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November 5, 2012

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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State of the Farm:Joan was quizzical; studied pataphysical science in the home. Late nights all alone with a test tube. Oh, oh, oh, oh.”

Prospect rankings primer

The Top 10
1.     1B Jonathan Singleton
2.     SS Carlos Correa
3.     OF George Springer
4.     2B Delino DeShields, Jr.
5.     RHP Jarred Cosart 
6.     SS Jonathan Villar
7.     OF Domingo Santana
8.     3B Rio Ruiz
9.     RHP Lance McCullers
10.   RHP Mike Foltynewicz
 

1. Jonathan Singleton

Position: 1B
DOB: 09/18/1991
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 235 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 8th round, 2009, Millikan HS (Long Beach, CA)
2012 Stats: .284/.396/.497 at Double-A Corpus Christi (131 games)
The Tools: Big raw power; average-to-plus hit tool

What Happened in 2012: Singleton finally carried his impressive batting practice power into game action, ripping 52 extra-base hits against Double-A competition, including 21 homers.

Strengths: Easy 7 raw power that should play at solid-average right out of the gate and has the potential to mature into 30-plus home run utility down the line; advanced secondary skills at the plate; excellent strike zone awareness and solid pitch recognition ability.

Weaknesses: Lacks plus athleticism or defensive versatility; arm is below-average; defensive profile at first base will be average at best; still learning how to hit for power; needs to improve against arm-side pitching.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; hard worker with good makeup; advanced offensive skill-set for age.

Fantasy Future: Potential to hit in the middle of a major-league lineup, with robust slash line thanks to contact ability, on-base skills, and game power. (.275/.375/.500)

The Year Ahead: Clear path to the majors, but no need to rush the 21-year-old to the show. A few months in Triple-A will be mutually beneficial to player and organization alike, as Singleton can rake in a hitter-friendly environment and the Astros can keep the clock on standby. At some point in the season, Singleton will reach the highest level, and will show flashes of his offensive potential while also showing his weaknesses. The power isn’t ready to play at full maturity yet, and the quality of the hit tool will be put to the test against pitchers that can offer both velocity and the ability to sequence an above-average secondary arsenal.

Major league ETA: 2013

2.  Carlos Correa

Position: SS
DOB: 09/22/1994
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, PR Baseball Academy (Santa Isabel, PR)
2012 Stats: .232/.270/.355 in GCL (39 games); .371/.450/.600 in short-season Appalachian League (11 games)
The Tools: All of them; 8 arm; 7 power potential; huge makeup

What Happened in 2012: After creating impressive buzz on the amateur showcase circuit, Correa was selected 1:1 in the 2012 draft by the Astros and quickly became the highest-ceiling player in the entire organization.

Strengths: Massive factory of physical tools; great size and fluid athleticism; highly skilled hands; has necessary fielding actions to stick at position; huge arm (8); solid-average run that plays up; plus bat speed; middle-of-the-order power potential; super young; plus-plus makeup.

Weaknesses: Hit tool is currently underdeveloped in relation to other tools; swing can get long and setup unbalanced; game power could be slow to come; fast-twitch athlete, but body could escape him and limit range at position; massive collection of raw tools that need to find game refinement.

Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star

Explanation of Risk: High risk because of age and current level of tool refinement; huge makeup and instincts keep the risk from being extreme

Fantasy Future: Could end up among the best players in the game, with a future 6 hit tool, 7 power, and the baserunning instincts and quickness for stolen bases. At his peak, he could be a .280/.380/.500 shortstop with above-average defensive chops.

The Year Ahead: Correa could stumble and it could look ugly before he blossoms in professional ball. Tool refinement and utility can take time, and Correa will play the 2013 season at the age of 18, where he should get his first taste of full-season ball and full-season level pitching. I don’t expect an explosion yet, but don’t jump off the bandwagon if Correa happens to stumble. He has legit star potential at the highest level.

