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Houston Astros Top 20 2015 PRE-SEASON prospects in review

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Carlos Correa
Carlos Correa
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Houston Astros.

This is a review of the pre-season list.
It is not a new list.

These are the pre-season grades.

This list was originally published January 27, 2015

1) Carlos Correa, SS, Grade A: Since being promoted to majors, hitting .282/.342/.541 with 14 homers, nine steals, 20 walks, 47 strikeouts in 220 at-bats while playing every day at shortstop. A truly exceptional talent.
2) Mark Appel, RHP, Grade B+:
Combined 4.15 ERA with 89/39 K/BB in 108 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Mixes difficult outings with dominant ones; my guess is that the same pattern will persist in the majors.
3) Michael Feliz, RHP, Grade B+/B:
Combined 3.09 ERA with 83/28 K/BB in 93 innings between High-A and Double-A, 70 hits. Excellent stuff with improving command, stock up.
4) Vince Velasquez, RHP, Grade B/B+:
2.03 ERA with 43/12 K/BB in 31 innings in Double-A, 3.67 ERA with 43/15 K/BB in 42 innings in the majors. Certainly worthy of a full-season rotation trial.
5) Domingo Santana, OF, Grade B:
Traded to Milwaukee Brewers, hitting .320/.417/.564 in Triple-A this year, .256/.310/.462 in 39 at-bats for the Astros before the trade. Huge power, with a huge strikeout rate, still just 23. Does not have much left to prove in minors, I don’t think the PCL can teach him more. He needs at-bats against big league pitching.

6) Brett Phillips, OF, Grade B:
Also traded to Brewers, breakout season in progress, hitting combined .318/.384/.548 with 31 doubles, 14 triples, 16 homers, 16 steals, 40/106 BB/K in 465 at-bats between High-A and Double-A at age 21. Has always had the tools, skills have caught up. Stock rising.
7) Josh Hader, LHP, Grade B:
Also traded to Brewers, 3.28 ERA with 82/28 K/BB in 74 innings in Double-A, 67 hits. A very solid season, holding his stock.
8) Lance McCullers, RHP, Grade B/B-:
77 innings in the majors, 3.17 ERA with 79/28 K/BB, 65 hits. He’s human of course but given his lack of high-level minor league experience he’s more than held his own.
9) Derek Fisher, OF, Grade B/B-:
Hitting .272/.351/.488 with 20 homers, 26 steals, 47 walks, 110 strikeouts in 412 at-bats between Low-A and High-A. Power/speed combination stands out, we’ll have to see if contact/discipline hold him back at higher levels.
10) Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Grade B-/B:
Hitting .222/.278/.364 with 14 homers, 28 steals, 26 walks, 104 strikeouts in 387 at-bats in Double-A. This is what Derek Fisher needs NOT to do. TH is still young at 22, still toolsy, but has work to do.

11) Colin Moran, 3B, Grade B-/B:
Hitting .303/.366/.466 with 22 doubles, seven homers, 29 walks, 62 strikeouts in 290 at-bats in Double-A. Hitting for average, as expected, not hitting for big home run power, also as expected. Defense seems to have slipped this year. Has hit four homers in last 10 games.
12) Tony Kemp, 2B-OF, Grade B-/B:
Outstanding in Double-A (.358/.457/.420), not great in Triple-A (.263/.317/.332), 30 steals combined. I still like him but wish the PCL numbers were better.
13) J.D. Davis, 3B, Grade B-:
Hitting .283/.363/.509 with 22 homers, 47 walks, 136 strikeouts in 424 at-bats in High-A. Reasonable defense, no question about the power but Lancaster/Cal League are a friendly environment. We’ll have to see how his approach holds up at higher levels in terms of OBP, batting average.
14) A.J. Reed, 1B, Grade B-
: Hitting .336/.437/.615 with 29 homers, 78 walks, 102 strikeouts in 429 at-bats between High-A and Double-A, no drop in relative production after promotion which is certainly a good sign. Stock up.
15) Conrad Gregor, 1B, Grade B-/C+:
Hitting .240/.345/.388 with nine homers, 57 walks, 84 strikeouts in 358 at-bats in Double-A. Disappointing season, will slip further behind Reed on the first base depth charts.

16) Nolan Fontana, SS, Grade C+:
Hitting .234/.365/.368 with 63 walks, 86 strikeouts in 299 at-bats in Triple-A. As always, drawing walks and has played well with the glove at second, short, and third, but lack of power has caught up with him this year in the PCL.Still expect him to be a good utilityman.
17) Max Stassi, C, Grade C+:
Hitting .196/.261/.388 with 13 homers, 21 walks, 86 strikeouts in 260 at-bats in Triple-A. Still gets good reviews for glove but if you can’t break the Mendoza Line in Triple-A. . .
18) Danry Vasquez, OF, Grade C+:
Hit .315/.365/.470 in High-A but just .189/.238/.216 in Double-A, big difference between Lancaster and Corpus Christi. Still just 21, still looks like a hitter and makes contact but no power at the higher level.
19) Preston Tucker, OF, Grade C+:
Hitting .259/.315/.462 with 11 homers, 18 walks, 54 strikeouts in 247 major league at-bats. Solid hitter and I think he can improve from this basis.
20) Kyle Smith, RHP, Grade C+:
Tommy John surgery.

First place.

Carlos Correa is everything you could want him to be, and more. McCullers and Velasquez are obviously key components for the pitching staff. Hader, Phillips, Santana, and pitcher Adrian Hauser were traded to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers for the stretch run. Breakout catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Daniel Mengden were traded to the Oakland Athletics for Scott Kazmir. Despite the trades there is still plenty of depth in this system.

Right-hander Francis Martes has broken out (1.85, 70/20 K/BB in 73 innings in A-ball) and is now one of the top pitching prospects in the system. The same can be said of right-hander Joe Musgrove, who we examined recently.
Another right-hander, Akeem Bostick, has also taken a large leap forward.

The 2015 draft brings in Alex Bregman (possibly the best college hitter available), Kyle Tucker (possibly the best high school hitter), and Daz Cameron (expensive but worth it if he is anything like his dad), adding a dramatic hitting boost to the organization. Thomas Eshelman and Riley Farrell should both reach the majors quickly.

Two other names to keep an eye on: outfielder Jason Martin, hitting well in the Midwest League (.288/.359/.434 at age 19), and right-hander Franklin Perez, signed out of Venezuela in 2014 and already pitching in the GCL at age 17.

For a more detailed look, check out this recent article from Crawfish Boxes.