Astros’ prospects: The list runneth over

For Thanksgiving this year, we’re going over to our friend Paula’s house. There will be multiple varieties of stuffing, more than 3.1415 kinds of pie, turkey, casseroles, side dishes, salads. I’m bringing my famous apricot and pomegranate stuffing plus two pies.

I’ve been eating extra each night just training for the event.

My point? Sometimes, there are just so many good options you can’t fit them all in.

Which brings me to Baseball America’s just-released list of the Astros’ top-10 prospects. Like my upcoming Turkey Day Feast, it’s not that there’s anything bad on the plate, it’s just that there’s too many good options for BA to list them all.

For those who haven’t seen the list yet, it runs thus:

1. Carlos Correa, SS, A+

2. Mark Appel, RHP, AA

3. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, MLB

4. Vincent Velasquez, RHP, A+

5. Michael Feliz, RHP, A

6. Brett Phillips, CF, A

7. Colin Moran, 3B, AA

8. Rio Ruiz, 3B, A+

9. Teoscar Hernandez, CF, AA

10. Josh Hader, LHP, AA


Not a bad list. It’d be tough to say one of those players is undeserving of being a “Top 10” farmhand. Hader was the Cal League’s Pitcher of the Year. Not every ballpark out west is a launching pad, so getting someone who pitches half his games at The Hanger to make Pitcher of the Year is pretty incredible. It’s like having a Rockies pitcher win the Cy Young. Hernandez seems to consistently put up OPS numbers over .750 … when he’s not notching .923 OPS in Lancaster. Phillips, the new “top prospect” name has recorded a career .828 OPS while never striking out 100 times in a season.

Heck, the guy who made me cringe was Appel, until I remembered what he’d done in Arizona this fall.

Of course, this all begs the question, who did they leave off this list?

Well, I’m here to tell you.

Domingo Santana, OF, MLB

OK, as a 21-year-old (he’s 22 now) his MLB debut left something to be desired. But the kid’s probably worth another look or two. After all, his .858 OPS in AAA was pretty amazing despite whiffing about a third of the time.

Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, A+

In most places, a 5.47 ERA would rightfully get you dropped from a top-10 list, but like Hader, McCullers pitched in The Hanger last season. His ERA aside, he struck out 115 batters in 97 innings. And his BAA was .255, while the league average was .266. Ranked by MLB as the Astros’ sixth and 76th overall prospect, it would stand to reason 2015 is a make-or-break season for McCullers.

A.J. Reed, 1B, A

Maybe when a guy wins the Golden Spikes Award we shouldn’t be so surprised when he puts up a nearly .900 combined OPS and ends up in full-season A. But to do so in his first year in the pros, well that’s kind of amazing. Ranked as the Astros 14th prospect by MLB, Reed is projected to arrive in Houston in 2017. If he keeps hitting like last year, taking two levels in a season, and if Singleton flames out, he’ll be in Houston easily in 2016.

Tony Kemp, 2B, AA

He’s small, he’s got no real power, he could stand to walk a bit more, but he strikes out very little. Hmm, where have I heard that before. For the record, he put up a combined .859 OPS with 8 HRs and a .316 BA. OK, so he’s not quite Jose Altuve, but there’s a quality ballplayer there.

Preston Tucker, OF, AAA

A .785 OPS, 24 HRs, 120 Ks and half that many walks. The guy most of us want to see in Houston sooner rather than later didn’t make the top 10. In fact, MLB lists him as only Houston’s 19th best prospect. If he’s No. 19, this is one deep system.

Andrew Aplin, OF, AAA

His .717 OPS between AA and AAA was not exactly inspiring, but his play in the AFL was pretty great.

Joe Sclafani, IF, AAA

Matt Dominguez‘s top competition this spring hit .339 in 192 AAA at bats last season. There’s not a lot of power there, just a guy who hits the ball. If his defense can get up to snuff, he might be an answer at third. Him and …

Matt Duffy, 3B, AAA

Power, 18 combined AA and AAA homers. Average, .283 between the PCL and Texas League. And reportedly a good glove. If he’s not in the mix at third, we’ve signed someone amazing.


So, do you agree with Baseball America’s list? Are these the top 10 prospects in the Astros’ system?

1. Who does not deserve to be on this list? Appel? Hader?

2. Which prospect is more deserving of a spot on the BA list? Tucker? Reed? Kyle Smith with his combined 3.95 ERA? Derek Fisher? Delino DeShields Jr.?

3. Who are you most excited to see in Houston in 2015? The return of Santana?  The emergence of Tucker? Aplin or Sclafani? Appel or more of Folty?

