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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Houston Astros

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The Astros have set franchise records for most losses in a season three years in a row, and last season's dive resulted in a 51-111 record. The rebuilding is likely to continue, but 2014 will probably be the year Astros fans will begin to see the fruits of a revamped farm system in earnest.

The youth movement started to get underway last season, as Bud Norris was dealt to the Orioles and Erik Bedard and Lucas Harrell moved into swingman roles, making way for Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, Brad Peacock and Paul Clemens to enter the rotation as the season wore on. All four are expected to return in starting roles this year, filling out the rotation behind free agent signee Scott Feldman.

2014 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

Once again, Jason Castro, Jose Altuve and Chris Carter will anchor the lineup, but offseason acquisition Dexter Fowler will be a new presence at the top of the order. Further down, Matt Dominguez, Jonathan Villar, Robbie Grossman and L.J. Hoes will likely reprise the roles they took on for all or part of last season. Expect the Astros' roster to be fluid throughout the year, though, as they will likely need to make room for prospects like outfielder George Springer, first baseman Jon Singleton and starting pitcher Mark Appel.

Some positions could be in flux from spring training on forward. Marc Krauss, Jesus Guzman, Brett Wallace and Japhet Amador are among those who will vie to win the job at first base, though whoever emerges out of camp could just keep the seat warm for Singleton. Bullpen roles are also unclear as the Astros head into Grapefruit League play. Josh Fields and Chia-Jen Lo, who each got save opportunities last year, will be back in the mix to close, but so will newcomers Jesse Crain and Chad Qualls.

The Astros have probably hit rock bottom, but they're unlikely to be good enough to produce many Fantasy-relevant options. Even if they find a closer to keep the job all season, there may still be a dearth of save opportunities. Should Springer and Singleton spend a large chunk of 2014 in the majors, they still might lack the lineup protection and run-producing opportunities to launch them into Fantasy superstardom. With the emergence of some top-notch prospects along with the return of a few solid Fantasy contributors, such as Altuve, Castro and Villar, there is at least something for owners to pay attention to when they happen upon an Astros game while channel surfing this year.

Rotisserie gem ... Jose Altuve, second base

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Dexter Fowler CF
2. Jose Altuve 2B
3. Jason Castro C
4. Chris Carter DH
5. Matt Dominguez 3B
6. Marc Krauss 1B
7. Robbie Grossman LF
8. L.J. Hoes RF
9. Jonathan Villar SS
Bench Jesus Guzman 1B
Bench Cesar Izturis 2B/SS
A year ago, Altuve finished as the eighth-ranking second baseman in Rotisserie value, but it would be a mistake to think that he doesn't belong in the top five this year. What Altuve produced in 2013 represents his floor. We already knew he was capable of 35 steals in 152 games, and from his first full season in 2012, we know that Altuve is able to hit for a little more power and score 80 runs, even while hitting in an anemic lineup. He could easily leapfrog Matt Carpenter, Daniel Murphy, Brandon Phillips and Ian Kinsler just by getting back to the level of his '12 performance. Turning just 24 in May, Altuve could still enjoy a breakout and vault even higher in the rankings.

Late-round flier ... Matt Dominguez, third base

Altuve and Castro are clearly draftable in all standard mixed league formats, but it's time to add Dominguez's name to this brief list. Last year, his 21 home runs tied him for eighth-most among third baseman, as he experienced a breakout that was presaged by a homer spike that occurred when the Marlins promoted him from Double-A to Triple-A in 2011. As he's not much of a line drive hitter, Dominguez will disappoint those looking for a high batting average, but he should improve from last season's .241. A 20-plus home run season with a .260ish average will put Dominguez on a par with Brett Lawrie and Aramis Ramirez in terms of overall value, and that makes him worthy of a late-round pick.

Impact prospect ... George Springer, outfield

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Scott Feldman RHP
2. Jarred Cosart RHP
3. Brett Oberholtzer LHP
4. Brad Peacock RHP
5. Paul Clemens RHP
ALT Dallas Keuchel LHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Josh Fields RHP
2. Jesse Crain RHP
3. Chad Qualls RHP
4. Matt Albers RHP
5. Kevin Chapman LHP
The Astros may want to send Springer to Triple-A to start the year in order to delay his arbitration clock, but it's just a matter of time before we see him in H-Town. Springer strikes out far too often -- he recorded a K in nearly one out of every three at-bats last year -- but that's end of his list of negatives. He hits for tremendous power, has posted high walk rates and is a stolen base threat. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Springer was three home runs short of a 40-40 season. Unless he is called up in June or later, he's a good bet to finish as a top 50 outfielder in 2014.

Prospects Report

Springer could be the first of the Astros' major prospects to graduate to the big leagues, but several others could follow in short order. As mentioned above, Singleton could earn a callup as long as he rebounds from a disappointing, suspension-shortened 2013 season, and he even has a slight chance to break camp with the team. ... Outfielder Domingo Santana has a lesser chance to show up in the majors this year, but if his power hitting continues to improve like it did the last two seasons, he could force his way onto the big league roster. ... Shortstop Carlos Correa is one of the top prospects in all of baseball, but he is still probably at least a year and a half away. ... Mike Foltynewicz and Asher Wojciechowski have long surnames, but neither may have a long wait to make their debuts in the Astros' rotation. Both are legitimate targets in dynasty leagues and deep single-season AL-only leagues. The same is also true for Appel, the first overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft, even though he has yet to pitch above Class A. ... Starting pitchers Vince Velasquez and Lance McCullers won't likely be relevant to single-season league owners until 2015 at the earliest, but both need to be owned in dynasty formats.

