Losing well over 100 games for three consecutive seasons and selling off every quality major league player on your roster has one positive effect – it fosters a great farm system. The Houston Astros may have the worst team in baseball, but they have the best farm system, with seven representatives on MLB.com’s top 100 list and a mixture of high upside and high floor prospects below that.
Triple-A: Oklahoma City RedHawks(Pacific Coast League)
Double-A: Corpus Christi Hooks (Texas League)
High-A: Lancaster JetHawks (California League)
Class-A: Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwestern League)
Short-Season A: Tri-City ValleyCats (New-York Penn League)
Advanced Rookie: Greeneville Astros (Appalachian League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Astros (Gulf Coast League), DSL Astros (Dominican Summer League)
Date of Birth: January 19, 1987
Height/Weight: 6’4 315 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
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Analysis: Losing over 105 games for three consecutive can make a team desperate for talent, which is what brought Houston to the Mexican League and Japhet Amador. When he was signed to a minor league deal last August, the 26 year old first baseman had ranked second in the Mexican League in home runs and slugging percentage, and third in OPS. He has power to all fields, as evidenced by his MLBfarm.com hit chart and he doesn’t strikeout much (15% k rate). That being said, his numbers are artificially inflated by the hitter-friendly Mexican League, and at an unmuscular 315 pounds, he probably lacks the athleticism to play the field. Still, Amador has a shot – however remote – to be a decent DH/pinch hitter.
2014 Prognosis: Armador will contend for a DH spot out of spring training, but it’s hard to see him bringing much more to the table than incumbent Chris Carter.
Date of Birth: July 6, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’0, 217 lbs
Acquired: 7th round, 2012 draft
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Analysis: Listed by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo as a 20 runner on the 20 – 80 scouting scale, Tucker is slow, but he can flat out rake. As he showed last year with 25 home runs and a .297 average between Lancaster and Corpus Christi, the University of Florida standout has the potential to hit for both power and average. His approach at the plate is advanced, as evidenced by his slightly above MLB average 9.3% walk rate and slightly below average 17% strikeout rate. Tucker’s instincts and arm are adequate enough to make him a passable fielder in right or left, but with his speed, he’ll never be much more than that.
2014 Prognosis: After starting 2014 in Double-A, Tucker should reach Triple-A by the summer.
Date of Birth: April 7, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’3 160 lbs
Acquired: Trade, Baltimore Orioles
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Analysis: The centerpiece of last summer’s deadline deal that sent Bud Norris to Baltimore, Hader is a projectable lefty who could be mid-rotation starter down the road. He has a solid three pitch mix, with a low-90’s fastball that should only get harder as he adds to his rather thin 6’3’ 160 lb frame, and a curveball and changeup that should soon be major league quality. Although his 4.5 BB/9 in A ball last season seems to indicate control issues, it is a predictable number for a teenager fresh out of high school, and he should have better command going forward.
2014 Prognosis: Hader will probably spend the vast majority if not the entirety of 2014 with High-A Lancaster.
Date of Birth: June 7, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’3, 203 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round, 2010 Draft
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Analysis: After missing all of 2011 and half of 2012 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Velasquez pitched well in his full-season debut last year. His 3.19 ERA was encouraging, but his peripherals – 10.1 SO/9, 2.7 BB/9 – were outstanding and warranted him his late season promotion to High-A. With three potentially above average pitches in his fastball, changeup, and curve, he’s ready for a harder challenge.
2014 Prognosis: Velasquez will start the year in High-A Lancaster, but should reach Double-A if he continues to miss bats as he has.
Date of Birth: May 22, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’3, 203 lbs
Acquired: 4th round, 2012 Draft
Analysis: The Astros had a higher spending cap in the 2012 draft than any other team, and they used part of that to give Ruiz, a fourth round draft pick, a larger signing bonus than 11 first rounders and pull him away from a commitment to USC. Ruiz works well on both sides of the ball, with enough range to be an above-average third baseman at the big league level, and enough contact and power to be a middle-of-the-order run producer. As a teenager in his first full season, he shouldn’t be judged too much by his 2013 stats, but the twelve home runs, 33 doubles, and 10.5% walk rate are all encouraging signs.
