2010 Houston Astros Preview

Roy Oswalt, RHP
Wandy Rodriguez, LHP
Brett Myers, RHP
Bud Norris, RHP
Brian Moehler, RHP

Closers and Setup
Matt Lindstrom, RHP
Brandon Lyon, RHP

Starting Lineup
Michael Bourn, CF
Hunter Pence, RF
Lance Berkman, 1B
Carlos Lee, LF
Pedro Feliz, 3B
Kazuo Matsui, 2B
Humberto Quintero, C
Tommy Manzella, SS

Player in Decline
After being a perennial 30-homer hitter, Carlos Lee has fallen back to earth. Lee will still give you 20+ dingers and a .300 average, but the days of him being your biggest masher are behind him.

Player on the Rise
Striking out 54 batters in 55 innings allowed Bud Norris to maintain a job in the big leagues. With some work on his fastball command, he could turn into a quality waiver wire pick-up.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Lance Berkman – Elite
Carlos Lee – Elite
Roy Oswalt – Average
Michael Bourn – Average
Wandy Rodriguez – Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Jason Castro, C
2. Jordan Lyles, RHP
3. Jiovanni Mier, SS
4. Chia-Jen Lo, RHP
5. Ross Seaton, RHP
6. Tanner Bushue, RHP
7. Sammy Gervacio, RHP
8. Jonathan Gaston, OF
9. Jay Austin, OF
10. T.J. Steele, OF

Overall Team Outlook: Since being swept by the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series, the Houston Astros organization has struggled to stay relevant and has not made the playoffs in the past four seasons. With a dismal farm system and a quickly aging MLB club, the club is attempting to put together a contending team this year, but faces a certain rebuild within three years.

The Starting Rotation: Perennial ace Roy Oswalt will once again head the Houston rotation. He has declined the past couple of years and will need to re-establish his fastball as a dominant pitch if he wants to stay on the top of his game. Wandy Rodriguez may be a better pitcher than Oswalt, even if he comes after him in the rotation. Wandy’s nasty curveball is a key part of his repertoire. Ever since a fantastic 2005 and 2006, No. 3 starter Brett Myers has struggled to stay on the field or remain effective when he actually does pitch. A change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered. Bud Norris made his rookie debut last year and features a solid fastball/slider/change-up arsenal. He’ll come with the usual growing pains that you have to expect from young pitchers. Veteran Brian Moehler is in line to grab the No. 5 spot, but won’t do anything to impress anyone or make his mark on a game.

The Bullpen: Last year, closer Jose Valverde and set-up man LaTroy Hawkins were key cogs in the bullpen. Now, newly acquired arms Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom will battle it out for the right to finish games for the Astros, as both Valverde and Hawkins have moved on. Lindstrom pitched for the Marlins in 2009, while Lyon was a part of the Tigers bullpen. Although Lyons does not have the same raw stuff as Lindstrom, he’s more reliable with a proven track record of average bullpen work.

The Starting Lineup: Michael Bourn is the lone lefty in the lineup, and will be relied upon to set the table and steal bases for the ‘Stros. Bourn is coming off a strong 2009 campaign, but it is unlikely that he will keep pace with the numbers he set in ‘09. Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman provide the pop, with Hunter Pence helping out in that department, as well. Berkman and Lee are both in the declining stages of their careers, but both have something to add to any offense. Pence will also be called on to swipe a couple of bases and use his speed to add an extra run or two to the offense. Pedro Feliz and Tommy Manzella are going to be counted on more for their defense than their abilities with the stick. However, Feliz has turned in decent offensive seasons in the past. The catcher position is a weak spot for Houston, with Humberto Quintero looking to hold off J.R. Towles for the job. Towles was supposed to be Houston’s catcher of the future, but he has struggled mightily in 268 Major League plate appearances. Kazuo Matsui returns for another season at second base, and his ability to hit from both sides of the plate helps balanced out the righty-centric order.

The Bench: Former starter Goeff Blum, who hits left-handed, will fill in at both corner-infield spots, with right-handed Jeff Keppinger backing up both middle-infield positions. Jason Michaels will be called on to back up all of the outfield positions, and J.R. Towles is likely to start the year as the back-up catcher.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

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