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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
Brewers' Scooter Gennett batting second Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:48 pm ET) Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett has been moved to the No. 2 spot in the batting order for Wednesday's matchup with the Dodgers.

Gennett returned from the disabled list Tuesday and went 1 for 3 while batting sixth, but with Tuesday's No. 2 hitter Gerardo Parra on the bench in favor of Khris Davis, Gennett is making his first start in the top third of the lineup this season. He has hit .219/.306/.219 in 32 at-bats.

The Brewers are home underdogs (+108) against the Dodgers Wednesday, per VegasInsider.com.


Cubs activate Grimm, DFA Varvaro; option Lake, Szczur to Triple-A
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:45 pm ET) The Cubs announced several roster moves prior to Wednesday's game in St. Louis, per the team's official website. The club activated right-hander Justin Grimm off the 15-day disabled list and recalled outfielder Matt Szczur from Triple-A Iowa. Outfielder Junior Lake has been optioned to Triple-A and right-hander Anthony Varvaro has been designated for assignment.

White Sox activate, DFA reliever Javy Guerra Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(2:42 pm ET) The White Sox activated reliever Javy Guerra from the 15-day disabled list and designated him for assignment on Wednesday, according to MLB.com. 

Guerra had been rehabbing in Triple-A after recovering from a shoulder injury. He made three appearances for the White Sox before suffering the injury. He did not allow a run over his 1 2/3 innings pitched.

Last season, Guerra appeared in 42 games for the Sox, recording a 2.91 ERA with a 7.4 K/9 ratio.


Braves recall Williams Perez, option Michael Kohn
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:41 pm ET) The Braves recalled pitcher Williams Perez from Triple-A Gwinnett and optioned pitcher Michael Kohn to the same team.

Perez has made five starts with Gwinnett, going 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA and 21:9 K:BB ratio in 27 innings. He has yet to pitch in a major-league game in the regular season.

Kohn has made six appearances with the Braves without giving up a run or a hit, but he has walked six batters while striking out four.


Pirates shuffle lineup Wednesday, drop Josh Harrison to seventh
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:38 pm ET) Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison is back in the lineup for Wednesday's game against the Reds but batting seventh for the first time this season.

Harrison led off in 20 of the team's first 21 games, only getting one game off from starting. After his next day off, he was slotted second Friday and left in the spot for three games. Harrison was off again Tuesday and now returns in the bottom third of the order. He has hit just .188/.220/.313 with two home runs and six RBI in 96 at-bats.

With Harrison dropped in the lineup, second baseman Neil Walker has been moved up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup, while the team's regular fifth-through-seventh hitters have been bumped up a spot, with left fielder Starling Marte landing in the cleanup role.

The Pirates are favorites (-160) against the Reds Wednesday with Gerrit Cole on the mound.


Rays' Steven Souza out of the starting lineup Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:36 pm ET) Rays right fielder Steven Souza is out of the starting lineup Wednesday against the Red Sox, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Brandon Guyer with shift to right in his place. Souza has only missed two games this season and started 10 games in a row for Tampa Bay. Souza is hitting .232 with four home runs in 95 at-bats this season. The Rays are currently the underdogs (+115) against Boston.


Dodgers recall Joe Wieland, option Daniel Coulombe
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) The Dodgers recalled pitcher Joe Wieland from Triple-A Oklahoma City Wednesday and optioned pitcher Daniel Coulombe to the same team.

Weiland is set to take the mound Wednesday to face the Brewers in Milwaukee. It'll be his first start of the season for the Dodgers after going 3-0 with a 3.60 ERA and 22:2 K:BB ratio in 20 innings with Oklahoma City.

Coulombe made his season debut with the Dodgers Tuesday, giving up one earned run on one hit and one walk in one inning of work.


Pirates place Lambo (foot) on DL; promote Lombardozzi from Triple-A
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:19 pm ET) The Pirates have purchased the contract of infielder/outfielder Steve Lombardozzi from Triple-A Indianapolis and have placed outfielder Andrew Lambo on the 15-day disabled list -- retroactive to May 4 -- with a case of plantar fasciitis, per the team's official website.

Lombardozzi started the year with a .379 batting average, which currently ranks second in the International League. He has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 minor-league games, while batting .415 (17 for 41) over that span.


Reds SS Zack Cozart (finger) not able to start Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(2:14 pm ET) Reds shortstop Zack Cozart remained out of the starting lineup on Wednesday. Cozart also missed Tuesday's game due to a finger injury sustained on Sunday. Kris Negron started at shortstop for the second straight game. No updates on Cozart's injury have been released.

Reds C Bryan Pena out, Tucker Barnhart in lineup Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(2:10 pm ET) Reds catcher Brayan Pena was given the day off and held out of the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Pirates. Pena had started each of the last four games for Cincinnati, and has been hitting fairly well recently. Over his last eight games, the veteran catcher is hitting .269 (7 for 26) with three doubles.

Tucker Barnhart made his fifth start of the year behind the dish, batting eighth for manager Bryan Price. 


 
 
 
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