Through astute trades, quality drafting and some international activity the Astros have revitalized a farm system that previously rated as one of the worst in the game. The addition of players like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz in this year’s draft, the emergence of Vincent Velasquez after injury, and the acquisition of several players from the Phillies and Blue Jays trades has made this system much, much deeper and made the long-term future much brighter as Houston enters the American League West.
1. Carlos Correa – SS (Last Year’s Rank: NR)
You can look at the signing bonus handed to Correa and then look at the pool allotment for the 1-1 slot and easily come to the conclusion that the Astros went cheap at the top of the draft. That conclusion would be nothing short of completely wrong. Correa is a precocious talent and a potential superstar caliber player. He has the fundamentals and tools to stay at shortstop, while also owning tremendous offensive potential. He’s going to need some time to develop and mature physically, but he could be one of the game’s best at the position when all is said and done.
2. Jonathan Singelton – 1B (2)
Since coming over from the Phillies Singelton has made some of the strides scouts have been hoping for over the last few years. His power has started to play in game situations and he now looks more and more like the offensive monster scouts have projected over the last few years. He is a gifted hitter with good control of the barrel and a strong idea of the strike zone, allowing his big raw power to play in game situations. Though the Phillies had planned to try him in the outfield, he is a first baseman through and through and will need to mash accordingly.
3. Delino DeShields – 2B (8)
After struggling in his full-season debut in 2011, DeShields put all of his skills on display in 2012. With the reports I received from scouts this year and what I have seen of him in the past, I’m a huge fan of his profile. If second base doesn’t work – and there are open questions about his defensive projection – then his speed will play in center field and he will still be a strong prospect. He has a good approach at the plate, works some walks and is a natural hitter with more pop than his frame suggests. His speed is near elite and he can steal bases with ease. DeShields projects as a leadoff threat and impact player.
4. Jarred Cosart – RHP (1)
I remain high on Cosart as a potential starting pitcher, even if he doesn’t fit in the front half of a rotation. His fastball and curveball are borderline plus-plus pitches deep into games and his change-up regularly shows as an average pitch that he can play off his fastball. He struggles to locate within the strike zone, largely because of a messy delivery that has yet to smooth out despite considerable work. Some in the industry believe he will fit in the 8th or 9th inning but I still harbor some belief that he can fit as a number three or four starter.
5. George Springer – OF (4)
I have made no secret that I believe Springer is overrated as a prospect. That said, he is still a very legitimate prospect, just not a star in the making for me. Springer’s tools are loud and he can make an impact in every facet of the game. He fits in the middle of the diamond and has a strong arm. He has good speed and can steal some bases, giving him a secondary weapon beyond his power potential. I question how much he will hit but he could be a quality player even with a low batting average.
6. Jonathan Villar – SS (3)
An aggressive player, Villar is out of control much of the time he is on the field. He has plus-plus speed but will run into outs at times and doesn’t always steal bases at the rate his raw speed suggests he should. He can make decent contact and could hit .270-.280 if it all comes together. His glove is his best tool and he is a legitimate shortstop with a strong arm to complete the profile. Villar could be an everyday big leaguer.
7. Rio Ruiz – 3B (NR)
Overlooked heading into the draft because of a blood clot in his shoulder, Ruiz has an All-Star ceiling. He has a projectable frame, Gold Glove potential at third base and the offensive potential to really stand out on the prospect landscape. Makes easy contact and looks very natural in the box with the potential to hit .270+ with plus-plus power in the middle of the lineup.
8. Mike Foltynewicz – RHP (13)
Came back strong after a miserable 2011 campaign that saw him struggle to put up numbers and saw his velocity dip significantly. In 2012 he was back working in the low-90s and touching the upper-90s with his fastball. His curveball made strides as well, earning future plus grades from several scouts. He also mixes in a change-up with some promise. Foltynewicz looks the part of a physical, inning-eating number three starter if he can keep making strides.
9. Lance McCullers, Jr. – RHP (NR)
By saving money at the top of the draft, the Astros were also able to sign McCullers to a lucrative deal. He has good bloodlines and a keen understanding of the game. The fastball and curveball both could settle in as plus-plus pitches with dominating potential. His change-up lacks substance and his command/control are flat out poor right now with only modest projection. Many project McCullers in the bullpen and he could be a lights out closer down the line.
10. Domingo Santana – OF (5)
Santana’s slide in the rankings is more a function of players jumping into the Top 10 than me souring on him. I still love the raw and he showed a better approach and feel for hitting in 2012 than he had in previous seasons. He could hit .250 in the big leagues with a fair number of walks, tons of strikeouts and 25+ home runs, making him a legit power-hitting threat. Santana’s arm fits in right field but he lacks the athleticism or running ability to handle the position every day.
11. Vincent Velasquez – RHP (NR)
After missing the 2011 season, Velasquez showed why he got over $600,000 in the 2010 draft, posting a 3.35 ERA in nine starts in the NYPL this year. He has an ideal pitchers frame with tons of projection remaining and the potential to throw much harder than his current 91-93 mph. His curveball and change-up have both shown promise in the past and they both flashed as above-average to plus pitches last year. The 2013 season could be a breakout party for Velasquez and he could begin to look more and more like a number three starter down the line.
12. Adrian Houser – RHP (11)
A second round pick in 2011, Houser showed improved overall stuff and consistency in 2012. He has a big frame that screams durability and he uses it to generate plenty of leverage on his fastball that sits in the low-90s and could touch 96-97 down the line. His change-up and curveball both have promise with the curve significantly ahead right now, and both projecting as quality pitches.
13. Teoscar Hernandez – OF (NR)
Hernandez is a very under-the-radar player but he could be a name to watch over the next 2-3 years as he continues to mature and grow into his impressive, athletic body. He glides to the ball in center field and has the speed projection and chops to stick at the position long term. His offense will have to catch up, but he shows some feel for hitting and a chance to have some pop in his bat. He is a long ways away and may not really be on the radar until after the 2014 season, but keep his name stowed away just in case.
14. Joe Musgrove – RHP (NR)
Musgrove came over from Toronto in July and while he struggled in four relief appearances, he still has significant potential. A massive 6-foot-5, 230 pound right-hander, Musgrove can work in the low-90s with a highly angled fastball and touches 95-96 mph when he reaches back for more on his four-seamer. His slider is coming along nicely and he shows occasional feel for a change-up. The Astros will likely bring him along slowly but if he takes to instruction and pieces things together, he could fit in the middle of a rotation someday.
15. Carlos Perez – C (NR)
Perez came over in the same trade as Musgrove and several other players and he could still be the best player of the bunch. He is a quality defender with present catch-and-throw skills, good leadership and an improving ability to block balls in the dirt. His offensive game has promise as well, starting with an excellent approach and tremendous bat-to-ball skills. He could hit .270-.280 with very little swing and miss, backed up by 20+ doubles and 10-12 home runs at his peak, making him an extremely valuable catcher.