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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 flip Delino DeShilds, Shin-Soo Choo in Friday order
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:46 pm ET) Emerging Rangers left fielder Delino DeShields continues to climb the lineup ladder. He is batting leadoff Friday night for the second time this season and first time since April 15.

He is flip-flopping with Shin-Soo Choo, who will bat second against the host Yankees. He has not held down that position since April 13.

DeShields has scored 13 runs in his last 14 games, during which time he has raised his batting average from .154 to .279. He is, however, on a 3-for-16 slide.


Red Sox call up OF Rusney Castillo from Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:42 pm ET) The Red Sox have recalled outfield prospect Rusney Castillo from Triple-A Pawtucket. He is expected to start in right field in Friday night's game against the Red Sox, per MLB.com. The team has not yet confirmed the move.

In 18 games with Pawtucket this season, Castillo was batting .293 with two home runs and 10 RBI. He was also 6-for-8 in stolen base attempts. 

In a corresponding move, the Red Sox have optioned outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to Triple-A. 


Angels' Albert Pujols back in starting lineup Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:41 pm ET) As expected, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols returned to the starting lineup Friday night against the Red Sox, per MLB.com. He will hit third against right-hander Rick Porcello.

Pujols sat out Thursday's game after taking a pitch to the hand on Wednesday. He is hitting .179 (7 for 39) with two homers and three RBI over the last 10 games played. He owns a .231/.288/.413 with seven homers and 15 RBI in 156 plate appearances.

The Angels are underdogs (+107) at Fenway Park, per VegasInsider.com.


Braves SP Alex Wood scratched Friday due to stomach virus
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:36 pm ET) Braves starting pitcher Alex Wood was scratched from his scheduled start Friday against the Brewers due to a stomach virus. Eric Stults will start in his absence.

Wood headed into Friday's start with a 1-1 record and 3.50 ERA in three May starts. Although, he has struggled at home this season, going 0-2 with a 6.19 ERA in three starts.

Stults, who was moved to the bullpen earlier this week, is 1-4 with a 5.36 ERA in seven starts. The Brewers are batting just .201 against lefties in 2015, which is the second-lowest average in the majors. 


Rajai Davis serving as DH for Tigers for first time Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:30 pm ET) Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis will not be roaming the vast expanses of the Comerica Park outfield Friday night against Houston. He will serve as a designated hitter for the first time since Sept. 12, 2013, when he wore a Toronto uniform.

Davis has been hot lately with six hits in his last 19 at-bats. He has started four of the last five games, earning playing time in the absence of usual DH Victor Martinez, who is out with a knee injury.


Yankees OF Slade Heathcott makes first career start Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:29 pm ET) Yankees rookie outfielder Slade Heathcott earned his first career start Friday against the Rangers. He made his MLB debut as a defensive replacement in Wednesday's game at Washington.

Heathcott is a former top-100 prospect. He was batting .285 with one home run and 17 RBI in 37 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre prior to his promotion. He had a .270/.345/.398/.743 slash line over seven seasons in the minors.


Rangers release RP Kyuji Fujikawa
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:25 pm ET) Five days after designating reliever Kyuji Fujikawa for assignment, the Rangers have announced that they have given him his unconditional release.

Fujikawa did not distinguish himself in the two games in which he appeared this season, allowing three runs in 1 2/3 innings. His career ERA is 5.74.


Paulo Orlando starts eighth straight for Royals
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:15 pm ET) Paulo Orlando is in the Royals starting lineup in right field for the eighth straight game. 

With Alex Rios on the disabled list, Orlando appears to have beaten out Jarrod Dyson for the starting job. Orlando has started 22 of the 33 games since Rios went down. 


Mariners include Mike Zunino, Welington Castillo in Friday's lineup
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:10 pm ET) The Mariners are starting both of their catchers Friday night against Toronto. Manager Lloyd McClendon gave Mike Zunino the nod behind the plate. He will hit ninth in the order.

Newly-acquired catcher Welington Castillo will make his second start of the season -- this time as a designated hitter. He remains in the sixth-hole.

Seattle is favored (-149) against Marco Estrada and the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, per VegasInsider.com.


Nationals' Clint Robinson makes the start in left field Friday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:06 pm ET) Nationals left fielder Clint Robinson is making his first start since April 23. Robinson is in the starting lineup Friday against the Phillies, batting seventh.

With regular left fielder Jayson Werth on the disabled list, Michael Taylor and Tyler Moore have been splitting most of the time in the outfield. But they will be on the bench as Robinson will draw the start Friday. He's had just nine at-bats this month, with his only hit going for an RBI double which came in his last appearance as a pinch-hitter on Tuesday.


 
 
 
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