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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
Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig not worrying manager over power outage
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:18 am ET) Don Mattingly claims to be unconcerned about the declining power numbers of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. But perhaps he should be.

The numbers are pronounced. Puig has just three home runs in 35 games this season. He has just seven in nearly 400 plate appearances since appearing in the Home Run Derby before the 2014 All-Star Game.

Puig missed 38 games this year due to a hamstring injury and four more when a blister opened on his left hand. Mattingly believes those setbacks have played a role in the power outage.

"Before he was hurt he already had two and that was in like 12 games," Mattingly explained to the Orange County Register. "So he was off to a decent start. Then he got hurt and that was an extended time. ... Home runs come in bunches. I don't really worry about home runs. I worry about at-bats and I think they've been OK."

Puig indeed owns a strong .287/.378/.457 slash line. But he hasn't blasted off in his last 20 games.


Rangers OF Josh Hamilton has groin strain, status uncertain
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:12 am ET) Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton did not play on Saturday in-part because of a groin strain. Hamilton had exited Friday's game in the seventh inning, and had an MRI on Saturday, though the results have not been made available as of yet.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister did say Saturday was a planned day off for Hamilton, but there does seem to be some concern in regards to Hamilton's health.

"Obviously, we’ll see where he is throughout the night," Banister said, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We’ll continue to try to manage how he feels. This is a guy we’d like to have for an extended period of time. I’m trying my best to figure this whole thing out with him and what is best for Josh."

Hamilton just returned on Tuesday from a stay on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. His status for Sunday's series-finale against the Angels is in question at this point. 


Cubs RF Jorge Soler (ankle) ready to return on Sunday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:01 am ET) The Cubs are set to activate right fielder Jorge Soler from the disabled list on Sunday. Soler has been out since June 3 with a sprained left ankle, but he has made four rehab outings.

Soler struggled though, going 2 for 13 in the four games. But manager Joe Maddon doesn't necessarily buy into those stats.

"I don't worry about that stuff," Maddon said, per MLB.com. "To me, it's a matter of, 'If he's healthy and he's seeing the ball, what does his timing look like?' Those are the kinds of things you're trying to get from the guys down there."

Soler is expected to be in the lineup for the series-finale against the Marlins on Sunday. He was batting .237 (9 for 38) with a homer and five RBI over his last 10 games prior to the injury.


Red Sox returning RF Shane Victorino gives encouraging effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) Red Sox veteran right fielder Shane Victorino didn't look like a guy Saturday that had not played for nearly seven weeks.

Victorino slammed two hits and scored twice batting eighth in a defeat of Houston after recovering from lower-body strains.

"He steps right back in with a couple of base hits," John Farrell exclaimed to the Boston Herald. "We all know the start and stop of his season. To have another guy in the bottom of the order right now with his base-stealing ability, the base-running ability, two base hits against a right-hander today, very encouraging."


Rangers RP Spencer Patton implodes for six runs on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:56 am ET) Rangers right-hander Spencer Patton got lit up in a relif outing on Saturday. Spencer entered the game in the sixth inning with the Angels up 5-0. Before he knew it, he had allowed six runs, including a three-run home run to C.J. Cron, while getting just two outs in the inning. 

With the horrid outing, Patton's ERA jumped up seven runs, from 4.05 to 11.05. Patton had given up a total of three runs in his first six appearances this season, prior to Saturday's meltdown.


Angels RF Kole Calhoun blasts solo home run in rout on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:52 am ET) Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun enjoyed another productive night at the plate on Saturday. Calhoun went 2 for 4 with two RBI and two runs scored in the 13-0 win over the Rangers.

Calhoun chipped in with a solo home run, his eighth of the year, in the sixth inning. He has homered twice in his last seven ballgames.


Angles' Erick Aybar stays hot at the plate, goes 3 for 4 on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:46 am ET) Angels shortstop Erick Aybar continued his recent hot streak at the plate on Saturday. Aybar went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles. He drove in a run and scored three in the 13-0 win over the Rangers.

In the last two games, Aybar has eight hits in nine at-bats with three RBI and five runs scored. His batting average now sits at .280, the highest it's been since the second game of the season. 


Angels' C.J. Cron homers, drives in six runs in blowout win Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:42 am ET) Angels slugger C.J. Cron enjoyed a career-night at the plate on Saturday. Cron, who was serving as the designated hitter, went 3 for 4 with a career-best six RBI and a run scored, leading the Angels to a 13-0 win over the Rangers.

Cron had an RBI single in the second inning and a sacrifice fly in the third. He continued his big night with a three-run home run, his third of the year in the sixth inning, followed by a run-scoring double in the eighth.

This was by far the best game of Cron's career, as his previous high was three RBI in a single game. 


Rangers SP Wandy Rodriguez suffers loss in rout on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:37 am ET) Rangers left-hander Wandy Rodriguez has a rough start against the Angels on Saturday. Rodriguez allowed five runs on nine hits over five innings. He walked three and struck two, as the Angels took the 13-0 win. 

Rodriguez (5-4) brought his ERA up to 4.23 with the poor outing. He gave up three runs in the second inning and another in the third before allowing a solo home run to Kole Calhoun in the fifth.

The veteran southpaw has now given up 14 earned runs over 14 innings in his last three starts. 


Angels SP Hector Santiago rides offensive explosion in win Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:31 am ET) Backed by a 13-run offensive explosion on Saturday, Angels starter Hector Santiago earned his fifth win of the season. Santiago fired seven shutout innings against the Rangers, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out three. 

Santiago (5-4) was pretty much in control of this one throughout, as he did not allow a runner to get passed second base. His 2.40 ERA ranks fourth in the American League. He has four consecutive quality starts, and hasn't allowed more than three runs in an outing since June 3.


 
 
 
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