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November 4, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

Prospect rankings primer
Last year's Astros list

The Top Ten

  1. SS Carlos Correa
  2. CF George Springer
  3. RHP Mark Appel
  4. RHP Mike Foltynewicz
  5. 1B Jonathan Singleton
  6. RHP Vincent Velasquez
  7. RHP Lance McCullers
  8. RF Domingo Santana
  9. 3B Rio Ruiz
  10. RHP Michael Feliz

1. Carlos Correa
Position: SS
DOB: 09/22/1994
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Puerto Rican Baseball Academy (Gurabo, PR)
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #26 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .320/.405/.467 at Low-A Quad Cities (117 games)
The Tools: 7 arm; 6+ raw; 6 glove; 6 potential hit

What Happened in 2013: Correa emerged as a potential superstar, showing four tools with impact potential, all from a premium position on the diamond.

Strengths: 80-grade makeup; high-end tool projections with present skills; advanced approach to the game; can make quick adjustments; plus potential hit; power could be bigger than projected; above-average glove; well-above-average arm; actions and instincts can keep him at shortstop.

Weaknesses: Body could outgrow shortstop; run is average at best; range at shortstop dependent on instincts/first step; swing can get long at times; can swing through velocity in the zone; power potential is a big debate (could be 5, could be 7).

Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star player

Realistic Role: 6; first-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; can make a case for low risk based on makeup and present skills; very high floor.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: One of the top fantasy prospects in the game, Correa is a potential perennial first-round talent, especially if he does stick at shortstop long term. Think Troy Tulowitzki without the constant injury risk, from a statistical perspective. Even if he does move to the hot corner, he can still be a top performer from that position as well.

The Year Ahead: After a year of steady development at one level, Correa looks ready to take another big step forward in 2014, with a very good chance of playing in Double-A early and perhaps even reaching the majors by the end of the season. It’s aggressive and perhaps unnecessary, but Correa is already the best shortstop in the organization, and despite being 19 years old, he could hold his own at the higher levels because of the elite makeup.

Major league ETA: Late 2014

2. George Springer
Position: CF
DOB: 09/19/1989
Height/Weight: 6’4” 200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
Previous Ranking: #3 (Org), #55 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .297/399/.579 at Double-A Corpus Christi (73 games), .311/.425/.626 at Triple-A Oklahoma City (62 games)
The Tools: 6 power; 6 glove; 6 run; 6 arm

What Happened in 2013: Springer exploded in 2013, ripping 37 bombs over two stops in the high minors, and positioning himself as the Astros’ center fielder of the future.

Strengths: Lively power; should achieve at least solid-avg to plus game power; multi-dimensional player; brings plus run to offense/defense; glove in center should end up a 6; arm is weapon.

Weaknesses: Swing-and-miss concerns; approach can get loose; two-strike approach can lack adjustment; tendency to miss in the zone; hit tool might play below-average; could limit some of the power potential.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: High 5; above-average

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; ready for major leagues

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Potential fantasy stud, even if he ends up as a .250 hitter. Springer is one of the few prospects in baseball with 30/30 upside, although he’s more likely to reach the plateau on the steals side. There’s certainly concern in points league with the strikeout rate, but don’t make too much of an adjustment for it.

The Year Ahead: Springer is ready for Houston, but some sources aren’t sold that his hit tool/approach will be conducive for sustainable success at the highest level, at least not right away. Springer is a more electric version of Chris Young, with similar issues with the hit tool that could limit the overall utility of the power. The defensive profile and speed will give his bat a very long leash, but if he doesn’t learn to make adjustments at the plate, especially when he’s down in the count, major league arms will exploit him at will and it could lead to a very high strikeout total.

Major league ETA: 2014

3. Mark Appel
Position: RHP
DOB: 07/15/1991
Height/Weight:6’5” 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st Round, 2013 draft, Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: 3.60 ERA (5 IP, 6 H, 6 K, 0 BB) at Short-Season Tri-City, 3.82 ERA (33 IP, 30 H, 27 K, 9 BB) at Low-A Quad Cities
The Tools: 7 FB; 6 SL; 6 CH

What Happened in 2013: After being selected 1:1 in the amateur draft, Appel made 10 starts over two levels, finishing the season with an impressive run in the Midwest League.

Strengths: Clean delivery; fastball works 92-96; can touch higher; thrown with good angle; can offer two-seamer look with good arm-side movement; slider is a weapon pitch; can flash plus-plus potential in the mid-80s; good tilt and dive; bat-misser when it’s on; changeup works solid-avg to plus; low 80s with tumble; good command projection.

Weaknesses: Fastball can lack deception; seems to find barrels; both slider and changeup flash plus (or better) but can play lower; struggles to bring every pitch to the table in the same game; aggressiveness in the zone needs work; can pitch with passivity (a few sources questioned his fortitude on the mound).

Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: 6; no. 2/3 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; very high floor

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: While he may not be someone you want anchoring your pitching staff, Appel is as certain of a bet as there is from the 2013 draft class to return usable fantasy value. He’s likely to offer solid production across the board, with more of a focus on ratios than strikeouts.

