Houston Astros' Top 10 Prospects Rankings, Spring Forecasts

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterMarch 5, 2013

Houston Astros' Top 10 Prospects Rankings, Spring Forecasts

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    As an organization that’s still years away from competing in the major leagues, it should come as no surprise that the Houston Astros farm system is both young and deep. Perhaps what’s most impressive, though, is how they’ve assembled their current top-10 prospects: Four players were acquired through multiple trades with the Phillies, while the rest of their prospects are the product of back-to-back-to-back strong amateur drafts.

    It’s also worth noting that the Astros have acquired a host of impressive non-top-10 prospects—mainly pitchers such as Kevin Comer, Joe Musgrove, Asher Wojciechowski and, most recently, Brad Peacock—through under-the-radar trades over the last two seasons.

    Over the course of the 2013 season, their system should feature the graduation of several players to the major leagues, most notably first baseman Jonathan Singleton, right-hander Jarred Cosart and shortstop Jonathan Villar, not to mention organizational players such as Robbie Grossman, Josh Fields, Nate Freiman and Marc Krauss.

    Here’s a look at the Houston Astros’ top 10 prospects headed into spring training.

10. Nick Tropeano, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 8/27/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2011 (Stony Brook)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Excellent frame at 6’4”, 205 pounds, but lacks future projection; advanced feel for pitching after impressive collegiate career at Stony Brook; advanced feel for attacking hitters with solid-average arsenal; workhorse capable of eating innings and working deep into starts; very successful professional debut in 2012 as 21-year-old; registered 2.78 ERA, 10.0 K/0 and 2.7 BB/9 in 87.1 innings at Low-A Lexington; promoted to High-A Lancaster, where he registered a 3.31 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 70.2 innings; strong, durable arm; could be highly effective late-inning arm.

    Above-average fastball that plays up due to his ability to command it to both sides of the plate; uses it to attack both right- and left-handed hitters; solid-average slider that’s especially effective off fastball; changeup is easily his best pitch and plus offering; excellent fade; thrown with deceptive arm speed; comfortable throwing it in any count; induces healthy mix of weak contact and whiffs; could move quickly in relief role; otherwise, he projects to be a solid No. 4 or 5 starter in the American League; intrigued by how he’ll adjust to advanced hitters at Double-A.

    Spring Training Forecast: Tropeano should receive more innings as the spring unfolds, as the organization attempts to gauge his proximity to the major leagues.

    2013 Outlook: The right-hander will make the jump to Double-A in 2013 and could even log a few innings out of the Astros’ bullpen in September.

9. Domingo Santana, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 8/5/1992 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 228

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: March 2009 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: 19-year-old had an impressive breakout campaign last season in the hitter-friendly California League (High-A); batted .302/.385/.536 with 23 home runs; a physical monster at 6’5”, 230 pounds; easy plus raw power; is more of a well-rounded hitter than his strikeout totals suggest; plus arm and raw power project favorably as a big-league right fielder; solid approach at the plate with the ability to make in-game adjustments; not convinced that it will translate at higher levels; struggles against right-handed pitching, as well as quality breaking stuff.

    Santana has below-average wheels, but moves well in the outfield; strong, accurate arm; limited to a corner outfield position due to mobility and offensive potential; ascent to major leagues is dependent on how his bat translates at higher levels; high-risk, high-reward player; huge gap between present and future, but certainly gives plenty to dream on.

    Spring Training Forecast: Santana will participate in minor league spring training, but could receive some at-bats as the regular season nears.

    2013 Outlook: After spending all of 2012 at High-A, Santana will open the 2013 season at Double-A.

8. Jonathan Villar, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 5/20/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: May 2008 by Phillies (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Showed improvements across the board in his second consecutive season at Double-A Corpus Christi in 2012 as a 21-year-old; played in only 86 games after fracturing hand in a losing battle with a clubhouse door; switch-hitting shortstop has the potential for solid-average hit tool; above-average power relative to the position; lacks barrel control; more power from right side; left-handed swing geared more towards average/contact; plus runner; too much swing-and-miss; needs to refine his plate discipline for sustained success at the plate; lacks consistent approach from either side.

    Toolsy and athletic shortstop who’s still too raw given his experience; plus range and arm will keep him at the position; inconsistent and sometimes sloppy defender; struggles to execute body control and fluid actions; raw talent is obvious; questions about overall maturity; lack of focus leads to too many careless errors; Villar should open the 2013 season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, with a legitimate chance to reach the major leagues during the second half of the season.

    Spring Training Forecast: Villar will receive his share of playing time this spring and is a long-shot to make the Opening Day roster. 

