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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
Scott Van Slyke doubles twice, homers, three RBI in Dodgers' victory
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(9:01 pm ET) Dodgers left fielder Scott Van Slyke went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer, two doubles and three RBI in Sunday's win over the Rockies.

The homer was Van Slyke's first of the season.

"Van Slyke's a tough out. And if you give him an extra chance, more times than not it ends up hurting you," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.

Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski rips first home run of 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:35 pm ET) Rangers outfielder Jake Smolinski went 2 for 4 at the plate with a home run in Texas' 11-10 loss to the Mariners Sunday. Smolinski went deep in the third inning when he smacked a 3-1 pitch from James Paxton over the left center field wall, driving in Rougned Odor, his first home run and RBI of the year.

Smolinski is now hitting .143 in 21 at-bats this season.


Jeff Francis, Russell Martin become Blue Jays' first Canadian battery
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(8:34 pm ET) When Jeff Francis entered Sunday's game in the fifth inning and pitched to catcher Russell Martin, it marked the first time in Blue Jays' history that the franchise featured a Canadian battery, reports the Toronto Sun

Francis, who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, was called up by the Blue Jays from Triple-A before Sunday's game. 

Martin is from East York, Ontario.


Mariners outfielder Austin Jackson cracks first home run of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:31 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Austin Jackson went 3 for 5 at the plate with a home run and two RBI in Seattle's 11-10 win over the Rangers Sunday.

Jackson got going early, taking a 1-2 pitch from Ross Detwiler over the left center field wall to lead things off in the first inning, his first home run of the season.

Then, in the ninth, Jackson singled to left field, bringing home the game-tying run before Nelson Cruz won it later in the inning. Jackson, who picked up his first two RBI of the year, is now hitting .277 in 47 at-bats this season.


Journeyman P Brandon McCarthy may have found home with Dodgers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:20 pm ET) Journeyman pitcher Brandon McCarthy may have finally found a home as the right hander, who signed a $48 million contract with the Dodgers ($6 million signing bonus) during the offseason, is off to a solid start after his strong performance Sunday against the Rockies, reports the Denver Post.

McCarthy is with his sixth MLB team and seems solidified as the Dodgers' fourth starter this year.

"He was a lot better," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said after Sunday's game. "Take a look at his velocity when we faced him last year in Arizona. He was 90-91. Today, he was 95. He's a completely different pitcher."

Rays outfielder Steven Souza continues hitting tear Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:19 pm ET) Rays outfielder Steven Souza continues to be a force at the plate early in the season. Souza ripped his third home run of the year in the first inning off Michael Pineda, scoring David DeJesus. Souza credits his success to making adjustments, reports MLB.com.

"Their game plan today was pretty obvious -- they were going to come at me with breaking balls," Souza said. "And so I made an adjustment.

"He hung that one and I just barreled it up."

Souza is hitting .289 with 10 RBI in 45 at-bats so far this season.


Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz blows saves, tagged with loss Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:10 pm ET) Rangers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz last 1 1/3 innings Sunday and blew a save opportunity in Texas' 11-10 loss to the Mariners. 

Feliz came on in relief in the eighth and allowed a run, charged to Keone Kela to make it 10-9 before finishing off the inning. Then in the ninth, Feliz put two men on when Austin Jackson singled to right field, scoring Brad Miller from second, giving him his first blown save of the year.

Things got worse from there. Feliz then intentionally walked Robinson Cano to load the bases for Nelson Cruz, who singled to left field to end the game.

Feliz, now 0-1, boasts a 6.00 ERA in six innings of work this season.


Mariners' Nelson Cruz rips two homers, walk-off single in win Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:01 pm ET) Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz went 3 for 6 at the plate Sunday with two home runs and the game-winning walk off single in the ninth to lead Seattle to an 11-10 win over the Rangers.

Cruz got things going early with a solo homer in the first over the left center field wall on a 1-0 pitch from Ross Detwiler. Cruz then homered again in the third, again off Detwiler, over the left field wall for a three-run shot, his eighth of the season.

Cruz then came up in the ninth with the game tied at 10 and the bases loaded after Texas intentionally walked Robinson Cano. Cruz ripped a 2-2 pitch to left field, bringing home the winning run.

Cruz is now hitting .354 with 14 RBI in 48 at-bats this season.


Rangers pitcher Ross Detwiler allows five runs, earns no decision
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:57 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Ross Detwiler allowed five runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings of work in Texas' 11-10 loss to the Mariners Sunday. 

Detwiler struggled early and often, allowing two home runs in the first inning to Austin Jackson and Nelson Cruz. Then in the third, Detwiler put two men on for Cruz, who ripped the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a three-run home run. Detwiler allowed two more hitters to reach base before getting the hook.

Detwiler, still 0-2 on the year, now boasts an 11.68 ERA and will look for his first win of the season Sunday against the Angels.


Mariners pitcher James Paxton tagged for seven runs in ND Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:57 pm ET) Mariners pitcher James Paxton allowed seven runs on nine hits in just 2 2/3 innings in Seattle's 11-10 win over of the Rangers Sunday.

It all fell apart for Paxton in the third inning when the first four batters of the inning reached base safely, leading to a run. Then with the bases loaded, Shin-Soo Choo grounded out to bring home another run. Texas continued to peck away at Paxton, scoring five runs all on singles or fielder's choices. Jake Smolinski then smacked a two-run home run over the left center field wall. The Rangers added another run before Paxton was pulled.

Paxton, still 0-1 on the year, now boasts a 5.40 ERA and will look for his first win of the year Saturday against the Twins.


 
 
 
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