The Year Ahead: Appel is basically major-league ready, but I assume he starts in Double-A before finding his way to Houston by the summer. As far as pitching prospects go, Appel is probably the safest bet in the minors to develop into a quality mid-rotation arm, with the ceiling offering a little more to dream on. That’s a very safe and comforting reality. However, the knock on Appel (from some) is that the ceiling in question isn’t that of a true no. 1 starter, a projection usually associated with a player drafted first overall.

Major league ETA: 2014

4. Mike Foltynewicz Position: RHP
DOB: 10/07/1991
Height/Weight: 6’4” 200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Minooka HS (Minooka, IL)
Previous Ranking: #10 (Org)
2013 Stats: 3.81 ERA (26 IP, 31 H, 29 K, 14 BB) at High-A Lancaster, 2.87 ERA (103.1 IP, 75 H, 95 K, 52 BB) at Double-A Corpus Christi
The Tools: 8 FB potential; shows 5+ breaking ball

What Happened in 2013: After a slow and low developmental start to his career, which included 53 starts at the Low-A level, Foltynewicz’s elite velocity finally pushed him up the ladder, as he finished the season at Double-A and put himself in contention for a major-league role at some point in 2014.

Strengths: Huge fastball; works in the upper 90s and can touch over 100; big, strong, durable frame; could horse innings; shows multiple breaking ball looks; both can flash; intimidation factor.

Weaknesses: Command is below average; fastball can work up and lose effectiveness; lacks a true wipeout breaking ball; changeup is below average; gets too firm and lacks movement.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no 2/3 starter

Realistic Role: High 5; late-innings reliever (closer role)

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; he can throw 102 mph, but can be one-dimensional.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The chasm of starting pitching at the major-league level for Houston works in his favor, as Foltynewicz should be given every opportunity to prove himself as a starter. If he makes it, it’s a high strikeout profile with some give back in WHIP. If he doesn’t, there’s still plenty of opportunity for him to redeem himself by racking up saves.

The Year Ahead: Foltynewicz has the body and the fastball to project high up in a major-league rotation, but the secondary arsenal will flash only above-average potential and the command profile is below average with only an average projection. If everything clicks, he’s a rotation beast who can log innings and pitch off an elite fastball, but the likely role will come in relief, where the shortcomings in the arsenal can be somewhat muted.

Major league ETA: 2014

5. Jonathan Singleton Position: 1B
DOB: 09/18/1991
Height/Weight: 6’2” 235 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 8th round, 2009 draft, Millikan HS (Long Beach, CA)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #25 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .286/.400/.810 at Low-A Quad Cities (6 games), .263/.396/.526 at Double-A Corpus Christi (11 games), .220/.340/.347 at Triple-A Oklahoma City (73 games)
The Tools: 5 potential hit; 7 raw

What Happened in 2013: Singleton was popped for a drug of abuse, and when he arrived back on the field after 50 games off his body wore the effects of the layoff, as the young first baseman could best be defined as “thick.”

Strengths: Big raw power; 7 raw; game power should play to plus; generates excellent bat speed; hands are impressive; big torque in the swing, but shows bat control; has a plan at the plate; knows balls/strikes.

Weaknesses: Hit tool receives mixed reviews; struggles against arm-side pitching; power utility will be limited by contact ability; body got sloppy in layoff; speaks to iffy makeup; limited to first base defensively; below-average arm; doesn’t move well.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; second-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; drug suspension; makeup concerns

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Despite the step back in 2013, Singleton still maintains the same fantasy upside he did prior to the suspension—it’s the risk that has changed. But with power down across the game--only seven first basemen hit 25 homers in 2013--he certainly is still worth investing in. Singleton should have no issue working himself into a run-producing spot in the Astros’ lineup.

The Year Ahead: Singleton was knocking on the door of the majors before he was suspended for marijuana and ate himself into a new physique. If he wants it, the opportunity is waiting for him at the highest level, but the 22-year-old has to dedicate himself to the cause. The power potential is there for a middle-of-the-order presence, but the likely role is a second-division player who flashes his potential but never quite lives up to the hype.

Major league ETA: 2014

6. Vincent Velasquez Position: RHP
DOB: 06/07/1992
Height/Weight: 6’3” 203 lbs.
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2010 draft, Garey HS (Garey, CA)
Previous Ranking: On The Rise
2013 Stats: 3.19 ERA (110 IP, 90 H, 123 K, 33 BB) at Low-A Quad Cities, 6.14 ERA (14.2 IP, 14 H, 19 K, 8 BB) at High-A Lancaster
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6+ CH; 5 potential CB

What Happened in 2013: Making his full-season debut, Velasquez erased all doubts about his post-Tommy John arm, pitching his way to the California League on the back of the potent fastball/changeup combo.

Strengths: Really crisp fastball; easy plus velocity in the 92-95 range; routinely works higher; holds velocity; clean arm action; changeup is a plus pitch at present; some sources project it higher; excellent arm-speed deception; major-league-quality pitch; good overall feel for craft; good command profile.

Weaknesses: Breaking ball not very impressive; several reports had it below average at present and didn’t project it over fringe-average; success in lower minors on the back of fastball location and velocity in combination with big boy changeup; needs full-grade breaking ball improvement.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; Tommy John surgery in September 2010

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: High probability of sticking in a starting role, but whether he’s a back-end fantasy starter or no. 2/3 type almost all depends on where the curveball ends up. Most likely to be strong in WHIP and good everywhere else, but not elite. Lower fantasy upside than Appel/Foltynewicz, but strong profile, especially in deeper leagues.