    2013 Outlook: Already on the 40-man roster, Villar will make the jump to Triple-A and spend a portion of the season in the major leagues.

7. Lance McCullers, Jr., RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 10/2/1993 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Jesuit HS, Fla.)

    ETA: 2016

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Supplemental first-rounder registered a 3.46 ERA, 6.9 H/9 and 10.0 K/9 across to rookie levels; excellent pure stuff behind plus arm strength; excellent athlete who was a two-way star in high school; impressive baseball acumen with big-league bloodline; mechanics can be inconsistent, which hinders his overall command; two plus pitches suggest he’ll be more likely to reach his ceiling as a reliever than starter; bulldog mentality on the mound; wants the ball with the game on the line.

    Plus fastball sits comfortably in low to mid-90s, and he can sustain it deeper into starts than most players his age; can reach back for a few ticks more when needed; throws breaking ball with velocity; sharp, late-breaking with excellent pace; legitimate out pitch; lacks a defined third pitch; definitely needs one to remain a starter; seems more destined to become a potentially elite closer given arsenal and aggressive approach.

    Spring Training Forecast: McCullers will participate in minor league spring training as he prepares for his first full professional season.

    2013 Outlook: The right-hander has the arsenal and stamina to open the season at Low-A, and depending on his workload, could finish the season in High-A.

6. Rio Ruiz, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 5/22/1994 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2012 (Bishop Amat Memorial HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2016

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Draft stock was impacted by a blood clot in his throwing shoulder that required surgery and kept him off the field as a high school senior; physically strong athlete at 6’1”, 180 pounds; love his left-handed swing; could posses above-average hit tool by the time he reaches the major leagues; plenty of raw power, but it may take him some time to resuscitate it following the injury; makes loud contact to all fields; advanced hitter with a mature approach for his age.

    Profiles as a big-league third baseman with a solid glove and smooth actions; plus arm is more than enough for the hot corner; blood clot issue is still concerning and will have to be monitored closely over the course of his career; decent runner with good instincts; average range defensively, though it should improve with more experience; future projection is largely tied to his potential impact bat; needs to stay on the field and gain experience.

    Spring Training Forecast: Ruiz will head to minor league camp as he prepares to make his full-season debut.

    2013 Outlook: The Astros will likely hold the 18-year-old in extended spring training before assigning him to Low-A.

5. Jarred Cosart, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 5/25/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 38th round, 2008 by Phillies (Clear Creek HS, Texas)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: After registering a 4.12 ERA as a 21-year-old in 2011 between High-A and Double-A, Cosart took a step in the right direction last season with a 3.52 ERA at Double-A followed by an impressive showing in five starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City; highly projectable frame at 6’3”, 180 with room to add strength; poor, inconsistent mechanics impede his ability to pound the zone with three pitches; one of the more frustrating pitching prospects in the game due to his inability to miss bats—which he should given his pure stuff; hitters recognize pitches out of hand too early; if control/command doesn’t improve, he still has a future as a late-inning reliever; lack of pitchability is slightly disconcerting; struggles to finish and execute pitches.

    Plus fastball that sits in the mid to high-90s; can reach back for 98-99 mph early in starts, which he did in the AFL Rising Stars Game; could conceivably hit triple digits in bullpen role; curveball is a second pitch with plus potential; sharp, late break with depth and a solid pace; changeup could be an above-average offering, but is dependent on his ability to locate fastball-curveball; will open 2013 season back at Triple-A Oklahoma City with a chance for a midseason call-up to the major leagues.

    Spring Training Forecast: Cosart has an outside chance of breaking camp in the Opening Day rotation and should see his share of opportunities early in the spring as a result.

    2013 Outlook: Unless his command has vastly improved over the offseason, the right-hander will likely open the 2013 season in the Triple-A rotation. He’s likely to reach the major leagues by the end of the season, though it may ultimately be as a reliever.

4. Delino DeShields, Jr., 2B

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    Position: 2B

    DOB: 8/16/1992 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 210

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Woodward Academy, Ga.)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Received over-aggressive assignment to Low-A Lexington in full-season debut in 2011 and posted a .627 OPS in 119 games; rebounded in 2012 and demonstrated mastery of the level by batting .298/.401/.439 with 44 extra-base hits and 101 stolen bases in 135 games; ability to make adjustments and bounce back was impressive and speaks volumes about his process; right-handed hitter has advanced pitch recognition and plate discipline; on-base skills allow him to utilize his plus-plus speed; adept base stealer who posted second-highest total behind Billy Hamilton; despite being undersized (5’9”),

    DeShields has plenty of physical strength at 210 pounds; has more pop than his frame suggests; hit tool should improve and flashes above-average potential; will benefit from fewer whiffs in future seasons.

