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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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Shelby Miller OK for next start despite shin bruise
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:42 am ET) Red-hot Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller has assured that a bruised right shin sustained Thursday against Milwaukee will not affect his preparation for his next start Tuesday against the Cubs.

Miller took a one-hopper off the bat of Ryan Braun in the sixth inning that prompted a visit from the trainer. He finished the inning before coming out of the game after 82 pitches.

The 23-year-old starter has been on a roll with four earned runs allowed in his last 34 innings pitched covering five starts.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:31 am ET) Angels left-hander Wade LeBlanc performed well enough Thursday night against Seattle to earn another start, per the Orange County Register. He is set to pitch again next Tuesday in Oakland.

LeBlanc allowed just three hits in 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Mariners. He has not yielded an earned run in his last 10 1/3 innings pitched.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:25 am ET) Royals second baseman Christian Colon has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sept. 7, with a fractured middle finger.

He performed encouragingly during several stints with the big league team this season. Colon boasts a stat line of .302/.348/.442 in 20 games.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:20 am ET) Back spasms caused the absence of Diamondbacks outfielder/first baseman Mark Trumbo from the Thursday lineup, but Kirk Gibson does not believe it's serious, per azcentral.com.

"He probably needed an off day anyway," Gibson said.

Trumbo has not played since Wednesday. Injuries have limited him to 293 at-bats this season.


Fernando Rodney breaks franchise mark for saves
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Mariners closer Fernando Rodney escaped a rough outing with the save Thursday night against the Angels in Anaheim.

Rodney allowed a solo home run to Hank Conger but struck out Tony Campana looking to end the game. He was charged with one run on one hit and no walks while striking out one in one inning of work, closing out a 3-1 victory. He now holds the franchise record with 46 saves on the year. He owns a 2.70 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP over 63 1/3 innings of work.

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by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:16 am ET) Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario came up big at the plate Thursday night at home, launching a walkoff home run in the ninth to lift his team past the Diamondbacks.

Down one run, Rosaio took Addison Reed deep for a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth to end the game. Rosario also doubled in the second and added two singles. He finished 4 for 5 with a run scored and three RBI in a 7-6 victory. He is hitting .265 with 12 homers and 51 RBI over 359 at-bats.

Felix Hernandez fans 11 in a no-decision vs. Angels
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez put together another gem but didn't receive any run support in a no-decision Thursday night against the Angels. The right-hander permitted three hits and two walks while striking out 11 over seven innings of work.

Over his last four starts covering 28 innings, Hernandez has allowed only three earned runs. He owns a 2.07 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP over 32 starts (226 innings). His next start will come Tuesday at Toronto.

Wade LeBlanc gives five-plus scoreless innings in spot start
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:00 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc wasn't a factor into the decision in a spot start on Thursday at home against Seattle. The left-hander permitted three hits and no walks while striking out three over 5 1/3 scoreless innings of work.

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Cody Allen closes out Astros
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) Indians reliever Cody Allen struck out two and worked his way past a hit in a scoreless 13th inning for the save Thursday night against the Astros in Houston. He has converted 22 of 25 save chances, with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP over 66 2/3 innings of work.

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(12:48 am ET) Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter left the yard at home for the first time this season Thursday night against the Blue Jays.

Jeter took R.A. Dickey deep for a solo home run in the sixth inning inning, ending a streak of 158 at-bats without a home run. He finished 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI in a 3-2 victory. Jeter is hitting .250/.299/.303 with four homers and 41 RBI over 547 at-bats.

 
 
 
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