A few questions keep coming up about the Houston Astros. Does the current front office of the Astros’ have a weakness relative to developing pitching talent? Does their minor league tandem method fail to nurture major league starters? Can they even develop bullpen parts?
Look at the pitchers who have pitched for them this season. For the pitchers who made their major league debuts as Astros, the list is only four pitchers long: Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Chris Devenski and James Hoyt. Dallas was developed under the previous regime, Hoyt is basically a AAAA pitcher received as the other chip in the Evan Gattis trade from Atlanta and Devenski was brought in from the White Sox by trade. Only McCullers was truly developed exclusively by this front office.
So where have all the flowers (pitching prospects) gone? My crack staff of researchers (OK cracked staff of one – me) has compiled a list of pitchers, who have appeared on Astro prospect lists between 2012 and 2017 (shown in chronological order to when they were on the list) and cover the question – Whatever happened to …..?
- Jarred Cosart. Made the majors with the Astros and then was sent to the Marlins in the trade that brought back Francis Martes, Jake Marisnick, Colin Moran and the pick that became Daz Cameron. Moran became a key piece in the Gerrit Cole trade and Cameron headed to the Tigers in the Justin Verlander trade.’
- Paul Clemens. Came here in the Michael Bourn trade with Atlanta, ended up pitching poorly with the big club, was released in 2014, bumped around other places since and lately has been seen in the Mexican and Independent leagues.
- Mike Foltynewicz. A 1st round draft choice by the Astros, pitched below average in one shot with the Astros and then was included in the Evan Gattis trade with Atlanta. He has pitched average to below average with the Braves, but this season at the age of 26 he has had a great start to the season.
- Brett Oberholtzer. Also came in the Bourn trade, pitched decently in three shots with the big club and then was sent to the Phillies in the Ken Giles trade. Pitched poorly for the Phillies and Dodgers and is now in the Rockies farm system.
- Kyle Weiland. Obtained with Jed Lowrie in a trade for Mark Melancon. Made a 3 game appearance with the Astros, bopped around the minors and never came back from the injury bug in 2014.
- Adrian Houser. Second round draft choice of the Astros included in the Carlos Gomez / Mike Fiers trade with Milwaukee. Has had a couple of cups of coffee with the Brewers and currently pitching for their AAA squad at 25 y.o.
- Tanner Bushue. A second-round pick of the Astros who made it as high as A ball and then was released in 2013.
- Juan Abreu. Third pitcher received in the Bourn deal, made a brief appearance with the Astros, released in 2012 and out of baseball since 2015.
- Ross Seaton. Third round pick of the Astros who topped out in AAA and was released in 2015. Has bumped around and down since.
- Jake Buchanan. Eighth round pick of the Astros, who had a couple short stints with the big club and was released in 2016. Currently with Arizona’s AAA club.
- Lance McCullers. Compensation pick who has been a critical part of the starting rotation the last 3 years.
- Kevin Comer. Obtained in the J.A. Happ trade with Toronto, released after the 2017 season and currently with Detroit AAA club at 25 y.o.
- Brad Peacock. Obtained in the first Jed Lowrie trade with Oakland, persevered through injuries and became a critical bullpen/ spot starter cog in the 2017 run to the World Series.
- Joe Musgrove. Also obtained in the J.A. Happ trade, worked his way to the majors and was an important bullpen presence in 2017, including winning the pivotal 5th game marathon in the WS. Included in the trade for Gerrit Cole. Has given the Pirates 4 strong starts after starting the season injured.
- Nick Tropeano. A fifth-round pick of the Astros, who made the majors for the Astros and then was included in a trade for Hank Conger. Currently 5th man in the Angels rotation.
- Asher Wojciechowski – Obtained in the J.A. Happ trade, battled injuries, had a cup of coffee with the Astros and released in 2016. Has bobbed around since, currently pitching AAA for the Orioles.
- Daniel Mengden. A fourth-round pick of the Astros was included in the 2015 trade to the A’s for Scott Kazmir. Despite what happened Tuesday night he has turned into a solid middle of the rotation pitcher for Oakland, And as Becky has said he has the best moustache since Rollie Fingers.
- Vince Velasquez. A second-round pick of the Astros – pitched a little for the Astros in 2015 and then included in the Ken Giles trade. Has been injured quite a bit and his production has been average or below when healthy in Philly.
