Houston Astros logoHouston Astros

Houston Astros: Ranking Their Top 20 Prospects

Scott BarzillaContributor IIIOctober 24, 2011

Houston Astros: Ranking Their Top 20 Prospects

1 of 21

    The Astros are going to have to rely more and more on young talent than ever before. Houston fans are going to have to get to know the key names down on the farm because they will be seeing them as soon as this season. 

    Before we look at the top 20, we need to establish a few ground rules. First, in order to be on the list, the player cannot have played at the big league level. Secondly, rankings are based on a variety of factors. First, how close is the player to getting to the big leagues? Second, does he project to be a star or just another player? Third, how did he actually perform at the big league level? Finally, how highly do the Astros view him?

    With each player, we will answer each of those four questions. Obviously, different publications disagree with where these guys rank. Astros.com has their own top 10. If a player fits there, I will designate them as such.

20. Jack Armstrong Jr.

2 of 21

    How long until he becomes an Astro?

    Armstrong spent his final season at Vanderbilt in the bullpen because of elbow problems. He has a clean bill of health, but the Astros signed him late and didn't want to risk injury. He likely will begin next season in Lexington. Since he spent some time in relief, they could opt to use him as a reliever. If that is the case, he could make it to Houston by the end of 2013. As a starter, we are probably looking at 2014 at the earliest.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Ceiling is a fancy term that scouts use to talk about a player's potential. In terms of pure stuff, Armstrong was a first rounder. He throws 96-98 with decent secondary stuff. His dad was a big leaguer, and he pitched in the SEC, so he is further along than the typical 21 year old.

     

    How has he performed?

    Since he hasn't thrown a single professional pitch, he is placed at the bottom of this list, but he could shoot up as early as next season.

     

    Are the Astros high on him?

    He signed for mid six figures, so obviously, they are high on him. He clearly will be able to handle the competition, but they will also be careful not to tax him too much. That will be a delicate balance this season.

19. Adrian Houser

3 of 21

    How long until he becomes an Astro?

    High school pitchers are the hardest to project among all prospects. Jordan Lyles just turned 21, and he is already entrenched in the Astros rotation. Others could have to wait until they are 25. Houser will make the jump to Lexington this year, and that is a considerable jump. He has enough talent to do it, but there are a lot players that can say that. Time will tell.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    He's a teenager that throws in the 90s. The key for any high school product is the development of secondary pitches. If he can throw his curve for strikes and develop a good change up, he could be a middle of the rotation starter.

     

    How did he perform?

    Like most hard throwers, he was very successful at striking hitters out in short season ball. Most players in those leagues are either fresh out of high school or college. His walks were up slightly, but overall, he handled himself well. Full season A ball leagues have players with more experience, so it will remains to be seen how he will react.

     

    Are the Astros high on him?

    So much was said about George Springer and Jack Armstrong that people forgot Houser was picked in the second round. Obviously, the Astros think highly of him. They are going to handle him carefully because they want to keep his confidence up.

18. Delino Deshields Jr.

4 of 21

    How long until he's an Astro?

    Deshields had a very disappointing season in Lexington. Some are backing off of him as a prospect and already calling him a bust. The fact is that some players breeze through the competition and some have to make adjustments. This year will determine whether the bust label is premature. Look for him to return to Lexington and wind up in Lancaster before all is said and done.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    If you look at the back of his dad's baseball cards, you see what the Astros are hoping for. Scouts project he will have more power than that, but if you cornered the player development department, they would take his dad's career and walk away.

     

    How did he perform?

    Deshields struggled at the plate in 2011, but he did perform well as a second baseman in his first full season at the position. It's actually common for high school draftees to struggle in their first season of full season A ball. 

     

    How do the Astros view him?

    He was drafted in the top 10 and got a signing bonus near two million. However, a season with an alcohol charge and subpar results have the Astros brass cooling on him some. They now have options in the infield, so he will have to prove himself this year.


17. Jiovani Mier

5 of 21

    How long until he's an Astro?