Major league ETA: 2016

3. George Springer

Position: OF
DOB: 09/19/1989
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, University of Connecticut
2012 Stats: .316/.398/.557 at High-A Lancaster (106 games); .219/.288/.342 at Double-A Corpus Christi (22 games)
The Tools: Can show all five tools; plus arm; plus speed; plus power potential

What Happened in 2012: After putting up big offensive numbers in a big offensive environment, the cracks in Springer’s game began to show and he was exploited in his limited run in the Texas League.

Strengths: Big tools for collegiate draftee; can flash all five; above-average defensive profile at premium outfield position; runs well; throws well; shows impressive power potential.

Weaknesses: Despite collegiate resume, still plays the game with immaturity; hit tool is weakest of all tools; approach is too aggressive and pitch-recognition skills are unrefined; lots of swing-and-miss in the stick; high effort swing; mechanical glitches; long-term concerns about offensive utility.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk because of immature offensive profile; often plays like an unrefined 18-year-old, not 23-year-old; could easily fail to reach 6 ceiling; floor of fourth/fifth outfielder more likely than all-star.

Fantasy Future: If the bat reaches full maturity, Springer could hit .270, with 20/20 offensive skills coming from a premium defensive position.

The Year Ahead: Springer’s performance in 2012 raised some red flags about his offensive approach and hit tool utility. He has above-average defensive skills, and the secondary skills will play if he can refine some of the all-or-nothing in his swing.

Major league ETA: 2014

4. Delino DeShields, Jr.

Position: 2B
DOB: 08/16/1992
Height/Weight: 5’9’’ 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Woodward Academy (College Park, GA)
2012 Stats: .298/.401/.439 at Low-A Lexington (111 games); .237/.336/.381) at High-A Lancaster (24 games)
The Tools: 8 run; 6 potential hit

What Happened in 2012: After a season where DeShields was pushed into full-season before his skill-set was ready, the son of Delino DeShields (shocking) exploded in the Sally League, hitting for average, reaching base at a high clip, and stealing 83 bases in 97 attempts.

Strengths: 8 run, with both quickness, a second gear, and field awareness; mature approach at the plate; excellent ball tracking and pitch-recognition skills; hit tool could be plus; has a lot of juice in his bat for his size; physical player, with strength; total gamer with big makeup

Weaknesses: Limited defensive profile; 4 arm; glove has improved enough to stick at second base, but lacks plus actions and can’t play shortstop; can get too passive at the plate; doesn’t have typical offensive profile for position.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; despite age, DeShields has shown a mature understanding of the game, and has responded to failure with impressive response; the work ethic is very strong and his familiarity with the process gives him an advantage.

Fantasy Future: Throwback type of player, with a chance to hit .280/.380/.450, with 10 home runs, a ton of triples and 80 steals. Could be a big fantasy player at maturity.

The Year Ahead: DeShields will return to the friendly confines of the California League, where he should continue to show that his limited height doesn’t limit the pop in his bat. I think his status is on the rise, especially if the league helps inflate his offensive numbers.

Major league ETA: 2015

5. Jarred Cosart

Position: RHP
DOB: 05/25/1990
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 38th round, 2008 draft (Phillies), Clear Creek High School (League City, Tx)
2012 Stats: 3.52 era (87 IP, 83 H, 68 K 38 BB) at Double-A Corpus Christi; 2.60 era (27.2 IP, 26 H, 24 K, 13 BB) at Triple-A Oklahoma City
The Tools: Easy 7 fastball; plus hard curve

What Happened in 2012: The Texas native got one step closer to the majors by reaching Triple-A and more than holding his own in five starts at that level.

Strengths: Prototypical starter’s size; plus-plus arm strength; big fastball that works in the 94-97 mph range and can touch higher; can work in elite velocity range in bursts; hard curveball shows impressive shape and intense depth in the upper-70/low-80s; works as a plus pitch and could end up a 7.

Weaknesses: Mechanics aren’t conducive for good command profile; throws across his body; some recoil and a head jerk in the follow-through; changeup can flash, but remains an inconsistent offering; doesn’t miss bats like stuff suggests; fastball is often visible early out of the hand; questions about makeup and pitchability.