4. BA has yet to make its complete list of top 10s. Is Houston’s stocked system still a top five farm?

5. Is there enough of this talent making its way to the top levels? Are there still plenty of great prospects at the A level and below to keep this pipeline going?


59 comments on “Astros’ prospects: The list runneth over

  1. Brian T –
    You deserve to eat a smorgasbord, because you burned off some big time calories doing this post.
    – I guess Foltynewicz is on the list because he still has not reached the ROY limit in innings. But it was not like he was a September call-up – got pulled up in early August and stayed around.
    – I’d like to add Tucker, Santana and McCullers to the list – but I have no argument for who to remove. Of course we could add those 3 and have a BA baker’s dozen list.
    – Santana (22) and McCullers Jr. (21) are so young – they need to be given some slack. After the season, one of the loyal bloggers pointed us to an article that talked about how McCullers struggles this season were tied directly to working on developing a change up. It set him back as far as performance for this particular year, but may have set him on the path to success overall. Santana at 22 had a very solid year at AAA – he needs to shake off the bad mlb cup of coffee and move forward. (It would help if he did not strike out like someone who is trying to put up more K’s than Chris Carter and Jon Singleton combined.
    – I would be excited to see Tucker or Santana come up and add some pop to this anemic lineup.
    – My gut feeling is that the team is still in the top 5, however…..
    – The 2013 and 2014 drafts to date are not as strong as the excellent 2012 (Correa, McCullers, Ruiz, Tucker, Phillips, Aplin, Fontana, Sclafani). Will this result in a “hole” in the development or will Appel, Kemp, Reed, Fisher, Davis make up in quality for quantity.
    – I know he is older, but I am sure hoping to see something from Asher Wojciechowski that shows he is not only healthy but ready to continue some of the dominant pitching he has shown in the past.


  2. I think Houston’s list is the top one. I would not be surprised if we have the top ranked player in the minors by the end of this year in Correa.
    Kent Emanuel would be a top 10 player on half of the teams’ list.
    The Astros have five potential starting pitchers in their top 10. a SS, two 3B and 2 center fielders. That’s some power positions.
    I think Kemp’s power is a little underrated in this post. He hit 4 HRs in CC in a half a season hitting leadoff.
    I don’t think Appel should be rushed. With the log jam at CC with starting pitching, I would feel very comfortable with him pitching most of the year in OKC. Heck, the guy has only pitched in 29 minor league games.
    There are five guys in the minors that I would not be surprised if they all played in the majors this year who are not on our top 10. They are Tucker, Sclafani, Torreyes, Kemp and Aplin. I would not be surprised if some of them weren’t making that appearance for someone other than the Astros.
    My biggest surprise is the huge jump Brett Phillips made in this list, after not being a top 20 at the beginning of the season.
    I was wondering if my worries about Santana were well founded and, after seeing him drop off the list, I suppose they are.
    I think by 2018 the Astros are going to be a very tough team to beat.


  3. 1. I’m mostly satisfied with the list. I think Teoscar is a bit high, but let’s see what he does in a second shot at Corpus. Likewise, I would listen to arguments that Ruiz is about 8 spots too high among top prospects of the system.
    2. I like Reed…not sure he can advance quickly though. Ultimately a log jam at 1B/DH should cause JL to make some trades.
    3. I think Sclafani gets a shot at some point, but I’m more excited to see what Folty does this spring. I don’t want to call it a make or break year, but we need to see signs that he can fit in the rotation.
    4. I don’t know. We know Chicago and Minn have some top quality prospects. I haven’t followed enough other teams to judge. I think we are far deeper than anyone else, but with lower ceilings for our top individuals.
    5. The impressive thing is that all ten should start at AA or above next year. Brett Maverick Phillips might be pushing it a little, but if the winter layoff doesn’t slow him down there is no reason to watch him terrorize the Cali league again. Based on the 2014 draft, our lower levels should be packed too. Unless we lose 2015 picks or JL comes up with a new strategy to not sign our #1’s again we should keep that pipeline flowing another year or two.


  4. McCullers will be fine. The Lastros will not.

    Soon everybody will be talking about how promising the 2016 team will look once they realize that the 2015 team still blows.

    Actually watching GSpring on TV could be an interesting thing to behold. I’ll give you that.

    Adding $20mil to the payroll is a pittance. Laughably so…


  5. geez bopert that laughably low payroll managed to pass the rangers in the standings this year – you know the rangers that will dominate the astros for the next several decades by your prediction before the season this year. and what about that tv contract that will never come to fruition? as much time as you spent on that i would think you’d at least have a comment on it now.


