The Astros’ self-development Top 10

Today’s post emerged from a bit of exercise your loyal writer assigned himself. In this new era of Astros’ baseball — let’s say since the beginning of the deep, dark bottom in 2011 — who are the best players that the team developed itself?

This led to a little soul searching about who would be included or excluded. A couple guys like Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh had backgrounds in other organizations, though they didn’t do “Jack Squat”, as Chris Farley/Matt Foley used to say until they joined the Astros. Yuli Gurriel was a consideration, but let’s face it, he was a developed long term pro when he signed with the Astros. No, these are guys who are all Houston all the time in their drafting or signing and development.

  1. Jose AltuveNumber one must be Altuve, who famously went back for a second chance at a tryout camp in Venezuela and showed that size meant little, except when it comes to the size of the heart. He was, of course, signed by the team, leapt from AA to the majors in the first 100 loss season of 2011, became a 7 time All Star, an MVP, World Champion and the greatest 5’-6” baseball player of the modern era.
  2. Carlos CorreaThis number 2 could be argued to be other players like those just behind him on the list. But what can’t be argued is that the player they drafted first overall in 2012 has been the best shortstop in club history (as dismal as that shortstop history has been) since making the majors in 2015. He combined a top-notch glove with one of the best arms in the game and added a solid bat with some very clutch playoff hits.
  3. George SpringerThough Altuve beat him to the majors, he was the one fans were awaiting after being drafted 11th in the 2011 draft. He tore up the minors while his call-up was artificially suppressed by a team wanting to delay his debut until a few weeks into 2014. He redefined the leadoff spot as a power bat and, of course, exploded as the MVP of the 2017 World Series.
  4. Dallas KeuchelKeuchel, a 7th rounder back in 2009, did not look like much as he struggled through 5+ ERA seasons in 2012 and 2013. But he turned it around in 2014 and his Cy Young season in 2015 spearheaded an unexpected playoff run as the team emerged from the franchise’s darkest days. He was the first real nationally known player of this bunch with that CY award.
  5. Alex BregmanThe consolation prize for the failed Brady Aiken pick, Bregman was the second player drafted in 2015 (behind current World Series Champ Dansby Swanson) and was in the majors by 2016. Since joining the big club, his numbers have been super solid, even with recent injury setbacks. He just needs to come back like he was in 2018 and 2019, and he will climb this list in a hurry.
  6. Kyle TuckerTucker was picked three spots behind Bregman in that 2015 draft at 18 years old, and after a few years of being an untouchable prospect, he finally made the team for good during the pandemic tainted season of 2020. He had a quietly brilliant season in 2021, putting up a 5.7 WAR. It will be a fun competition to see whether he rises the most or will be surpassed by the next youngster on this list.
  7. Yordan AlvarezAlvarez did start out in Cuba as a teen and spent a few moments with the LA Dodgers organization before being traded to the Astros for Josh Fields. He was brilliant in the minors and Rookie of the Year when he was brought up. After sitting out the 2020 season due to surgery on both knees, Alvarez returned and was very good in 2021, but not quite as good as in 2019. Can he climb past Tucker, who is also a very good fielder? Like I said – fun to watch.  
  8. Lance McCullers Jr.If you moved him up to #6 on this list, you wouldn’t get arguments from me on this. He was picked in the supplemental round of the “Correa” draft and made his way to the majors in 2015, same as Carlos. He has been a solid producer, except…. when injured. In 2021 he made a leap forward as the team’s ace until another injury sidelined him in the playoffs. If he can stay healthy, he could move up this list, but it is the question that still haunts LMJ.
  9. Framber ValdezFramber was signed as a 21-year-old out of the Dominican in 2015. Two relatively short stints in 2018 and 2019 showed he had stuff that was hard to hit and even harder to control. But, he was the Astros best pitcher in 2020, and after breaking a finger in 2021, he was a solid pitcher for them the last two-thirds of the season.
  10. Luis GarciaLike Altuve, he was signed out of Venezuela, and in his case at 20 years old in 2017. He quickly made his way to the majors for a short dip in 2020 but grabbed the bull by the horns in 2021. He came in second in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2021 after an excellent season in the Astros rotation. The future looks bright for the guy with the Texas two or three-step.

