston franchise has always been a member of the National League. But that is going to change in 2013 when the Astros pack their bags for the American League.

Therefore, baseball enthusiasts get to enjoy the Astros in the Senior Circuit for one more year. Then again, "enjoy" probably isn't the right word when it comes to discussing this year's team. "Rebuilding effort" and "extended losing streaks" might be better phrases.

Houston has made nine playoff appearances through the years, but 2011 wasn't one of them. Last year's team finished with a franchise-worst 56 wins and lost north of 100 games for the first time in team history. At least the good news for the 2012 squad is that likely won't get any worse.

The days of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are distant memories. The only real star bat left is Carlos Lee, but the big question is who will provide El Caballo with lineup protection?

The rebuilding project began the last few years as Houston traded stars Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. The Astros are now ready to start over with the likes of J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve, Brett Wallace, Jason Castro, Jason Bourgeois and Jordan Schafer, but the Astros aren't built to contend this season.

The strength of this year's Houston squad lies in its rotation. Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Bud Norris give the Astros a potentially potent 1-2-3 punch. Houston could also get a huge lift from lefty J.A. Happ if he pitches more like the guy that went 12-4 in 2009 with Philadelphia and not the 6-15 arm he was in 2011. Houston is also hoping homegrown arm Jordan Lyles can solidify the back of the rotation instead of heading back to the minors for more seasoning.

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The two biggest offseason acquisitions were shortstop Jed Lowrie and catcher Chris Snyder. Lowrie will now get to play every day without looking over his shoulder. Snyder's ability to handle a pitching staff will be a welcomed addition in Houston and also his presence will help ease Castro back into action after he missed last season with a knee injury.

Once considered a weakness, the Astros have started to rebuild their farm system. Trades have brought them potential stars in Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart, and strong drafts have landed them George Springer and Delino Deshields.

But that seems to be the underlying theme with Houston -- building toward the future.

Sleeper ... J.D. Martinez , OF

Martinez has developed into a steal for the Astros. He hasn't even played a full season in the majors, but has already surpassed expectations as a 20th round draft pick in 2009. Martinez sped through the minors thanks to a .342 average, .414 on-base percentage and .958 OPS. He has more of a line-drive swing and is a better doubles hitter, but he could get some cheap homers at Minute Maid Park. The good news for Martinez is that manager Brad Mills is likely to hit him third in front of Carlos Lee. Martinez hit .295 with five homers, 12 doubles and 31 RBI in 44 games batting third in 2011.

Injury-risk sleeper ... Jed Lowrie, SS

Let's take a moment to reminisce about the season that could have been for Lowrie in 2011 had he not developed a nagging shoulder injury. He hit .306 with a .354 OBP and .804 OPS in his first 46 games (40 starts). He also had 21 RBI in that span. Unfortunately, Lowrie went on the disabled list in mid-June and didn't return until early August, but he wasn't the same. He hit .195 in his last 42 games. That's going to be the biggest question mark for Lowrie heading into this season. If healthy, he could end up a steal for Fantasy owners. But his shoulder problem and the fact he no longer plays for a contender means you can't invest more than a late-round pick on Lowrie.

Late-round flier ... Bud Norris, SP

Norris hasn't had a winning season since his rookie campaign in 2009 and might be headed for a third straight losing campaign in 2012, but we still feel the best is yet to come from the soon-to-be 27-year-old hurler. Fantasy owners might not realize, but Norris is averaging 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, which is his strongest Fantasy asset. However, Norris also lowered his ERA to 3.77 and his WHIP to 1.33 in 2011. It's also worth pointing out that opponents have hit .256 or worse against Norris the last two seasons. He remains only a late-round flier because the wins could be hard to come by, but Norris definitely has appeal as a back-of-the-rotation Fantasy arm.

2012 Houston Astros Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jordan Schafer CF 1 Wandy Rodriguez LH
2 Jose Altuve 2B 2 Brett Myers RH
3 J.D. Martinez LF 3 Bud Norris RH
4 Carlos Lee 1B 4 J.A. Happ LH
5 Brian Bogusevic RF 5 Livan Hernandez RH
6 Jed Lowrie SS Alt Jordan Lyles RH
7 Jimmy Paredes 3B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Jason Castro C CL Brandon Lyon RH
Top bench options SU Wilton Lopez RH
R Jason Bourgeois OF RP Juan Abreu RH
R Chris Snyder C RP Sergio Escalona LH
R Brett Wallace 1B RP Fernando Rodriguez RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Jonathan Singleton 20 1B Class A Double-A
Former Phillies farmhand that has potential to hit .300 with 25-30 homers in majors.
2 Jarred Cosart 21 SP Double-A Double-A
Another key part of Hunter Pence trade, Cosart has ace potential but could transition to closer as well.
3 George Springer 22 OF Class A Class A
First-round pick from 2011 who is a five-tool player. A power-speed combo guy in the mold of Matt Kemp.
4 Jonathan Villar 20 SS Double-A Double-A
Villar's strengths are his defense and speed, but needs to improve strike-zone discipline.
5 Domingo Santana 19 OF Class A Class A
The word that best describes Santana is raw, but the ceiling is high if he reaches his full potential.
Best of the rest: Paul Clemens, SP; Brett Oberholtzer, SP; Delino Deshields, 2B; Mike Foltynewicz, SP; Telvin Nash, 1B/OF; Kyle Weiland, SP; Adrian Houser, SP; Austin Wates, OF; Jiovanni Mier, SS; Tanner Bushue, SP; Ariel Ovando, OF; Nick Torpeano, SP

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Michael Hurcomb at @CBSHurc . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Angles' Erick Aybar stays hot at the plate, goes 3 for 4 on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:46 am ET) Angels shortstop Erick Aybar continued his recent hot streak at the plate on Saturday. Aybar went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles. He drove in a run and scored three in the 13-0 win over the Rangers.

