Houston Astros Top 20 prospects for 2016
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 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Alex Bregman, SS, Grade A-: Age 21, 2015 first-rounder out of Louisiana State, hit .259/.368/.330 in 112 at-bats in Low-A then .319/.364/.475 in 160 at-bats in High-A. Combined for 13 steals. Pure hitter with strong strike zone judgment, moderate power, all-around instinctive play, capable of producing Dustin Pedroia-like offensive numbers. It is an obvious and common comparison but a valid one. Bregman is also a decent defensive shortstop who could stay at the position for some teams but will likely end up at second base long-term.
2) A.J. Reed, 1B, Grade A-: Age 22, 2014 second rounder from University of Kentucky hit .340/.432/.612 with 30 doubles, 34 homers, 86 walks, 122 strikeouts in 523 at-bats between High-A and Double-A, kept hitting at higher level so not a creation of the California League. 60 or 65 grade power with better than expected pure hitting skills, strong plate discipline, should be major league ready sometime this year.
3) Francis Martes, RHP, Grade B+: Age 20, stolen out of Marlins system in Jarred Cosart trade, posted 2.04 ERA with 98/28 K/BB in 102 innings at three levels, finishing in Double-A, 83 hits, heavy 92-95 MPH fastball, plus curveball, average but improving change-up, good command for a young power pitcher, control improved dramatically after he was traded, went from live-but-raw arm to elite pitching prospect in less than a year. Potential number two starter.
4) Kyle Tucker, OF, Grade B+/B: Age 19, first round pick in 2015 from Florida high school, brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker, hit .208/.267/.317 in 120 at-bats in Gulf Coast League then .286/.22/.393 in 112 at-bats in Appalachian League, stole 18 bases despite average speed. Rated as top high school hitter in the ’15 class by many experts despite an unorthodox swing, expected to hit for power and average with high OBP, defense/mobility were better than advertised though he didn’t hit as well as expected. Given pedigree it is too soon to be concerned about that, could develop into Shawn Green or John Olerud style hitter.
5) Joe Musgrove, RHP, Grade B+/B: Age 23, overcame two years of physical issues to emerge as top prospect in 2015 due to insane command of 90-94 fastball, solid curve, slider and change-up, everything plays up one grade due to stellar pitchability, 1.88 ERA with 99/8 K/BB in 101 innings, 85 hits, finishing strongly in Double-A. Need to see with a larger workload but not far from the majors.
6) Michael Feliz, RHP, Grade B+/B: Age 22, fire-baller with 94-98 fastball, plus slider, change-up can be solid but both secondary pitches are erratic, many believe he belongs in the bullpen but I still think he has a chance to start and grade reflects this, 2.83 ERA with 103/32 K/BB in 111 innings between High-A and Double-A, 82 hits. For an elite prospect there are mixed opinions about him. Some believe he is the top arm in the system and some don’t have him in the Top 10. I admit to having an optimistic take on future role.
7) Daz Cameron, OF, Grade B: Age 19, supplemental first round pick in 2015, son of Mike Cameron, similar to his father in style of play though tools are more of a lower-case version, not quite as much speed and raw power as Dad but should still have a broad base of skills, hit .251/.353/.309 with 25 walks, 49 strikeouts, 24 steals in 175 at-bats between GCL and Appy League, already an accomplished defender and baserunner but bat needs more time.
8) Colin Moran, 3B, Grade B: Age 23, hit .306/.381/.459 with nine homers, 43 walks, 79 strikeouts in 366 at-bats in Double-A. Former North Carolina star acquired in Cosart trade, scouting reports haven’t varied much since college: very polished, gets on base, has some power but not as much you’d expect from a 6-4, 215 pounder. Strong arm, range/defense just adequate at third but would rank behind Reed on a first base depth chart.
9) Derek Fisher, OF, Grade B: Age 22, hit .305/.386/.510 in 151 at-bats in Low-A, .262/.354/.471 in 344 at-bats in High-A, combined for 22 homers, 31 steals, 65 walks, 132 whiffs. Ferocious power/speed combo but lots of questions about how batting average/OBP will hold up at higher levels. Except for a weak arm, may have the best overall toolset in the system but feel for the game has taken more time to develop. Supplemental first round pick from University of Virginia in 2014.
10) David Paulino, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, 2.81 ERA with 72/19 K/BB in 67 innings between NY-P, Low-A, High-A, 49 hits allowed, 6-7, 215 pounder took huge step forward, 92-96 MPH fastball, curve can be plus when his command is on, has a change-up too, potential number three starter or power relief arm.