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
Twins CF Aaron Hicks records hit, RBI in rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:23 am ET) Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks went 1 for 5 with a single and a RBI in a Triple-A rehab game on Sunday.

Hicks is on the 15-day disabled list because of a hamstring injury.


Cubs SP Jake Arrieta tosses no-hitter against Dodgers
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/30/2015) Cubs starter Jake Arrieta was simply dominant during his start against the Dodgers on Sunday, as he recorded baseball's sixth no-hitter this season.

Arrieta struck out 12 batters, and his only base runners came on an error and a single walk. Other than that, he was as close to perfect as they come.

With the stellar performance, Arrieta improved to 17-6 on the season with an impressive 2.11 ERA.


Dodgers SP Alex Wood no match for Arrieta in strong effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood became a footnote in history Sunday night. He was the losing pitcher in a no-hitter.

Wood allowed two runs on six hits in six innings to the Cubs, but simply couldn't keep up with counterpart Jake Arrieta. Wood walked one and struck out seven. It marked the first time he walked fewer than two betters since July 9.

His only major mistake wound up over the fence, courtesy of Kris Bryant, who slugged a two-run homer in the first inning. Wood threw 72 pitches in the first three innings before settling down and making it through the next three.

His ERA now sits at 3.67.


Dodgers INF Enrique Hernandez out with apparent ankle issue
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) Dodgers infielder Enrique Hernandez appeared to roll his ankle trying to beat out a ground ball in the eighth inning of the game Sunday night against the Cubs. He was replaced by Justin Turner.

The team has yet to determine the severity of the potential injury.


Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler pounded by Athletics
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler was due for a dud. And duds often occur in non-save situations.

Ziegler arrived in a tie game Sunday against Oakland and left with a 7-4 deficit. He gave up three runs on six hits in just one inning.

He loaded the bases in the 10th, but slithered out of the jam with a double play and groundout. He had no such fortune in the 11th, when three two-out singles and a hit-by-pitch resulted in his second loss of the season.

His ERA still sits at a fine 1.88.


Athletics SP Jesse Chavez rebounds Sunday from poor effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) The Jekyll-Hyde run of Athletics starter Jesse Chavez continued Sunday when he followed a terrible performance with a strong one in a no-decision against host Arizona.

Chavez yielded just one earned run on eight hits in five innings with one walk and six strikeouts.

One problem is that it took him 95 pitches to get through five. Another is that he couldn't recover from a two-out error in the second, giving up singles to Ender Inciarte and Chris Owings that resulted in two unearned runs.

Chavez has just three quality starts in his last eight outings.


Diamondbacks SP Allen Webster surprises in Sunday start
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(8/30/2015) Diamondbacks starter Allen Webster provided more evidence Sunday that baseball is unpredictable.

Webster arrived in Arizona after compiling an 8.37 ERA with 109 hits allowed in 71 innings in the minors. But he held Oakland to just one earned run on six hits in five innings with one walk and two strikeouts.

The right-hander, who was saddled with an almost-as-bad 6.86 ERA in the majors this season, yielded two unearned runs on an error and Josh Reddick triple in the third. A Stephen Vogt solo homer in the fourth provided the only earned tally.


Cardinals RP Kevin Siegrist bounces back for save
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8/30/2015) After taking the loss Friday, Cardinals reliever Kevin Siegrist bounced back to finish off Sunday's victory over the Giants to earn his sixth save of the year. 

With normal closer Trevor Rosenthal on paternity leave, Siegrist came in during a two-run game in the ninth inning and didn't allow a hit, striking out two batters. He allowed two hits and one run in 1/3 inning in Friday's loss. 

Siegrist has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Cards this season, with a 5-1 record and 24 holds to go along with the six saves. 


Giants OF Marlon Byrd has big day on 38th birthday
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8/30/2015) Giants outfielder Marlon Byrd knows how to celebrate, as the veteran went 3-for-4 with four RBIs on Sunday, his 38th birthday. 

Byrd racked up two doubles and a triple as he single-handedly tried to keep the Giants in a game they would lose 7-5. Byrd now has 56 RBIs on the season, 14 of which have been tallied since he was acquired from the Reds on Aug. 20. 


Giants SP Chris Heston continues August stumbles
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8/30/2015) Chris Heston has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants this season, but in the dog days of August, he's experienced a rough patch that continued Sunday when he couldn't get out of the fourth inning in a loss against the Cardinals. 

Heston managed to go just 3 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits, two of them home runs. And while he managed not to walk anyone after combining for nine free passes in his last two starts, he only struck out one batter. 

In five August starts, Heston (11-8) went longer than 4 2/3 innings only once, and finished the month 0-3 with two no-decisions. 


 
 
 
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