The Year Ahead: The development of the breaking ball is key for Velasquez’s long-term success, although his fastball/changeup combo is strong enough to carry him to the majors, even with a fringe curveball. Depending on the source, projections on the present offering range from below average to average, with one source suggesting it could develop into a plus pitch next season. If that’s the case, Velasquez’s placement on this list could look foolish at this time next year.

Major league ETA: 2015

7. Lance McCullersPosition: RHP
DOB: 10/02/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Jesuit High School (Tampa, FL)
Previous Ranking: #9 (Org)
2013 Stats: 3.18 ERA (104.2 IP, 92 H, 117 K, 49 BB) at Low-A Quad Cites
The Tools: 7 FB; 7 potential CB

What Happened in 2013: The former supplemental first-round pick made his full-season debut, logging 19 starts and missing more than a bat an inning.

Strengths: Plus-plus arm strength; easy cheese; works comfortably in the low-mid-90s; can go get more; power breaking ball is close to a plus pitch at present; projects higher; big-league-quality bat misser; competitor on the mound; attacks hitters.

Weaknesses: Delivery isn’t super easy or clean; tendency to lose some of the stuff later in games; changeup is below average; several sources don’t think it plays above fringe-average at maturity; command is spotty; lacks plus projection.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter

Realistic Role: High 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; has the FB/CB to reach realistic role

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If McCullers does make it as a starter, the strikeouts will leave fantasy owners happy (as he could get up to one per inning), but his ratios could be a drag on his value. If not, he should be in the mix for saves down the road.

The Year Ahead: After a strong full-season campaign last year, McCullers could reach Double-A at some point in 2014, perhaps faster than expected given some of the developmental hurdles associated with the California League. The fastball/curve combo is intense, but the rotation package won’t come together without improved command of the arsenal and a better changeup. The cambio can take time and he’s still early in the process, so there is no need to move him into the ‘pen right now. But his delivery is what scouts point to when it comes to the bullpen projection, not the inability to develop a playable changeup.

Major league ETA: 2015

8. Domingo SantanaPosition: RF
DOB: 08/05/1992
Height/Weight: 6’5” 230 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #7 (Org)
2013 Stats: .252/.345/.498 at Double-A Corpus Christi (112 games)
The Tools: 6+ power potential; 6+ arm

What Happened in 2013: A 20-year-old for most of the season, Santana held his own at the Double-A level, hitting 50 extra-base hits in 112 games, including 25 bombs.

Strengths: Big boy raw power; can launch tape-measure shots; leveraged swing that can produce very loud contact, especially when he can get extended on balls out over the plate; can handle right field; easy plus arm; good athlete for his size.

Weaknesses: Hit tool is below average; lacks much projection; tremendous strength, but swing can get heavy and pitchers can work him inside; lots of swing-and-miss; hit tool could limit power output.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: Low 5; second-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; power is legit

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: A 30-homer hitter these days is an endangered species of sorts, regardless of batting average risk or positional eligibility. Due to the issues with his hit tool, he’s most valuable in OBP leagues and carries some strikeout drag in points formats.

The Year Ahead: Santana has a lot of supporters in the scouting community, and those who really believe in him see a Nelson Cruz type; big raw, suspect hit tool, awkward at times in his routes but a good athlete for the size, with a very good arm. Santana has a tendency to expand his zone and help pitchers out in counts, so he will need to continue to refine and learn to stay back on off-speed offerings if he wants to let the full potential of his power out. He could reach the majors in 2014, although a healthy dose of Triple-A off-speed stuff could benefit the 21-year-old’s development at the plate.

Major league ETA: Late 2014

9. Rio RuizPosition: 3B
DOB: 05/22/1994
Height/Weight: 6’2” 215 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 4th round, 2012 draft, Bishop Amat Memorial HS (La Puente, CA)
Previous Ranking: #8 (Org)
2013 Stats: .260/.335/.430 at Low-A Quad Cities (114 games)
The Tools: 6/6 potential hit/power; 6 arm

What Happened in 2013: It was a tale of two seasons, as Ruiz struggled mightily in the first half before finding his stroke in the second, slugging a robust .520 with 34 extra-base hits.

Strengths: Sweet stroke from the left side; clean and quick to the ball; generates good bat speed; shows plus power potential; good approach at the plate; will work counts; shows recognition skills; strong arm at third.

Weaknesses: Glove at third is below average; might not get to average; lacks range; below-average run; mixed reviews on the hit tool; several sources really like it; others not sold it’s a plus tool (more average at best).

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division third baseman

Realistic Role: 5; second-division first baseman

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; injury history: blood clots

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: In shallower dynasty leagues, Ruiz is exactly the kind of player you want to take a chance on toward the end of your minor-league roster. The upside is there for a long-term solution at a corner in any league, but if he doesn’t work out from either a health or developmental standpoint, there’s always another train coming.

The Year Ahead: The second half of Ruiz’s season showed his offensive potential, and a move to the friendly confines of the California League could help inflate his numbers and elevate his prospect stock. The glove needs work, and some aren’t sold he sticks at the position long term. But if the bat is legit--meaning he shows the ability to hit for both average and power--his defensive home won’t be a big issue.