Your turn….

  • Do you agree with the ten shown above?
  • Who would you add or take off the list?
  • Would you change the order of the ten? How?

33 comments on “The Astros’ self-development Top 10

  1. Good list and article, I suppose the only thing I’d change is the interpretation of “best developed” from players who were not bona fide prospects when drafted vs 1:1 Correa, or in Bregs and Tuck’s case 1:2 and 1:5. In this way, Altuve definitely deserves #1 since he cost $15,000 and was the poster boy for good fortune meeting hard work (Al Pedrique’s reputation with Altuve’s dad and his association with HOU). Jose said when he got sent home by the Astros, he was prepared to try another org, but his father insisted on Houston.

    So, my nuanced list would start with 34th round, Josh James who should not be counted out in 2022. Then, Chas McCormick 21st round; Jake Meyers, 13th round.

    [I watched an NFL spotlight on Steelers’ James Harrison, and he walked out of the interviewer because the guy hadn’t even realized Harrison was undrafted.]

    In this vein, yet another of Jim Stevenson’s scouted guys (Keuchel, Laureano, Toro), Super Jack Mayfield was undrafted. You have to look at upcoming UDFA’s who are making noise in the system, Jimmy Endersby and Justin Dirden. On your list above, Dan, I would have Garcia ($20K) and Framber ($10K) much higher, because of how far they’ve come.

    Let’s see to add some to the bottom of the list; Bielak, Paredes and Solomon but I suppose it is yet to be seen if they can develop further. I’d say the only other one I’d move up is Yordan Alvarez because he made a huge move from 2018-2019, primarily in his ability to get to his raw power and launch angle but also to be a serviceable OF.

    Could we think about both catchers for a moment, Castro developing? Although, will he ever have another 2013? And Maldy didn’t come up in the system but boy has he thrived as the trusted backstop in the organization!

    This is a really good subject because it points out that despite us being a bottom 5 farm, we have led the league for 5 yrs in most homegrown. Despite losing draft picks from scandal, and losing the ability to draft top 25 players for 5 yrs, we’ve still made lots of good moves with players who had no business turning the key, like 26th round Josh Rojas being the linchpin for Zack Greinke.

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    • Yeah GoStros, yours is a different way of looking at things, which I appreciate. It is like the Top 10 value list a did a couple weeks ago, but concentrating on the self developed prospects.

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      • You can look at some players (Jake Meyers would be one), that hit better in Houston than in A ball. Or players that pitched better as they advanced. So in the development stages, the Astros have done very well. I get confused sometimes as to “Why promote THIS GUY.” But many times, they improve greatly as they go up. Not all will be in MLB, but the Astros seem to squeeze as much talent out of a prospect as anyone can.

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  2. Many thought Tucker could struggle after his first call up, but his exit velocities in AAA were always elite, coupled with bad BABIP in Hou, so I knew it was just a matter of time before regression to the mean would equalize. He was just nervous and adjusting to speed of the game..

    Alvarez however was listed as our #6 prospect by Fangraphs before he started tearing up AAA, so that was just an error in judgment. Charlie Gonzales knew he was going to be a superstar.

    I asked Locked-On podcaster when interviewing Joe Perez the other night, which manager helped him the most this last year turn the corner offensively so he could get added to the 40-man. He mentioned Rene Rojas, hitting coach. Watch for his star to rise in coming yrs, and maybe Snitker’s son, or Cintron moves on? You have to credit Bill Murphy for helping those guys from the ’18 Bandits to the ’19 Woodpeckers (set K records in the minors) as the pitching coach making a name for himself.

    Our staff is known for development prowess, and reading comments from players, they always say the organization always has things they need to work on and measurements/data to back up their outlook.