Overall Future Potential: 6; late-inning reliever

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; has the stuff to pitch in major-league bullpen and is knocking on the door. Highly unlikely to reach ultimate ceiling because of lack of pitchability and questions about makeup.

Fantasy Future: Has a late-inning ceiling, so he could end up with either holds or saves at the highest level, depending on the role.

The Year Ahead: Cosart has the stuff to be an elite closer, but he hasn’t shown an ability to utilize his stuff to miss bats, and there are some in the industry who question whether or not he has the fortitude to close high-leverage games at the major-league level. To start, Cosart will need to refine his command and improve his changeup, which will start with smoother, more fluid mechanics. In either role, his pitchability will need to improve to help set hitters up and keep barrels off his fastball.

Major league ETA: 2013

6. Jonathan Villar

Position: SS
DOB: 05/20/1991
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent; 2008 (Phillies); Dominican Republic
2012 Stats: .261/.336/.396 at Double-A Corpus Christi (86 games_
The Tools: Plus arm; plus potential glove; 7 run

What Happened in 2012: Repeating Double-A as a 21-year-old. Villar took moderate steps forward on the field, making better contact at the plate, improving his approach, and stealing more bases; season was cut short after he fractured his hand in a fight with a bathroom door.

Strengths: Big tool collection for a middle infielder; profiles as 6 defender at shortstop, with plus arm, easy plus range, and slick actions; hit tool will flash plus; not an empty stick; can drive balls with authority; 7 speed.

Weaknesses: Needs to slow his game down; plays loose on both sides of the ball; continues to make routine/fundamental mistakes in the field; rushes his actions; will load his swing and sell out for power from the right-side; shows bat speed, but not enough bat control; softer, flat-plane swing from LH side; struggles with pitch-recognition issues and expanding his zone; immaturity issues on/off field.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk; noisy tools, but immature utility; bat is a big question mark for some; routine errors and on-the-field focus still skill-set issues;

Fantasy Future: Has big wheels and some pop from a premium position. Could end up hitting .265 with 20-plus doubles and 30 steals.

The Year Ahead: Villar will take his toolbox to Triple-A, where a successful hunt for refinement could eventually push him to the major-league level. Some give Villar a utility future, with too many questions about the bat and overall approach to ignore. But the raw tools are impressive, and if the package comes together, Villar has a chance at being an impact player.

Major league ETA: 2013

7. Domingo Santana

Position: RF
DOB: 08/05/1992
Height/Weight: 6’5’’ 230 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Dominican Republic
2012 Stats: .302/.385/.536 at High-A Lancaster (119 games)
The Tools: 7 raw power (potential); easy 6 arm

What Happened in 2012: Spent the entire season at High-A Lancaster, where the then-19-year-old showed impressive game power and more contact ability than expected.

Strengths: Enormous size and strength; 7 raw power; could play as a 6 in games; leveraged swing with length, but controls the barrel well and can make in-at bat adjustments; easy 6 arm; moves well for his size; doesn’t have all-or-nothing approach.

Weaknesses: Limited defensive profile puts pressure on the bat; has big swing-and-miss in his game; struggles against velocity and breaking balls that expand the zone, especially from right handers; below-average run

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk because of overall profile; hit tool yet to face Double-A level arms; high risk for exploitation at upper levels.

Fantasy Future: Fits mold of prototypical right fielder power bat, with enough contact to hit .260-plus, some OBP skills and raw power that should play in the 20-plus home run range with a chance for more.

The Year Ahead: Dom Santana has a chance to emerge as a legit first-division power bat, but the hit tool has some holes and the next level will help to expose them. The raw power is very big, and he won’t need to hit a ton to let the dog eat in game action, but his-decision making will need to improve or Double-A pitchers will have a field day getting him to chase.

Major league ETA: 2014

8. Rio Ruiz

Position: 3B
DOB: 05/22/1994
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 4th round, 2012 draft, Bishop Amat Memorial High School (La Puente, CA)
2012 Stats: .271/.361/.412 in GCL (23 games); .220/.291/.380 in short-season Appalachian league (15 games)
The Tools: Plus potential hit/power; plus-plus arm

What Happened in 2012: A two-sport star who fell to the 4th round because of a commitment to USC and a blood clot-related issue in his right shoulder that forced him out of spring action, Ruiz could end up being the steal of the draft for the Astros, as the sweet-swinging third baseman has all the physical tools to develop into an impact major leaguer.