Major league ETA: Late 2015

10. Michael FelizPosition: RHP
DOB: 09/28/1993
Height/Weight: 6’4” 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2010, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: 1.96 ERA (69 IP, 53 H, 78 K, 13 BB) at Short-Season Tri-City
The Tools: 7 FB; 6 potential SL

What Happened in 2013: Feliz shoved in the New York-Penn League, using his lively mid-90s fastball to miss 78 bats in 69 short-season innings.

Strengths: Plus-plus arm strength; fastball works in the 94-96 range, touching 98 with big wiggle; slider shows plus potential; big, strong frame; has some feel for craft; strike thrower.

Weaknesses: Control ahead of command; changeup is below average at present; sources not high on changeup projection; slider flashes but can get loose and slurvy.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; great stuff but short-season resume

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Pitching prospects who haven’t yet reached full-season ball are always a risky proposition, but when you bet, bet on velocity. Right now, Feliz doesn’t project as a huge strikeout guy if he sticks in the rotation, but there’s plenty of time for that to change as he develops.

The Year Ahead: Feliz is the type of arm who will need to prove he is a starter all the way up the chain, mostly because of the fastball-first arsenal that features an okay slider and an immature changeup. Feliz shows a lot of feel for pitching, and the delivery is pretty easy given the fact that his fastball can touch 98 mph, so it’s not a given that he ends up in the bullpen. But its also easy to dream of that explosive fastball in short bursts, and if you add an improved slider to the mix, that’s an impact arm at the major-league level.

Major league ETA: 2016

Notable Omission (Delino DeShields Jr.): DeShields will likely be a featured prospect on most Astros-specific lists, and I’ve even seen his name kicked around as a top 100 prospect in the minors. The reports I’ve received throughout the season haven’t painted the best picture of the player, a direct contrast to the positive statistical output that will no doubt influence his placement on most lists. The biggest complaint from scouts has to do with makeup, or more specifically, visible effort and maturity displayed on the field. DeShields might be a plus-plus runner, but his low-energy approach to the game can rub some the wrong way, and almost every single source I spoke to suggested he would fall short of his ceiling.

Prospects on the Rise:

1.OF Teoscar Hernandez: On the list for the second straight season, the young outfielder had a strong case for inclusion in the top 10, but fell short because of the strength of the system. With a good glove at a premium spot on the diamond (center), good feel for hitting, and an infectious approach to the game, Hernandez will likely emerge as a name prospect in 2014.

2.LHP Reymin Guduan: I’m a sucker for southpaw velocity, and Guduan stands in elite company when it comes to arm strength from the left side. A relatively unknown prospect-–he has only 2 1/3 innings above the complex level—the 21-year-old Dominican can pump upper-90s heat like it’s a common outcome. Relief prospects don’t offer much, especially when they will be 22 coming into the season with a very limited professional record at the full-season level. But 6’4’’ lefties who can touch 100 mph on the radar gun are always worth keeping a very close eye on.

3.RHP Andrew Thurman: The 40th overall pick in the 2013 draft, UC Irvine’s Friday starter is a solid and safe prospect, one who will likely progress quickly in the system and land in the top 10 next season. The projection isn’t going to change the fortunes of the franchise, but with a solid-average fastball, two passable breaking balls, a good changeup, and sharp command, Thurman could eventually settle in as a no. 4 starter at the major league level.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute in the majors in 2014)

1. RHP Nick Tropeano: With a solid fastball/changeup combo, the former fifth-round pick can miss bats and force weak contact. He’s a backend type at the highest level, but he has the delivery, the body, and the arsenal to contribute to a major-league rotation in 2014.

2. C Max Stassi: Stassi’s bat really took off in the Texas League, producing 38 extra-base hits in 76 games. The league and home environment certainly played a role in the offensive explosion, but don’t overlook the fact that Stassi was finally healthy, as nagging injuries have slowed the former fourth-round pick’s rise to the majors. With good receiving skills and some punch in his stick, Stassi could eventually carve out a career as a major-league regular.

3. OF Leo Heras: The Astros jumped into the Mexican League market this summer and snatched one of the league’s best hitters, a 5’9’’ outfielder from the Diablos Rojos of Mexico City. The 23-year-old isn’t a physical specimen, but with a good approach, bat speed and a balanced stroke from the left side, Heras has the skill set to hit at the highest level. He should get a look at some point in 2014.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/88 or later)

  1. Carlos Correa
  2. George Springer
  3. Mark Appel
  4. Jarred Cosart
  5. Mike Foltynewicz
  6. Jose Altuve
  7. Jonathan Singleton
  8. Vincent Velasquez
  9. Lance McCullers
  10. Domingo Santana

Twelve months further into the rebuild and the Astros have continued to grow their young depth, both at the minor-league and major-league levels. The 2013 draft saw Stanford ace Mark Appel, a Houston-area product, added to list of potential impact talents on the farm. While Appel is a safe bet to stick as a starter, the other prospects on the U25 list include three power arms​-–Foltynewicz, Velasquez, and McCullers-–who could ultimately take the mound in the first or in the late innings, depending on how their developmental processes continues to unfold. At the major-league level, Jarred Cosart continues to boast big velocity, but did little in his first 10 major-league starts to alleviate concerns over his below-average command and inconsistent secondary execution. Those shortcomings likely limit his ceiling as a starter to a solid no. 3, and ultimately the best fit could be as a power late-inning arm. Brad Peacock, Jordan Lyles, and Brett Oberholtzer could each provide value in the back of a rotation, with Peacock possessing the best raw stuff of the three, but a penchant for too often working flat and up.

