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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Houston Astros

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For the Astros, 2012 was a season of mounting losses. They lost 107 games, improbably topping the total of 106 from the year before. The Astros also lost Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brett Myers and Chris Johnson via trade, and they lost manager Brad Mills after the team lost 82 of its first 121 games. Finally, they lost their league, as the Astros moved to the American League during the offseason, ending a 51-year run in the senior circuit.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

While the Astros shed some of their established players, they have continued to restock the farm system, picking up several prospects through trades, including starting third baseman Matt Dominguez, pitching prospects Brad Peacock and Rudy Owens, and catching prospect Max Stassi. This offseason, they have focused mostly on filling some of the holes in their major league roster, acquriring designated hitter/first baseman Carlos Pena, first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter, starting pitchers Philip Humber and Alex White and reliever Jose Veras. Wilton Lopez, their incumbent closer, and shortstop Jed Lowrie were the Astros' only notable losses, as they were dealt to the Rockies and Athletics, respectively.

While most of the transactions of the past year show an emphasis on building for the future, those moves may not pay a dividend in 2013. Pena -- an exception to the front office's long-term approach -- appears to be past his prime, Carter doesn't have a clear role, Dominguez's bat is unproven and neither Humber nor White is a lock to succeed as a starter. Veras is likely to replace Lopez as the team's closer, but he has all of five career saves.

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Jose Altuve 2B
2. Fernando Martinez RF
3. Brett Wallace 1B
4. Carlos Pena DH
5. Justin Maxwell CF
6. Jason Castro C
7. Tyler Greene SS
8. J.D. Martinez LF
9. Matt Dominguez 3B
Bench Chris Carter 1B/OF
Bench Brandon Barnes OF

With top prospects like George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jonathan Singleton in the wings, the Astros' longer-term future looks considerably brighter. For the coming season, though, it's entirely possible second baseman Jose Altuve will be the only player drawing interest in standard mixed league drafts and auctions. Even rotation ace Bud Norris -- coming off a 4.65 ERA -- is likely to get passed over outside of deeper formats. Unfortunately for AL-only owners, the Astros won't bring a bounty of talent to their player pool right away, but within a couple of years, their recent moves could bear fruit in Fantasy.

Inury-risk sleeper ... Jason Castro, catcher

Because Castro has drawn walks at every level, he came to the majors with some appeal for owners in deeper points leagues. Heading into last season, Castro lacked mixed league relevance, as he hadn't hit for power since Class A ball, and he was also coming off a year missed due to knee surgery. Castro's power reemerged in 2012 in the form of six home runs, two triples and 15 doubles in 257 at-bats. That he was able to achieve this even though he experienced a sizeable drop in his flyball rate is encouraging. Castro experienced some problems with his right knee again last season, but if he can stay healthy, playing time shouldn't be a problem. The potential upside makes Castro someone to consider as a low-end second catcher in mixed leagues.

Buyer beware ... Jose Veras, relief pitcher

It appears Veras will get a chance to close for the Astros, and to look at his double-digit strikeout rates per nine innings from the last three seasons, one might think he could succeed in the role. Veras is able to get Ks as a result of recording a high rate of called strikes, but far too often his pitches fall outside the strike zone. Of this season's prospective closers, only Carlos Marmol threw strikes at a lower rate last season. Marmol has had his problems in the ninth inning and Veras doesn't miss as many bats as the Cubs' closer. Even in deeper leagues, owners can find safer options than Veras, and he could very well lose his job to Wesley Wright, Jarred Cosart or Josh Fields by midseason.

Rotisserie gem ... Justin Maxwell, outfielder

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Bud Norris RHP
2. Lucas Harrell RHP
3. Jordan Lyles RHP
4. Philip Humber RHP
5. Alex White RHP
ALT John Ely RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Jose Veras RHP
2. Wesley Wright LHP
3. Hector Ambriz RHP
4. Xavier Cedeno LHP
5. Josh Fields RHP

There is no shortage of ways Maxwell can hurt Fantasy owners, particularly in Head-to-Head leagues. He doesn't hit many doubles, has a poor walk-to-strikeout ratio and doesn't hit for even a decent average. What Maxwell does do is hit homers and generate runs. He was also a pretty fair base-stealer in the minors, though that skill hasn't transferred to the majors. Even if Maxwell doesn't get more than 10 to 15 steals, he is still someone to consider in deeper mixed Rotisserie leagues. According to ESPN.com's Home Run Tracker, Maxwell had seven "no-doubt" homers last year, which tied him for seventh in the National League, even though he had only 315 at-bats. That's the kind of raw power that should allow at least some owners to put up with his shortcomings.