    Speed makes him incredibly valuable up the middle; below-average arm strength limits him to second base; glove can play a bit hard, but was much better last season than in his full-season debut in 2011; offensive package is a premium; DeShields could be a candidate for a move to center field; could be in store for another big offensive season next year in the California League (High-A).

    Spring Training Forecast: Entering his third major league spring training, DeShields should get more at-bats than previous seasons, as well as numerous look coming off the bench as a pinch-runner.

    2013 Outlook: There’s a chance that DeShields will open the season at Double-A, though a return to High-A seems more likely. Either way, if he builds upon his success last season, he’ll wind up at Double-A.

3. George Springer, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 9/18/1989 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Connecticut)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Toolsy outfielder posted a .955 OPS for High-A Lancaster with 50 extra-base hits (22 home runs), 28 stolen bases and 131 strikeouts in 106 games; received late-season promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi, where he batted .219/.288/.342 in 22 games; one of those rare college draft picks with untapped potential and a high ceiling; potential for five average-to-plus tools in the major leagues; hit tool is lacking; struggles to showcase consistent approach; borders between too passive and over aggressive; pitch recognition needs refinement, especially against breaking balls; long swing inhibits consistent contact; plus raw power to all fields; needs to dial back his current max-effort swing.

    Has the athleticism and defensive skills to remain in center field; above-average speed lends to his range; projects to be at least an above-average defender in the major leagues; strong arm plays anywhere in the outfield; he’s 23, but still has a high ceiling; hit tool will determine where he comes close to reaching it; should open 2013 season at Double-A, and it will be a telling year.

    Spring Training Forecast: Springer should receive a long look in big league camp this spring, as the organization is hopeful he’ll contend for a spot in the outfield in 2014.

    2013 Outlook: After a late-season promotion to Double-A, Springer is likely headed back to the level to open the year, but could reach Triple-A if not more.

2. Carlos Correa, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 9/22/1994 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (PR Baseball Academy, P.R.)

    ETA: 2016

    2012 Stats

    Overview: No. 1 overall selection in 2012 draft out of Puerto Rico, Correa posted a .625 OPS in 39 games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and finished the season on a strong note with a 1.050 OPS in 11 games in Appalachian League. One of the younger players in the 2012 draft class, Correa just turned 18 in September.

    Physically blessed shortstop at 6’4”, 190 pounds; five average-to-plus tools; phenomenal athleticism and baseball skills give him superstar potential; hit tool will be a work in progress for several years; above-average potential; should add serious strength; plus bat speed projects for 20-plus-home run potential; swing is inconsistent; will benefit from work with professional instruction.

    Fluid actions despite size; excellent instincts with above-average speed; needs to improve body control; arm is legit plus-plus and an absolute cannon; soft hands with a smooth transfer; needs more reps in game situations; will likely graduate to Low-A at some point next season; still incredibly raw with a large gap between present and future.

    Spring Training Forecast: Correa will participate in minor league camp as the organization emphasizes furthering his development before the season.

    2013 Outlook: The 18-year-old will likely open the 2013 season in extended spring training before making the jump directly to Low-A.

1. Jonathan Singleton, 1B

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    Position: 1B

    DOB: 9/18/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 235

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: Eighth round, 2009 (Millikan HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Singleton spent the entire 2012 season as a 20-year-old at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he posted an .893 OPS with 51 extra-base hits (21 home runs) and 131/88 K/BB in 131 games. Unfortunately, the first baseman was slapped with a 50-game suspension this offseason after a second positive test for a drug of abuse (marijuana).

    Physically strong player at 6’2”, 235; plus raw power from the left side; emerged in a big way in 2012; hit tool survived the jump to Double-A; potential to be above average in the major leagues; feel for the strike zone; whiffs his fair share; also is adept to working counts and drawing walks; plus bat speed; quick-twitch wrists; natural up-the-middle approach; struggles against left-handed pitching.

    First base-only prospect; size limits overall athleticism; weak arm counters any notion of stashing him in left field; decent footwork around the bag; average glove; bat should continue to outweigh defensive concerns; clear path to playing time in the major leagues once he’s eligible, especially with DH now in play; will need make more offensive adjustments.

    Spring Training Forecast: Singleton’s bad judgement has him ticketed for extended spring training.

    2013 Outlook: Once he’s served his suspension, the 21-year-old will likely report to Triple-A with a chance to reach the major leagues by September.