On the positional side, Correa and Springer are true potential impact talents with offensive upside and a chance to stick up the middle. Singleton will look to reestablish his pre-suspension stock (and physique) with an eye toward a first-division ceiling. Santana carries thunder in his stick, with in-game realization at the upper levels the largest hurdle to overcome. The remainder of the current crop is capable but underwhelming. Matt Dominguez launched 21 bombs out of an everyday gig, but his inability to produce consistent hard contact, or get on base above a .300 clip, cuts into the value of that power production. Max Stassi is an interesting name to watch as a strong defender behind the dish with the potential for double-digit home runs when he arrives. Jonathan Villar flashes some aptitude in the field but has yet to show the ability to tighten his defensive game to the point he should be depended upon regularly at the six spot, particularly with a limited offensive profile. Without further growth he could be limited to a utility/pinch-runner role down the line. J.D. Martinez, L.J. Hoes, and Robbie Grossman each project as potential second-division starter/fourth outfielder types, with Hoes possessing the best hit tool of the three but light power for a corner. –Nick J. Faleris

A Parting Thought: The system is deep—and thanks to another 1:1 pick on the way and more amateur bonus money to spend than any other team, the quality of talent in the system is only going to improve and push the Astros toward the top of all farm systems in the game.

***

Show your #want for the Astros here:

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

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Houston Astros,  Minor Leagues

68 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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hmamis


I was surprised that you never mentioned Wojciechowski.

harry

Nov 04, 2013 04:46 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

He could have been a factor on the farm, but he wasn't in the discussion for the top ten.

Nov 04, 2013 04:53 AM
 
BP staff member Jason Wojciechowski
BP staff

ME TOO

Nov 04, 2013 21:58 PM
 
sitdancer

And so it begins...

Looking forward to another great series! Thanks already to everybody involved.

Nov 04, 2013 04:52 AM
rating: 10
 
mrenick

First and foremost, great job. Thank you to everybody who contributed in putting this together.

It seems to me that this system has evolved in a short time (a year or so) from one with that was essentially a barren wasteland with regards to pitching arms to one that now has several exciting pitchers to keep an eye on. It feels like much of the pitching started showing promise over the last season. I hope the development continues and the Astros manage to get some top of the rotation starters out of this and not just a deep bullpen.

Does the prospect feel like this system overall is a substantially deeper than just one year ago? I'm not referring to influx of talent from the 2013 draft class. I'm asking if there were a lot of guys who development seemed to kick off over the last season?

Nov 04, 2013 05:00 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Good combination of talent procurement (draft, trade, international free agency) and talent development.

Nov 04, 2013 05:07 AM
 
Behemoth

Very impressed by the high quality work once again. Many thanks to all those who contribute to the top 10s. They are probably the best thing about being a subscriber here.

A couple of quick questions, if I can. Firstly, I wondered if you'd be willing and able to give us some tool numbers for Teoscar Hernandez, and secondly, I'd be interested in your thoughts on Japhet Amador.

Nov 04, 2013 05:09 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Jason Collette
BP staff

"Behemoth" asking about Amador is awesome. I saw him play on Friday in Hohokam & was the largest player I've seen on a field since Calvin Pickering. He left before the 2nd inning so he wasn't out there long.

Nov 04, 2013 07:40 AM
 
JusitnG

an interesting mix of #want, #sparkle, and (Singleton-driven) #slack.

Nov 04, 2013 05:10 AM
rating: 1
 
JoshC77

Thanks for making Monday morning a lot brighter than it has been in a long while....something about the first Top-10 of the off-season just makes me smile.

That said, the Astros have done a remarkable job gathering talent (can they develop these guys at the major league level, that is the question?). That said, several of these young arms currently grade out as role-6 players, which is a very good thing. However, could one of these guys jump up to a role-7 if something unexpected happens? If so, who is the most likely candidate?

One other question: while comps can be rather inaccurate, they can sometimes be of use as a "quick and dirty assessment" if thought is put into it. So, I am thinking of George Springer, a toolsy guy with some flaws. His future game sounds rather similar to several toolsy guys that never quite became big-time studs.

You already mentioned Chris Young, who is similar. But two guys crossed my mind; Reggie Sanders and Mike Cameron. Cameron's glove was way better than it sounds like Springer's is; so I don't buy that. Sanders was a solid all-around guy; okay average, good power, slightly better speed, and solid (if unspectacular) defender. What do you think?

Nov 04, 2013 05:23 AM
rating: 0
 
Dave from Pittsburgh

Interesting that you have Appel slotted as a number 2 starter, this isn't the first time that people have spoken of Appel's lack of emotion on the mound, should that really hurt him? What does it matter how he acts if he keeps getting good results?

