Meet the Astros new closer...Brett Myers (Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE)

2012 NL Central Sneak Peek: Houston Astros

As the Astros bid a good-bye to the NL Central, time to take quick stock of what they will offer for 2012. While a vast majority of fans do not feel Houston is a viable threat, there are a few individuals to point to and think a good season may be had.

With the help of Greg Thurston, Senior Editor of Climbing Tal’s Hill, we will peek in on the final NL Central opponent.

BRM: With the surprise announcement of moving Brett Myers to the closer’s role, how big of an impact will that have on the starting rotation?

GT: Brett Myers and his 200 innings will definitely be missed by the Astros rotation. Now everyone moves up a spot, meaning Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris go 1 & 2. I think Livan Hernandez was going to be in the rotation regardless. Now he will probably move up to the 3-spot ahead of J.A. Happ. Much like several other teams, the firth spot will be up for grabs. Candidates include Jordan Lyles, Kyle Weiland, Henry Sosa, and my personal favorite Lucas Harrell.

I don’t think the Astros are lacking on the front of having young arms. Seem to have a few.

BRM: Of the big contracts still on the Astros payroll (Wandy Rodriguez, Myers and Carlos Lee), who will still be an Astro come the end of 2012?

GT: The move to the bullpen could boost Myers’ trade value. If he has a successful season going I would expect him to be dealt. The same goes for Lee. I think Wandy will probably stick around. The market for starting pitchers seems to be upside-down and the Astros need someone to anchor the rotation.

Keeping Wandy another year could aid Norris as well.

BRM: I read that manager Brad Mills might be sitting on the hot seat. Truth or rumor?

GT: Mills has been given a vote of confidence from new G.M. Jeff Luhnow. Who knows what that really means? I am not a big fan of the skipper. I think he is below average as an in-game tactition and has trouble using his bullpen properly. Mills doesn’t have the respect of the players that he should, in my opinion. But since he hasn’t been fired already, I would say his job is pretty safe.

I’m a Mills fan, but then again, I don;t see every play of every Astros game either. I like what Greg says last. With new ownership, you sometimes make a move for a new skipper right away. Not in this case, I guess.

You know the drill. I asked Greg who he felt were the key position player and pitcher for Houston. His answers are a little surprising…

I think the most important position player on the Astros is Jed Lowrie. With unproven youngsters starting in LF, RF. & 3B the Astros will need to get some offense from the SS position. If Lowrie fails there is no one behind him on the depth chart that can provide offense.

I think Bud Norris is the most important pitcher on the Astros staff. Norris will now be in the #2 spot in the rotation and is a candidate for a breakout season. Houston will need someone to rise to the occasion or a repeat of last season could be in store. Norris just turned 27 and is entering his fourth season in the big leagues. His numbers have been improving and the continued development of his changeup could help Bud move closer to ace status.

NLC standings prediction
1 Reds
2 Cardinals
3 Brewers
4 Pirates
5 Cubs
6 Astros

Ryan of Lester’s Legends selects a potition player, pitcher and sleeper from the Astros roster. The first one was a little difficult.

Top Position Player: There isn’t really a clear cut choice for the Astros. If you are looking for power and multiple position flexibility, Carlos Lee (1B/OF) is the choice. If you want speed, Jason Bourgeois is the choice.

Top Pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez won’t get you a ton of wins, but he should get you double-digits anyway. He routinely produces a sub-4.00 ERA and has a palatable WHIP.

Fantasy Sleeper: When you are as bad offensively as the Astros are, you don’t really want to invest too heavily in them. Second baseman Jose Altuve could be a late round exception. He has the potential to hit .300 with 20+ stolen bases.

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Tags: Baseball Brad Mills Brett Myers Bud Norris Carlos Lee Houston Astros Jed Lowrie Jose Altuve MLB Wandy Rodriguez

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