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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
Cashman: Jacoby Ellsbury expected to come off DL on Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will be activated from the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, general manager Brian Cashman said Monday, per the New York Post. He has been sidelined since May 20 due to a sprained knee.

Ellsbury was scratched from a rehab game Monday for Class A Tampa due to poor field conditions. He did participate in a simulated game Monday and will do the same Tuesday.

He has played four games on a rehab assignment with Tampa, batting .154 (2 for 13) with one run and one strikeout.


Orioles recall Ryan Flaherty after placing Nolan Reimold on paternity list
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:45 pm ET) The Orioles recalled infielder Ryan Flaherty from Triple-A Norfolk on Monday after outfielder Nolan Reimold went on the paternity list. Reimold can remain on the paternity list until Thursday.

Cardinals tab Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney for doubleheader Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:42 pm ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Tyler Lyons will be recalled from Triple-A Memphis to start the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Cubs. Tim Cooney, who was recalled Sunday, will start the second game of the doubleheader.

Lyons is 2-0 with a 5.09 ERA in five starts with the Cardinals in 2015. Cooney has no record and a 5.40 ERA through two starts.


Twins activate Shane Robinson from family emergency list
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:19 pm ET) Twins outfielder Shane Robinson was activated from the family emergency list Monday after Minnesota placed reliever Ryan Pressly (lat) on the 15-day disabled list. Robinson has been away from the team since Friday.

Right lat strain lands Twins RP Ryan Pressly on DL
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:16 pm ET) The Twins placed reliever Ryan Pressly on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 5, on Monday due to a right lat strain. He was injured during Saturday's game against the Royals.

The right-hander is 3-2 with a 2.93 ERA through 27 relief appearances. He earned his fourth hold of the season by throwing one scoreless inning during Saturday's 5-3 win.


Padres' Tim Federowicz could start rehab assignment Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:12 pm ET) Padres catcher Tim Federowicz, who has been sidelined all season due to knee surgery, said Monday he might begin a rehab assignment Thursday, per MLB.com.

He worked on blocking baseballs in the dirt with lateral shifting Monday. He said that was probably his last hurdle before being cleared for a rehab assignment.


Brewers CF Carlos Gomez back in action Monday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:11 pm ET) Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez is ready to try to help his team extend an eight-game winning streak Monday against Atlanta. He is in the lineup after missing the game Sunday with a wrist injury sustained on a hit-by-pitch.

Gomez has scored eight runs during the eight-game hitting streak.


Astros 3B Luis Valbuena grabbing some pine against Indians
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:06 pm ET) Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena is catching a rare break Monday in Cleveland. He is out of the lineup after starting 21 of the previous 23 games.

Marwin Gonzalez is set to man the position instead.

Valbuena is not getting benched for recent struggles at the plate. He has hit safely in four of his last five games and boasts a career-high .438 slugging percentage.

He did go 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in his only start against Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who is on the mound Monday.


Braves 2B Jace Peterson gets first day off in a month
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:05 pm ET) Braves second baseman Jace Peterson was held out of the starting lineup Monday against the Brewers. It was the first time he was held out of the starting lineup since June 6.

Peterson could probably use a bit of a breather, as he is mired in a 7-for-54 slump in his last 14 games. He has one home run, two doubles, five RBI, four runs, six walks and 18 strikeouts in that span.


Royals CF Lorenzo Cain out of Monday lineup
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:57 pm ET) Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain is not in the lineup Monday night against Tampa Bay. The reason has yet to be revealed, but he has been dealing with an ongoing hamstring problem.

Cain has been fine at the plate. An 0-for-3 performance Sunday ended a five-game hitting streak in which he ripped 11 hits in 19 at-bats.


 
 
 
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