    Mier will be in Lancaster this season. This is a bit of disappointment considering it will be his fourth year in the organization. However, like with young pitchers, young position players sometimes take longer to develop. If he hits this year, he could become a factor as soon as 2013. Otherwise, he could become a wash out.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Mier has shown that he can be a steady defender and can hit with some pop. His most impressive attribute is his ability to draw walks. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to put it all together since his first season in half season ball.

     

    How has he performed?

    At different times, he has shown power, patience and speed. He hasn't put it all together in one full season, but the fact that he has worked hard to improve defensively and improve in his conditioning are all good signs.

     

    How do the Astros feel about Mier?

    Like many young high school kids, Mier struggled in full season action. In particular, they noticed that he lost weight and strength during his first full season. Conditioning and nutrition were a huge focus this year, and he came out in good shape. He needs to put it all together in Lancaster this year.

16. Tanner Bushue

6 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    This season is the moment of truth for Bushue. He is slated to go to Lancaster, where hitters drool and pitchers carry their rosaries. If he survives the campaign, he will be a year or two away. I am less optimistic than the writers for mlb.com. 

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Bushue's stuff is solid, but not great. In many respects, he has a lot in common with Jordan Lyles in terms of stuff. The difference is that Lyles walked fewer hitters and gave up fewer home runs. If he manages to keep the ball down in Lancaster and beyond, he could develop into a third or fourth starter.

     

    How has he performed?

    Everything looks good for Bushue except for an unusually high home run per nine innings ratio. Lancaster have made greater pitchers look like high school chum. The combination is not confidence inspiring, but when you put people in difficult situations, they have to sink or swim.

     

    What do the Astros think of him?

    Someone likes him enough to put him in the Astros top 10. I'm just not seeing it, but as Paul Bear Bryant once said, "potential means they ain't done nothin' yet."

    Baseball scouts and fans love potential. I tend to be a performance kind of guy.

15. Michael Foltyniewicz

7 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    Like with Tanner Bushue, this season will be a moment of truth for Folty. He has been up and down the past two seasons after being selected in the first round. A successful season in Lancaster could mean an appearance by the end of 2013. Otherwise, we are looking at 2014 or beyond.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    This is where we start busting out the scout-speak. Folty is a good makeup guy with a projectable body. In plain English, that means they like the poise he has on the mound, and he has an physical build to where he may develop into a pitcher that throws in the mid 90s. 

     

    How has he performed?

    Foltyniewicz did not get his first professional victory until this season. However, his win-loss record doesn't indicate how he has pitched. He has adjusted to professional hitters about as good as can be imagined. Like with Bushue, there are some numbers (walks) that are troublesome, but this year will be the key season.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    Folty was taken with the compensation pick the Astros got from the Tigers for Jose Valverde. Anytime someone is a first round selection, they are going to keep their eye on him. Lancaster is where young pitchers become men. So, this year will tell them a lot.

14. Austin Wates

8 of 21

    How long until he becomes an Astro?

    Wates spent last season in Lancaster. He had a solid season considering that he virtually skipped Lexington. It was also his first full season as a professional. He should advance to Corpus Christi this season, which means he could come up as early as this coming September. However, we need to exercise caution here. He hit .300 in Lancaster when the entire team hit .300.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    The Astros have a number of these guys in their organization. Wates projects as a Michael Bourn type of player if everything comes together. He has similar on base skills as Bourn and can run almost as well. Stealing bases is more of an acquired art, so look for Wates to improve in that department as he gains more experience.

     

    How did he perform?

    If you ignore the obvious home field advantage, Wates' season has to be seen as a success. He hit six home runs, but he might be closer to the one or two home run player that Bourn was. A .366 OBP is very solid and something the Astros want to see more of in Corpus Christi. The biggest positive is a relatively low strikeout rate. If that continues, he could be in Houston by the end of the 2012 season.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    If Bobby Heck's tenure as scouting director says anything, it says he likes great athletes. Wates is one of the better ones. They drafted him in the fourth round in 2010, but he signed above slot. The fact that they skipped Lexington also means they have confidence in his ability to handle higher levels of competition.