Strengths: Strong and athletic; easy 7 arm; good actions in the field; good glove; big power potential; good hit tool projection, with easy and fluid swing; has a knack for barreling balls; natural hitter.

Weaknesses: Overall body of work is limited because of injury and multi-sport profile in high school; has fringy speed and only average range at third base; health issues like blood clots in the throwing arm scare people.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; medical red flag; limited experience because of injury-shortened senior season; lots of unknowns about his pro game.

Fantasy Future: Has big offensive ceiling, with 6/6 potential on hit/power. Could be .275 hitter with 25 homers and a good defensive profile at third base.

The Year Ahead: 2013 will be a big year for both Ruiz and those tasked with evaluating the 18-year-old. With a sweet swing and a feel for hitting, Ruiz has a future impact bat, and his defensive skill-set, though not enhanced by plus speed or base-to-base range, have all the components to be solid-average or better. The Astros can afford to take it slow and low with Ruiz, and if he can stay healthy and on the field, we should have a much better feel for the prospect after a full year of professional ball.

Major league ETA: 2017

9. Lance McCullers

Position: RHP
DOB: 10/02/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Jesuit High School (Tampa, FL)
2012 Stats: 1.64 era (11 IP, 10 H, 12 K, 2BB) at GCL; 4.80 era (15 IP, 10 H, 17 K, 10 BB) at short-season Appalachian League.
The Tools: 7 potential fastball; 6 curveball

What Happened in 2012: Popped in the supplemental first-round and signed for nearly twice the suggested slot amount, McCullers has the type of raw stuff that had many in the industry suggesting he was a top-10 overall talent.

Strengths: Super-sized arm strength; fastball can already work in the 92-96 range, and when he needs to go get it, he can touch the near-elite range; curveball is a hard, nasty pitch, with big velocity and intense action; easy plus projection; could end up a 7; plus athlete; baseball bloodlines and game IQ.

Weaknesses: Struggles with consistency; will lose his delivery and watch the fastball velocity fall under plus; curveball will lose its bite; changeup is fringy at present; command profile has red flags because of effort in delivery and tendency to overthrow.

Overall Future Potential: 7; late-inning reliever (closer)

Explanation of Risk: High risk; mechanical concerns already prompting whispers about a bullpen future.

Fantasy Future: McCullers has closer’s stuff and the mentality for high-leverage situations. If he does in fact move to the bullpen further down the developmental line, he should be able to rack up saves and strikeouts. As a starter, he will have the stuff to miss bats, but the efficiency of the delivery will determine how effective he is.

The Year Ahead: McCullers will continue to refine his mechanics, hoping his plus athleticism allows him to make adjustments and maintain his delivery. His prospect status is very hard to determine at this stage of the game, as he can look like a top-five prospect in the system in one outing, and a fringe top-20 guy in the next. His long-term role might be in the ‘pen, but for now, McCullers will continue to develop as a starter, hoping the maturity of the command and the changeup will push him up these ranks with every passing start.

Major league ETA: 2016

10. Michael Foltynewicz

Position: RHP
DOB: 10/07/1991
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Minooka High School (Minooka, IL)
2012 Stats: 3.14 era (152 IP, 145 H, 125 K, 62 BB) at Low-A Lexington
The Tools: Plus low-90s fastball; solid-average secondary arsenal

What Happened in 2012: After a disappointing full-season debut in 2011, the then-20-year-old Foltynewicz repeated the circuit and took a big step forward on the field, improving his statistics across the board.

Strengths: Big, physical frame; smooth delivery and easy ball release; fastball works in the low-90s and can touch higher; shows a good curveball with some depth, and a good changeup with some fading action; in two and half seasons, has already logged 330 innings.

