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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
Rangers bring up Jake Smolinski from minors
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:19 pm ET) The Rangers have promoted first baseman Jake Smolinski to replace the shelved Kyle Blanks, who has been placed on the disabled list.

Smolinski struggled in his first stint in the majors this season, batting just .140 (7-for-50) after showing tremendous promise in 2014.


Tigers' Justin Verlander scheduled for Tuesday simulated game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander completed a bullpen session on Friday, and is scheduled for a simulated game Tuesday in Oakland, reports MLB.com.

Verlander has been sidelined all season because of a triceps injury. He is scheduled to start a minor-league rehab assignment at some point after the simulated game.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there," manager Brad Ausmus said, per the Detroit Free Press.


Boil on backside has Rangers 1B Kyle Blanks placed on DL
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:15 pm ET) Just as Rangers first baseman Kyle Blanks was beginning to live up to his potential, a pain in the butt cropped up.

Blanks has gone on the disabled list with a boil on his back side, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has reported.

The 28-year-old Blanks had played only one game since last Friday, but is batting .500 (6-for-12) in his last three games and boasts a fine .322/.365/.542 slash line on the year with three home runs in 59 at-bats.


Twins send 1B/OF Brock Peterson packing
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:58 pm ET) The Twins have released first baseman/outfielder Brock Peterson, who had been toiling at Triple-A Rochester, per MLB.com.

Peterson has not played in the majors since 2013, when he managed two hits in 26 at-bats for St. Louis. He owned just a .186 average in the minors this season.


Hot-hitting Jimmy Paredes starts at second base for Orioles
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:58 pm ET) Without the luxury of the designated hitter position while in a National League park, Orioles manager Buck Showalter is keeping the hot bat of Jimmy Paredes in the lineup on Friday against the Marlins. Paredes will play second base in favor of Steve Pearce, who is on the bench.

Paredes has been a tough out this season, reaching base via a hit or a walk in all but two of the 27 games he's played. 


Nationals GM Rizzo: Still no timetable for Anthony Rendon's return
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:56 pm ET) Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon's knee is 100 percent and he feels no pain in his oblique, general manager Mike Rizzo told MLB Network Radio on Friday. However, Rizzo still doesn't have a timetable for Rendon's activation off the disabled list.

Rendon is fielding grounders and taking swings in the batting cage, but he is not quite ready to resume a rehab assignment, manager Matt Williams said Wednesday. Rendon was on a rehab assignment in early May before having to stop because of an oblique strain.


Orioles activate INF Everth Cabrera (foot) from DL
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:52 pm ET) Orioles infielder Everth Cabrera has been activated from the disabled list, and he is on the bench for Friday's game against the Marlins. Cabrera had been on the 15-day DL since May 6 with a foot injury.

Cabrera was hitting .205 (17 for 83) in 23 games before going down with the injury. The Orioles optioned infielder Rey Navarro to Triple-A Norfolk to clear room on the 25-man roster, the team announced Friday. 


Phillies slide 2B Chase Utley back to No. 3 spot in order
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:50 pm ET) With Ben Revere back in the starting lineup, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley slid back to the No. 3 hole  for Friday's contest against the Nationals.

Utley recorded his first triple of the season on Thursday, and is has had a hit in each of his last six games. He is hitting .450 (9 for 20) with four doubles, a triple and three RBI over that span. He owns a .169/.250/.292 slash line with three homers and 18 RBI over 148 plate appearances this season.

Philadelphia is considered an underdog (+245) at Washington, per VegasInsider.com.


Rangers flip Delino DeShilds, Shin-Soo Choo in Friday order
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:46 pm ET) Emerging Rangers left fielder Delino DeShields continues to climb the lineup ladder. He is batting leadoff Friday night for the second time this season and first time since April 15.

He is flip-flopping with Shin-Soo Choo, who will bat second against the host Yankees. He has not held down that position since April 13.

DeShields has scored 13 runs in his last 14 games, during which time he has raised his batting average from .154 to .279. He is, however, on a 3-for-16 slide.


Red Sox call up OF Rusney Castillo from Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:42 pm ET) The Red Sox have recalled outfield prospect Rusney Castillo from Triple-A Pawtucket. He is expected to start in right field in Friday night's game against the Red Sox, per MLB.com. The team has not yet confirmed the move.

In 18 games with Pawtucket this season, Castillo was batting .293 with two home runs and 10 RBI. He was also 6-for-8 in stolen base attempts. 

In a corresponding move, the Red Sox have optioned outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to Triple-A. 

"It came as a little bit of a surprise. It's not something I was thinking about," Castillo said, per the Providence Journal


 
 
 
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