13. Kody Hinze

9 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    If things break the way the Astros want them to, the answer will likely be never. This has little to do with Hinze, but the fact that they have Brett Wallace ahead of him and Jonathan Singleton behind him. Hinze tore it up in Lancaster, but others have done that. He continued to hit in Corpus Christi, so there is hope there.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    This is ultimately the issue for players like Hinze. He was a low draft pick, so he doesn't come with a lot of fanfare. He doesn't "project" as a regular in the big leagues. All he has done is hit. It's high time the Astros start rewarding players that perform in lieu of talented athletes that never seem to actually perform well.

     

    How did he perform?

    Hinze hit well over .300 and hit more than 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in his combined Lancaster and Corpus Christi seasons. Some scoff at these results, but you didn't see anyone else on that team produce those kinds of numbers.

    How do the Astros like him?

    Kody Hinze is what we would call quality depth. They will play him as long as it doesn't rob playing time from "real" prospects. He might struggle for playing time because he might either be with Brett Wallace in OKC or Singleton in Corpus.

12. Josh Zeid

10 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    Zeid is the fourth best prospect the Astros got from the Phillies for Hunter Pence. The trade will likely go down as Ed Wade's finest before all is said and done.

    Zeid is a hard thrower that struggled this past season. With relief pitchers, you often have to look past ERA and win-loss records to find the value. Zeid strikes out a ton of hitters. If he can keep the ball down and throw strikes, he should be in Houston sometime this season. He will start in either OKC or Corpus Christ.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Zeid has a live arm, but he hasn't overwhelmed in the minor leagues. Mid 90s fastballs aren't a dime a dozen, but they aren't exactly rare, either. Zeid joins fellow hard throwers Jason Stoffel and Juan Abreu to give the bullpen some young blood. He profiles as a middle reliever.

     

    How has he performed?

    Zeid combined between Philly and Houston to strike out more than eight hitters per nine innings. He also surrendered more than two home runs per nine innings. The latter was uncharacteristic for him, but it is something to keep our eye on.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    In a world where your payroll is small, you must find ways to save and middle relief is one of those areas. If you can have a stable of arms under club control, you come out ahead. Zeid isn't a can't miss prospect, but he is talented enough to give the Astros that depth.

11. Jason Stoffel

11 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    Just like Zeid, Jason Stoffel has a chance to break into the bullpen sometime this season. He profiles almost the same as Zeid, but he is two years younger, so he rates above him. He throws hard, but control issues and some gopher ball concerns have kept him in AA. Look for him to start there or in OKC if he does well in spring training.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    We are looking at another hard throwing middle reliever. Stoffel struck out more hitters than Zeid, but he also walked more hitters. Either way, he doesn't have overwhelming stuff, but he should be a productive reliever if he can throw strikes,

     

    How did he perform?

    He was decent this season before being traded to Houston. In Corpus, the gopher ball became a problem (1.69 HR/9), but that isn't normal for him. He might start there again, but he should be promoted once he shows that the gopher ball won't be a problem.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    They like him about the same as Zeid. That is, he is just another hard thrower that has a chance to land in their bullpen.

10. Dallas Keuchel

12 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    He had a very good season in Corpus Christi before he was promoted to Oklahoma City. Then he hit a wall. Keuchel isn't going to overwhelm anyone, but he traditionally has kept the ball down and thrown strikes. If he can do that again in OKC, he should get an opportunity by September to make a few starts.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Keuchel is a low ceiling guy that has made the most of what he has. Anyone that walks fewer than two hitters per nine innings has a chance to stick in some capacity. He might end up as a lefty specialist in the pen before all is said and done, but he is very close.

     

    How has he performed?

    Keuchel is one of those guys that excites more with his performance than his stuff. In a system with a lot of physical talent and few performers, this is breath of fresh air.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    You could argue that the recent trades hurt him more than any other young pitchers. Now, the Astros have three bonafide prospects in front of him. Yet, you can never have too much good young pitching.