Weaknesses: Lacks a nasty, put-away pitch at present; command profile is only average; fastball runs into too many barrels; both secondary offerings need full-grade jumps to be plus; ceiling isn’t crazy despite first-round pedigree.

Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 3 starter at the major-league level

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; lacks elite upside, but has good floor; body was built for logging innings; arsenal has some maturity for age.

Fantasy Future: His ceiling is a workhorse innings eater, the kind of pitcher who gives you 200-plus innings and a league-average ERA. He doesn’t project to miss many bats, but if he can limit damage, he could rack up wins on a good team.

The Year Ahead: Foltynewicz has the type of stuff to pitch at the Double-A level right now, which isn’t to say he has the stuff to excel in that environment from the opening bell. Sending a hittable pitcher to the California League could be a recipe for disaster, and the type of move that crushes the confidence of a steady pitcher. Folty needs to refine his command and his secondary profile, but all the pieces are in place for a quality major-league arm. Any kind of positive jump in his arsenal–any added electricity—has the potential to move the needle on his ultimate projection.

Major league ETA: 2014

Prospects on the Rise

1.     RHP Adrian Houser: Just missed inclusion in the top 10; great size; good arm strength; works a lively fastball in the low-90s and shows good feel for a sharp curveball. He could easily be a top-10 prospect in the system with a successful season in full-season ball.

2.     RHP Vince Velasquez: Prototypical size; a very loose and fluid arm; works in the low-90s with the fastball, but several sources think he has more velocity ready to come on; improving secondary mix; could jump up list if velo spikes and command holds.

3.     OF Teoscar Hernandez: 20-year-old outfielder with plus bat speed and a good defensive profile in center field; the 6’2’’, 180-lb. Dominican isn’t a household name, and it will take a very strong full-season campaign in 2012 to jump ahead of his classmates in the top 10, but scouts like the kid, and if you like following deep sleepers, Teoscar is a name worth remembering.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013)

1.     RHP Paul Clemens: Not the sexiest of prospects, but an arm that could help the major-league club in middle relief in 2013.

2.     LHP Brett Oberholtzer: Big left-hander with average stuff, but he can throw strikes and log innings, so don’t be shocked to see him attempting to log those innings at the major-league level at some point during the season.

3.     OF Robbie Grossman: Acquired from Pittsburgh in the Wandy Rodriguez trade, Grossman doesn’t always do a good job convincing the industry that he has the profile of a major-league regular, but thin options and a clean bill of heath could propel Grossman to the big stage at some point in 2013.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)
1. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
2. Carlos Correa, SS
3. George Springer, OF
4. Jose Altuve, 2b
5. Delino DeShields, Jr. 2b
6. Jonathan Villar, SS
7. Jordan Lyles, rhp
8. Jarred Cosart, rhp
9. Domingo Santana, of
10. Rio Ruiz, 3b

The Astros finished 2012 with the worst record in baseball, totaling fewer wins (55-107) than any team since the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks (51-111).  Exacerbating the organization’s short-term outlook is the utter lack of young impact talent on the 25-man roster.  Altuve has worked to tighten his approach at the plate, improving his overall offensive production and giving the Astros front office reason to believe he can still develop into a legit first-division regular at the four-spot.  On the mound, Lyles saw an increase in velocity across the board, as well as a little more consistency in stuff, but continues to offer up too many mistake pitches to opportunistic major-league lineups for him to currently project to more than a solid no. 4.  On the positive side, this summer saw the ‘Stros jettison older talent for a sizeable collection of minor-league depth and potential role players, including potential 2013 contributors Robbie Grossman and Asher WojciechowskiJason Castro, Brett Wallace, JD Martinez and Matt Dominguez likely all profile best as second-division starters, with Jimmy Paredes offering up some value as a utility player.  –Nick Faleris

A Parting Thought…Although built primarily on depth--rather than with cathedral planks of high-ceiling talent--the Astros have made incredible strides to stock their system with players who have legit major-league profiles and strong chances to achieve that outcome.

Link to last year's Astros rankings

*Special thanks to Nick Faleris, Bradley Ankrom, Mark Anderson, and Jason Collette for their input and influence on this list.

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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