Not everything looks good in a spotlight.
Here's the bad news: The 2011 Houston Astros were one of the worst teams in recent memory, and the 2012 Astros might be worse.
Here's some promising news: The last team I remember looking this bad was the 2003 Detroit Tigers that lost 119 games, but Detroit made the World Series three years later. Anything is possible.
Those Tigers went from 106 losses in 2002 to that historically bad 2003 season, and the 'Stros look like they might be headed in the same direction but they did what they had to do and traded away or let go of most of their well-known players and entered full-on rebuild mode. I actually think that's the best possible strategy... when you're going bad, just go all the way bad. Unfortunately, the Astros don't have the best farm system either, having whiffed in the draft and then graduating all of their promising players before they might have been ready.
What we're left with is the 2012 Houston Astros: Hey, At Least We're Getting a DH Next Year.
Best Hitter: Carlos Lee?
This is how bad it's gotten.
Here's a quick talk on Carlos Lee: He's not nearly the player that he used to be, but he did hit .294/.364/.474 after a terrible April. He might hit 20 HR and drive in 90 runs, but he will most likely be traded in the final year of his contract, with Houston eating whatever's left on his contract.
More importantly, do the Astros have anybody to compete with Lee as the team's best hitter?
Fan favorite Jose Altuve was hitting .389/.426/.591 across two levels before being called up and hit .276/.297/.357 in 234 PA's. He doesn't have a lot of power or speed but he's only 21 and has room to get better and maybe get 180 hits. Needs to learn to take a walk or he'll be the next Yuniesky Betancourt at the plate.
Jed Lowrie is the new SS and a career .252 hitter.
J.D. Martinez doesn't walk, hit for power, or have speed.
Jordan Schafer is a career .228 hitter.
Jason Castro might be the starting catcher, and didn't play last season while recovering from a torn ACL.
The Astros might not score this year.
Best Pitcher: Bud Norris
The strength of the Astros, if they have one, will be in the starting rotation. Those 2003 Tigers had one of the worst rotations ever. Nate Cornejo pitched 194.2 innings and struck out 46 BATTERS! And he was the only starter with an ERA under 5.00.
Mike Maroth went 9-21. They had guys named Adam Bernero, Gary Knotts, Chris Mears, and Shane Loux. Eight different pitchers had a save, and the leaders were tied with 5 a piece. There was so much terrible pitching.
But the Astros have guys like Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and Norris.
I'm a big Norris fan and I think he was overlooked because of his 3.77 ERA and 6-11 record. But he cut down on his walks and struck out 8.52 per nine. Not shabby.
The rotation and pitching staff isn't "good" but it shouldn't be as bad as those 2003 Tigers.
Possible Breakout: Jordan Lyles
He really should have never been in the majors last season. He hadn't even yet figured out AAA and was only 20. But Lyles was once the #44 prospect in baseball and if he can regain his confidence, he could turn into a fine starter. The Astros have a lot of breakout candidates, because so few of them are good yet.
Possible Disappointment: Drafting an Astro
I'm not trying to rag on Houston, but it's just a really bad situation. I like Norris and Wandy but what else on this team looks good in fantasy? Brandon Lyon as the closer? 160 games of Brian Bogusevic? Jack Cust as an outfielder?
Just stay away.
Rookie Watch: George Springer, CF
Highly doubtful that any of the Astros make a significant impact in the majors this year, but at age 22, Springer is ancient for an Astros prospect.
He was their top pick last season and hopefully one of the few Astros draft picks to turn out right in recent years.
Jonathan Singleton could be a middle-of-the-order power hitter in the future but is only 19.
Houston played 20 rookies last year and they might play 20 this year, but I don't see any of them having an impact.