Astros come from behind. Somewhere Colby Rasmus is smiling because, apparently, he did not enjoy his time in the Frozen North.
But best of all, Preston Tucker went a little crazy, going 3-for-4, two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. For those of you who haven’t already clicked his player page, that’s a total of four MLB hits, three walks and two Ks. Tucker could very quickly make one of the following — Chris Carter, Colby Rasmus or Evan Gattis — obsolete.
Tucker is Luhnow’s first Astros draft pick to make it to the Major Leagues. Not Carlos Correa. Not Mark Appel. Nor even Lance McCullers Jr. Nope, it’s the 7th Round pick out of Florida. And so far, he’s looking like a ball player. Which makes me think that, maybe, it’s time for the Astros’ vaunted farm system to start paying off.
Time To Harvest
So, you can have a top-rated list of prospects, but if they’re not MLB-ready, they’re not helping. Heck, they might never help. So, what players, specifically, are on the farm, and how close are these guys to helping out in Houston this year.
For my purposes here tonight, no one under AA is going to be looked at. If you aren’t in AA by mid-May, you’re not getting to Houston. Second, I don’t want to look at all the organizational players, those AAAA guys who Houston might have called up in years past. Nope, this is all about those draft picks and trade pickups. So, let’s have a look. Here is my list of the top 10 prospects likely to play in Houston in 2015:
1. Captain Obvious, Carlos Correa (2012, first overall pick): After three games in AAA, Correa is hitting just .231. Time for the panic button? Hardly. He’s had a hit in every game, one hit was a double, he’s walked 3 times and K’ed twice. What’s the over/under on how many games it takes to get to .300 for Correa? Six? Ten? I say it takes until after his ninth game to get the average over .300.
2. Jon Singleton (2009, 8th rounder, picked up in the Hunter Pence trade): One big game has highlighted the change in Singleton. His OPS is now .991, and while he’s walked 23 times, he’s struck out just 31 times. The good news, he’s K’ed only 8 times in the past 10 games covering 42 plate appearances. That’s less than 20 percent. In that span, he’s also gone 13-for-34 with 7 HRs. Does Carter have any options left?
3. Lance McCullers Jr. (2012, compensation pick): LMJ just got called out to Fresno, so as I write this, his stats are all from the Hooks. And those stats are Keuchel-esque. WHIP, 0.90. ERA, 0.62. The difference is, McCullers doesn’t get all those ground outs. Instead, he’s struck out 43 hitters (walked 11) in 29.0 IP. In a draft where Appel could have been taken, it’s McCullers who has really stepped up.
4. Jordan Jankowski (2012, 34th round): Honestly, there aren’t a lot of pitchers in Fresno that look like sure bets. But Jankowski is not doing horribly. Which, for Fresno pitchers, is a compliment. His 2.45 ERA entirely in relief comes with too many walks (13) in 18.1 innings, but also comes with 23 Ks. He’s not on the 40-man roster, so that might hold him back, but if he gets his walks under control (his 1.64 WHIP is uncharacteristically high for his career), he might make a good short-term solution if someone’s injured.
5. Mark Appel, (2013, first overall pick): Honestly, I think that appendectomy set him back for most of last season. Right now in Corpus, Appel has a 3.71 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. That said, he’s inducing nearly two ground outs vs. other outs. His K rate and BB rate aren’t spectacular. But with the revolving door at the fifth spot in the rotation, Appel might be an option before too long.
6. Chris Devenski, (2011, 25th round by the White Sox): Honestly, I’m too tired to look up who we traded for whom and got Devenski as the PTBNL. But right now, this guy has an ERA of 0.31 and a WHIP of 0.93. I find his lack of ground outs disturbing, and the fact that 2015 thus far is an anomaly in his career. Still, he’s the only pitcher who makes LMJ look overrated.
7. Joe Sclafani, (2012, 14th round by Houston): While also not on the 40-man roster, Sclafani is a Luhnow kind of hitter. While in Fresno (I choose to ignore the three games when he was sent to CC), his .744 OPS comes with only 12 Ks but also 12 BBs in 75 plate appearances. Best of all, he’s one of those versatile infielders.
8. Matt Duffy, (2011, 20th round by the Astros): There’d need to be a need at 3B. And someone would need to be really fed up with Jonathan Villar. I mean, more fed up than Becky. Duffy has a .732 OPS, which is a bit low for him in the high minors. But he’s got power, hits for average average, and his K’s aren’t unmanageable.
9. Tony Kemp, (2012, 5th round, Astros): Nolan Fontana seems to have hit a wall. But Tony Kemp just keeps on hitting. If Altuve went down for a month or more, I’d vote for Kemp. Right now he’s hitting .346 in CC, and all it seems to have done to his stats is reduced his walk rate. Still, he’s walked 21 times and K’ed 17 times in 128 PAs. His .858 OPS is mostly on-base supported. Kemp isn’t a power hitter. Still, he gets on base.
10. Tyler Heineman, (2012, 8th round Astros): Either Jason Castro or Hank Conger goes down, the smart money is on Matt Stassi getting a call up. He’s on the 40-man. He’s been there before. But right now, Stassi is batting .200 with a .587 OPS for Fresno. Heineman, meanwhile, is hitting .314 with a .785 OPS. Best of all, in 77 PAs, he’s only K’ed 5 times. Imagine, a catcher who hits.
So, who makes your list of potential call ups?