    • The Rangers get Prince Fielder, Matt Marrison, Jurickson Profar, and Derek Holland back in the lineups in 2015…in addition to about an entire lineup of guys who missed at least some time. Remember Choose went down late and Darvish got shut down a couple times.

      The Astros get George Springer back as a reinforcement…but nothing else that I’m aware of.


    • I stand by that prediction.

      Any journalist worth his salt (that IS you, Richard Justice, right?) would know that the real reason for the Rangers smelly year was that they were ravaged by key injuries.

      And not just one or two key players either. Is was the entire wing of the Arlington hospital ward filled with top notch talent that the Lastros wished they had. The Rangers talent level and fan support will continue to dominate. Mark my words.


  6. So what do you think about these ten guys? When will they get their first chances in MLB? I am going to make some guesses;
    1. Correa Sept 2015
    2. Appel Sept 2015
    3. Folty 5th starter 2015
    4.Velasquez Sept 2016
    5. Feliz july 2016
    6. Phillips July 2017
    7. Moran April 2016
    8. Ruiz April 2017
    9.Hernandez Sept 2016
    10. Hader September 2016
    I think Correa plays half the year in CC and gets promoted to Fresno. I think Appel might go to Fresno, as The AFL might have been the final part of his AA trial. I see Velasquez, Feliz and Hader as CC starters, if only because of Feliz and Velasquez having been added to the 40-man. I think Phillips may start in Lancaster and be moved early if he is producing. The extensive Florida instructional may get Moran moved to AAA because JL has already tabbed Ruiz for AA.


  7. I’m interested to watch Moran in ST. I hope they give him tons of ABs. But I agree with oldpro that he’ll be in the minors all of 2015.


  8. I’m telling you…….keep your eye on A.J. Reed, this kid is SPECIAL. It’s a GOOD problem to have, when you have as much talent as this club has…….FINALLY!!
    Remember one thing……..Luhnow is very high on the guys he has drafted….case in point Hernandez, he will give that kid more chances to fail, than the guys that were
    here when he got hired. Since I’m the chief cook around here, and I’ll be busy cooking……Happy Thanksgiving ya’ll! Eat too much………. and don’t forget to kiss the cook!


  9. When Reed was assigned to Tri City he found the level of pitching to be below his level and was there to learn to play first base, which he did.
    Quad Cities was definitely a step up for him at the plate as his walk rate plummeted and his K rate jumped. But his fielding was much improved. I think Reed needs some challenges to make him adjust in the box and not being a pitcher will help him do that.
    Remember that at this time last year he was going into his junior year as a college pitcher. This is a huge year for him as he starts to face good pitching every day as a 1B/DH.


    • Agreed – it’s difficult to spend some of your most formulative years as a hitter not being a hitter.

      Reed is probably more of a long term guy – and I usually ignore long term guys. If he isn’t sitting at AA or AAA knocking on the door, you really don’t know what you have.


  10. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I am especially grateful for this blog and the people who frequent it.
    I always thought I would spend my retirement playing golf with my wife and friends but that is not possible anymore and the Astros have taken the place of the Links and my life has come full circle in that respect because the Astros were my hobby when I was a boy.
    There are other, important prospects in the Astros system that are not mentioned in this article who may be a very important part of the Astros and our future in one way or another. I will mention a few of them because they are hiding behind some guys who shine.
    Tyler Heineman, and Max Stassi are very young catchers who are playing in leagues whose average age are way above them but are doing well. I still think Brady Rodgers is a name we may be hearing for years as a major league pitcher. There is another pitcher in the Astros system that I think will pitch in the majors as a starter for years and he is in the low minors.
    I think Derek Fischer and Jamie Ritchie will make it to the majors. I think Jandel Gustave could be a major league closer if Brett Strom ever gets ahold of him. There are more, but my fair lady is up and about and the massive cooking project is set to begin. Have a great day.


  11. Hear that?? That’s the sound of Crickets chirping all around the Astros front office.
    I guess you could say, no news is good news. I gotta feeling Luhnow won’t allow ANY rumors to leak out, since he got hacked last summer. Chirp, chirp, chirp.


  12. The plus side is that the Astros finally have some players that would find a place on almost all teams in the majors. Altuve, McHugh, Keuchel, Springer, Fowler and Feldman are all solid to excellent players.
    Not yet enough but a heck of a lot better than a little while ago.