Nov 04, 2013 05:37 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

It's not about his emotions as they are displayed on the mound as much as its a certain passivity that some have noticed as it relates to how he attacks hitters and responds to situations .

Nov 04, 2013 06:09 AM
 
Kevin Brown

So is it safe to say that the #GoldsteinEffect is kicking in? Should we make all of our front office people wear fedoras?

Nov 04, 2013 05:55 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Fedoras are never a good idea.

Nov 04, 2013 06:10 AM
 
John Carter

It is nice to see this coming out already, thanks.

Nov 04, 2013 05:57 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Wanted to drop a huge thanks to Craig Goldstein for assistance with the data/bio. He made my life a lot easier. It's really appreciated. Also big thanks to the editors and tech side for making it all possible and pretty.

Nov 04, 2013 06:28 AM
 
Kevin Brown

Craig is a great dude. Congrats to everyone who worked on the list, it came out great.

Nov 04, 2013 07:27 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Thanks Kevin. Much appreciated!

Nov 04, 2013 08:23 AM
 
Blackmax

So no more Maxwell's Silver Hammer but not quite Here Comes the Sun?

Nov 04, 2013 06:58 AM
rating: 0
 
jedjethro

Heras was at least mentioned ... Amador's exclusion seems conspicuous. I know his flaws and weight make him somewhat of an unusual flyer for a team to take, but is he that poor of a prospect?

Nov 04, 2013 07:19 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Just because he wasn't mentioned doesn't mean he is considered a poor prospect. He doesn't belong in the same class as Heras and he's not a top ten type. Only so many spots to go around.

Nov 04, 2013 07:53 AM
 
zellenthal

I believe there is a typo under Appel's strengths.

Says:
changeup works solid-avg to plus; low 90s with tumble; good command projection.

I assume you mean low 80s?

Nov 04, 2013 07:53 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Yes. Thanks

Nov 04, 2013 07:54 AM
 
DeathSpeculum

if chris carter were a year younger, where (roughly) would he fit on the 25 and under list?

Nov 04, 2013 08:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Didn't put any thought into it since he wasn't eligible. Maybe consideration for the back of the U25, but he doesn't make enough contact right now. The full profile plays fringe second division regular for me, but closer to bench bat. The plus-plus raw is big, but when the rest of the profile is so limited it ties an anchor to the upside.

Nov 04, 2013 09:03 AM
 
dwinning

If this was about the 2003 Tigers, where would Carlos Pena fit on the 25 and under list?

Nov 04, 2013 09:10 AM
rating: 8
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Stretching my memory, but I'd imagine top half, behind Bonderman?

Nov 04, 2013 09:18 AM
 
Pat Folz

Got curious about his prospect history so I went to look and found out he was originally a Texas Ranger?! Drafted 10th in 1998.

Nov 04, 2013 11:17 AM
rating: 0
 
bobbygrace

Do some of the head shots remind anyone else of elementary school photos in the 1980s? My mom would never pay extra for the Cool Blue or the Electric Green.

Nov 04, 2013 08:48 AM
rating: 2
 
dougkm

I was a little surprised that Preston Tucker did not get a mention. He has hit at all levels, and seems to have a good make up. I think he will make it ahead of some of the more hyped prospects.

Nov 04, 2013 09:14 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Tucker doesn't profile as a major league regular, and it would be hard to justify ranking him above players with a higher projection. I wouldn't be shocked if he turned into a decent bench player; he has a good approach and some pop. But he's not a top ten talent.

Nov 04, 2013 09:43 AM
 
Shawnykid23

Tremendous stuff. Love this series, it's well worth the subscription price (and then some)!

Nov 04, 2013 09:16 AM
rating: 2
 
John Douglass

If The Beatles were still under 25, would they still be included in the series this year?

Nov 04, 2013 09:36 AM
rating: 4
 
psblcws

Usually the "25 and under" section includes a discussion of the major leaguers and why/how they fit into the list where you put them. I missed that here ... it would have been interesting to hear your take on Altuve.

Nov 04, 2013 10:08 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Sorry, touched on Cosart but passed over Altuve. He's flirting with positive defensive value at an up the middle position and has shown an ability to be an asset on the bases and with the bat in previous years. While his production did not drop much, it was enough to make me consider whether or not to drop him on the list. Because his previous production was more in line with the projected player profile I saw when watching him in the minors, he bought himself a year of grace. But his game only plays to that fringe first division level if he's doing the little things well (baserunning, getting on base, fielding, etc.). If he does those things merely adequately, the profile drops a notch and he starts to look more like a placeholder than a long term solution.

Hope that helps -- sorry for the oversight.

Nov 04, 2013 10:16 AM
 
Plucky

As a long suffering Astros fan, I'm thrilled to see a lot of 2014 ETAs on this list. Question about those though- how many who of these 2014 ETAs are because of the MLB talent level (or lack thereof), or is this all purely readiness-driven?

Nov 04, 2013 10:10 AM
rating: 1
 
seabass77

Wait a minute, long suffering? The late 90s and early 2000s were really good for Houson.

