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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
Rangers DH Mitch Moreland (elbow) hopes to return to lineup on Saturday
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(2:03 am ET) Rangers designated hitter Mitch Moreland sat out of Friday's game against the Mariners with a sore elbow but said afterwards that he's feeling better and hopes to play Saturday, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Moreland has played in nine of the Rangers' 11 games this season, hitting .259 with a homer, two doubles and five RBI.


Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw strikes out 12 Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2:01 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw struck out a season-high 12 batters and only walked one during Friday's win over the Rockies.

Kershaw surrendered three runs (one earned) on six hits over six innings of work to earn the win. Kershaw's lone blemish were home runs to Troy Tulowitzki and Charlie Blackmon. He was able to lower his ERA from 5.84 to 4.42. Kershaw (1-1) has yet to throw more than seven innings in any of his three starts this season.

His next expected start will be Wednesday at San Francisco.


Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz throws perfect ninth for second save
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(1:55 am ET) Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz (S, 2) collected his second save of the season on Friday by throwing a perfect ninth inning against the Mariners.

Dodgers 2B Howie Kendrick drives in three during Friday's win
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:50 am ET) Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick connected on his first home run of the season to help lead the Dodgers to a victory over the Rockies on Friday.

Kendrick hit a two-run home run off Rockies starter Kyle Kendrick in the first inning of the game. Kendrick finished the game 2 for 4 with three RBI. He is now batting .342 on the season.


Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki hits first home run of season Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:48 am ET) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki connected on his first home run of the season during Friday's loss to the Dodgers.

Tulowitzki hit the home run in the fourth inning off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. Tulowitzki finished the game with two hits over four at-bats. His batting average now stands at .359. 


Rockies pitcher Kyle Kendrick gives up six runs Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Rockies pitcher Kyle Kendrick failed to get past the fifth inning during Friday's loss to the Dodgers.

Kendrick's troubles began in the first inning when Howie Kendrick hit a two-run home run. Kendrick did not surrender a run over the next two innings. However, he gave up one run in the fourth and was pulled in the fifth after giving up two more runs. He ended up with six strike outs and four walks. 

Kendrick (1-2) received the loss for his 4 2/3 innings of work and now has a 7.56 ERA. His next scheduled start is expected to be Wednesday against the Padres.


Diamondbacks SP Josh Collmenter shuts out Giants on Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:38 am ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter threw a complete game shutout to defeat the Giants on Friday.

Over the nine innings of work, Collmenter gave up four hits while striking out two and walking one. He is the first pitcher to toss a complete game this season.

Collmenter had failed to get past the fifth inning in each of his previous starts this season and was 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA heading into the game. He was able to lower his ERA to 3.86. He had one complete game shutout during the entire 2014 season.

His next scheduled start is expected to be Friday against the Pirates.


Diamondbacks CF A.J. Pollock collects four hits Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:35 am ET) Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock had his first four-hit game of the season to lead the Diamondbacks to a 9-0 win over the Giants on Friday.

Pollock went 4 for 5 with one walk and a strikeout. His lone RBI came in the top of the ninth inning when he drove in pitcher Josh Collmenter on a double. Pollock was able to raise his batting average from .265 to .333.


Red Sox's Pablo Sandoval not sorry about slide that lead to beaning
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(1:33 am ET) Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected Friday for hitting Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval with a pitch as suspected payback for a hard slide by Sandoval earlier in the game, according to BostonHerald.com.

"It’s the game ... I do clean slides," Sandoval said. "I slide through the base. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

First baseman Mike Napoli added that Sandoval’s slide was in line with the way the Red Sox like to play.

Giants P Jake Peavy fails to get past fourth inning Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:30 am ET) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy was able to get through the first two innings of Friday's loss to the Diamondbacks without any trouble, but he began to unravel in the third.

Peavy surrendered four hits and three runs during the third inning. He returned for the fourth, but was only able to record two outs before he was taken out of the game.

"I didn't make good pitches. I was plenty good enough to be out there. I've gotta help the team more than I did," he said, per CSN Bay Area. 

Over the 3 2/3 innings of work, Peavy gave up four runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out two.

Peavy has yet to get past the fourth inning in each of his two starts this season. He is now 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA.

His next scheduled start is expected to be Thursday against the Dodgers


 
 
 
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