Around the Horn: Starting pitching

Addition of Fister bolsters already strong selection of arms

Around the Horn: Starting pitching

This is the fourth of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into the season. Up next: starting pitching.

HOUSTON -- The addition of veteran right-hander Doug Fister to a one-year deal last month rounded out the Astros' offseason moves, giving them another proven arm to add to what is the deepest starting rotation they've had in years.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCracken reflects during Black History Month

McCracken reflects during Black History Month

HOUSTON -- Quinton McCracken, the former Major League player, was promoted last year to Astros director of player personnel, where he assists in player-personnel decisions across all areas, including free-agent acquisitions, trades and amateur signings.

He also evaluates players across all categories, including amateur and professional, both inside and outside the organization, and serves as an adviser to the functional leaders in amateur and professional scouting, player development and international operations.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Astros' Urban Youth Academy works wonders

Program provides essential tools for baseball and beyond

Astros' Urban Youth Academy works wonders

HOUSTON -- It's not only about those six young people and their college scholarships. It's about what they represent.

"Our program works," said Daryl Wade, director of the Houston Astros' Urban Youth Academy (UYA).

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arkansas-Monticello wins opener at Houston Winter Invitational

Arkansas-Monticello wins opener at Houston Winter Invitational

HOUSTON -- Travis Steinke hit a go-ahead, two-run single during a four-run ninth inning to lift Arkansas-Monticello past Tarleton State, 10-6, on Friday in the opening game of the fourth annual Houston Winter Invitational at Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros.

Steinke's two-run, one-out single past third base scored Kevin Fitzpatrick, who opened the inning with a triple, and Brian Ray, breaking a 6-6 tie.

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Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Around the Horn: Outfield is rock solid

Gomez, Rasmus, Springer lead versatile group

Around the Horn: Outfield is rock solid

This is the third of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into the season. This one: outfield.

HOUSTON -- The Astros will enter Spring Training camp with a set outfield, including the three starters and the two bench players. The club re-signed Colby Rasmus, who accepted a one-year qualifying offer, to return its outfield intact, though poised to be better than it was last season.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com andwrites an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros UYA celebrates 6 receiving scholarships

Academy players earn offers to play baseball, softball in college

Astros UYA celebrates 6 receiving scholarships

HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros Urban Youth Academy celebrated having six players receive scholarship offers to play baseball and softball in college with a signing ceremony Wednesday.

Included in the group was Brooke Dibler, who became the first Astros RBI/UYA softball scholarship recipient. She has signed to play for Prairie View A&M University. Signing baseball scholarships were Lance Byron (Prairie View), Myles Campbell (Blinn Junior College), Isaiah Meyers (Wharton Junior College), Tyron Thomas (Prairie View) and Kaelon Woods (Prairie View).

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McHugh working to build off 2015 success

McHugh working to build off 2015 success

HOUSTON -- The success of the Astros' starting rotation a year ago wasn't a one-man show, despite the terrific season turned in by American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel.

As great as Keuchel was in 2015, he had quite the sidekick in right-hander Collin McHugh, who finished second to the lefty in the AL with 19 wins. In fact, McHugh (19-7) and Keuchel (20-8) are just the second pair of Astros teammates in franchise history to record at least 19 wins in the same season.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Feldman expects to be ready by Spring Training

'I feel better than I have in years,' righty says

Feldman expects to be ready by Spring Training

HOUSTON -- The signing of right-hander Doug Fister last week gives the Astros enough rotation depth to weather an injury to one of their starters. Veteran right-hander Scott Feldman is coming off a shoulder injury that cost him the final month of last season, and he expects to be ready to compete when Spring Training starts in two weeks.

Feldman, who was shut down on Sept. 1 because of a right shoulder sprain, was able to avoid surgery and has been throwing during the offseason with promising results. He says his arm feels great and he should be 100 percent when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 18 in Kissimmee, Fla.
 

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros boast 5 players in Top 100 Prospects list

Bregman, Reed, Martes highlight Houston's strong system

Astros boast 5 players in Top 100 Prospects list

HOUSTON -- The Astros landed five players on MLB.com's annual Top 100 prospects list, led by shortstop and former No. 2 overall Draft pick Alex Bregman at No. 22. First baseman A.J. Reed (40), right-handed pitcher Francis Martes (41) and outfielders Kyle Tucker (74) and Daz Cameron (75) also appear on the list.

Based on a point system in which 100 points are gained for having the No. 1-ranked player and 99 for No. 2, etc., the Astros rank ninth with 253 points. Only the Phillies (seven), Rockies (six), Twins (six) and Cubs (six) have more prospects on the Top 100 than the Astros.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Astros feel they're 'built to go the distance'

Astros feel they're 'built to go the distance'

HOUSTON -- In the end, the Astros did almost everything they could have hoped to do this offseason. So what do you think, Jeff Luhnow?

