One of the big questions every year is what prospects are going to get called up to the major leagues and make a difference for the team. Last year, the Astros saw a number of prospects come up and make a difference on this team.
Bud Norris was a key starter in the rotation for the Astros the whole season and he was joined later in the year by players like Chris Johnson, Jason Castro and Brett Wallace. Generally, teams don't see this many prospects come up and play key roles on their club, but by midseason the Astros were in full-blown rebuilding mode.
The other problem with bringing up that many young players is that it depletes your farm system. After adding in poor drafting from the Astros organization for a few years, there aren't many prospects who are ready for the majors within the farm system. Here are five players currently in the Astros organization who could play a role in the major league club sometime in 2011.
J.D. Martinez is the top outfield prospect in the Astros organization and he may be one of the biggest surprises. As a 2009 20th-round draft pick in the MLB Amateur Draft, he has gone on to hit above .300 at every level he has played in. Last year he hit .302 in 50 games for Double-A Corpus Christi with three home runs and 25 RBI.
The problem is that he is still young and right now he really doesn't have a spot in the lineup. He will most likely go back down to the minor leagues and continue to get regular at-bats instead of being the backup outfielder. However, if Carlos Lee is traded midseason he will be the first one called up and at worst he will be with the Astros come September.
Aneury Rodriguez was one of two starting pitchers who the Astros drafted in the Rule 5 Draft this year. Lance Pendleton hasn't had the strongest spring training and unless the Astros are able to work out a trade, Pendleton will be heading back to the Yankees before the start of the season.
Aneury Rodriguez has had a much stronger spring training and he could find himself as a long reliever coming out of the Astros bullpen this season. Rodriguez has given up four earned runs in nine innings of work and he has three strikeouts. Rodriguez will have to work on his control as he has allowed four walks this spring training.
Brian Bogusevic came up through the Astros system as a left-handed pitching prospect but made the switch in 2008 to the outfield and saw some time toward the end of the last season with the Astros. He is in serious discussion to win a bench spot with the Astros for the start of the season.
He has played much better this week, knocking in three runs in two games. For the season he is batting .243. As long as he keeps playing the way he has over the past few days, he should win that backup spot as a fifth outfielder behind the starters and Jason Michaels.
One prospect who was written off as a lost cause was catcher J.R. Towles. Then Jason Castro went down with a season-ending knee injury and it gave new life to Towles' career with the Astros. He has really taken advantage of this opportunity so far this spring, hitting .375.
He will most likely enter the season splitting time with Humberto Quintero, but if he keeps improving and actually starts to hit to go along with his above-average defense behind the plate, the loss of Jason Castro won't hurt the team as much.
Jordan Lyles is the top prospect in the Astros organization and the most ready to compete at the major-league level. He is ranked 31st on MLB top 50 prospects and the 10th-best right-handed pitching prospect. At 20 years of age, the sky is the limit for this prospect, however, he may start the season in the minor league system to continue to work on his craft.
If Lyles does go back to the minor-league system, it will not be for long and he should be called back up to the Astros by midseason. So far this spring, Lyles is 1-2 with a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings of work. He also has five strikeouts and only two walks and he has shown this season that he can pitch at the major-league level.
It will be only a matter of time before this top prospect puts his mark on the 2011 season and he will have the biggest impact of any Astros prospect.