Prime Nine: Top Nine Houston Astros Prospects to Watch in 2012
Watching a 100 loss team is about as painful experience as one can find in sports. Yet, the great thing about baseball is that each team has a farm system with young players fans can look forward to watching some day. 2012 will probably be another rough season for Astros fans, but there is some excitement on the horizon.
In this slide show we will look at the most promising prospect at each position who has not appeared in Houston yet. Some of these players have been here awhile and some literally less than a month.
Just remember that Jose Altuve was an obscure second baseman in Lancaster when the season began. One monster campaign later and he appears to be the second baseman of the future. The same could be said for J.D. Martinez in left field. So, hope springs eternal even if we haven't seen much cause for it. When the big club gets bludgeoned again, be sure to check the minor league box scores for these names.
Catcher: Chris Wallace
Chris Wallace wasn't highly scouted when he was at the University of Houston, but he has propelled his way up the system in a short time. He played in 2011 in Lancaster and Corpus Christi and combined for 20 home runs.
Those expecting to see Wallace in Houston next season should slow your roll. His 2011 numbers were bolstered by his time in Lancaster. Lancaster is a hitter's paradise. Wallace had a sub .750 OPS in Corpus, but he is still young enough to be a factor. Plus, the system is devoid of good catching prospects.
Honorable Mention: Ben Heath
First Base: Jonathan Singleton
Baseball America has Singleton as the number three rated first base prospect in all of baseball. Needless to say, the Astros don't have anyone that high at any of the positions. Like most in the Houston system, Singleton went nuts when he went to Lancaster.
At 19, he may begin there next season or he may be rushed to Corpus Christi. Singleton's prodigious power hasn't translated to the field, but that will come in time. His plate discipline is remarkable for someone his age and that is a skill that will translate going forward.
Honorable Mention: Kody Hinze
Second Base: Delino Deshields Jr.
2011 was a rough year overall for Delino Deshields. He had an alcohol charge he had to deal with and it was his first full season in professional baseball. He didn't turn 19 until the season was practically over. Some high school players can handle the grind and some can't. Deshields appeared to be in the latter. Most players his age are still playing in short season A ball.
He went the duration in Lexington. It wasn't a complete disaster though. He was learning a new position, but still managed nine home runs and 30 stolen bases. With Jose Altuve in Houston, the Astros can take their time with Deshields. He showed a lot of maturity in how he handled the alcohol charge and his struggles.
Honorable Mention: No one
Third Base: Michael Kvasnickla
Michael Kvasnicka entered the 2010 draft as someone the Astros thought could shoot up their system in a hurry. He was a polished college hitter that showed power and patience in his four years in the Big Ten. Kvasnicka hasn't responded to wood yet, so the power hasn't come in yet either.
The only one in the brass that is happy about this is the tailor. He almost had a conniption when he saw Kvasnicka and Mike Foltyniewicz taken in back to back selections. Since he was such a polished hitter in college there is reason to believe he can still develop the power.
Honorable Mention: No one
Shortstop: Jonathan Villar
Jonathan Villar was the prize of the Roy Oswalt deal. He is one of those guys that seems typical of an Ed Wade run organization. Wade believes in high ceiling talent. All of the guys brought in over the last couple of seasons have matched that model. The idea is that if he ever grows into his physical talent then the sky is the limit.
The problem is that he has only shone it in spurts so far. In between those spurts there are tons of strikeouts and errors. Still, at 20 years old he has a couple of years to figure it out. Team officials said he looked more poised and relaxed late in the season.
Honorable Mention: Jiovanni Mier
Outfield: Domingo Santana
Domingo Santana was the throw in in the Hunter Pence deal. He is only 19 and boasts a ton of raw power and good speed. He is yet another example of a player they hope will grow into his body. Right now, he is playing right field, but could probably just as easily play in left field. He strikes out a lot and doesn't walk much, but he is still two or three years away anyway.
Outfield: Ariel Ovando
Ariel Ovando represented a departure from the usual careful international scouting methods the Astros normally employ. He signed the largest signing bonus in franchise history at the time (bigger than Deshields). George Springer has since surpassed it, but the impact is still the same. Some scouts say he will develop into a Darryl Strawberry kind of player. He is tall and lanky, but he is still only 17. He will turn 18 in September, so he has all the time in the world to get it. He should be a blast to watch as he develops.
Outfield: George Springer
George Springer had a first week for the ages. His second game was the first half of a double header. He collected his first professional home run. In another plate appearance, he got to the first base and then proceeded to steal second and third. In the second game, he hit a double and then stole third base. Of course, Springer soon realized he wasn't in college anymore. He finished with a .179 average. However, he had a .160 BABIP and struck out in only six percent of his plate appearances. If you extrapolate anything substantial from 33 plate appearances then you are a better fan than me. He obviously showed tremendous athletic skills and we'll stop there.
Pitcher: Jarred Cosart
Jarred Cosart was the second big piece in the Hunter Pence deal from the Phillies. He might end up being the best piece from that trade (and that's saying something with Jonathan Singleton and Domingo Santana coming as well). He throws a mid 90s fastball, a solid curve, and a developing change up. He dominated in the Future's game with a fastball that consistently hit 96 or better. The only thing holding him back is health. 2011 was his first professional season with 100 or more innings. He performed well at Corpus Christi, so he might be in Houston by September of next season.
Honorable Mention: Mike Foltyniewicz