9. Jake Buchanon

13 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    In his first full season as a farmhand, he became the first Lancaster starter to have an ERA under 4.00 since Brandon Webb. That was more than a decade ago. He also had one very good start in Corpus before the end of the season. Look for him to go back to Corpus and pitch a whole season there. He might be heard from in 2013.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Buchanan is the right handed version of Keuchel. He doesn't overwhelm anyone, but he doesn't walk a lot of hitters or surrender many home runs. When you come from Lancaster and you can say that, then you've accomplished something.

     

    How did he perform?

    If you are the pitcher of the year in your organization, you've made people stand up and take notice. The scouts aren't excited about his future, but as long as you perform, you have to be taken seriously.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    The Astros love what he did last season, but they aren't very high on him because he isn't a stuff pitcher. Yet, if he pitches well in Corpus, this season they won't be able to ignore him.

8. Jonathan Villar

14 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    Villar was in Corpus last season, but he is at least a year away. He commits a ton of errors and strikes out a ton. Yet, he has tantalizing speed and power to go along with quickness in the field. If he puts is all together, he could be a star. At 20, the Astros don't have to rush him, and if they re-sign Clint Barmes, they won't have to.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Villar is the stereotypical high ceiling guy. Scouts watch him make difficult plays, wreak havoc on the basepaths and hit for power and have visions of All-Star appearances in their head. Average fans look at 150 strikeouts and 50 errors and see something else. This year, he needs to show us who the real Villar will be.

     

    How has he performed?

    Villar steals bases and has pop in his bat. The difference between a ML star and a tease with tools is in how often you demonstrate those skills. His strikeout to walk ratio is atrocious, and while he makes difficult plays look east, he also makes easy plays look difficult.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    Villar was arguably the prize of the Roy Oswalt trade, so the current regime has a lot invested in his success. If he doesn't make it, the Oswalt deal will look like an abject failure. If he succeeds, it will be a great trade.

7. Chris Wallace

15 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    This depends more on Jason Castro than Wallace. If Castro can return from knee surgery without any ill affects, then Wallace might not make an appearance until 2013. If Castro struggles, then there might be more of a sense of urgency. Wallace struggled some in Corpus and should return, but they have shown that they don't mind bypassing OKC.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Wallace isn't going to be a star on the next level, but he has shown solid catch and throw skills along with a good bat. Given the Astros history at catcher, if you can put together solid offense with solid receiver skills, you'll be the best catcher in Astros history.

     

    How has he performed?

    He surpassed fellow catcher Ben Heath in the chain because he was able to throw out a good percentage of base runners along with hitting for power. He struggled some in AA, but he has time to get that turned around.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    They didn't think much of him when they drafted him, but he has rewarded them every step of the way. If he performs well and Castro struggles, he could be the regular catcher by the end of the season.

6. Domingo Santana

16 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    Like many of his fellow prospects, he is young and fairly raw. So, I wouldn't expect to see him until the end of 2013 at the earliest. Still, it is hard to imagine what Ruben Amaro Jr. was thinking when he included him in the deal. 

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Santana looks like a guy that could go 30/30 when all is said and done. He hasn't done much yet, but he went nuts in Lexington after the trade. The only standing in his way is his strikeout to walk ratio. If he becomes more selective, watch out.

     

    How has he performed?

    He won't turn 20 until next August, so everything has to be taken in context. He didn't do much in Philly's system, but he hit five home runs in 76 plate appearances in Lexington. Next year, he will be in the hitter's paradise that is Lancaster. He could be huge.

     

    What do the Astros think of him?

    He might be the prize of the Hunter Pence deal before all is said and done. Any time you see high strikeouts from a young player, you have to be cautious, but he began to show impressive power last season.

5. Paul Clemens

17 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    This depends a lot on how the Astros plan to use him. Some think Clemens could be an end of the bullpen kind of prospect. If that is the case, he could open the season in the bullpen. If they want him to be a starter, he probably needs at least half a season worth of starts to gain his confidence in AAA.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    Last year was the first professional season where Clemens threw 100 innings or more. Given that information, it is not unreasonable to say he could be a middle of the rotation starter once he develops. He really needs one more season with 100 or more innings before he released to the wild. If he is a reliever, he could conceivably be a closer.