Sincerely,
Milwaukee Brewers fan

Nov 09, 2013 14:38 PM
rating: 2
 
Plucky

They were indeed very good, but there is something particularly painful in watching a well-run franchise slide year-by-year until becoming the worst-run franchise in baseball, and then even after cleaning house in the F/O, watching them bottom out with a 3-year stretch of .333 ball

Nov 13, 2013 06:21 AM
rating: 0
 
AaronSF

For Appel, you mention he struggles to bring all his pitches in same game. Is this a mechanics issue, or is it simply about consistency?

Nov 04, 2013 10:10 AM
rating: 0
 
russel58

I dont really buy the notion that the Astros have done such a great job drafting. It reminds me of the Rays when they had top picks each yr they were labeled as the "smart organization" and now that they pick later the in rd, their draft have been awful. Taking the #1 player in each draft will boost any system regardless of how progressive the front office may be.

The Astros may be really good at all this but if they were picking 15-20 yr in and yr out we wouldnt be talking about the 1-2 best system in baseball, IMO

This isnt meant to start a war but more of a discussion starter

Nov 04, 2013 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Outside of Correa and Appel (1:1) the Astros list by draft position:

Springer (1st round; 11th overall)
Foltynewicz: (1st round; 19th overall)
Singleton (acquired via trade)
Velasquez: (2nd round)
McCullers:( Supplemental 1st round; 41st overall)
Santana: (acquired via trade_
Ruiz: (4th round)
Feliz: International free agent




Nov 04, 2013 10:40 AM
 
russel58



Thanks, for some reason i just assumed they amassed their top talent via high draft picks.

I know it is really early but if the Astros knew what they know today do you think they take Bryant over Appel?

Thanks again

Nov 04, 2013 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
casejud

Why would they? What is more known about those players in Nov '13 than was in June '13?

Nov 06, 2013 15:45 PM
rating: 0
 
Pat Folz

Well sure, if they were picking lower their prospects wouldn't be as good and they'd drop in org rankings. But they've done pretty well outside the top tier. Just off this list, Springer, Foltynewicz, Velasquez, and Ruiz were drafted by the Astros outside the top 10. Plus Thurman, Tropeano, Stassi; plus their Latin American program; plus their trading acumen... they're good at talent-getting.

Also, kind of off-topic, but worth mentioning: the Rays whiffed on more than half of those top picks. Brazelton and Townsend were outright busts, Young and it looks like Beckham are bench guys at best, and I'm not sure if it's fair to dock them for Hamilton and Baldelli but they didn't get much value out of those guys. Seems to me this should be brought up more than it usually does when the "Rays only had a good system because they had top picks" discussions happen.

Nov 04, 2013 10:53 AM
rating: 2
 
Pat Folz

And McCullers outside the top 10 too. We need an edit feature :)

Nov 04, 2013 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
russel58

great response Pat.
I was thinking more recently when talking about the Rays
I dont want to switch the topic off the Astros but here are the Rays 1st rd picks since 2008, where they passed on Posey

2013 Nick Ciuffo
2013 Ryne Stanek
2012 Richie Shaffer
2011 Taylor Guerrieri
2011 Mikie Mahtook OF
2011 Jake Hager
2010 Drew Vettleson OF
2010 Josh Sale
2010 Justin O'Conner C
2009 Levon Washington
2008 Tim Beckham

Nov 04, 2013 11:00 AM
rating: 1
 
Pat Folz

I know what you mean, even for back-half first round that's not a great list. There's some potential, especially with Guerrieri and Stanek, but it's mostly so-so prospects.

I guess my point was that their strong teams of recent years were built to a significant extent on later-round finds and astute trades (Zobrist, Garza, Davis, McGee, Moore, Hellickson, Joyce, etc.). Obviously Longoria and Price were the core and both were picked top-3, and Young was turned into Garza, but they didn't just draft a murderer's row of All-Stars 1:1 1:1 1:1 year after year. They had pretty great scouting and development...which makes their post-2008 underwhelming-ness rather puzzling.

Nov 04, 2013 11:31 AM
rating: 0
 
Plucky

The Luhnow regime has now had only 2 drafts, one of which was still with a lot of Wade-regime personnel (scouting director, etc) and so you are still looking at a minors system (including top guys) that include several Ed Wade-era picks, specifically Springer, Foltynewicz, Velasquez, and DeShields. Wade's draft philosophy was 'highest ceiling', and while the 08 & 09 drafts were mostly complete failures, '10 and '11 seem to be alright so far. Judging whether "the Astros" draft well by looking at the whole system right now is lumping togther 2 very different front offices.

Given that none of Luhnow's picks have cracked the majors yet you can only make preliminary judgements, but there are several things that thus far have turned out well: The 2012 draft had no clear, obvious #1. Correa signed for substantially less than slot, which allowed the Astros to draft & sign McCullers and Ruiz, both of whom were considered first-round talent but too risky to draft in the first (both recovering from injury) but unsignable for less than first round money. The ability to sign all of them only existed by virture of having the #1 pick and associated spending limit, that Correa looks like a stud and both McCullers and Ruiz look like they'll be solid ML players means Luhnow went 3-for-3 with that opportunity. The real test of "drafting well" though will be the if/when we see the non-1st round picks from '12 and '13 graduate from low minors and look like future ML players

Nov 04, 2013 11:08 AM
rating: 2
 
newsense

Does Ruiz have RF potential if he can't cut it at 3B?

