Let's check in on the progress of the Houston Astros Top 2013 Pre-season prospect list. Remember, this is the pre-season list. It is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades.
1) Carlos Correa, SS, Grade A-: Hitting .316/.401/.461 in 85 games for Low-A Quad Cities, while playing quality defense at age 18 in a full-season league. Pure Grade A prospect for me, not far from Byron Buxton.
2) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Grade B+: Ridiculously ineffective in Triple-A, .196/.303/.311 in 148 at-bats with 62 strikeouts. That's pathetic for a guy supposed to be a top prospect, especially in the Pacific Coast League. Scouts still seem to like him, but he has to have a strong August to retain status as a hot prospect for me.
3) George Springer, OF, Grade B+: Monster season, .310/.409/.610 with 29 homers, 35 steals, 59 walks, and 135 strikeouts in 387 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Outstanding power/speed combination and he'll take a walk too. Strikeout rate remains the main caution flag here. Even if his batting average is low, his other contributions should make him very valuable.
4) Jarred Cosart, RHP, Grade B: 3.29 ERA in 93 innings in Triple-A, 93/50 K/BB, 2.48 GO/AO. Has shown good stuff in three major league starts but command is still an issue, which is to be expected. Expect bumps and bruises, but also tantalizing upside. Number two starter if it all comes together.
5) Lance McCullers, JR, RHP, Grade B: 3.05 ERA with 101/42 K/BB in 89 innings for Low-A Quad Cities, 75 hits, 2.02 GO/AO. Needs better control, but overall a very successful debut.
6) Delino DeShields, JR, 2B, Grade B: Got off to a slowish start but has been hot since the middle of May for High-A Lancaster, now hitting .302/.386/.425 with 39 steals, 45 walks, 75 whiffs in 348 at-bats. Still has some rough edges defensively, but he's still just 20. His stock seems down with some people but I'm not sure why.
7) Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Grade B: Stock up, velocity up, 2.94 ERA with 111/55 K/BB in 107 innings between High-A and Double-A, 92 hits, 1.62 GO/AO. Still needs better command, but he's improved considerably since poor 2011 season.
8) Nick Tropeano, RHP, Grade B: 4.24 ERA with 90/28 K/BB in 98 innings, 102 hits in Double-A. Some rough patches in May and June, but command still makes him a guy to watch. Very Cardinals-like mid-range prospect who can surprise people who only look at radar readings.
9) Rio Ruiz, 3B, Grade B-: Hitting .245/.330/.382 with 41 walks, 71 strikeouts in 306 at-bats in Low-A. Pretty swing gets him good scouting reports, but production doesn't match the reputation yet. On the other hand, he's hit .294/.355/.484 over his last 33 games and things could really click next year. Just 19.
10) Domingo Santana, OF, Grade B-: Hitting .243/.338/.460 with 17 homers, 10 steals, 38 walks, 118 strikeouts in 341 at-bats. Turns 21 next week, so very young. George Springer is the guy that Santana wants to be.
11) Jonathan Villar, SS, Grade B-: Hit .277/.341/.442 in Triple-A, now playing regularly in the majors, .235/.316/.324 in his first nine games with five steals. Letting him play is exactly the right thing to do, find out of his speed and defense are good enough to compensate for his hitting flaws.
12) Brad Peacock, RHP, Grade B-: Very good in Triple-A (2.73 ERA, 76/22 K/BB in 79 innings) but got clubbed in the majors (8.07 ERA, 23/17 K/BB in 29 innings). Not much left to prove in the minors, but he has to get over the hump somehow.
13) Nolan Fontana, SS, Grade B-: Hitting .270/.418/.414 in High-A, 76 walks, steady defense at shortstop. We need to see how his bat holds up outside the Cal League, could be a fine utility guy.
14) Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Grade B-: 2.67 ERA with 100/40 K/BB in 125 innings, 93 hits between Double-A and Triple-A. Fine season moving him back up the prospect lists. Consensus when he was traded last year was that he was a low-ceiling arm of little interest who was no longer greatly valued by his original organization.
15) Robbie Grossman, OF, Grade B-: Borderline C+. .281/.396/.364 in 70 games for Oklahoma City, .231/.336/.306 in 31 games for the Astros. I still see him as an OBP-oriented fourth outfielder.
16) Marc Krauss, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .277/.393/.488 with 43 walks, 45 strikeouts in 213 at-bats for OKC, but just .192/.222/.346 in 24 major league games. Won't be a regular but still has a shot at being a role bat.
17) Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Grade C+: Fully recovered from Tommy John, strong season in Low-A, 3.49 ERA with 109/28 K/BB in 98 innings in Low-A, 83 hits. Stock back up now and should be viewed as one of the top pitching prospects in the system.
18) Adrian Houser, RHP, Grade C+: Being brought along slowly but good results so far in the New York-Penn League, 2.43 ERA with 21/8 K/BB in 30 innings, 1.82 GO/AO.
19) Max Stassi, C, Grade C+: Recent home run tear in Double-A boosts season line to .284/.348/.573 with 15 homers, 18 walks, 52 whiffs in 218 at-bats. Defense OK but he's spent considerable time at DH, understandable given his injury history. Still just 22.
20) Ariel Ovando, OF, Grade C+: Hitting .179/.249/.245 between Quad Cities and demotion to Greenville in the Appy League. Tools player looks helpless at the bat. Still just 19, but I am not optimistic.
21) Aaron West, RHP, Grade C+: I thought he was a huge sleeper pre-season but he hasn't performed well at Lancaster, 5.88 ERA with 84/15 K/BB in 83 innings, 104 hits. The K/IP and K/BB are actually very good, but he's been much too hittable both at home and on the road. Those ratios still make him interesting though.
22) Brady Rodgers, RHP, Grade C+: 4.99 ERA between Lancaster and a couple of spot starts in Double-A and Triple-A, 83/17 K/BB in 97 innings, 118 hits. Like West, he hasn't lived up to expectations, but he still throws strikes and still has a chance.
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.
As Houston fans are all so painfully aware, the big league team is really, really awful, but the front office continues building up the farm system.
The first wave (much brought in by the previous administration) is on the verge of arrival with Villar and Cosart likely to take key roles in the second half. The current front office has a particular model of doing farm development, looking for players undervalued by other teams both in the draft and on the trade market (Asher, Grossman are two examples). July trades brought in L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and Kyle Smith,all considered surplus to the needs of their originating teams but guys who add more depth to an organization looking for talent from any source.
Of players who were already in the system pre-season, the Astros have gotten some good innings from Jose Cisnero and Brett Oberholtzer. The addition of Mark Appel to the system from the 2013 draft adds a potential future ace. The '13 draft was college-heavy but seemed very Cardinal-esque in approach. This meshes with the prep-heavy '12 class, as the Astros seek to provide a mixture of high upside and high skill players to man the organization. Again, this is very similar to what the Cardinals have done over the years.