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Houston Astros Top 20 Pre-Season Prospects in Review

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I'm weird. I actually like this uniform.

Houston Astros Top 20 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

1) Chris Burke, 2B
Hit .248/.309/.368 for the Astros. I got an irate email from a reader a few days ago, complaining that my advocacy of Burke cost him his division this year. Sorry, guys. He's had adjustment problems at new levels before (Round Rock, 2002) and he has a good chance to pull out of this if they give him the opportunity.

2) Mitch Einertson, OF
This one, I'm not so confident in. Hit just .234/.353/.352 for Class A Lexington. Maintained strong walk rate and actually cut his strikeouts slightly, but everything else fell apart. He may have been distracted by "family issues" that cost him a month of playing time. I have no clue what will happen here.

3) Ezequiel Astacio, RHP
Pitched in 22 games for Houston, including 14 starts. Went 3-6, 5.67 with a 66/25 K/BB in 81 innings, but allowed 100 hits and 23 homers. Capable of better, but Minute Maid is not an easy place to pitch, and not everyone is Roy Oswalt.

4) Matt Albers, RHP
Went 8-12, 4.66 in 27 starts for Class A Salem, 146/62 K/BB in 149 innings. He has very good arm strength, but his command remains erratic. Lots of potential but no sign of an immediate breakthrough.

5) Ben Zobrist, SS
Combined to hit .314/.437/.443 in 110 games between Class A Lexington and Salem. Outstanding on-base skills, also runs well with 18 steals. A sleeper prospect.

6) Fernando Nieve, RHP
Made 27 starts between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock, going 8-7, 3.72 combined. Struck out 171 in 167 innings. 4.83 ERA with weaker component ratios at Round Rock warn he should not be rushed too fast in '06.

7) Hunter Pence, OF
Hit .327/.400/.598 between Lexington and Salem, with 31 homers. No complaints here, a fine hitting prospect.

8) Troy Patton, LHP
Went 6-6 between Lexington and Salem, but with combined 2.18 ERA and 132/28 K/BB in 120 innings. Excellent ratio set, strong numbers across the board.

9) Willy Taveras, OF
Hit .291/.325/.341 with 34 steals in 152 games for the Astros. Very fast obviously, but lack of power and weak on-base skills reduce his value and he is overrated by a lot of people. Young enough to get better, and he's drawn walks in the past. When you have a satanic OPS (.666), you need to improve.

10) Josh Anderson, OF
Hit .282/.329/.355 with 50 steals for Corpus Christi. Similar to Taveras: very fast, no power, weak on-base ability.

11) Taylor Buchholz, RHP
Went 6-0, but with 4.81 ERA and weak component ratios for Round Rock. Allowed 14 homers in 77 innings with just 45 strikeouts. Hasn't been completely healthy for three years now, and stuff seems to have topped out rather than improved.

12) Jared Gothreaux, RHP
4.29 ERA in 15 games, 86 innings for Round Rock, 47/29 K/BB, 87 hits allowed. Not particularly impressive, and at age 25 he isn't especially young any more.

13) Mike Burns, RHP
Scouts hate him but he kept getting people out and finally got a chance, 2.10 ERA in Triple-A, 13 saves, 34/4 K/BB in 30 innings. Posted 4.94 ERA in major league trial, but showed good command and I think he can be an effective middle reliever, although he is too old at 27 to be a real prospect.

14) Brooks Conrad, 2B
The Mike Burns of infielders, scouts don't like him but he played well, hit .263/.347/.481 with 21 homers and 12 steals for Round Rock. Could be a useful bench guy.

15) Mitch Talbot, RHP
Went 8-11, 4.34 in 27 starts for Salem, 100/46 K/BB in 151 innings, 169 hits. Ratios deteriorate a little each year, not a good sign for Double-A transition in '06.

16) Tommy Whiteman, SS
Still has tools, but skills have not advanced, and have even slipped in some ways. Hit just.203/.284/.287 in 80 games for Round Rock, and is now 26 years old.

17) Juan Gutierrez, RHP
9-5, 3.21 in 21 games for Lexington, 100/43 K/BB in 121 innings, 106 hits allowed. Decent numbers, but Double-A transition in '06 will tell us his true status.

18) Luke Scott, OF
Hit .286/.363/.603 with 31 homers for Round Rock, but just .188/.270/.288 in 34 games, 80 at-bats for the Astros. Has now slugged over .600 two years in a row in the minors. Old at age 27, but his bat should be useful in some capacity.

19) Todd Self, 1B
Hit .298/.407/.460 for Round Rock, went 9-for-45 (.200) for Houston. Should be able to hit .270-.280 in the majors, but without the power needed for a first baseman.

20) Enyelbert Soto, LHP
4.21 ERA combined between short-season Tri-City and Lexington, 28/6 K/BB in 36 innings. Sample too small to draw broad conclusions, but he will be pushed aside by others on the '06 list.

Jason Hirsh will jump way up this list in 2006. Guys like Einertson may disappear entirely. Lots of changes in this system.