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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
Franklin Gutierrez expressing interest in returning in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:31 am ET) Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who spent the 2014 season on the restricted list due to health reasons, has expressed interest in returning in 2015, according to MLB.com.

"He’s in Florida, working out. He has some interest in coming back next year. We’re going to talk to him and we’ll see what happens," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "He left in a good frame of mind. We’ll have to see where it’s at, but he’s spoken to our guys more than once about his desire in coming back next year. It would be as a non-roster player."


Mariners' James Paxton will not throw competitively during offseason
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:24 am ET) Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said starting pitcher James Paxton will not throw competitively during the offseason, according to MLB.com. Paxton was limited to 13 starts this season due to a lat injury.

Mariners SP Taijuan Walker to make a few appearances in AFL
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:21 am ET) Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said starting pitcher Taijuan Walker will throw a few times in the Arizona Fall League, according to MLB.com. Walker split time between the minors and majors in 2014, going 2-3 with a 2.61 ERA in eight appearances (five starts) for Seattle.

Mariners SP Roenis Elias moves past elbow soreness
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Mariners starting pitcher Roenis Elias is doing well after being shut down late in the season due to elbow soreness, according to MLB.com. Elias intends to spend the offseason at his home in Texas and resume his normal throwing program before he reports to camp in the spring.

Mariners' Dustin Ackley to undergo further evaluation for ankle issue
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley is expected to visit with a specialist to determine a course of action he might take to deal with a nagging left ankle injury, according to MLB.com.

Mariners SP Danny Hultzen expected to have no restrictions this spring
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:07 am ET) Mariners starting pitcher prospect Danny Hultzen, who missed the 2014 season due to rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder, will be shut down until spring training after throwing three times in the Instructional League, according to MLB.com. Hultzen threw 25 pitches in his last outing Tuesday.

"They said it was really impressive," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "He feels really good and is now shut down. He’s finished for the fall. He showed an average fastball, really good curve and changeup. He was confident and his delivery is sound. So he’ll go home and come back in January and be ready for spring training."

Hultzen is expected to have no restrictions during the spring.

"We were real cautious. There was some talk of putting him in the Fall League, but we’re going to back off a little," Zduriencik said. "This kid has been through a lot this year. The fact he’s been on the mound in Instructional League is enough. There’ll be a challenge for him next year regardless of how he reports physically, where is he going to be innings-wise after missing a whole year like this."


Geovany Soto suffers thumb injury in wild-card game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:59 am ET) Athletics catcher Geovany Soto was forced to leave Tuesday's wild-card game against the Royals in the bottom of the third inning due to a left thumb injury. Soto actually hurt his thumb applying a tag with his glove hand on Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer as he attempted to steal home in the first inning, according to MLB.com.

"He kind of pulled his thumb back on the jersey on the play at the plate, and after that it kept getting worse and worse," manager Bob Melvin said. "Certainly as a catcher you need your thumb, especially when Jon Lester is throwing cutters."


Angels SP Matt Shoemaker has no doubt he'll pitch in ALDS
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker completed a bullpen session without any issues on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Shoemaker told the paper he feels he could throw 100 pitches in a game and that he has no doubt he'll pitch in the ALDS. Right now, he is a candidate to start Game 3 for the Angels.


Dodgers SP Hyun-Jin Ryu slated to throw simulated game Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has been out since mid-September due to a shoulder injury, is slated to throw 45 pitches or three innings during a simulated game Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Red Sox SP Clay Buchholz undergoes knee surgery Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Red Sox announced Tuesday starting pitcher Clay Buchholz had successful surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. The team added he is expected to make a full recovery.

 
 
 
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