11) J.D. Davis, 3B, Grade B-: Age 22, hit .289/.370/.520 with 26 homers, 54 walks, 157 strikeouts in 485 at-bats in High-A, 60-65 power with strong throwing arm, high whiff rate and disturbingly harsh home/road splits are issues, hit great at friendly Lancaster (.352/.434/.683) but poorly on the road (.231/.310/.373). Not everyone buys that swing will work at higher levels. Glove at third is adequate but he’ll need to hit. Third round pick in 2014 from Cal State Fullerton.
12) Franklin Perez, RHP, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Venezuela for $1,000,000 in 2014, projection pick ranking him this high but I want him pointed out, 4.50 ERA with 61/14 K/BB in 50 innings between Dominican Summer League and GCL but ERA was deceptive, K/BB and K/IP more reflective of his talent. Fastball, curve, change all very promising, may have three plus pitches in time and already throws strikes.
13) Tony Kemp, 2B-OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 24, Vanderbilt product hit .308/.388/.386 with 56 walks, 65 strikeouts, 35 steals in 464 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A, best tool is 60-grade speed, also draws walks and plays steady defense but lacks power, will be hard to find a spot in this lineup so he’s been given time in the outfield to enhance versatility.
14) Tyler White, 3B-1B, Grade B-/C+: Age 25, hit .325/.442/.496 with 14 homers, 84 walks, 73 strikeouts in 403 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Older prospect with bad body (5-11, 225) but he can really hit and this is not a fluke, exceptional feel for the strike zone with solid average power. Main problem is finding a place to play him. Ron Coomer with more walks.
15) Albert Abreu, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, next product from the hard-throwing Dominican factory, posted 2.51 ERA with 51/21 K/BB in 47 innings in Appy League, 93-97 fastball, curve, slider, change-up all have big league potential, needs better control but will break through quickly if he gets it.
16) Matt Duffy, 3B-1B, Grade C+: Age 27, hit .294/.366/.484 with 20 homers, 48 walks, 90 strikeouts in 490 at-bats in Triple-A. Like fellow Triple-masher Tyler White, Duffy is an older prospect but the bat looks real to me, has more power than White but approach isn’t quite as refined. Like White, the hard part is finding a place to play him. Not to be confused with the Giants infielder.
17) Jandel Gustave, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, was drafted by Royals in 2014 Rule 5 draft but didn’t stick on KC roster, good thing for the Astros, posted 2.15 ERA with 20 saves, 49/25 K/BB in 59 innings in Double-A, thrived in relief with 94-98 fastball, hard slider, still needs better control.
18) Akeem Bostick, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, ultra-projectable has grown from 6-5, 190 to 6-6, 215, posted 1.50 ERA with 33/3 K/BB in 42 innings in Low-A but hit hard after promotion to Cal League, 5.88 ERA with 48/18 K/BB in 64 innings, 77 hits. He’s much better (potentially) than the Lancaster numbers would have you believe, lively fastball in low-90s, curve and change need more development but the basics are here for mid-rotation starter.
19) Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, hit .219/.275/.362 with 17 homers, 33 steals, 33 walks, 126 strikeouts in 470 at-bats in Double-A. Grade is generous given his serious problems with the strike zone but speed/power/throwing arm combination could be special. Can he get the zone under control? High risk guy but high ceiling. If he gets off to a good start in 2016, would make excellent summer trade bait.
20) Gilberto Celestino, OF, Grade C+: Age 17, signed for $2,500,000 out of Dominican Republic last summer, expected to be above-average/excellent defensive outfielder with power, good strike zone judgment, has hit well in amateur contexts against good competition. Obviously we need to see him in real games before going overboard but someone to watch closely.
OTHER GRADE C+: Riley Ferrell, RHP; Jon Kemmer, OF
OTHERS OF NOTE: Andrew Aplin, OF: Jonathan Arauz, INF; Chris Devenski, RHP; Nolan Fontana, INF; Alfredo Gonzalez, C; Mike Hauschild, RHP; Elieser Hernandez, RHP; James Hoyt, RHP; Juan Minaya, RHP; Brendan McCurry, RHP; Chase McDonald, 1B; Jamie Ritchie, C; Thomas Shirley, LHP; Miguelangel Sierra, SS; Kyle Smith, RHP; Cy Sneed, RHP; Max Stassi, C
A deep system obviously and there are about a dozen other guys who could be included.Some of the Grade C guys have C+ cases and/or very high ceilings. I will post some of the book comments in the thread below.
I flipped back and forth in the B+/A- range with both Reed and Bregman but ultimately went with A- for both of them. Exact ranking 1-2 in the system may change when I get the Top 175 done.