    • I am more jazzed than ever. A guy with a 70 rated fastball and a 65 rated curveball is 20 years old and in Pitcher’s Hell, Lancaster. So what does he do? He spends the entire year working on his 45 rated changeup to make it a better pitch and drops out of the top 10 list. I’m betting LMJ jumps way up the list by this time next year.
      How about Phillips popping up at #6 when he wasn’t even in the top 20 before? How does a player do that in a world of rankings where nobody fools the “Experts”?
      And what happens if nobody takes a chance on DDJ in the rule 5 draft, and the kid wakes up and realizes he really has to work hard to make it? That’s when the ratings guys might have to start giving the Astros prospects ratings such as #2A and #2B because there aren’t enough numbers in the Top Ten to list all of them.
      I’m starting to think that the Astros might not be so dumb after all. These prospects have to be jazzed that the Astros aren’t running out spending hundreds of millions of dollars on players who will block them. Maybe I have been wrong about all the prospects being unhappy about the team not spending money now.
      That 2017 team might really be special!

      Liked by 1 person

      • And the pipeline just keeps filling. Despite the Aiken/Nix fiasco, the 2014 draft looks like it will rate as “average” at worst. I see at least two MLB players there.

        I think part of the reason Luhnow hasn’t made a big move is that he’s waiying on the ruling on Nix to see if we lose that pick. Losing that AND a pick for signing a guy like the Yankees (spit!) closer would be too much.

        I was sad to see Donaldson traded somewhere besides Houston, but I still think Luhnow should target Trevor Plouffe at third. The Twins have a top prospect ready to slide in at third, so they see Plouffe as expendable at the right price. I’d be willing to package someone like LMJ or Kyle Smith with Kemp and DDJ for Plouffe. Maybe something else. Maybe Smith and Teoscar.


      • If we had Plouffe, MarGo, Altuve, Singleton (?) around the infield and Fowler, Springer, and Marisnick or Grossman in the outfield, Carter at DH and Conger/Castro behind the plate, I’d take that along with a solid pen. That’s 81-plus wins.


      • Brian: that trade would seem to be fair. I would personally like to see a Smith/Kemp or an LMJ/Teoscar rather than an LMJ/Kemp because the last couple are two of my favorites. Plouffe has a good WAR, 3 years of arb left and would seem to provide what we would need at third for a couple of years before he got too expensive and one or both of Moran/Ruiz is ready.
        That trade AND keeping Fowler until July deadline and getting two decent bullpen arms(Will Harris being one) meet my criteria for improving the team without mortgaging it. Since we really need to give Singleton a chance at first base. I would set Marc Kraus free and draft Mark Canha from the Marlins in the rule V draft as a RH alternative at 1B and COF.
        This would also allow Dominguez to go down to AAA and try to get his swing back as the DH, if he has options left. Moran could play 3B in AAA and Sclafanii comes to Houston as a utility/PH//PR. If Dominguez finds his groove, he becomes an asset in a trade, rather than a liability.
        Bench: Presley, Sclafani, Cahna, Villar, and Conger.
        On the doorstep in AAA if needed: Aplin, Tucker, Torreyes(?. if still here after Dec 11), Stassi, Dominguez, Santana. Grossman.


      • But wait! If you act right now…..
        No, actually that’s 14 position players, so one of your bench guys gets left off and becomes a AAA doorstep guy, too..


      • If Dominguez doesn’t have options left then why should we keep him? He can’t hit for average, can’t draw a walk, strikes out more than the normal 3B and is excruciatingly slow. Yes, he can hit the occassional HR, but there is nothing I have seen either from his minor league numbers or limited MLB numbers to think he will ever be even an average offensive 3B.


  13. I am in disbelief that the Marlins left Cahna unprotected. I certainly would take a flyer on him for a corner infielder and/or DH for a season. He hits for average, has some pop for homers and doubles, plus drives in runs.


      • At least he’s right handed and if you’re going to carry another 1B it would be good for him to complement Singleton by hitting RH.


    • He has played a little 3B and quite a bit of OF. If they draft him he costs 50 grand. That seems like a pretty good gamble on a guy who can play several positions and has some power and has hit for a good average in AAA.


      • He is a developmental guy. Next year will probably look a lot like Krauss’s last couple of years. I’d rather have a major leaguer fill that role, Callaspo.


  14. Here is my dream 25-man roster for the 2018 Astros.
    Starting lineup:
    Kemp LF
    Altuve 2B
    Correa SS
    Tucker DH
    Springer RF
    Moran 3B
    Phillips CF
    Reed 1B
    Stassi C
    Bench- Derek Fischer, Alex Bregman, Rio Ruiz, Tyler Heineman
    Starting pitchers- McCullers, Blaine Sims, Collin McHugh, Mark Appel, Josh Hader
    Bullpen- Emanuel, Feliz, Smith, Brunneman, Foltynewicz, Gustave, Nathan Kirby


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