Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 9/4/12

This is the first edition of Hope for the Hopeless, where we will take a look at all of the teams in the league that finished under .500, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2012 season. FIrst up: the Houston Astros.

It's been a bad year for the Astros. No one will argue that. As I talked about in the post-mortem feature yesterday, this team was horrific this year...maybe even historically so at the end of the day. However, there is some hope in Houston...maybe not for the 2013 season, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Jeff Luhnow and the Astros front office can do whatever the hell they want with payroll for the 2013 season. They started 2012 with a $60.8 million payroll, and were at $77 million to begin 2011. Their payroll for 2013 could be as low as $25 million if they don't bother to sign a free agent, but Luhnow and his staff can pick and choose who they want to sign to fill roles, because they clearly have the payroll.

Houston's farm system is also on the upswing after looking like a disaster zone over the last few years. Charlie wrote up some of the prospects this morning, and there is some good talent there. Sure, a lot of the talent is very young, but there are guys like Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Brett Oberholtzer, and Robbie Grossman who could sniff the majors in 2013.

The major league roster has a little bit of a dearth of quality players, but the Astros have a solid enough core up the middle with catcher Jason Castro, the tenth overall pick in 2008 that has taken major strides forward this year, shortstop Jed Lowrie, and second baseman Jose Altuve. Lowrie is older than both Castro and Altuve, but will at least give Houston a solid option at a critical position on the diamond for the next two years...unless the team wants to potentially sell high for even more prospects, which could be a wise move given Lowrie's injury history.

There isn't a huge variety of topics to hopeful about for the Astros, and the main point is "the farm system". However, most rebuilding clubs face the same situation. Luhnow completely blew everything up in Houston, and that's the wisest move in a situation like this as opposed to going with a half in, half out approach and perpetually winning 70-75 games with no hope of improvement.

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