That was Then...
Coming off a 56-106 season, the Astros entered last off-season with their eyes on improving their offence. The dealt their closer Mark Melancon to the Boston Red Sox for Jed Lowrie, and shuffled Brett Myers who had two good years in the starting rotation into the closer's role.
After their loss to the Washington Nationals on April 16th, Houston was three-games behind in the National League Central. They never got any closer to the division lead the rest of the way.
They posted losing records in every month of the year except in October where they were 2-1. Manager Brad Mills was fired during season, and replaced by Tony DeFrancesco to finish out what would become a 55-107 season.
Aside from all the losing, the Astros also got a jump on their rebuilding process, dealing Carlos 'El Caballo' Lee, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers in an effort to restock a poor farm system and save money going forward.
The best news for the club during the season was the emergence of second baseman Jose Altuve, who hit .290, scored 80 runs and stole 33 bases.
...This is Now
Bud Norris, who has always been able to strike out opposing hitters will need to refine his command if he's to help the Astros avoid losing 100 games again.
Not only are the Astros moving from the National League Central to the American League West this season, but fans of the club will likely need a program to keep track of who exactly is playing where.
The Astros continued their rebuild from the 2012 season, naming Bo Porter their new manager and dealing away higher-priced players in Jed Lowrie and Wilton Lopez. They acquired first baseman/left fielder Chris Carter from the A's, and signed veteran pitchers Erik Bedard, and Jose Veras. They also inked first baseman Carlos Pena and claimed Philip Humber on waivers.
While the Astros wait for some of their prospects in the minors to be ready, the club appears to be in tough with a middle of the batting order that will likely feature Carter, Pena and now 26-year-old first baseman Brett Wallace.
Their pitching staff led by Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell will likely struggle in a much tougher division then the one they were in last season.
It's a season of change for Houston that will likely see a number of prospects replacing veteran players midway through the season. However, it's difficult to see how the club will be able to avoid the 100-loss plateau for a third straight year.
Every year, we look for players 26-years-old or younger that could make an impact on their team in the upcoming season. The player might have already established himself with a regular role with the team, or he could make their mark later on in the season.
Past Picks: 2012 - Brett Wallace, 2011 - Chris Johnson, 2010 - Felipe Paulino, 2009 - JR Towles, 2008 - Michael Bourn, 2007 - Hunter Pence, 2006 - Willy Taveras, 2005 - Chris Burke, 2004 - Taylor Buchholz, 2003 - Kirk Saarloos
The jump to the American League West doesn't help this young squad.
2B Jose Altuve is the top-ranked Astro, at 111th overall.
This is a bad, bad team, so there aren't a lot of individuals that hold great fantasy appeal. However, because they are so bad, there are some Astros that can provide decent draft-day value.
2B Jose Altuve can hit for average, score runs and steal bases, enough that he's the one Astro that should be owned in most leagues.
After Altuve, the risk begins. RHP Bud Norris can be okay, depending on the day, and young lefty Lucas Harrell could be worth a look in deeper leagues. Even closer Jose Veras, a 32-year-old with five career saves, can't be ignored altogether.
After that, maybe try power hitters like 1B Carlos Pena and LF Chris Carter, neither of whom is likely to hit for average, but could add 25 or more home runs.