Nov 04, 2013 11:00 AM
rating: 0
 
jfranco77

Noticeably absent: Carlos Rodon :)

Nov 04, 2013 12:48 PM
rating: 1
 
PSUFan

How close was Josh Hader to making this list? He was 10th on the Orioles list last year and I was curious how far the 10th best Oriole would place in a deep system.

Nov 04, 2013 13:44 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

He took a big step forward, and would have been in the top ten of most systems. This just happens to be a deep farm. He was close.

Nov 04, 2013 13:56 PM
 
Matthew Trueblood

I have a question about an issue mentioned RE: Domingo Santana. When you say heavy swing, what is that describing? I'm seeing a swing limited by fairly stiff or weak wrist action, creating a swoop or a slowdown on inside stuff, but am not sure I have that right. Or is it just a slower bat?

Nov 04, 2013 14:00 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Good question. I had a source (who was very high on Santana) describe his swing like this: "His [Santana] swing can get long and labored, like he picked out the heaviest/longest bat in the pile and brought it to the plate. If you can put a ball inside, he really struggles to get his hands in and square it. But he's very strong and when he gets it moving, he might lack control but he can make a baseball go a long way, especially if a pitcher makes a mistake out over the plate."

Nov 04, 2013 14:09 PM
 
Matthew Trueblood

Thanks, that's great info. I can really envision the issue now.

Nov 06, 2013 06:00 AM
rating: 0
 
casejud

This description sounds exactly like what I have seen from Michael Morse, when he swings the bat.

Nov 06, 2013 15:48 PM
rating: -1
 
oakiegu007

Jason,

There seems to be a very vague opinion on folty. There's a big drop from #2 to closer.

Also, what do you make of the end of Ruiz's season and playoffs. He was on such a tear. Considering his original scouting reports from Hs, who is the real Ruiz?

Nov 04, 2013 16:36 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

His weaknesses are stated very clearly and specifically, and those are type of things that can derail an ultimate projection and push a guy into the bullpen.

"Command is below average; fastball can work up and lose effectiveness; lacks a true wipeout breaking ball; changeup is below average; gets too firm and lacks movement."

Nov 04, 2013 16:42 PM
 
oakiegu007

Jason,

I miscommunicated that, which explains the abrupt response. I get why you feel that way. You stated it clearly. I was wondering if you had any insight as to why the masses have differing opinions on guys like him. It seems that there are always certain guys where there is a clear opinion (even if it ends up being wrong) and guys that are all over the place. It makes more sense to me, as a casual fan, in low A. But I'd think as a guy progresses, there'd be less variation. Nevertheless, there are always guys like him that pop up. Is it because he has that untamed flamethrower feel?

Nov 04, 2013 17:37 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Of course. With Folty, you have this 6'4'' horse that can touch 102 on the radar gun, so it opens up this magical world of what if and what could be. I get that. The problem is that his secondary stuff isn't all that great, and his command is below-average.

But back to that fastball.....Because its such an impressive singular offering, it buys him all sorts of developmental patience, more than the average player would receive. That's not to say he should have been moved into the bullpen already. I think he should remain in a rotation until it becomes clear his arm is better fit for the back of a 'pen. BUt I think this influences prognosticators just as it influences developmental personnel, as the fastball is the bait and we all swim towards it. He might end up improving his secondary stuff a grade, which would not only allow him to start but to excel, assuming the command takes a similar step, which is asking a lot from an arm, regardless of the level.

I've spoken to some that see him as a rotation arm, albeit one that is erratic and inconsistent, one capable of dominating and then quickly losing it. Similar to the reports on Cosart coming into the season. But the bullpen option will always be there, but I saw let him start and fail until he can't start and fail anymore. The fastball creates such a big dream that its worth riding it out just to see what happens, You know it will play in the pen. Find out if it can play in a rotation.

Nov 04, 2013 18:14 PM
 
oakiegu007

Awesome insight. Thank you!

Nov 04, 2013 19:00 PM
rating: 3
 
debner315

Great job, loved the format and info. Can't wait for more. And I can't wait for my damn T-shirts.

Nov 04, 2013 17:41 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

Jason - great start to the series. Does anyone still mention either of Joe Musgrove or Kevin Comer anymore? Thank you.

Nov 04, 2013 18:34 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Thanks. They might mention them, but they weren't cracking this list (at least not this season). If only they played for the Brewers or Tigers....

Nov 04, 2013 18:47 PM
 
onegameref

I noticed all top 10 guys are above average sized players as well as talented. Do teams start to look for more size to go along with production as they get higher choices and more assets available for international FA signings? I seem to remember the Astros having more than there share of undersized and underperforming prospects in years past. I am partial to larger athletes if they can perform. Any thoughts on their approach and if it has changed?

Nov 04, 2013 22:41 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

Baseball is a war of attrition that runs for nine months. The bigger, stronger, more athletic guys tend to be better disposed to surviving that war. There are exceptions, but generally speaking the big and athletic players are the guys you want.

Nov 05, 2013 06:29 AM
 
sfactor23

Danry Vasquez: was he clse to making the top 10?

Nov 06, 2013 12:21 PM
rating: 0
 
ElGeneral

Who would be in your next ten for the Astros system?

Nov 06, 2013 12:33 PM
rating: 1
 
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