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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
Mariners' Mike Zunino homers to extend hitting streak on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:56 am ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino connected on his 10th home run of the season in Tuesday's 8-4 loss to the Diamondbacks. Zunino's third-inning solo shot cut Arizona's lead to one, but it would the D-Backs would tack on more insurance run to take the victory.

The 2015 season has been mainly a struggle for Zunino so far. But Tuesday's home run did extend his current hitting streak to eight games. During that stretch, he's hitting .393 with a home run and six RBI.


Mariners DH Nelson Cruz blasts 26th home run in loss Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:53 am ET) Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz went deep for his 26th home run on Tuesday, but it would be for naught as the Mariners lost the game 8-4 to the Diamondbacks. It was Cruz's only hit of the game, as the solo shot cut the D-Backs' lead to 6-2 in the sixth inning. 

Cruz has been smoking at the plate recently, batting .333 (15 for 45) with four home runs and eight RBI over his past 10 games.


D-Backs' Ender Inciarte chips in solo home run in win Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:50 am ET) Diamondbacks right fielder Ender Inciarte powered up for his third home run of the season in the 8-4 win over the Mariners on Tuesday. Inciarte went 2 for 5 from the lead-off spot in the order. He drove in two runs, one on his solo homer in the fifth inning. 

Since returning from the disabled list earlier this month, Inciarte is batting .348 (16 for 46) with a home run and five RBI in 11 games (10 starts).


Diamondbacks' David Peralta does it all in victory on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:47 am ET) Diamondbacks left fielder David Peralta filled up the score sheet in Tuesday's 8-4 win over the Giants. Peralta went 3 for 4 with a double, two RBI, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored. 

The double was Peralta's 18th of the season, and the steal was his fifth. While getting partial playing time, Peralta is batting .363 with a home run and six RBI over his past 10 games (eight starts).


Cubs RP Neil Ramirez was not available to pitch Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:42 am ET) Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez was unavailable out of the bullpen in Tuesday's game against the Rockies. It is not exactly known what has Ramirez ailing, with manager Joe Maddon telling ESPN.com "He was not OK tonight. That's why I could not use him. I have to find out more about that."

Ramirez returned from the disabled list on June 28 after dealing with a shoulder injury. It is not known if his current issue is related to that injury, or if it's something new. 


Yankees' Adam Warren picks up save in rout of Rangers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:33 am ET) Despite the lop-sided score, Yankees pitcher Adam Warren recorded his first save of the season in Tuesday's 21-5 thrashing of the Rangers. Warren pitched the final three innings of the game, which credits him with the save regardless of the score.

Warren, who was ousted from the rotation in late June, pitched three perfect innings on Tuesday. He now has five saves in his four-year career with the Yankees.


Diamondbacks summon RP Addison Reed from Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:30 am ET) Diamondbacks reliever Addison Reed was recalled from Triple-A Reno following Tuesday's game. Reed struggled this year with Arizona, as he lost his closer's job prior to being sent down to the minors on June 22.

In 25 relief appearances with the D-Backs in 2015, Reed owns an unsightly 5.92 ERA. He's been better with the Reno Aces however, as he has a 1.74 in 11 games at Triple-A.

He will take the roster spot of Randall Delgado, who was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday.


D-Backs RP Randall Delgado sent to DL with ankle sprain
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:27 am ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Randall Delgado has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with an ankle sprain. Delgado apparently suffered the injury during warm-ups on Tuesday, and the injury was significant enough to warrant a stay on the DL. 

Reliever Addison Reed was recalled from Triple-A Reno to take Delgado's spot on the roster.


Mariners SP Hisashi Iwakuma takes loss on Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:24 am ET) Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma regressed in his latest start on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Hisashi allowed six runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out five, but needed 96 pitches without getting through the sixth. The Mariners wound up losing the game 8-4.

Iwakuma (2-2, 5.10 ERA) came into the game on a bit of a roll, having allowed a total of four runs over his previous three starts. But on Tuesday he gave up individual runs in the first, third and fifth innings, culminating with a three-run sixth inning.


Giants 2B Joe Panik (back) out Tuesday, likely out Wednesday too
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:19 am ET) Giants second baseman Joe Panik was held out of Tuesday's game against the Brewers due to back stiffness, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bochy also said Panik will likely miss Wednesday's game, which would give him three days off with Thursday's scheduled off-day. 

Panik has been hitting decently over the last several games, as he is batting .281 over his last 10 contests.


 
 
 
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