Top 10 Houston Astros Prospects Heading Into 2013 Season
The Houston Astros have been one of the worst teams in baseball over the last several years. Since their World Series appearance in 2005, it's been all downhill and the team has been in a rebuilding phase over the last couple of seasons, which no doubt led to their back-to-back 100 loss seasons. They are moving to the AL West in 2013, which won't make their task of winning any easier. The Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A's were all in the playoff hunt last season.
If the Astros are going to be successful in a couple of seasons (it won't happen overnight), they have to hope these prospects continue to improve at the farm level and eventually re-shape their franchise into a contender. They have multiple high first-round picks developing that could start to see time in 2014, and even a couple of pieces they got in the Hunter Pence trade that could be ready for action this coming season.
The farm system is starting to look better finally and things could be on the up for this organization very soon. They have a few solid right handed pitchers that could develop into top-end rotation starters, a couple of left handed hitters that could be a great corner infield duo, and a speed guy that could be a top-tier lead off hitter in the next five years.
As a fan, we have to be patient as general manager Jeff Luhnow continues to bolster the farm system. He had a terrific draft strategy in 2012 that landed the Astros several players with high ceilings. Hopefully they develop like the team hopes and this team is a serious contender in the next few years.
10. Nick Tropeano RHP, 2011 5th Round Pick by Houston Astros
Nick Tropeano was a dominant pitcher in college for Stony Brook, who actually were Cinderella darlings at the College World Series this past year. Tropeano wasn't on that team, but his college stats are off the charts. He was 8-4 with a 2.44 ERA and 102/29 strikeout to walks ratio in 2011, and 12-1 with a 1.84 ERA and 119/24 strikeout to walks ratio in 2012.
At Low-A and High-A ball this past season, he went 12-7 with a 3.02 ERA and 166 strikeouts to 47 walks. He finished the 2012 minor league season strong and should continue to move up the ranks in 2013 He has a variety of pitches and consistently hits around 93 mph with his fastball, but can be known to elevate that at times.
9. Nolan Fontana SS, 2012 2nd Round Pick by Houston Astros
The Astros were extremely aggressive with 2012 second rounder Nolan Fontana, who was placed at single-A Lexington right away. He did not hit for high average, but his plate discipline is off the charts. He had an eye-popping 29.3 percent walk rate and a .464 on base percentage. The average should come along, but it is definitely a concern. That said, you have to love a guy who walks more than he strikes out and can run the bases well. He was 12/14 on stolen base chances this season.
Fontana's defense is also a concern as there have been multiple reports, good and bad, about his fielding. He registered six errors in 233 chances this past minor league season, and some even think he should move to second base. With Delino DeShields coming up at that position, Fontana will have to shore up his defense to earn regular playing time at shortstop in the years to come.
8. Rio Riuz 3B, 2012 4th Round Draft Pick by Houston Astros
Though his numbers this year at the rookie ball level were not great (.252/.336/.400 with 1 homer, 11 doubles in 152 plate appearances), Rio Riuz has a ton of potential and should see improvements as he continues to get back to full strength. He was expected to be one of the top high school players drafted but missed his senior season with a blood clot in his neck.
He has a fluid swing from the left side of the plate and the power should come. His defense is not bad, but plays it good enough to make it at the big league level. He has a big arm and his range is about average. He should move up to single-A ball next year and could get to the big league level by 2014.
7. Lance McCullers RHP, 2012 1st Round Pick by Houston Astros
Though he struggled with his command and is a work-in-progress, Lance McCullers has a huge arm and is valuable to the Astros moving forward. Whether he sticks as a top-end starter or even a closer/set up man, his fastball is powerful enough to get a lot of outs at the big league level. He can hit 100 mph at times, but consistently throws in the mid to upper 90s.
McCullers was commited to Florida, but the Astros were able to throw enough money at him to lure him away. His senior season in high school was off the charts, going 13-0 with a 0.18 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 77.1 innings. He has a high ceiling and will hopefully improve in the minor leagues for the next couple of years.