2014 Prognosis: The Astros may decide to be conservative and keep Ruiz in Class-A Quad Cities to start next season or be aggressive and move him up to High-A, either way he should in Lancaster before the season is through.Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Houston Astros outfielder Delino DeShields against the East during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Date of Birth: March 15, 1991
Height/Weight: 5’10, 205 lbs
Acquired: Trade, Oakland Athletics
Analysis: Stassi holds the unfortunate distinction of being one of the only players in the Astros prospects blocked by a major league player, as current Houston catcher Jason Castro led the team by a wide margin with a 4.5 WAR last season. This could make Stassi valuable trade bait going forward as the young catcher is an able receiver behind the plate and can hit for plenty of power, with 17 Double-A home runs in roughly half a season last year. Except that’s the problem – half a season. Stassi has struggled to stay on the field, dealing with a series of injuries that have prevented him from playing more than 84 games each of the last three seasons.
2014 Prognosis: Stassi will go to Triple-A next season, where he’ll just try to stay healthy. If Jason Castro suffers an injury – as he is apt to – Stassi should get the call.
Date of Birth: December 21, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’4, 235 lbs
Acquired: Trade, Toronto Blue Jays
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Analysis: Of the seven players the Astros received in their 10 player trade with Blue Jays two summers ago, Wojciechowski is the one who should have the most impact going forward. He pitched well for Triple-A Oklahama City last year, thanks to a fastball that reaches 94, a major league quality curve, and a lagging changeup that still has the potential to be above average. His decent if unspectacular peripherals of 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 are indicative of what he will be at the major league level – a back end starter who won’t blow you away, but can eat up a ton quality innings.
2014 Prognosis: He should join the big league rotation at some point next year.
Date of Birth: August 16, 1992
Height/Weight: 5’9, 205 lbs
Acquired: First Round (8th overall), 2010 Draft
Analysis: DeShields would rank much higher in almost any other team’s farm system, but with the Astros’ system as deep as it is, Shields, #76 on that list, falls to eighth. The 21 year old second baseman is your prototypical leadoff man, hitting for average (.317), getting on base (.405 OBP, 10.6% walk rate), stealing bases (51 last year, 101 the year before), and the ability to use his speed to take the extra base (25 doubles, 14 triples). He’s a more than capable second baseman, but with Jose Altuve entrenched there in Houston, he could move to the outfield, where he played in high school, or even become a utility man.
2014 Prognosis: Off to Double-A for DeShields, where its just a short jump to the majors.
Date of Birth: August 5, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’5, 230 lbs
Acquired: Trade, Philadelphia Phillies
Analysis: The secondary prospect in the Hunter Pence trade, Santana came over from the Phillies when he was just an 18 year old with a bunch of undeveloped tools. Now, after hitting over 20 home runs for the second consecutive season, his tools are showing, but so are his holes. He has tremendous power and his walk rate is an average 9.6%, but he strikes out a ton, with over 135 whiffs each of the last two years and a 29% K rate last season that would rank among the worst contact hitters in major league baseball.
2014 Prognosis: He needs to learn to make more consistent contact before he moves up to Triple-A.
Date of Birth: September 18, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2, 235 lbs
Acquired: Trade, Philadelphia Phillies
Analysis: Last year was a disaster for the Astro’s first baseman of the future. After missing the first fifty games with a drug suspension, Singleton, who has never experienced significant struggles at any professional level, ran into a wall. He had career lows in average and slugging percentage, and had a career high 30% strikeout rate. The only positive was his plate discipline as he waked 16% of the time, which would mean 96 walks over the course of a 600 at bat season. His power is still incredible – a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale according to Jason Parks – and he can obviously get on base, but last season’s performance is certainly disconcerting.
