Houston Astros optimistic heading into 2013

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astros have a grand total of five players with more than two years of major league experience on the 40-man roster, a first-year manager and a move to the American League to deal with, too.

They also have a payroll projected to be the lowest in baseball since the Florida Marlins spent just under $22 million in 2008.

So why are they so optimistic they can avoid becoming the first team in a half-century to lose 106 games in three consecutive seasons?

General manager Jeff Luhnow doesn’t see youth as a detriment and believes he’s assembled a talented group.

“For me youth is a good thing,” he said. “I’m optimistic. I think we’re going to have a much better year than people think, and I don’t think it has anything to do with payroll. I think it has to do with the coaching staff that we have and the young players that have a tremendous amount of upside.”

Houston hired Nationals third base coach Bo Porter to lead the rebuilding effort. It certainly won’t be easy for a team which could join the 1962-65 New York Mets as the only teams with 106 or more losses in three consecutive seasons, according to STATS. Houston lost 106 games in 2011 and a franchise-worst 107 last year.

Another dreadful season would put them in line to be the first franchise to have the No. 1 overall draft pick for three straight years.

The Astros are expected to have just five players on their roster who will make more than $500,000 this season. Only one of them, newly acquired veteran slugger Carlos Pena, is a position player.

Pena, a 34-year-old first baseman signed as a free agent for $2.9 million, is among three players on Houston’s 40-man roster who is 30 or older.

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