- Josh Fields. Rule 5 pickup, who had steadily improving numbers in his three seasons with the Astros. Traded for Yordan Alvarez who has become top Astros prospect. Has pitched very well for the Dodgers in a set-up role (Don’t look at his relief appearance in Game 2 of the WS)
- Mark Appel. Overall #1 pick and huge fail in the minors. Packaged him for Giles and he went to Philly, struggled even more and then retired.
- Josh Hader. Obtained in the Bud Norris trade and then included in the Gomez/Fiers trade to Milwaukee. Currently is one of the best LH closers in the majors at 24 y.o. Not that we could use one of those.
- Kyle Smith. Obtained in the Justin Maxwell trade. Was rising through the system, but has never pitched well after losing all of 2015 to injury. Has not pitched this season.
- Andrew Thurman. A second-round pick of the Astros, he was included in the Evan Gattis trade and has bounced around the minors for both the Braves and the Dodgers.
- Michael Feliz. Signed as free agent out of the Dominican, he worked his way up to the Astros bullpen, he was capable of big strikeout numbers and big ERAs. He was included in the Cole trade and continues to struggle with the Pirates.
- Francis Martes. Another FA out of the Dominican – he became the Astros top pitching prospect before Mr. Whitley appeared. His 2017 debut with the Astros was a mix of poor bullpen work and decent starting pitching. His 2018 return to the minors has been a combination of poor pitching and injury.
- Riley Farrell. A third-round pick, after missing most of 2016 to injury, he worked his way to AA where he is sporting great K numbers and bad BB numbers.
- Reymin Guduan. Signed as an FA out of the Dominican – he was recently brought up for his second shot at the bigs when Joe Smith was put on the DL. His time in the minors, including this season includes some good numbers, but he struggles with control.
- Chris Devenski. The player to be named later in the trade-off of Brett Myers he has ridden his killer changeup to a position as one of the best relievers in the game.
- David Paulino. And yet another FA out of the Dominican, he rose quickly through the system and had enjoyed a couple call-up to the big club when a PED suspension in 2017 detoured his career. Can he come back and be a major league pitcher? He is stuck in the minors and shut down at the moment.
- Brady Rodgers. Third round pick – Had a rough cup of coffee with the Astros in 2016 – pitched well at AAA when he went down with TJ surgery and may come back in mid-2018
- Akeem Bostick. Picked up in exchange for Carlos Corporan, he has had some ups and downs climbing up from the minors and is currently a 24 y.o. pitching decently at Corpus AA
- Patrick Sandoval. Eleventh round pick, who is now pitching at A ball as a 21 y.o.
- Jandel Gustave. A free agent out of the Dominican, he worked his way up to a short stint in the majors, but is currently working his way back from TJ surgery.
- Brendan McCurry. The second time the Astros traded Jed Lowrie they received McCurry back from the A’s. Shortly after that, he was hit with a 50 game drug suspension. He has had very good numbers in the lower minors and just so-so at AAA
- Forrest Whitley. First-round choice who became one of the top-rated pitching prospects in all of baseball. He was derailed for a time due to the use of a non-PED drug and has just returned from his 50 game suspension for a nice first start at AA Corpus.
- Franklin Perez. A FA signing out of Venezuela, he was a critical piece in the Justin Verlander trade. He currently is down with a lat injury.
- James Hoyt. As discussed above – a bullpen backup piece who moves from AAA to the big club as needed
- Cionel Perez. A FA signing out of Cuba, he is currently putting up strong numbers at AA Corpus
- Guadalupe Chavez – Received in the trade of Scott Feldman to Toronto this is the biggest mystery on this list. As an 18 y.o. at Astros rookie ball he put up a 4-1 record, 1.38 ERA, 1.01 WHIP in 45.2 IP and promptly disappeared. He is shown as voluntarily retired – he must have gotten a heck of a signing bonus to retire at like 19.
So, there you have it. The Astros develop more major league level pitchers than you would think, but not all for their own team. Thirteen of these 39 pitchers listed as top prospects sometime in the last 6 years were used in trades that picked up players as diverse in value as Justin Verlander and Hank Conger. Some bob around between the majors and the minors. Some have made it big time in the majors. Many have floated away to other minor league organizations or back to their homes. Some have been undone by injuries. Three have faced PED or non-PED drug suspensions.
What is your verdict? Does this team know how to develop pitchers or not?