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  3. Dan I’m sorry I missed this today. The second Monday of every month is shopping day for me. I now do all the driving and grocery stuff and it is a long day. Eight different stops to get everything on Mom’s lists.
    I like your post and ranking and don’t have any problems with it. I actually think you pulled it off.
    I also like GoStros additions and am glad to see him on this blog. Wish he would visit more often, but not everyone is retired, I understand.
    Jose Altuve is my favorite Astro ever. I just can’t deny the fact that he has inched his way to the top of my list. Sorry, Aspro! I hope you understand.
    I’m so tired and have finally corrected all my mistakes in this comment.
    ‘Bama loses, so my day has come to a great end.
    Tomorrow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Op. Hope you and yours keep on truckin’ too.

      Believe it or not, lots of my writing will sit in edit mode, leading me to more fields of study and after learning a thing or two, never get posted. You, Dan & others do a fantastic job of stirring the creative juices and sharpening our blades.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with the list except I would replace Garcia with Urquidy, due to better postseason results. Garcia seemed like he just ran out of gas at the end of last season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Considering Callis and others debated before Garcia debuted that he’d probably be a reliever, still have to tip cap for what Luis H. has done.

      Good call, hadn’t thought about Urquidy, slash Jose Luis-Hernandez as he was known before he added 5 ticks to his fastball. On that subject, one has to wonder what exactly is “in the water” of the lower minors that Astros keep ramping these guys up from lower 90’s to top end. In Josh James case, they said it was a CPAP, but to throw another name out there, Jaime Melendez cracked the top 30 this season, added 5 mph to his FS and is only age 20. They project him at this point as a long reliever, but they said the same of Miseal Tamarez a year ago, and Wow! I’m really excited about that wipeout artist.

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      • I guess there are a number of things that could go into amping up a pitcher’s mph – did the pitcher go from a skinny gangly 18 year old to a more muscular 20 year old? Did the pitcher just have bad mechanics – pitching against his body or whatever? Will we find out why it increased the next time they test him for PEDs?
        You have to think that just like with golfers, the new technology can help these pitchers to maximize their pitching prowess

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  5. It’s a remarkable list. Only Altuve has been in the major leagues for more than a decade. I don’t know what other club has developed such a volume of quality talent over the past 10 years. And we could easily come up with a top 15 list. I don’t think the Astros go to the World Series without McCormick, Myers, Urquidy, Javier or the help we got via trade from Toro and Straw. This exercise makes me more optimistic about the future. I don’t think we have to talk about a window of opportunity running out as long as the organization keeps doing what it’s doing.

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  6. GoStros – Like Old Pro says – keep coming back when you can
    Old Pro – Yes, Bama is kind of like the Yankees, Patriots, Lakers to me – need new blood in that Championship ring and we got it
    AstroNut – It was down to Urquidy and Garcia for the last spot. Garcia ran out of gas because he threw a lot more innings than Urquidy, so I leaned that way. Other people I considered included Jason Castro and Chris Devenski
    daveb (uncleknuckle) – The ability to keep bringing in, not only MLB level players but above average to exceptional players is the key to sustainability. As Chip used to say – if you can just get a 2-3 a year that is a big deal.

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  7. Becky / Sandy –
    I did wonder if you knew that there has been a lot of news on ladies getting significant jobs or setting significant milestones in the MLB organizations..
    – Jaime Vieria has been named a minor league coach by the Blue Jays
    – Rachel Balkovec has been named a minor league manager by the Yanks (that is a first)
    – Genevieve Beacom pitched in an official Australian baseball league game
    – Sara Goodrum was hired by the Astros as the Director of Player Development
    A lot of trailblazing happening

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Back to Yuli for a minute. I’m pretty sure no man has ever played his first MLB game at the age of 32 and then gone on to win a batting title. And I wonder if anyone helped convince him to get selective for the first time in his career at the age of 37, leading to the .383 OBP and ultimately the best batting average in the league. So his game is still developing, whether it was his idea or someone elses.

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    • It’s a great point. I imagine the list of those debuting that late is really short and I also imagine it is a lot of fringe players, guys who get a cup of coffee and disappear.
      Yuli is obviously a unique situation having been stuck in Cuba so long. What he did last season was remarkable at his age – it got very little attention nationally.

