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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
Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ working on his changeup
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ is working on his changeup and hoping to use it more this season, pitching coach Rick Waits said Saturday.

Happ went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 158 innings pitched in 2014 with 133 strikeouts.


Rays hopeful Alex Colome will join team next week
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(11:15 am ET) Rays president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman said Saturday Alex Colome is currently throwing at a Dominican Republic complex and is hopeful he will join the team next week after his visa gets approved, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Colome posted a 2.66 ERA over 23 2/3 innings in 2014.


Reds' Price: No competition between Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Reds manager Bryan Price said Saturday there is no competition at shortstop between Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez, reports the Cincinnati Inquirer.

Cozart was the starting shortstop for the team most of last season, hitting .221 with four home runs and 38 RBI in 506 plate appearances. While Suarez hit .242 with four home runs and 23 RBI in 244 plate appearances. 


Tigers' Victor Martinez expected to report to spring training Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:53 am ET) Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez was in town for photo day Saturday and is expected to report to spring training Monday, manager Brad Ausmus told reporters.

Martinez is still rehabbing from a knee injury and has yet to be cleared to participate in baseball activities. The 36-year-old hit .335/.409/.565 over 561 at-bats last year. 


Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava hitting only left-handed this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:23 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava is planning to only hit from the left side during this spring after hitting from both sides of the plate for most of his career, reports the Providence Journal.

"I'm definitely trying it out," Nava said. "I'm just really trying to see what becomes of it. I still have the right-hand swing; it's not in the garbage. Just knowing how the left-right splits are, I thought it would be a good shot to see with my approach if it could work."

Nava has hit .293 with a .385 slugging percentage from the left side in his career while hitting just .209 from the right.

"I just need more time to really get an idea. I might as well at least commit to it as long as I can, and we'll see what happens," Nava said. "I'm very realistic right now that it's going to be a challenge, but hopefully later down the road it might get a little easier."


Tigers catcher Alex Avila expected to be back Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:18 am ET) Tigers catcher Alex Avila is still dealing with a back injury and will not participate in practice Saturday, reports MLive.com. It is the second consecutive day Avila will miss with the back injury.

Manager Brad Ausmus said he'd be shocked if Avila is not practicing Sunday. 


Yankees' CC Sabathia expected to wear knee brace this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is planning to pitch this year with a brace on his right knee to stabilize when he is on the mound this year.

Sabathia had multiple platelet-rich plasma injections in his knee during the offseason and is hopeful to avoid more injections by wearing the brace, reports the New York Daily News.

"You're really not going to know until we get into the season and he's going every fifth day, how his leg is going to do," manager Joe Girardi said. "I've said all along, it’s a concern of mine. The fact that he’s wearing a brace or not wearing a brace doesn't concern me anymore."

Sabathia said the wearing the brace was "nothing out of the ordinary."


Goryks Hernandez expected to arrive at camp Saturday after visa delay
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:01 am ET) Pirates outfielder Gorkys Hernandez is expected to arrive at spring training Saturday after being delayed by visa issues, reports MLB.com. Hernandez, 27, last played in the majors in 2012 and hit .192 with three home runs and 13 RBI. 

Rays pitcher Belisario out at least two weeks with fractured shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:56 am ET) Rays pitcher Ronald Belisario is expected to miss at least two weeks with a fractured left shoulder, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Belisario was involved in an accident before he reported to camp and has been seen with his arm in a sling.

Rays president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman said Belisario was injured getting out of a swimming pool a few weeks ago and won't be ready for the start of the season.

Belisario posted a 4-8 record with eight saves in 2014 with a 5.56 ERA in 66 1/3 innings pitched.


Yankees' Garrett Jones ready for position battle with Alex Rodriguez
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:51 am ET) New Yankees infielder Garrett Jones knows third base currently belongs to Alex Rodriguez. However, the 33-year-old is envisioning a scenario where he and A-Rod are both able to play equally throughout the season.

"That's what it comes down to," Jones said to NJ.com. "When he's getting his opportunity, he'll do his thing. And when I'm getting my opportunity, I'm going to do what I do. In a perfect world, we're both swinging the beat well and we're both in their on a regular basis."

Jones struggled to hit the ball well in 2014, hitting .246 with 15 homeruns and 53 RBI.

"It can mess with you," Jones said. "As a hitter, do I need to do extra? Do I need to change my swing? Do I not have as much power as I used to? A lot of things are going through your head. You try to not let it bother you but for a guy that's supposed to be driving the ball and having home runs, it's part of my game. ... I was trying to pull everything and it turned getting around too much on the ball and I just lost. I was getting pounded (with) sinkers away and I lost that approach to drive the ball to left-center."


 
 
 
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