     

    How has he performed?

    Given the fact that last season was his first full season, Astros fans have to be encouraged. He combined for a low 3.00s ERA in AA and should be in AAA next season. He needs to lower the walks to be a top-flight pitcher, but there is no reason to think he can't do that.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer were the prizes of the Michael Bourn deal. They are going to be careful with him given the relative lack of innings, but he should be heard from one way or another before the end of the 2012 season.

4. George Springer

18 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    Springer likely won't make an appearance in Houston until 2014. This is the primary reason he ranks this low on the list. He really hasn't done much professionally yet, so he likely will begin the season in Lexington. 

     

    What is his ceiling?

    This one is hard to say. When players come in from college, there is always a question about the conversion from aluminum bats to wood bats. However, he showed in college and the Cape Cod league that he is capable of being a 30/30 guy at the big league level. Plus, he looks like he will be a plus defender in center fielder or right field.

     

    How has he performed?

    Like Jack Armstrong, there really isn't a lot to go on here. In one double header, he hit a home run and stole second and third base. So, the talent is there. This season, we will get a better idea of where he is at performance wise.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    They paid him the largest signing bonus in franchise history, so they obviously like him. The question is how quickly they will promote him through the system. There is good reason for scouts and fans to be excited about him.

3. Brett Oberholtzer

19 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    2012. The only question will be whether he opens the season in the rotation or not. If the Astros trade Wandy Rodriguez and/or Brett Myers, there will be an opening. He would be the favorite to take that opening. 

     

    What is his ceiling?

    At first glance, his ceiling would appear to be lower than Clemens, but he strikes out more hitters and is younger. With the exception of his time in Corpus Christi, he has a very low home run rate and his walk rate is consistently under three per nine innings. He could be a No. 2 or 3 starter before all is said and done.

     

    How has he performed?

    Oberholtzer is a good example of why it is wrong to look only at ERA. His ERA in Corpus was high, but he struck out nearly three times as many hitters as he walked. This has held true for him throughout the minors, so there is reason to believe he can make the jump to the big leagues now.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    He is the best player they got in the Michael Bourn deal. Given that he already has two minor league seasons over 100 innings, he can make the jump to the big leagues now.

2. Jarred Cosart

20 of 21

    When will he be an Astro?

    My guess would be the beginning of 2013. Cosart has the stuff to be there now, but he needs to build up some innings before being released. He had a strong campaign last year, but needs one more to be ready. Look for him to start in Corpus with a possible promotion to OKC during the season.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    If Cosart develops a solid change up, he will be the staff ace. His fastball is special and his curve is solid as well. The main concern with him has been his health, and he demonstrated he could stay healthy last season. One more year of good health, and he could be ready to dominate in 2013.

     

    How has he performed?

    Cosart has been good on every level when healthy. If he had remained healthy every year in the Phillies chain, he probably wouldn't have been included in the deal. He has the look of someone really special.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    They love him, and they are going to do everything they can to protect him. Right now, he is arguably their best asset.

1. Jonathan Singleton

21 of 21

    When will he become an Astro?

    All of the sudden, the Astros are loaded at first base, so they can take their time with the 19-year-old. Singleton is likely almost ready now, but he will likely go back to Lancaster and then be promoted to Corpus during the year. Look for him to make an appearance in Houston sometime in 2013.

     

    What is his ceiling?

    As a hitter, Singleton can do it all. He can hit for average, draw walks and hit for power. Defensively, he is still developing but projects to be above average. He might get included in a group of big names like Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder.

     

    How has he performed?

    He started his career like gangbusters but slowed down in the power department. At the same time, he is showing great discipline at the plate. The power will come with time. As long as he is patient at the plate, he projects as a stud.

     

    How do the Astros like him?

    Without him, the Hunter Pence deal would not have been made. In terms of position players, there is no one close to him in the Astros system.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices