The minor league baseball season is over (playoffs ending this weekend), so I thought I would look back at the Astros’ top 10 prospects as ranked by Baseball America before the season.
There are various rankings available and I picked this one because I feel too lazy to analyze someone else’s top 20 rankings instead of a top 10. Thought I would be honest.
1. Carlos Correa. A former #1 overall pick, Correa at Lancaster was a ballplayer toying with the other guys at the A+ level. In only 62 games he had scored 50 runs, knocked in 57 runs, stole 20 bases in 24 attempts, batted .325, on base .416 and on and on. The problem of course was the “only” 62 games. He went down with the fractured fibula and instead of enjoying a AA promotion in the second half of the season, he is missing out on development time.
Bottom line. When he returns in 2015, he will again be the Astros’ top prospect and should start the season at Corpus.
2. George Springer. Springer was good enough to start the season in Houston, but he would not sign a club friendly contract so he was sent to the minors for more seasoning. Apparently he was seasoned enough after 16 games and brought up. In 78 games, he struck out a ton, hit for a low average and forgot how to steal bases. However — and this is a big however — he completely changed the direction of the club, making impact plays on offense and defense and putting up 20 HR and 51 RBIs in less than half a season. The fans can only pray that his injury problems the last half of the season are a one-time fluke.
Bottom line. He has earned his way off the top prospect list and now will attempt to earn his way on to the top players in the majors list.
3. Mark Appel. The Astros skipped drafting Appel #1 overall in 2012, then after he did not sign with the Pirates, they did pick him as the first overall in 2013, signed him and had him pitch OK in a cameo at Tri-City and Quad Cities. His appendectomy in the off-season threw him off kilter or going to hitter’s paradise Lancaster threw him off kilter or working in the tandem system threw him off kilter (you get to pick). His Lancaster numbers were laughably bad — 9.74 ERA and 1.917 WHIP — and so the Astros did the only thing they could think of (after having tried extended spring training for him). They promoted him to AA Corpus where he pitched better and had some good starts down the stretch.
Bottom line. My best guess is that Appel may still be in the top 3 or 4 on next season’s prospect list, but I have no idea whether he will start at AA Corpus or AAA (this space for lease) next season.
4. Michael Foltynewicz. I’ve already told you that I’m lazy, so he is Folty from now on. It is rarely discussed but Folty is also a former first rounder like the folks above him on this list. He is probably the hardest throwing prospect in the organization, hitting 99 and 100 mph on the gun. After starting in the minors, he has been used inconsistently out of the bullpen since his call-up with mixed results. But he is only 22 years old and not fully refined.
Bottom line. He will likely have graduated off this list when 2015 rolls around, but now the key is how will they use him. Is he a starter? Future closer? Trade chip? I hope not the last. I hope he refines his pitching process and gives us many years of hard throwing fun.
5. Lance McCullers Jr. After good performances in 2012 and 2013, this supplemental first round pick in 2012 hit that pitching speed bump called Lancaster this season. The plus side is that he gave up about four earned runs per 9 IP less than Mark Appel at A+. The negative side was a 5.47 ERA. Pessimists can hoist the flag of 18 home runs in 97 innings and more than 5 walks per 9 IP. Optimists can hang their hat on his very young age (20), the Lancaster effect and his great 10.9 Ks per 9 IP.
Bottom line. Some may de-rate him as a prospect next season, but there is nothing wrong here that a little more maturity and a shot of sea level won’t cure.
6. Vincent Velasquez. Two months on the injured list with a groin injury really shortened his season. But he put up a 3.74 ERA at Lancaster which surely must be like a 2.20 at Corpus even in only 55 innings. After missing a whole year in 2011 injured, he had been on a strong roll up the organization.
Bottom line. The Astros need to find a spot on the 40 man roster or he could be a possible Rule 5 loss. He will probably hang around this spot in the top 10 going into 2015, but good early season work could get him to AAA in a hurry.
7. Jonathan Singleton. Well he may have been only seventh on this list headed into 2014 (mostly because of struggles in 2013 with a drug suspension and a slow roll at AAA), but he was the 2nd of these prospects to make it to the majors. His audition has been a mixed bag of strikeouts, low batting average, along with power and runs batted in.
Bottom line. The Astros have to be suspect of his low numbers but intrigued by run producing ability even with a sub-.180 BA. One would imagine they will give him more time (he turns 23 next Thursday) to show himself and if they give up, will try and package him in a trade.
8. Domingo Santana. Santana had consistently shown an ability to put up good numbers at a very young age as he was promoted year after year up the minor league chain. Yes, he struck out too much but he always seemed to be putting up .850+ OPS’s everywhere he went. So the Astros had a OF need and they promoted the 21-year-old to the majors (and most of us fans were all for it). But 17 ABs, 14 strikeouts and no hits later he was sent back down and not brought back up at the September call up.
Bottom line. You have to wonder what the Astros are thinking about this young man, but hey he was in the majors when a lot of these guys were still in school or in the lower minors age-wise. Hopefully, he has learned and he will grow.
9. Michael Feliz. Speaking of 21 years old, Feliz is only slightly younger than Santana and pitching at A ball this season. He had one of the strongest seasons in the Astros’ system last season but after a promotion to Quad Cities had some struggles, especially with his control this year. His 9.7 Ks per 9 IP is still promising, but he needs to walk fewer and give up fewer hits per 9 IP.
Bottom line. Feliz is another potential Rule 5 loss, and if it comes down to protecting him or Velasquez you would think they might take a chance and expose him.
10. Asher Wojciechowski. Wojo looked like he was lined up to contend for the fifth spot in the Astros’ rotation headed into this spring training. He ended up missing a big chunk of the season with an injury. He pitched poorly at OKC as he worked himself into game shape, but ended up throwing a few gems towards the end of the season.
Bottom line. Asher will be 26 when the next spring training comes around. He will probably not be on the top 10 prospect list, but he could be ready to finally do something next season. But will it be here?
So where are you with this analysis – and who is on your top 10 prospect list heading into 2015?