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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
Cubs closer Hector Rondon is learning from his mistakes
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5/23/2015) Cubs closer Hector Rondon blew a save Friday night in Arizona, his third blown save of the season. The right-hander served up a game-tying two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the 10th inning in the eventual 5-3 Diamondbacks win.

But Rondon, who is in the third season of his career, knows where he went wrong.

"I need better location," Rondon said Saturday, per MLB.com. "I know that pitch ran up a little to the middle [to Goldschmidt]. I think that's why we lost the game yesterday, those pitches."

Manager Joe Maddon has expressed faith in his 27-year-old closer, and a change does not seem to be in the cards, at least for now. 

"He knows what he did wrong," said Maddon. "I'll say [to him], 'Hey, listen, everything's cool. I still have a lot of trust and support.' It's one of those things that happens in our game."

Rondon has blown two of his last three save opportunities.


Cubs OF Jorge Soler: I expect more from me
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler is having a fine debut to the major leagues this season. The rookie is hitting .267 with 14 RBI in 161 at-bats this season, but he his still hoping for more, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"So far, I don't feel good about what I've done," Soler said Saturday. "I expect more from me."

Soler has struck out 59 times so far this season, 15 more than anyone else on the team. He also noted he thinks his hamstrings will hold up this year after missing more than two months in 2014 because of hamstring injuries.


Angels pitcher Mike Morin headed to the disabled list on Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Angels pitcher Mike Morin will be placed on the 15-day DL on Sunday after suffering a left oblique injury on Saturday, according to the Orange County Register.

Morin was forced to come out of Saturday's game after facing just one batter against the Red Sox. 

"I've never dealt with anything like this," Morin said. "It's frustrating. It's been frustrating."

Morin has a 6.00 ERA in 15 innings of work this season.


Marlins 3B Martin Prado delivers game-winning RBI in 13th
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Marlins third baseman Martin Prado went 1 for 5 at the plate in Miami's 1-0 win over the Orioles in 13 innings on Saturday.

Prado was hitless when he stepped in the box in the 13th. After Baltimore intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton to load the bases, Prado delivered on a 1-1 pitch from T.J. McFarland when he cracked a single into center to bring home the winning run.

Prado is now htting .273 with 17 RBI in 176 at-bats this season.


Marlins reliever Carter Capps strikes out six in win on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Marlins relief pitcher Carter Capps tossed three scoreless innings on Saturday in Miami's 1-0 win over the Orioles in 13 innings of work.

Capps came on in the 11th and allowed just one hit while striking out six. Capps, now 1-0, also did not issue a walk and lowered his ERA to 1.50 in six innings of work this season.


Orioles pitcher Mike Wright strikes out four in no-decision on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Orioles pitcher Mike Wright tossed seven scoreless innings on Saturday, allowing three hits in Baltimore's 1-0 loss to the Marlins in 13 innings, but did not factor into the decision.

Wright faced the minimum hitters through four innings, but ran into some issues in the fifth. After hitting leadoff man Martin Prado, Wright picked up two quick outs. Then after a walk put two men on, Wright forced a groundout to end the inning.

Wright, who remains 1-0, maintained his perfect 0.00 ERA in 14 1/3 innings of work. He will look to keep things rolling Thursday against the White Sox.


Marlins pitcher Dan Haren strikes out six in no-decision on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Marlins pitcher Dan Haren tossed six scoreless innings on Saturday, allowing seven hits in Miami's 1-0 win over the Orioles in 13 innings, but did not factor into the decision.

Haren struck out six with three walks in his outing. Although Haren put himself into multiple jams, including the first inning when he put runners on first and third with one out, he was able to work out of them without allowing a run.

Haren, who remains 4-2, lowered his ERA to 3.09 in 55 1/3 innings of work. He will look to get his fifth win of the year on Friday against the Mets.


Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli blasts two home runs in win on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli went 2 for 4 at the plate in Boston's 8-3 win over the Angels on Saturday.

Napoli ripped a solo home run over the Green Monster in the second inning off of C.J. Wilson. Then in the sixth, Napoli did the same thing when he belted a two-run shot off of Wilson, his seventh of the season.

Napoli is now hitting .193 with 17 RBI in 135 at-bats this season.


Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson tagged for four runs in losing effort
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings of work in Los Angeles' 8-3 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday.

Wilson had issues in the second inning when Mike Napoli belted a solo shot over the Green Monster. Then in the third, Wilson put runners on first and third for Mookie Betts, who singled to left center, plating another run. Wilson then surrendered a second home run to Mike Napoli, this time a two-run shot.

Wilson, now 2-3, moved his ERA to 3.36 in 59 innings of work. He will look to get back on track Thursday against the Tigers.


Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright allows two runs in win on Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright allowed two runs on four hits in  6 1/3 innings of work in Boston's 8-3 win over the Angels on Saturday.

Wright's only blemish came in the first inning when he allowed three of the first four hitters to reach safely, including back-to-back doubles by Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun, leading to two runs. Wright settled down and got out of the inning without anymore damage.

Wright, now 2-1, lowered his ERA to 3.68 in 22 innings of work. He will look to keep things rolling Thursday against the Rangers.


 
 
 
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