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  9. The thing about Correa is that, yes, he was drafted 1.1, but most people had him ranked as the 5th to 8th best prospect in that draft. Look at the guys drafted after him: Byron Buxton, Mike Zunino, Kevin Gausman, Max Fried, MARK APPEL, Andrew Heaney…people made cases for all of those guys going ahead of Correa. Clearly the pick was influenced by wanting to save money to also get someone with the 1.41…where we picked LMJ, but I don’t see any of those other guys having a chance to come out as the better MLB players down the line. Let’s just agree not to talk about the next year’s draft.

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    • But the failure of the 2014 draft led to what was a pretty terrific 2015 draft
      – Bregman (for the failed Aikens 2014 draft choice)
      – Tucker
      – Daz Cameron who was used in the Verlander trade
      – Thomas Eshelman who was used in the Ken Giles trade (ok – not that great)
      – Trent Thornton – traded straight up for Aledmys Diaz
      – Patrick Sandoval traded with international money for Martin Maldonado
      – Myles Straw who did some decent things for us before being traded for Phil Maton and young Yainer Diaz
      – Garrett Stubbs who hasn’t been good but made the big show
      – Ralph Garza who got a cup of coffee before being traded
      – Zac Grotz who never made it with us but has seen some time with the M’s
      – Riley Ferrell who we always have hoped would get a shot

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  10. Garrett Stubbs was traded for OFer Logan Cerny, who has 3 seasons before he is rule 5 eligible, then 3 options after that and a total of six years of MLB eligibilty before free agency. He is 22.3 years old so he will be mature in 3 years and will be in his prime when a decision about his future has to be made.

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  11. Oops – totally forgot that trade OP. So maybe Cerny can do what Stubbs couldn’t do development wise, but if not – not sure if Stubbs was ever going to be more than he is. Maybe like Preston Tucker – he will be eclipsed by his sibling.

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  12. I see the Players and Owners are meeting this week by video to discuss the potential new contract. I think the fans should be allowed a representative. And she (better at bargaining) should start at 60% reduction in Ticket, Beer and Food prices.

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    • It’s been 43 days since they last met. That was the 7 minute discussion on December 2. Obviously there is no sense of urgency. Dan, you’ve done a heck of a job keeping me sucked into the conversation to the degree you have, even as I slowly focus more and more on other things.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. A couple items that go together….The pool of money that the teams, including the Astros have to spend on international signings….the Astros have a little over $5 MM
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2022/01/bonus-pools-for-2021-22-international-signing-market.html

    And some Cuban free agents that may be available, including a couple – linked to the Astros – 17 y.o. SS Alberto Hernandez and 19 y.o. RHP Carlos Espinosa
    https://www.mlb.com/astros/news/top-cuban-free-agent-prospects-in-2022?t=mlb-pipeline-coverage

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      • I’m glad they didn’t follow my suggestion to trade Treinen at 2018 deadline. They could have gotten a windfall of talent, and they were too deluded to think they were good enough to make any noise in the playoffs. Glad they didn’t consult ol’ GoStros before selecting Kyler Murray too. Had they made those two moves alone, that could easily have turned the key for them. They could have had AC’s Greyson Rodriguez, Logan Gilbert, Brady Singer, Cole Winn or traded any of them for fungible players.

        A’s will probably be looking for a weathervane operator too, if it’s ever found out the snare drums mean fastball and the kazoo means slider.. Imagine living in that cesspool–who would want to play there?!

        Isn’t Vegas going to run out of water in a few years, and they’re only expanding it. I do kind of feel sorry for Tampa and OAK. They both have a solid core but no fans to support them. In a recent article by LarrytheGM (twitter), can’t believe I’m giving this guy some shine, he talks about the 5 things MLB needs to fix in CBA, and one of them is expanding to two more venues. Seems like they have to fix a few that already exist, but I’ll bet Devin wouldn’t mind a Charlotte squad to go watch!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. And just letting y’all know the next post which should be up this afternoon is a look at the top 20 folks we brought in from the outside during this recent period. Hopefully you will enjoy and jump in….

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