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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
Rays add catcher Bobby Wilson to roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:42 am ET) The Rays selected the contract of catcher Bobby Wilson from Triple-A Durham on Wednesday. In 24 games with the Rays this season, he is batting .145 with four RBI and 20 strikeouts.

Rays' Desmond Jennings to get 30 at-bats on rehab assignment
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:28 am ET) Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings (knee) will begin a rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Durham, according to The Tampa Tribune. He is expected to receive around 30 at-bats before his activation from the disabled list.

I don’t like to say anybody’s starting over, but we need to get his timing (back) and get him out there,” manager Kevin Cash said.


Royals' Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain take a seat Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:18 am ET) Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain and catcher Salvador Perez were held out of the starting lineup for Wednesday's game at Cleveland. Drew Butera started for Perez and Jarrod Dyson started in Cain's absence.

Perez is hitless in his last four games (13 at-bats) and is batting .169 through 20 July games. Cain has had a much better month offensively, posting a .366/.422/.683/1.105 slash line through 21 July games.


Mariners' Mike Zunino homers to extend hitting streak on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:56 am ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino connected on his 10th home run of the season in Tuesday's 8-4 loss to the Diamondbacks. Zunino's third-inning solo shot cut Arizona's lead to one, but it would the D-Backs would tack on more insurance run to take the victory.

The 2015 season has been mainly a struggle for Zunino so far. But Tuesday's home run did extend his current hitting streak to eight games. During that stretch, he's hitting .393 with a home run and six RBI.


Mariners DH Nelson Cruz blasts 26th home run in loss Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:53 am ET) Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz went deep for his 26th home run on Tuesday, but it would be for naught as the Mariners lost the game 8-4 to the Diamondbacks. It was Cruz's only hit of the game, as the solo shot cut the D-Backs' lead to 6-2 in the sixth inning. 

Cruz has been smoking at the plate recently, batting .333 (15 for 45) with four home runs and eight RBI over his past 10 games.


D-Backs' Ender Inciarte chips in solo home run in win Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:50 am ET) Diamondbacks right fielder Ender Inciarte powered up for his third home run of the season in the 8-4 win over the Mariners on Tuesday. Inciarte went 2 for 5 from the lead-off spot in the order. He drove in two runs, one on his solo homer in the fifth inning. 

Since returning from the disabled list earlier this month, Inciarte is batting .348 (16 for 46) with a home run and five RBI in 11 games (10 starts).


Diamondbacks' David Peralta does it all in victory on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:47 am ET) Diamondbacks left fielder David Peralta filled up the score sheet in Tuesday's 8-4 win over the Giants. Peralta went 3 for 4 with a double, two RBI, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored. 

The double was Peralta's 18th of the season, and the steal was his fifth. While getting partial playing time, Peralta is batting .363 with a home run and six RBI over his past 10 games (eight starts).


Cubs RP Neil Ramirez was not available to pitch Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:42 am ET) Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez was unavailable out of the bullpen in Tuesday's game against the Rockies. It is not exactly known what has Ramirez ailing, with manager Joe Maddon telling ESPN.com "He was not OK tonight. That's why I could not use him. I have to find out more about that."

Ramirez returned from the disabled list on June 28 after dealing with a shoulder injury. It is not known if his current issue is related to that injury, or if it's something new. 


Yankees' Adam Warren picks up save in rout of Rangers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:33 am ET) Despite the lop-sided score, Yankees pitcher Adam Warren recorded his first save of the season in Tuesday's 21-5 thrashing of the Rangers. Warren pitched the final three innings of the game, which credits him with the save regardless of the score.

Warren, who was ousted from the rotation in late June, pitched three perfect innings on Tuesday. He now has five saves in his four-year career with the Yankees.


Diamondbacks summon RP Addison Reed from Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:30 am ET) Diamondbacks reliever Addison Reed was recalled from Triple-A Reno following Tuesday's game. Reed struggled this year with Arizona, as he lost his closer's job prior to being sent down to the minors on June 22.

In 25 relief appearances with the D-Backs in 2015, Reed owns an unsightly 5.92 ERA. He's been better with the Reno Aces however, as he has a 1.74 in 11 games at Triple-A.

He will take the roster spot of Randall Delgado, who was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday.


 
 
 
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