"This team is built to go the distance this year," the Astros' general manager said Thursday.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fister looks like one of winter's best bargains

If healthy, RHP could be set for a big bounceback 2016

Fister looks like one of winter's best bargains

On the surface, it's easy to see why Doug Fister didn't garner much attention on the free-agent market this offseason. He turns 32 next week, he posted very poor numbers in a contract year and his velocity hit career lows in 2015.

But Fister, who signed a one-year deal with the Astros on Thursday that will pay him a reported $7 million plus performance bonuses, could end up being one of the offseason's best free-agent bargains. No, the trends aren't pretty, but there's reason to believe his career decline isn't as ominous as it appears.

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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fister excited to join Astros on 1-year deal

Right-hander spent past two seasons with Washington, won 16 games in 2014

Fister excited to join Astros on 1-year deal

HOUSTON -- The Astros' starting rotation, which was second in the American League last season with a 3.71 ERA, got even deeper on Thursday when the team announced the signing of free-agent right-hander Doug Fister to a one-year deal.

Fister, who gets a base salary of $7 million and could earn another $5 million in incentives based on the number of innings pitched, spent the previous two seasons with the Nationals, going 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 25 games last year (15 starts). He went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA for the Nats in 2014 and finished eighth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Around the Horn: Infield a strength for Astros

Competition at corner spots, with Altuve and Correa locked in up the middle

Around the Horn: Infield a strength for Astros

This is the second of a six-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Astros' projected starters and backup options heading into next season. Up next: infield.

HOUSTON -- As a whole, the Astros have good reason to be very confident in their infield for 2016: They have a three-time All-Star, former batting champion and Gold Glove winner at second base in Jose Altuve and the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year at shortstop in Carlos Correa.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gattis loses weight, gains versatility

Slugger works with personal trainer in effort to shed DH-only label

Gattis loses weight, gains versatility

HOUSTON -- Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis worked with a personal trainer this offseason in an effort to lose weight while keeping his strength, and he subsequently dropped 18 pounds. It had nothing to do with him wanting to hit more triples, either.

Gattis, who had 11 triples last year, was urged by the club to become more versatile, and he took it upon himself to hire a personal trainer for the first time to get in better shape. The goal for Gattis is to be able to play the field more and shed the label as a player who can only swing the bat.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Bregman makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 SS Prospects list

Dodgers' Seager tops list, Philly's Crawford and Brewers' Arcia next up

Bregman makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 SS Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Even with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Addison Russell graduating to the big leagues, shortstop remains the glamour position for up-and-coming talent. Corey Seager, J.P. Crawford and Orlando Arcia rank among the elite prospects in the game, while Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers were the first three picks in the 2015 Draft. Interestingly, the top six shortstop prospects and eight of the 10 best belong to National League clubs.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros ink Wandy, 2 others to Minors deals

Contracts with Rodriguez, Cabrera and Worth include invitations to Spring Training

Astros ink Wandy, 2 others to Minors deals

HOUSTON -- The Astros on Tuesday announced the signing of left-handed pitchers Edwar Cabrera and Wandy Rodriguez and infielder Danny Worth to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.

Rodriguez, whose signing was reported last week, made 17 appearances for the Rangers last season, including 15 starts, going 6-4 with a 4.90 ERA. The Rangers went 10-5 in his 15 starts, in which he posted a 4.07 ERA.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Castro optimistic as arbitration hearing looms

Castro optimistic as arbitration hearing looms

HOUSTON -- Astros catcher Jason Castro has watched the franchise's rebuilding project from the start. The former first-round pick made his Major League debut on June 22, 2010, and saw every player who was in the lineup that day eventually get traded as Houston moved to get younger.

Castro sat through three consecutive 100-loss seasons, crouching behind the plate admirably while pitchers got roughed up and games dragged on. He never complained publicly and always said the right thing, something he continues to do as he and the Astros appear to be headed for an arbitration hearing scheduled for Feb. 8.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros to host 4th annual D-II tournament

Central Missouri, alma mater of owner Crane, among 6 to play at Minute Maid Park

HOUSTON -- Several of the nation's top Division II baseball teams will be on hand at Minute Maid Park from Feb. 5-7 for the fourth annual Houston Winter Invitational tournament.

The tournament will feature six teams playing nine games over three days. The list of teams participating includes Texas schools St. Mary's (San Antonio) and Tarleton State, as well as the University of Central Missouri, which will serve as co-host of the tournament with the Astros.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros Minor Leaguer Rosario dies in motorcycle accident

HOUSTON -- Jose Rosario, a right-handed pitcher in the Astros' Minor League system, was killed in a motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, the team Monday said in a statement.

Rosario, 20, was signed by the Astros as an 18-year-old Minor League free agent in December 2013. He split the '15 season between the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League, going 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA in 18 games (eight starts).

