All Things Astros and a whole lot more
Jesus said the “poor will always be with us”. So, too, will the baseball prospect always be with us.
The organization that can discern the difference between a prospect and a future major league baseball player is destined to be among the best teams. It’s that simple, at least for the teams not in the farther part of the Northeast or California (e.g. Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, etc.).
Jeff Luhnow became general manager of the Astros in December 11, 2011. The learning curve was great. Add to it the fact he was disassembling and assembling virtually an entirely new organization, from the dugout, to radio, to PR to scouting to administration, it was obvious the timeline upward would start slowly and pick up later.
That explains, at least in part, why the draft classes for Houston are just now reaching Houston and why some of the so-called prospects acquired in trades have not panned out. Carlos Correa was a no-brainer to be planted at shortstop in Houston for years. The Astros may have hit it big with seventh-round pick Preston Tucker and even 37th pick Lance McCullers Jr.
But others haven’t been so lucky or at least haven’t paid off…yet. Let’s take a look at some of the prospects many of us — and Luhnow too — had high hopes for. Some have moved on and others are still languishing in the Astros’ organization.
Matt Dominguez. Acquired in the Carlos Lee trade, Dominguez had every opportunity in 1200+ at bats to become the everyday third baseman for the next decade. He was the 12th pick in the 2007 draft but never lived up to his expectations. He’ll get a second chance in Milwaukee after the Brewers picked him up off waivers this week.
Brett Wallace. Another former first round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals who could have been the Astros’ everyday first baseman today. Like Dominguez and so many others, never lived up to the rankings. Wallace is with his third organization since leaving the Astros. He hasn’t played in the majors since 2013, but is living up to his AAAA comparisons, hitting .298/.372/.455 with AAA El Paso.
Jon Singleton. Yes, he’s still a prospect and could still make the most of the rankings that have listed him among the best Astros’ prospects since he was acquired in 2011 in the Hunter Pence trade. He was among baseball’s Top 100 from 2011-14 and should get one more long opportunity to make it with the Astros.
Jarred Cosart. Many fans were chagrined when Cosart was traded to Miami for Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick and the compensation pick that turned into outfielder Daz Cameron in last week’s draft. Cosart could have easily found a place in this year’s rotation, but his low K/9 totals, high BB/9 totals and other factors may not have been a fit in Houston.
Nolan Fontana. A personal favorite, Fontana probably doesn’t have the bat to become an everyday player in the majors. His glove and his ability to walk (260 walks in 1216 plate appearances) keeps him on the field at Fresno and on many prospects list. In other words, he’s a Jeff Luhnow-type guy. If he could consistenly hit .260-.270, he’d a future consideration. However, he could be a casualty as early as this fall, if not packaged in a trade this summer.
Delino Deshields Jr. The Astros didn’t protect him and the Rangers grabbed him in the Rule 5 draft last December. He’s had a solid start (.269/.358/.386) and has been an integral part of the roster thus far. This could be a miss for the Astros.
Jonathan Villar. He was 12th on Baseball America’s Astros’ prospect list, but has been inconsistent in several previews with the Astros. He’s presently in Fresno and likely “off” the prospect list for Houston. Trade candidate, though he’s still young and serviceable in many ways so he won’t be released.
Brett Oberholtzer. The lefty who came over in the 2011 Michael Bourn trade and, while he is no longer a true prospect, he’s one of those players for which the Astros have had high hopes. He was seventh on Baseball America’s 2012 Astros’ prospect list and is likely getting his final shot at establishing himself in the team’s rotation.
Telvin Nash. He was tenth on BA’s 2012 list, but has failed to generate any consistency. At 24, he’s still at Corpus Christi and not making a strong case.
Jiovanni Mier. A much-ballyhooed first round pick in 2009, Mier never got any traction, though he was ranked among Baseball America’s Top 10 Astros’ prospects from 2009-2011. At 24 years old, he is still playing at AA Corpus Christi.
Yes, I could live with this lineup next month when Jed Lowrie returns.
And a few other notes and thoughts: