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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
Diamondbacks add Enrique Burgos to 40-man roster
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) The Diamondbacks have added pitcher Enrique Burgos to their 40-man roster, the Arizona Republic reports. He's now protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
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Castillo suffered the injury while getting jammed during an at-bat. He signed a $72.5-million deal in August that runs through 2020.


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(5:39 pm ET) The Royals will start pitcher Jeremy Guthrie in Game 3 of the World Series Friday, with Jason Vargas scheduled to pitch Game 4 the following day, the team announced Tuesday.

James Shields takes the mound in Game 1 Tuesday, while rookie Yordano Ventura is slated to pitch Game 3. If the series reaches five games, Shields would likely be in line to start Game 5 Sunday.


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(5:34 pm ET) An MRI on the injured shoulder of Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha came back clean, MLB.com reports.

Wacha has been dealing with a stress reaction in his right shoulder, but he is expected to follow his normal offseason program. "Even the doctors were a little surprised on how that looked," general manager John Mozeliak said.


Giants 2B Joe Panik batting second in World Series Game 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:31 pm ET) Giants second baseman Joe Panik remains in the second spot in the team's announced starting lineup for Game 1 of the World Series against the Royals Tuesday.

Panik has hit second in all nine of the Giants' postseason games so far, but he's hit just .239/.271/.348 in 46 at-bats, with three of his 11 hits coming during the Wild Card game to open the postseason. He bat just after leadoff man and center fielder Gregor Blanco. Catcher Buster Posey bats third, followed by third baseman Pablo Sandoval, right fielder Hunter Pence, first baseman Brandon Belt, designated hitter Michael Morse, left fielder Travis Ishikawa and shortstop Brandon Crawford.


Royals tab SS Alcides Escobar to lead off in World Series Game 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is leading off in the team's announced lineup for Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday against the Giants.

Escobar led off just 16 times while playing all 162 games during the regular season, but he's been the man atop the lineup in each of the Royals' first eight postseason games -- all wins. He'll be followed by right fielder Norichika Aoki, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, first baseman Eric Hosmer, designated hitter Billy Butler, left fielder Alex Gordon, catcher Salvador Perez, second baseman Omar Infante and third baseman Mike Moustakas.


Phillies sign Jerome Williams to one-year deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $2.5-million deal with pitcher Jerome Williams, the team announced Tuesday. The contract includes performance bonuses.

Williams went 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 38:17 K:BB ratio in 57 1/3 innings over nine starts after joining the team off waivers in August. He has pitched for seven teams while compiling a 4.40 ERA in 891 1/3 career innings.


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(5:18 pm ET) The Cardinals will look to move relief pitcher Randy Choate this offseason, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

I think in Choate’s case, for us, he’s fairly one-dimensional," general manager John Mozeliak said. "That makes it difficult for us to use him, particularly during a long season."

Choate posted a 4.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 32:13 K:BB ratio in 36 innings during the regular season. He fared much better against left-handed hitters, who hit .093/.205/.147 in 75 at-bats against the reliever. Righties posted a .938 OPS when facing Choate in 2014.


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(5:10 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker was scratched from his most recent scheduled start in the Arizona Fall League and will not pitch again in the league, although the team said he is completely healthy, MLB.com reports.

"Taijuan is completely healthy and was very impressive in his two outings, but made a personal decision that he needed to return home at this time," general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a statement. "He will continue with his offseason program and we look forward to seeing him at spring training in February."

Walker posted a 2.00 ERA in his two AFL starts, striking out 11 and walking two in nine innings of work.


 
 
 
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