2014 Prognosis: Singleton should start next season in Triple-A, and if he can re-gather his bearings, it won’t take long for him to supplant Brett Wallace in Houston.
Date of Birth: October 7, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’4, 200 lbs
Acquired: First Round (19th overall), 2010 Draft
Analysis: The first of three power pitchers sitting at the top of Houston farm system, Foltynewicz can reach back and hit over 100 on the gun. With a 4.6 BB/9 last year, his command lags, and while his curveball is a decent pitch, it’s not dominant and his changeup is below average. That being said, he can certainly miss bats and eat innings, which could make him into a legitimate number two or three starter down the road.
2014 Prognosis: He had a good showing in Double-A last season, so the Astros could promote him, but with the plethora of near-major league ready pitchers taking up spots there, they could also leave him in Corpus Christi to work on his command
Date of Birth: October 2, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2, 205 lbs
Acquired: First Round (41st overall), 2012 Draft
Analysis: Along with Ruiz, McCullers also received a well above slot deal in the 2012 draft, getting 2.5 million, more than all but eleven other first round picks. The Tampa native throws classic hardball, running his fastball into the mid-90’s and throwing a power-slider as a secondary plus pitch, both of which he uses to rack up strikeouts. Like most twenty year old pitchers, his change up and command are not advanced, and the former may never be more than a fringe-average pitch. He should have a future as a starter near the top of the rotation, but he could also be a dominant reliever should the Astros pursue that route.
2014 Prognosis: He rolled through Class A last season, and should move up to High-A in 2014. Dominance there could take him to Double-A before the season closes.
Date of Birth: September 19, 1989
Height/Weight: 6’3, 200 lbs
Acquired: First Round (11th overall), 2011 Draft
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Analysis: As cliched as the profile of a five tool center-fielder is, and as rarely as they work out, its hard to deny that Springer can hit for average and power, steal bases, field, and throw. The former first round draft pick took a run at becoming the first player in the history of the modern minor leagues to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases, and came just three home runs short. He also walked an above average 14% of the time en route to a .411 OBP, and his defense and arm in center are unquestionable. The only concern is his ability to make contact, as he struck out 161 times last year, 156 the year before. If he continues to whiff at that rate, it will become very hard to hit for average in the majors, and his power numbers could suffer as well.
2014 Prognosis: The Astros will probably keep him in Triple-A until June, when he would lose super-two status. Once in the majors, he should compete for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Date of Birth: September 19, 1989
Height/Weight: 6’3, 200 lbs
Acquired: First Round (1st overall), 2013 Draft
Analysis: The Astros passed on Appel with the first overall pick in 2012 because of his massive contract demands, only to take him the first pick the following year. Appel is the complete package as a pitching prospect, with a mid 90’s fastball, a potentially plus-plus mid 80’s slider, an average changeup, and good command of all three. He had a decent professional debut last summer, pitching to a 3.79 ERA and 3.67 K/BB ratio.
2014 Prognosis: Appel is incredibly polished and could start next season in Double-A, be in the majors by late August.
Date of Birth: September 22, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’4, 205 lbs
Acquired: First Round (1st overall), 2012 Draft
Analysis: Houston surprised a lot of people when they took Correa first overall in the 2012 draft, but the young shortstop did not disappoint, obliterating the Midwestern league as an eighteen year old last season. He hit .320, got on base at a .405 clip, and with 33 doubles, three triples, and a .467 slugging percentage, showed gap power. His approach at the plate is superb and he struck out only 18% of the time and walked 11% – incredible numbers for a player of his age. He has a shot to stay at short, but he might outgrow it. In that likely occurrence, he has the potential to win a gold glove as a third baseman.
2014 Prognosis: Correa will move up to High-A Lancaster, but will find himself in Corpus Christi before long if he repeats his 2013 performance.