In the last two games, Aybar has eight hits in nine at-bats with three RBI and five runs scored. His batting average now sits at .280, the highest it's been since the second game of the season. 


Angels' C.J. Cron homers, drives in six runs in blowout win Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:42 am ET) Angels slugger C.J. Cron enjoyed a career-night at the plate on Saturday. Cron, who was serving as the designated hitter, went 3 for 4 with a career-best six RBI and a run scored, leading the Angels to a 13-0 win over the Rangers.

Cron had an RBI single in the second inning and a sacrifice fly in the third. He continued his big night with a three-run home run, his third of the year in the sixth inning, followed by a run-scoring double in the eighth.

This was by far the best game of Cron's career, as his previous high was three RBI in a single game. 


Rangers SP Wandy Rodriguez suffers loss in rout on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:37 am ET) Rangers left-hander Wandy Rodriguez has a rough start against the Angels on Saturday. Rodriguez allowed five runs on nine hits over five innings. He walked three and struck two, as the Angels took the 13-0 win. 

Rodriguez (5-4) brought his ERA up to 4.23 with the poor outing. He gave up three runs in the second inning and another in the third before allowing a solo home run to Kole Calhoun in the fifth.

The veteran southpaw has now given up 14 earned runs over 14 innings in his last three starts. 


Angels SP Hector Santiago rides offensive explosion in win Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:31 am ET) Backed by a 13-run offensive explosion on Saturday, Angels starter Hector Santiago earned his fifth win of the season. Santiago fired seven shutout innings against the Rangers, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out three. 

Santiago (5-4) was pretty much in control of this one throughout, as he did not allow a runner to get passed second base. His 2.40 ERA ranks fourth in the American League. He has four consecutive quality starts, and hasn't allowed more than three runs in an outing since June 3.


Reds SS Ivan De Jesus blasts off in Saturday defeat
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) For a guy who emerged off the bench Saturday night, Reds shortstop Ivan De Jesus sure made the most of his opportunity.

De Jesus smacked two hits in the loss to Milwaukee, including his third home run, a solo blast in the fifth inning. He also walked in improving his slash line to a more-than-respectable .276/.333/.483.

He has six hits in his last 11 at-bats.


Reds 3B Todd Frazier rips four hits in loss to Brewers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Reds lost Saturday to hot Milwaukee, but don't blame third baseman Todd Frazier. He slammed two doubles and two singles. The trouble is that all of them went for naught. He neither scored nor drove in a run.

His first multi-hit game since June 25 was also his first four-hit game of the season. Frazier has strengthened his slash line of .289/.348/.610. The slugging percentage ranks third in the bigs.


Brewers 1B Adam Lind stays on fire Saturday with homer
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:02 am ET) The Brewers have won seven straight games and white-hot first baseman Adam Lind has at least one RBI in all of them.

Actually, Lind has at least one RBI in eight straight, courtesy of a solo home run in the fourth inning Saturday against Cincinnati. He also singled, walked twice and scored two runs.

Lind is batting .388 (19-for-49) since June 20 with four doubles, four home runs, 15 RBI and 10 runs scored.


Reds SP Josh Smith falls apart in loss to Milwaukee
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) Josh Smith has gone from bad to unlucky to bad again in three starts with the Reds. The latest got downright ugly.

Smith gave up five runs on five hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings of a blowout by Milwaukee that lowered his record to 0-2. He fanned a pair along the way.

His collapse was sudden and pronounced. He allowed baserunners in the first three innings, but escaped, then gave up a home run to Adam Lind leading off the fourth. It all fell apart in the fifth after a single and his own error. Another single, walk and hit-by-pitch sent him to the bench, where he watched all three runners score.

Smith is now saddled with a 7.30 ERA.


Royals CF Lorenzo Cain doubles, drives in two runs on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7/4/2015) Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain went 2 for 4 with a double and a pair of RBI on Saturday, but it wouldn't be enough to avoid the 5-3 loss to the Twins. 

Cain doubled in two runs in the fifth inning to cut the Twins' lead to 4-2, but the Twins would tack on another insurance run in the seventh. Cain is batting an even .400 (14 for 35) over his last 10 ballgames.


SP Jimmy Nelson just OK in helping Brewers win seventh straight
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The suddenly surging Brewers didn't get a gem out of starter Jimmy Nelson on Saturday, but they scored enough runs that it didn't matter.

Nelson, who has just two quality starts in his last eight outings, allowed three runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, but managed to win in Cincinnati. He walked one and fanned five.

He had allowed only a home run to Marlon Byrd through four, but an Ivan De Jesus blast in the fifth and Byrd run-scoring single in the sixth weakened his performance.

Nelson has surrendered 18 runs in his last 28 1/3 innings pitched, yet he has won three straight starts.


 
 
 
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