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Kemp makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 2B Prospects list

Boston's Moncada leads list, followed by Reds' Peraza at No. 2

Kemp makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 2B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

There has been quite a bit of turnover from last year to the 2016 edition of the Top 10 second-base prospects, with six new names joining the list, thanks to two graduations and four who dropped off the list.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayo on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Perfect storm: Astros receive BBWAA honors

Blizzard doesn't keep Correa, Keuchel from celebration

Perfect storm: Astros receive BBWAA honors

For most people on the East Coast, this weekend's winter storm was reason to stay indoors and avoid the frigid temperatures and heaps of snow. But Carlos Correa is not most people.

Correa, along with teammate Dallas Keuchel, braved the weather Saturday as some of baseball's finest were honored at the Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards presented by Esurance for their contributions in the 2015 season. When the Astros shortstop stepped to the podium to receive his American League Rookie of the Year Award, he offered an optimistic spin on the blizzard that prompted a New York City transportation shutdown.

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Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros players, fans share optimism at FanFest

Astros players, fans share optimism at FanFest

HOUSTON -- There was enthusiasm at every turn, whether it was smiles on the faces of fans getting autographs of their favorite players, the thrill of running the bases at Minute Maid Park on a chilly Saturday afternoon or the rare chance to ask questions to the players and Astros front-office personnel.

No matter the event, there was no denying that Astros fans and players alike were bursting with excitement during the team's annual FanFest. More than 12,000 came to Minute Maid Park for a chance to see many of the players who were key members on the team's surprising run to the American League Division Series a year ago.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros unveil new Sunday game jerseys

Astros unveil new Sunday game jerseys

HOUSTON -- The Astros on Saturday unveiled a new game jersey that will be worn during Sunday games this season at Minute Maid Park.

Mike Acosta, the Astros' authentication manager, said the jersey will mark the first time since the 1970s the team will have "Astros" across their chests in orange. The side panels of the jersey feature the original pattern of the iconic Astros "rainbow" uniform worn from 1975-86. This jersey will be worn with a new hat that has an orange crown and a blue visor.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Diamond Dreams Gala raises $500,000

Proceeds go to the Astros Foundation and New Hope Housing

Diamond Dreams Gala raises $500,000

HOUSTON -- The Astros introduced a new event to their jam-packed January calendar -- a charity gala to complement the traditional caravan and FanFest events that are typically held at this time of year.

What would normally be a quiet Minute Maid Park the night before FanFest was instead the site of the club's inaugural Diamond Dreams Gala, a star-studded event that featured a legendary recording artist, multiple Hall of Famers and a large chunk of the projected 2016 Astros roster.

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Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Watch Correa play snow baseball in the middle of Manhattan

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Watch Correa play snow baseball in the middle of Manhattan

American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa was in New York City for the BBWAA dinner on Saturday evening. That dinner was cancelled, however, because NYC was introduced to something called Winter Storm Jonas, and Correa -- who'd never seen snow fall before -- found himself in the middle of a blizzard that effectively shut down the largest city in the country.

But that's no sweat. 

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MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Reed tops MLB Pipeline's Top 10 1B Prospects list

Astros' Reed sits atop list, followed by Bucs' Bell, Mets' Smith

Reed tops MLB Pipeline's Top 10 1B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday, Jan. 29, on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

First and foremost, teams want power from their first basemen, and the players on MLBPipeline's Top 10 first-base prospects list deliver. Five of them have plus pop, led by A.J. Reed's 65 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale, and the other four all have average or better power. Four of the five best first basemen held the same status a year ago, with Bobby Bradley (Indians) the only newcomer on the upper half of the list.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Swinging at first pitch has its advantages

Swinging at first pitch has its advantages

In this era of dominant pitching and ever-rising strikeout numbers, it's not a good idea to fall behind in counts to the elite artists. Putting Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale or Chris Archer in the driver's seat is not a comfortable way to go.

Jose Altuve is in a class of his own. The All-Star second baseman is the most aggressive hitter in Major League Baseball, hands down -- and it is paying huge dividends for his Astros.

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Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Altuve, Keuchel serve fan-friendly Caravan fun

Astros stars make guest appearance at local fast-food restaurant

Altuve, Keuchel serve fan-friendly Caravan fun

HOUSTON -- They were met with a reception fit for the Beatles. Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel, second baseman Jose Altuve and reliever Ken Giles certainly didn't look like rock stars, wearing their white Astros jerseys while emerging from a van in a local Chick-fil-A restaurant on Thursday afternoon to a throng of screaming fans.

The trio spent an hour taking orders and working the drive-thru window during a morning stop on the last day of the Astros Caravan, all the while taking selfies and signing autographs. The crush of people was a sign the Astros are as popular as they've been in years.

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Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.