With a bunch of free agents hitting the market over the last few days, there is probably no shortage of possible hole fillers out there to help the Astros improve for 2016.
But that’s not what I’m talking about.
Nope, the phone calls I’m talking about are ones Jeff Luhnow should have on speed dial: Fresno and Corpus Christi.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Astros have the top farm system in baseball. Two champions (Fresno and Greenville), a bunch more playoff teams, and the MiLB Player of the Year in A.J. Reed.
Yep, despite several promotions this year — Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Preston Tucker, Vincent Velasquez — the cupboard is far from bare. Here are the top prospects that you’ll likely see in Houston next summer.
1. Matt Duffy: Primarily a third baseman — but a guy who took quite a few reps at first base in 2015 — Duffy has been incredibly consistent in the minors, season after season. In 2015, Duffy’s .850 OPS came with 20 HRs, 104 RBIs and just 90 Ks (48 BBs) in 490 ABs. He earned a sip of coffee in Houston and seemed to be no worse at the next level.
2. A.J. Reed: Not to be outdone, Reed led the minors with 34 homers, drove in 127 runs and tallied a 1.044 OPS between Lancaster and Corpus. His 122 Ks (86 BBs) are a bit troubling, since it’s about 25 percent. That said, that much power and a .432 OPS are worth a look.
3. Colin Moran: If Duffy doesn’t work out — or becomes a DH — there’s a better defensive option in Colin Moran. His range is not huge, but he’s got good hands and a good arm. Plus, his .840 OPS with 9 HRs, 67 RBIs in just 366 ABs (injuries have slowed him) from Corpus are fairly impressive, especially since he started slowly due to getting beaned.
4. Joe Musgrove: A mid-90s fastball from this big right hander, Musgrove flew through three levels, topping out in Corpus in 2015. Overall, in 100 innings he posted a 1.88 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. Oh, and 99 Ks with only 8 — EIGHT — walks. Yeah, I’m impressed.
5. Michael Feliz: Yes, he had a cup o’ Joe in Houston, but he’s still a prospect. Feliz approaches 100 on his fastball. His 103 Ks in 111 innings pitched with 32 Ks was pretty good with a 1.02 WHIP and 2.83 ERA. Most of that ERA came from Lancaster, where ERAs tend to rise.
6. Mark Appel: Hey, you remember him, right? His combined 2015 ERA (Corpus and Fresno) was 4.37. His BAA was 2.66, and he had a 1.41 WHIP. But he shows moments of brilliance.
Honorable Mentions: Frances Martes, Derek Fisher, Tony Kemp, Tyler White, Chris Devenski.
So, which farmhand do you most want to see?
The Astros will need to bring in a veteran or two. But should that keep them from promoting these kids?
Houston has some talent about ready to burst onto the scene at first and third base. Should they trust those kids — and maybe Jon Singleton gets another short-leash chance — and concentrate on relievers, a starter and maybe an outfielder on the free agent market?
here is a link to a rule 5 list at what the heck bobby. very well organized. looks like 10 of our top 30 are eligible if not protected, along with some notables such as duffy, heineman, sclafani, shirley etc.
Duffy is already on the 40-man, Shirley went on the DL and has been sent to Weiland Island. Heineman is a guy I would protect, but the Astros might disagree because they seem to be in love with a bad catcher.
Although 10 of our top 30 are on the list, Musgrove is the only one in the top 15.
Let’s take Devinski for example: He has never pitched above AA, has a fastball rated at 45 and a curve rated at 45 and a good changeup. Is a major league team going to draft him and put him on their major league roster for the entire year? Why would they because he doesn’t even have an average fastball or curve. The Astros don’t have to protect everybody. They just have to protect the guys they don’t want to lose. They are going to lose somebody. They just don’t want to lose somebody they need.
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Fascinating article by Drellich in which Luhnow talks about the team and it’s ideas about Gomez and Castro and their situations. This conversation gives us some inside info into what Luhnow’s plans for the future entail. See if you can see a pattern developing linking to the Rasmus and the Gomez/Castro situations over the next season or two.
Luhnow is so cagey. He says that they are thinking about doing these things and then says it’s not really part of the plan to do them.
Then he does them and says that’s the way they thought it would work out.
In other words, nothing they do is part of a plan, but everything they do is part of the plan.
Insert Mike Tyson quote about everyone having a plan here….
The Astros filled their minor leagues with good players from the draft. They got the first pick in every round of every draft for three years and got top picks on waivers and top picks of Rule 5.
That time is gone, but it has filled the Astros coffers with the best minor leagues and a playoff team.
Now what? The Astros are going to be picking in the 20s instead of at the top, but the new way to beat that is with extra picks in the early rounds in the form of supplementary picks. This year 20 players got QOs so there are going to be a bunch of teams who are going to lose their top draft pick when they sign one of those free agents. That is going to make supplementary picks more valuable because instead of thirty players being picked in the first round, there may only be 23-25 players picked because teams lost their spots and all the teams behind them move up! So whereas a supp pick might used to have been in the mid to late 30’s(when only a few stars got QOs) now those picks are going to be in the low to mid thirties. If the Astros don’t sign a FA who carries the loss of a pick and Rasmus goes elsewhere, they are going to have two first round picks in June and they are right back in the drafting business again. If they do the same next year with Castro and Gomez, they would end up with three high picks in June of 2017 and they are restocking the farm again and not paying the huge prices for aging players.
That’s the plan. Or part of it.
If Rasmus doesn’t sign for $15.8 mill for us, we could get Aoki for two years for that amount of money and get that top of the order OBP guy we need in LF. Two years of Aoki for the price of one year of Rasmus and we get the draft pick and we have bought an extra year for Fisher to be ready or whoever else blossoms in the OF.
You do the same thing with Gomez next year. You’re either going to get an extra year of Gomez or another high draft pick, in a year when your first round pick could be #30.
OP I think you are absolutely on the right track here as I had the same kind of thoughts when i read Luhnow’s comments. To me, this is a very smart plan (whether he admits it’s his plan or not), and it makes most, if not all, the discussion about his GM abilities pretty much moot. If all this works right, the Astros might have the best minor league system for many years to come.
The part of having sooo many top prospects, is they are used as trade bait, instead of money. Sure, you might get Chapman……but I promise you when he gets to be a free agent, he aint staying in Houston…..same for Kimbrel. You give up 3-4 of your BEST arms, for one season with a top notch closer…..for what, the thought that you MIGHT get to the playoffs? I could see giving up that many top prospects for a closer we could KEEP for more than one season. I know…..I’ll thinking with my heart, rather than like you guys who think with the black and white facts. I’ve waited a long time to see Musgrove, and Devinski, Collin Moran ect…
Part of the column addresses getting someone like Chapman for 1 year. The Astros can give him the qualifying offer and reap the extra draft pick if he leaves. So, there is more than just one year of service. This is probably what will happen with Carlos Gomez at the end of this year. Also, Kimbrell is signed for multiple years if we trade for him. Just FYI.