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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
Showalter: Machado appears more likely for O's opener than Wieters
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:38 am ET) Orioles manager Buck Showalter conveyed third baseman Manny Machado has a better chance of being ready for the Orioles season opener than catcher Matt Wieters, according to CSNBaltimore.com. 

Machado had right knee surgery in August and Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery in June.

"With both of these guys, it will be when and not if. I think if you held a gun up to my head, I think Manny makes the start of the year, and I think Matt is very close thereafter, but we won’t put either one of these guys on the field until it’s time to go, and try to keep the finish line in mind," Showalter said.


Report: Rockies considering Kendrick as back-of-the-rotation arm
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:28 am ET) The Rockies are looking at free agent Kyle Kendrick as a potential back-of-the-rotation arm, according to ESPN. Kendrick is 1-1 with a 5.26 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in seven career outings (six starts) at Coors Field.

Rangers' Daniels: Ryan Rua 'in a good position' to make roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:57 am ET) Ryan Rua received his first stint in the majors late last season and made such a strong impression in such a short period of time that the Rangers are looking to him to potentially be the starting left fielder in 2015, per MLB.com.

"He's in a spot where he if continues progressing at the rate he has, then I would expect that he's in a good position to make our club and get at-bats," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's not going to be handed to him, but he has a strong chance to earn that spot."

The 24-year-old Rua hit .295 with two home runs, seven doubles and 14 RBI in 28 games with the Rangers in 2014. He had a .285/.365/.489/.854 slash line in 382 minor-league games before his promotion to the majors.

"He's not a guy that was off the radar screen and only produced for a month," Daniels said. "He's always hit from Day 1, and is an extremely hard worker that I think is going to have a good big league career."


Hart: Braves expecting Markakis to be 'full go' in spring training
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:29 am ET) Braves outfielder Nick Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck Wednesday, per MLB.com. The team expects Markakis to resume baseball activities before the start of spring training. 

"We talked to (Dr.) Steve Wray after the surgery and he said it really went well," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "He said [the procedure] really went well, and he thinks that this guy will be ready to go full go in spring training. The only thing is that there will be a little bit of a disruption for his normal routine getting ready for spring training."

Markakis is expected to be cleared for physical activities within the next month, and the hope is he will be fully cleared within six weeks. Markakis agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the Braves in early December.


Three teams showing interest in Norichika Aoki
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Orioles, Reds and Mariners are among the teams looking at outfielder Norichika Aoki, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The 32-year-old Aoki hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. With the Royals signing Alex Rios earlier in the week, Aoki will likely have to move on with a different club. 


Report: Athletics release Jorge De Leon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Athletics have released pitcher Jorge De Leon, according to SB Nation.

De Leon was designated for assignment by the club last week, and the team couldn't find a way to deal him. De Leon appeared in eight games last season, posting a 4.91 ERA over 7 1/3 innings. 


Report: Padres' Seth Smith popping up in trade talks
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Padres outfielder Seth Smith has come up in trade talks recently, according to ESPN.

If the Matt Kemp and Wil Myers trades go through, the team would have a surplus in the outfield. On top of those two players, San Diego would also have Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Smith. The 32-year-old Smith hit .266/.367/.440 over 443 at-bats last year. 


D-Backs, David Hernandez avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Diamondbacks have reached an agreement with David Hernandez on a contract, according to the azcentral.com.

Hernandez was eligible for arbitration, but settled on a $2 million salary figure for next season. The 29-year-old posted a missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.


Report: Three teams showing interest in Jake Peavy
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Marlins, Braves and Giants are showing interest in pitcher Jake Peavy, according to FoxSports.com.

The 33-year-old Peavy is coming off a season in which he posted a 3.73 ERA over 202 2/3 innings. Peavy had some issues in Boston, posting a 4.72 ERA to start the season, but settled in once he joined the Giants. With San Francisco, Peavy had a 2.17 ERA over 78 2/3 innings. The Marlins interest in Peavy is dependent on whether Dan Haren decides to pitch. If Haren comes back, the team would not have interest in Peavy.


Padres, Rays and Nationals on the verge of three-team deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Nationals, Padres and Rays are on the verge of a three-team deal, which would send outfielder Wil Myers to San Diego, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

Heyman has confirmed the multiple media reports outlining the full details of the trade. The Padres are set to receive Myers, catcher Ryan Hanigan, pitcher Gerardo Reyes and pitcher Jose Castillo from the Rays.

The Rays are getting two players from the Nationals -- outfielder Steven Souza and pitcher Travis Ott -- and three players from the Padres -- catcher Rene Rivera, first baseman Jake Bauers and pitcher Burch Smith.

The Nationals are getting pitcher Joe Ross from the Padres, as well as a player to be named later, which will be shortstop prospect Trea Turner. Because Turner was a 2014 draft pick, he can't be traded until June.


 
 
 
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