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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
Shelby Miller turns in strong start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:11 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller turned in a strong start Friday against the Cubs.

Miller allowed two runs on four hits over seven innings. He struck out three and walked two during the outing. Home runs proved to be the main issue for Miller. In the second, he allowed a solo shot against Luis Valbuena. He was able to settle in over the next four innings, not allowing a run. That streak was erased in the seventh, when Jorge Soler led off the inning with a solo blast. Miller wound up throwing 93 pitches during the outing. 

Miller left with the game tied, picking up the no-decision. He’ll take on the Pirates in his next start. 


Kyle Hendricks picks up a quality start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:10 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks turned in a quality start Friday against the Cardinals.

Hendricks allowed two runs on five hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked one during the outing. Hendricks allowed both his runs early, but managed to settle in. In the first inning, Hendricks led things off with a single, walk and run-scoring single to the first three hitters he faced. Another run came in to score on a single later in the inning. Hendricks managed to get it together over the rest of the start. He threw five scoreless innings before leaving the game. Hendricks threw 89 pitches during the start. 

The Cubs battled back, giving Hendricks a no-decision. He’ll take on the Brewers in his next start. 


Chris Archer gets knocked around in loss to Boston
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:08 pm ET) Rays pitcher Chris Archer was knocked around Friday night against the Red Sox, dropping to 8-7 on the year. The right-hander permitted eight runs -- seven earned -- on nine hits and two walks while striking out three over four innings of work.

Archer has allowed five-plus runs in a start for the first time since July 11. His ERA ballooned from 3.09 to 3.40 on the year. He will make his next start Wednesday at home against Toronto.

Anthony Ranaudo posts quality start in win over Rays
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:03 pm ET) Red Sox pitcher Anthony Ranaudo turned in a quality start Friday night against the Rays, improving to 3-0 on the year. The right-hander permitted three runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four over six innings of work.

Ranaudo has allowed nine runs over 18 innings in three career starts. His plans beyond Friday are not yet known.

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by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:58 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle was not at his best Friday night against the Yankees, dropping to 11-9 on the year. The left-hander yielded four runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out four over six innings of a 6-3 defeat.

Over his last three starts covering 17 2/3 innings, Buehrle has allowed 14 earned runs. He owns a 3.50 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP over 27 starts (167 innings). His next start will come Thursday at Tampa Bay.

David Robertson converts four-out save Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:52 pm ET) Yankees closer David Robertson needed only 12 pitches to retire the final four batters to close out a 6-3 win over Toronto on Friday. He struck out one for his 35th save. He owns a 2.98 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP over 51 1/3 innings of relief.

Chris Capuano bounces back in win vs. Toronto
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:49 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Chris Capuano bounced back with the win Friday night against the Blue Jays in Toronto, improving to 2-3 on the year. The left-hander permitted three runs -- two earned -- on eight hits and one walk while striking out four over 6 1/3 innings of a 6-3 win.

Capuano has allowed three runs in each of his last two starts. He owns a 4.24 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP over 74 1/3 innings. His next start will come Thursday at home against Boston.

Craig Kimbrel saves his 40th game
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:47 pm ET) Braves closer Craig Kimbrel saved his 40th game Friday.

Kimbrel entered the game with a three-run lead, and managed to shut the door. After giving up a single against the leadoff hitter, Kimbrel was able to erase that runner on a double-play. He induced a foulout to finish the game. 


Ervin Santana turns in a strong start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:44 pm ET) Braves pitcher Ervin Santana turned in a strong start Friday against the Marlins.

Santana allowed one run on five hits over six innings. He struck out seven and walked four during the outing. Santana started out strong, tossing five scoreless innings to open the game. He gave up his only run in the sixth. With one out in the inning, Santana allowed two singles and a run-scoring double against the next three hitters. He was able to get out of the inning without giving up any additional runs. 

The Braves were able to battle back, giving Santana a no-decision. He’ll take on the Phillies in his next start. 


Tom Koehler turns in quality start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:44 pm ET) Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler turned in a quality start Friday against the Braves.

Koehler allowed two runs on four hits over six innings. He struck out six and walked three during the outing. Koehler was exceptional early, tossing five scoreless innings to open the game. He made two mistakes in the sixth inning, and they wound up costing him. Koehler walked Freddie Freeman to open the inning, and then gave up a two-run blast to Justin Upton. He struck out the next three hitters to get out of the inning. 

The Marlins managed to come back in the following inning, giving Koehler a no-decision. He’ll take on the Mets in his next start.


 
 
 
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