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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
Jose Quintana settles for no-decision for White Sox
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:29 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings on Monday. He left with the score tied and settled for a no-decision against Tampa.

Quintana has allowed four runs over 21 1/3 innings in his last three starts. He walked one batter, the eighth straight start he's walked one or fewer batters. 


Padres SP Tyson Ross receives win in Monday's start
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:28 pm ET) Padres pitcher Tyson Ross produced a quality start Monday to help him earn his eighth win of the season.

Ross allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits over six innings during the 13-5 win over the Brewers. He also struck out five and walked two during the outing. He is now 8-8 with a 3.37 ERA.

Ross has won his last two starts and earned a quality start in three of his last five outings.


Giants SP Matt Cain can't get a win despite big lead on Monday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:26 pm ET) Giants starter Matt Cain struggled once again on Monday, his sixth start of the season after spending the beginning of the year on the disabled list. On Monday, after being staked to a 6-0 lead, Cain gave up four runs on 10 hits over five-plus innings. He walked one and struck out one, throwing 54 of his 80 pitches for strikes.

Cain cruised through the first five innings, blanking the Giants along the way. But the wheels came off in the sixth. He allowed the first two batters to reach before serving up a three-run home run to Jace Peterson. He gave up a double to the next batter, and was then lifted from the game. That run came around to score and was charged to Cain.

Though he left the game leading 6-4, Cain did not factor in the final decision, as the Braves rallied to tie the game before winning 8-7 in walk-off fashion.

Cain has now allowed four or more runs in four of his six starts. His ERA now sits at 4.91 for the season.


Rays' Nathan Karns takes no-decision on Monday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:24 pm ET) Rays starter Nathan Karns allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings and left with the score tied, taking a no-decision against the White Sox. 

Karns has completed seven innings just once in the last 14 starts. He allowed three hits. 

Over his last three starts, Karns has allowed three runs on nine hits over 16 1/3 innings. He struck out seven, the most since July 4. 


Brewers SP Wily Peralta allows six runs in Monday's loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:22 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta struggled throughout his start Monday against the Padres, which the Brewers lost 13-5.

Peralta allowed six runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings. His first mistake came in the first inning when he gave up a solo home run to Yangervis Solarte. He also struck out two and walked three.

Peralta is now 2-6 with a 4.55 ERA. He has earned a quality start in one of his last four starts.


Braves SP Mike Foltynewicz beat up for four home runs in loss
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:20 pm ET) Braves rookie starter Mike Foltynewicz got shelled in his outing against the Giants on Monday. The young right-hander gave up six runs on nine hits over six innings. Despite the poor performance, he was able to escape with a no-decision, as the Braves won 8-7 in walk-off fashion.

Foltynewicz was bitten by the longball in this one, as he gave up a total of four home runs on the night. He was taken deep by a couple of Brandons in the second, as Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt each hit solo shots. Buster Posey added a two-run blast in the third, before Belt hit another solo homer in the fourth.

Foltynewicz's ERA rose to 5.40 with the rough outing. It's the sixth start in which he's allowed at least four runs, though this was the first time since mid-June. 


Padres 3B Cory Spangenberg nets one hit in rehab game Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:58 pm ET) Padres third baseman Cory Spangenberg began his rehab assignment Monday at Double-A and went 1 for 3 at the plate. The one hit was a triple, which drove in a run and he also walked once.

Spangenberg has not played since June 27 due to a bone bruise in his left knee.


Michael Conforto drives in three for Mets
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:54 pm ET) Mets left fielder Michael Conforto went 2 for 4 with three RBI in Monday's win over Miami. 

Conforto doubled his RBI total for the season in Monday's game, driving in his first run since July 26.

He also had his first hit since July 25, snapping a four-game skid spanning 12 at bats. 


Mets' Yoenis Cespedes drives in four with three doubles
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:52 pm ET) Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes went 3 for 5 with a season-high three doubles in Monday's win over Miami. 

Cespedes drove in four runs, the most RBI he's had in a game since driving in six on April 19. 

Cespedes was 1 for 7 as a Met prior to Monday's outburst. 


Tom Koehler loses second straight for Marlins
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:48 pm ET) Marlins starter Tom Koehler lost his second straight start, Monday against the Mets. 

Koehler matched a season high with seven runs allowed, six of them earned. He walked two and struck out six, dropping to 8-8 on the year. 

Koehler has given up 11 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings over the last two starts.


 
 
 
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