Houston Astros Top 20 Prospects for 2012
THIS LIST WAS REVISED JANUARY 18, 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Grade B+: Acquired in the Hunter Pence deal with the Phillies. You can make a case for an A-, although he hasn't yet fully tapped into his natural power. I think he might need a bit more time than people think, but still an elite prospect.
2) George Springer, OF, Grade B+: Much broader tool base than Singleton, but exactly two years and one day older, which makes a difference. I think he made real progress with his swing and contact ability this year. Impressive power/speed/walks package even if he doesn't hit for a high average.
3) Jarred Cosart, RHP, Grade B: Excellent arm strength, but pitchability seemed to take a small step backwards last year. Strikeout rate is low for a guy who throws as hard as he does and he needs command refinements. Another part of the Pence trade.
4) Jonathan Villar, SS, Grade B-: He's very young, has been pushed too quickly in my view, and has some serious contact problems to resolve. He also has double-digit homer and steal potential and great defensive tools. High risk, high-reward player. Grade A tools, grade C skills.
5) Paul Clemens, RHP, Grade B-: Part of the Michael Bourn deal with the Braves. Solid stuff, has made progress with command, projects as a number three or four starter for me.
6) Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Grade C+: I probably like him more than I should. Strong fastball, secondary pitches still works-in-progress but I think he can be a mid-rotation guy if everything works out.
7) Domingo Santana, OF, Grade C+: Exceptional power potential and was just 18 years old in the Sally League. He's also got serious issues with strikeouts/contact and plate discipline. Similar problems have killed many careers. Like Villar, Santana has a very high ceiling but a very low floor.
8) Brett Oberholtzer, LHP, Grade C+: Part of the Bourn deal with Atlanta, average velocity but mixes his pitches well. Could be a nice number four starter but not a huge upside.
9) Kyle Weiland, RHP, Grade C+: Acquired from Red Sox. Got knocked around in major league trial, has the stuff to be a four/five starter if he improves his location.
10) Delino DeShields, 2B, Grade C+: Another high-ceiling low-floor high-risk guy with tools who lacks refinement. Hit just .220 in the Sally League but swiped 30 bases.
11) Adrian Houser, RHP, Grade C+: Second round pick from an Oklahoma high school, performance in rookie ball was spotty but could develop into a number three starter.
12) Telvin Nash, 1B-OF, Grade C+: Enormous raw power, but fanned 105 times in 281 at-bat in Low-A and GCL rehab assignment. Little defensive value. Cecil Fielder-like upside if he can make enough contact but that is a big IF.
13) Nick Tropeano, RHP, Grade C+: Stony Brook product lacks plus velocity but changes speeds extremely well, could develop into a solid inning-eater type.
14) Austin Wates, OF, Grade C+: Hits for average, swiped 26 bases in High-A, good athlete, but lack of distance power could be a hindrance.
15) Jiovanni Mier, SS, Grade C: The Astros have not given up on him, still young, athletic, respected defense, but hitting is very questionable.
16) Tanner Bushue, RHP, Grade C: Still projectable and young, but progress has stalled and he's had problems staying healthy. Too young to give up on of course at age 20.
17) Juan Abreu, RHP, Grade C: Older prospect acquired from the Braves, but has a lively arm and can be very effective middle man if he maintains his command. If you want immediate impact rank him higher than this.
18) Ariel Ovando, OF, Grade C: Impressive power potential but did not hit well in the Appalachian League. Given the $2,600,000 invested in him, they will be as patient as possible and he's just 18.
19) Ross Seaton, RHP, Grade C: Still has the raw material to be a good pitcher, and he's been badly rushed. It would not surprise me to see him perform much better in his second attempt at Corpus Christi.
20) Jake Buchanan, RHP, Grade C: Doesn't have a high upside, but keeps the ball down, throws strikes, and was one of the few pitchers able to survive and prosper at High-A Lancaster. Sleeper guy to watch for 2012.
21) Chris Wallace, C, Grade C: Like Buchanan, Wallace is a college product (University of Houston in his case) who doesn't have a high upside but could be a useful role player, in this case as a power-hitting catcher with fair defense. Power-hitting first base prospect Kody Hinze would also fit in that category although he'll have less glove value.
OTHERS: Ruben Alaniz, RHP; Jack Armstrong Jr., RHP; Jay Austin, OF; Adam Bailey, OF; Xavier Cedeno, LHP; Jorge De Leon, RHP; Dayan Diaz, RHP; Jake Goebbert, OF; Kyle Hallock, LHP; Kody Hinze, 1B; Dallas Keuchel, LHP; Mike Kvasnicka, 3B; Chris Lee, LHP; Luis Ordosgoitti, RHP; Jordan Scott, OF; J.B. Shuck, OF; Vincent Velasquez, RHP; Josh Zeid, RHP.
This system has improved, thanks mostly to trades, but it is still thin. I love Singleton and Springer, but everyone below them has a caution flag of some kind. The toolsy guys tend to be extremely raw (Villar, Santana, DeShields) with a high risk of failure, while the polished guys lack upside, and there aren't many who combine both attributes.
There is a large group of Grade C prospects, and the slots 14-20 could be listed in any number of ways. You could make a case to include several of the "OTHER" category in those slots. Alaniz is projectable; Austin still has great tools; Hinze could sneak into some playing time before Singleton is ready; De Leon, Diaz, and Ordosgoitti all have live arms but need to show them at higher levels. Velasquez has a high upside if he recovers properly from Tommy John, and the very polished Kyle Hallock is a personal favorite.
Overall, the system has improved and there are some intriguing players here, but there are a lot of players in the "wait and see" and "need more data" categories.