6. Jarred Cosart RHP, 2008 38th Round Draft Pick by Philadelphia Phillies
The Astros acquired Jarred Cosart in the Hunter Pence trade and the big right hander could see some work at the big league level as early as the 2013 season. He has always had the raw talent, but had problems with injuries in the minors so far. Cosart could be the first of these top pitchers to see time at the big league level, and the Astros have to like his ability to get ground ball outs and have quick innings. In both AA and AAA ball this season, he had more than 10 percentage points higher than the league average for ground balls induced.
He doesn't blow people away, but he could improve his strikeout rate as he gets better and tunes his game. He keeps the ball down and you have to like that from a young pitcher. He should mature into a solid middle rotation starter very soon.
5. Mike Foltynewicz RHP, 2010 1st Round Pick by Houston Astros
Mike Foltynewicz was the 19th overall pick in the first round in 2010, and had a solid season for the single-A Lexington Legends in 2012. He started 27 games for the Legends, going 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and a 7.54 K/9 ratio. He showed drastic improvements from his 2011 season with the Legends, which is exactly what you want to see from your young arms.
He stepped up his fastball from 2011 to 2012 in both velocity and location, which is a great sign. He consistently hits in the low 90s and has a solid curveball and changeup to compliment the fastball. Folty could see himself in the rotation by 2014, and almost definitely in 2015.
4. Delino DeShields 2B, 2011 1st Round Pick by Houston Astros
Delino DeShields has the baseball pedigree as his father was also a first-round pick who spent 13 years in the majors. The Astros have an All Star at second base in Jose Altuve, but DeShields offers so much that he could challenge Altuve for that spot in a couple of years.
DeShields needs to work on his plate discipline, but he has elite speed (stole over 100 bases in the minors in 2012) that would make him a terrific lead-off hitter. His numbers at the single-A level were solid (.287/.389/.428 with 12 HR, 24 doubles, eight triples, 61 RBIs and 101 SB).
3. George Springer OF, 2011 1st Round Pick by Houston Astros
George Springer is a five-tool player that can become a super star if he realizes his full potential. He needs to get much better with his plate discipline (26 strikeout percentage in minors), but he has raw power and speed that will make him an asset when he inevitably makes it to the big league level. He is still maturing in the outfield and at the plate, but you have to like his ceiling.
In both A+ and AA ball last year, he posted great numbers (.302/.383/.526 with 24 HR, 10 triples, 21 doubles and 32 SB). Hopefully as he moves up he continues to get better and the Astros can count on him in the every day lineup in 2014.
2. Carlos Correa SS, 2012 1st Round Pick by Houston Astros
Carlos Correa was a surprise when the Astros made him the first overall pick in the draft this past summer. He is definitely a work-in-progress but can be an above average hitter at short stop and elite as a defender. He isn't quite there yet from any standpoint, but he's only 17 and should get much better in the next few seasons in the minors.
After being promoted to Greenville, Correa hit .371/.450/.600 in 41 plate appearances. Five of his 13 hits went for extra bases and he had a 12.2 percent walk rate. He won't sniff the majors any time soon, but could be a major asset when the team comes through this rebuilding process and (hopefully) becomes competitive again.
1. Jonathan Singleton 1B, 2009 8th Round Pick by Philadelphia Phillies
Along with Cosart, Jonathan Singleton was a major piece to the Hunter Pence trade and could see action in the Astros lineup as early as next season. He hit .283/.394/.490 with 21 home runs, 27 doubles, 94 runs and 79 RBIs in 131 games with Corpus Christi last season. He strikes out at a below average rate but draws walk at a high rate as well, which led to his high on base percentage. He can play outfield but should stick to first base as he's a better defender there.
He should start the 2013 season at the AAA level and could be a late season call up to see how he fairs against big league competition. At the very least, he will be a contributor in the 2014 season.