Prospects Report

George Springer and Jonathan Singleton are the best of the Astros' position prospects who could make an impact in 2013. Springer is particularly enticing, as he hits for power, draws walks and has 30-steal potential. Singleton's value is hurt by his 50-game suspension for a positive marijuana test, but he could still be up later this season. ... Pitchers Jarred Cosart, Rudy Owens and Brad Peacock could be relevant in deeper mixed leagues at some point this year, though for Cosart it's not clear if that would be as a starter or as a closer. ... Shortstop Carlos Correa (first overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft), second baseman Delino DeShields (102 steals in 2012) and starting pitchers Mike Foltynewicz and Lance McCullers are all at least a couple of years away, but all have enough upside to merit attention in long-term keeper leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Report: Padres have discussed Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(4:32 pm ET) The Padres have discussed a trade for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, according to the Daily News

Newly-acquired outfielder Wil Myers would be used as the centerpiece in the deal. By bringing in Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, San Diego has a glut of talent in the outfield. While it seems strange that the team would turn around and deal Myers, he would be the type of talent the Phillies are said to be seeking for Hamels. Philadelphia reportedly wants two or three "premium" prospects for Hamels. 

The 30-year-old Hamels posted a 2.46 ERA over 204 2/3 innings last season. He's owed $90 million over the next four seasons. 


Scott Boras: Matt Wieters will be ready by opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(4:24 pm ET) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be ready by opening day, according to his agent, Scott Boras. 

Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery is June, and is working his way back from the injury. It's unclear if Wieters will be able to catch full-time at the beginning of the year, or if he'll have to be worked in slowly. Manager Buck Showalter recently told reporters he wasn't sure Wieters would be ready by opening day, but he expected him to good shortly after. Wieters hit .308/.339/.500 over 104 at-bats before having surgery. 


Report: James Shields seeking $110 million
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(4:19 pm ET) Free-agent pitcher James Shields is reportedly seeking a contract worth about $110 million, according to the Boston Globe

That type of deal would be similar to the one signed by Cole Hamels back in 2012. It's believed the 33-year-old Shields could receive a five-year deal. Both the Giants and Red Sox are involved with Shields, and the Yankees have been mentioned as another suitor. Shields posted a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings last season. He's exceeded 200 innings pitched in each of the last eight years.


Chase Utley staying put in Philly
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(4:13 pm ET) The Phillies will enter the season with Chase Utley, according to the Daily News. 

With Jimmy Rollins gone, some have expected the team to entertain dealing Utley. As of right now, that's not going to happen. "I've had some dialogue with Wolfie [agent Joel Wolfe] but frankly, he doesn't want to go anywhere," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He wants to honor his contract and that's how we have to perceive it." 

Amaro admitted that the team needs to listen to any offer for the 36-year-old Utley, but doesn't perceive Utley changing his mind at this time. Utley hit .270/.339/.407 in 589 at-bats last season.


Giants' Sabean: No plans to talk to Max Scherzer
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Giants general manager Brian Sabean said that the Giants have not talked to free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer and have no plans to do so, the Mercury News reports.

Scherzer is the biggest name on the pitching market and could be seeking a deal north of the $155-million pact signed by Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. His price tag may not be feasible for the Giants' budget. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 252:63 K:BB ratio in 220 1/3 innings with the Tigers in 2014.


Report: Nick Hundley has two-year offer, unlikely to rejoin Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Free-agent catcher Nick Hundley has a two-year offer on the table from an unidentified team, making him unlikely to return to the Orioles, masnsports.com reports.

The Orioles declined a $5-million option on Hundley for the 2015 season but had interest in bringing him back into the fold at a lesser salary. He hit .243/.273/.358 with six home runs and 22 RBI in 218 at-bats between Baltimore and San Diego in 2014.


Report: Phillies could join Asdrubal Cabrera market
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Phillies could become involved in the market for free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, ESPN.com reports.

The Phillies traded their longtime starter at shortstop to the Dodgers this offseason and will be looking to fill that hole in the infield. However, the team will have to shed some additional payroll in order to make a run at the infielder, according to the report. Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 553 at-bats between Cleveland and Washington in 2014.


Rangers release Ben Rowen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Rangers have released relief pitcher Ben Rowen . Rowen, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, posted a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2014 as well as a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

Nationals sign Mark Minicozzi to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Nationals have signed infielder Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal.

Minicozzi, 31, hit .298/.400/.470 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI in 315 at-bats with Triple-A San Jose in 2014. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game in the majors.


Indians sign pitcher Scott Downs to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Indians announced they signed pitcher Scott Downs to a minor-league contract Saturday.

Downs also received a non-roster invite to MLB camp.


 
 
 
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