Houston Astros Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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.
This list is current as of February 5, 2013
1) Carlos Correa, SS, Grade A-: I'm not worried about the blah performance in rookie ball and I felt he was the best overall position player in the draft. Should hit for power and average, should stick at shortstop (at least in the short and medium run), outstanding makeup, and one of the youngest guys in the class to boot. Getting him to sign below slot was a masterstroke that set up the rest of the draft.
2) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Grade B+: Impressed with his power and patience, but his defense is deteriorating already and I see him as more of a masher than a complete hitter. Still an elite guy. I think Springer is a more complete player but Singleton is two years younger, which matters.
3) George Springer, OF, Grade B+: Strong, fast, hits for power, steals bases, strong glove, strong makeup. Still working on the strike zone and whiffs a lot, but I love him and I think he has a good chance to adapt. More complete package of tools/skills than Singleton, but two years older.
4) Jarred Cosart, RHP, Grade B: His talent is obvious but he's frustrating too. Awesome stuff with power sinker, hard curve, but his command comes and goes and he's not as dominant as he should be with his quality arm. Needs 100 innings in Triple-A to work more kinks out.
5) Lance McCullers, JR, RHP, Grade B: His arm is even better than Cosart's and he can hit 100, but it is still unclear what his role will be long-term. I have Cosart a notch higher due to proximity to majors, but it is close. Could be a power relief ace or a number two starter.
6) Delino DeShields, JR, 2B, Grade B: Another bloodline guy, made good progress refining his skills last year and improved on both offense and defense. Still has rough edges and at least two years away, but he'd look great at the top of the order if he continues polishing the OBP skills to go with his blazing speed.
7) Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Grade B: Threw a bit harder in 2012 but improvement in secondary pitches was key to success in return appearance in Low-A. I see him as a strong number three starter in the future assuming good health and more command progress.
8) Nick Tropeano, RHP, Grade B: Stony Brook ace didn't throw hard in college but gained zip on the heater this year. He already had a good changeup and splitter, and he knows how to pitch. Another mid-rotation arm and will get to the majors ahead of everyone but Cosart.
9) Rio Ruiz, 3B, Grade B-: A bit of a tough grade given spring injury layoff. Scouts love his swing and defensive potential and drafting him in the fourth round was a coup, but we need to see how it all translates to pro ball. Would rank higher next year if the Eric Chavez comps are accurate.
10) Domingo Santana, OF, Grade B-: I think he made real progress in the Cal League at age 19/20 and it isn't all a statistical illusion. He's got some holes that need to be closed up, but he's made improvements and power upside is very high. Keep his age in mind.
11) Jonathan Villar, SS, Grade B-: Another tools guy like Santana, made some incremental progress in Texas League before breaking his hand punching a door. Still plays out of control at times, especially on defense. Would rank higher than Santana on positional scarcity factors, but is a year and a half older.
12) Brad Peacock, RHP, Grade B-: ACQUIRED FROM ATHLETICS ON FEBRUARY 4TH .He had problems with mechanics and command in Triple-A, but the 6.01 ERA overstates things...his FIP was much better at 4.26. Needs more consistency, but don't write him off. He can still be a mid-rotation guy or a power reliever.
13) Nolan Fontana, SS, Grade B-: Walks walks walks walks. And solid defense too. We'll have to see if the rest of his bat holds up.
14) Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Grade B-: Came over in the Jays trade and looked better for it, was awesome in his last five Double-A starts (16/2 K/BB with 1.16 ERA). That could presage a breakout.
15) Robbie Grossman, OF, Grade B-: Borderline C+. I probably like him more than I should, but I think his OBP skills would make him a useful fourth outfielder.
16) Marc Krauss, OF, Grade C+: Good Double-A power numbers and drew tons of walks, but was helpless in Triple-A and is already 25 now. Probably a role-playing platoon bat with power.
17) Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Grade C+: Tommy John survivor looked very good in the New York-Penn League, losing nothing off his 90-95 MPH fastball, good curve and change. Needs command refinements and stamina buildup, but I like him and he could rank much higher next year.
18) Adrian Houser, RHP, Grade C+: Power arm with good sinker flashed plus stuff in Appalachian League. Mid-rotation upside but will need time to refine command.
19) Max Stassi, C, Grade C+: ACQUIRED FROM ATHLETICS ON FEBRUARY 4. Produced power this year and showed he could catch again after injury problems. Not going to be a star, but should have value.
20) Ariel Ovando, OF, Grade C+: More effective in return engagement in Appy League at age 18/19, hitting .287/.350/.444 and giving hope that $2,600,000 investment was not wasted. Still raw with strike zone but is tapping into his power now. High ceiling, high risk.
21) Aaron West, RHP, Grade C+: One of the steals of the 2012 draft, showed outstanding command of very good stuff in the New York-Penn League. Could wind up as mid-rotation starter or power relief arm.
22) Brady Rodgers, RHP, Grade C+: Gets more press than West and had higher profile in college at Arizona State. Stuff isn't as good but he knows how to pitch, could come quickly as inning-eater.
OTHER GRADE C+ PROSPECTS: Jose Cisnero, RHP; Nate Freiman, 1B; Joe Musgrove, RHP; Brett Oberholtzer, LHP; Carlos Perez, C; Preston Tucker, OF; Austin Wates, OF.
OTHERS: Andrew Aplin, OF; Bobby Borchering, OF; Colton Cain, LHP; Kevin Chapman, LHP; Kevin Comer, RHP; Josh Fields, RHP; Alex Gillingham, RHP; Matt Heidenreich, RHP; Tyler Heineman, C; Chia-Jen Lo, RHP; Kenny Long, LHP; Jo Mier, SS: Rudy Owens, LHP; Brett Phillips, OF, Ross Seaton, RHP.
Now, that's what I call a rapid turnaround. In two years, this farm system has gone from empty to robust.
General Manager Jeff Luhnow's aggressive trading and an outstanding 2012 draft have already paid dividends with much better system depth. However, it wasn't all the new regime's doing: Bobby Heck's 2010 and 2011 drafts and ex-GM Ed Wade's big trade with the Phillies brought in some talent, too, getting the rebuilding process started. Now it is up to Luhnow and staff to build further and keep the momentum going, and the early results look sharp to me.
Everyone knows how the Astros wisely managed their bonus pool in the 2012 draft under the new Basic Agreement, adding three impact talents in Correa, McCullers, and Ruiz, along with several other intriguing draft picks. The future positional core looks strong: Correa should be the face of the franchise down the line, while Singleton, Springer, DeShields should all be regulars with All-Star potential. Santana and Villar have a shot at that too, if greater questions about their tool/skill profile balance. There is also a bunch of potential role players, with particular depth among outfielders.
There's plenty on the pitching side as well, if a few more question-marks. Cosart is an enigma who could develop into anything from a rotation anchor to a bullpen mop-up guy. McCullers has a terrific ceiling, and there are several potential mid-rotation starters such as Folty, Tropeano, Wojo, and additional lower-level arms with promise. Velasquez, Houser, and West are breakout candidates. There are also several C/C+ type arms who have the potential to fill out a pitching staff.
While the gutted major league roster may be depressing for Houston fans to contemplate, the organization is clearly moving in the right direction.