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Houston Astros

Original Published Date: Sept. 27, 2012

The Houston Astros are taking a scorch earth approach to their organization as they’ve completely cleaned house at the major league level to bring in young talent in hopes of revitalizing a franchise that has been mediocre for years.  It’s a difficult strategy as it takes great patience from ownership and fans, as well as excellent scouting and player development.

While the minor league system has improved a great deal over the past two years, there is still a long way to go.  There are several young high up-side players including 2012 overall first pick Carlos Correa and 20 year-old Dominican, Santana Domingo, as well as a couple of potential first division starters in Jonathon Singleton and George Springer who are much closer to the majors.  The biggest hole in the organization is clearly pitching as Jared Cosart, Nick Tropeano and Lance McCullers could all help, but none stands out as having the total package to be a top of the rotation starter.

1. Carlos Correa (SS)

2013 Age: 18 BP: Puerto Rico
Ht: 6-4  Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 R 190 28 3 12 6 .258 .305 76.8 6.3 .319

When Carlos Correa name was announced as the first pick in the 2012 draft, draft prognosticators agreed he was an elite talent, but was he worthy of the first overall pick?  Once Correa was signed for considerably less than slot, it became clear the logic that Houston employed – draft a player with cost certainty that enables flexibility to allocate money later in the draft.  It will be three to five years before we know if the strategy was successful, but possibly lost in the complexity of the approach is that Carlos Correa is really, really good.

Correa is big, athletic, and most importantly – young.  Not many professional have nearly 200 at-bats before their 18th birthday and while his stats were modest, Correa definitely held his own.  His size and leveraged swing gives promise of a power hitting shortstop in the mold of Troy Tulowitzki. There is also speed, at least initially that should translate into double digit stolen basess

The hit tool is still developing and while raw, there is promise.  In my first view, I saw a bit of a long swing, even with a slight hitch.  The good news is this should be easily correctable with the proper coaching during the fall instructional league.  Again, he’s young, and the word is very coachable.

Fantasy Impact: There is an all-star ceiling in Carlos Correa and at a premium position.  Of course, he’s years away from realizing it.  The best case scenario is for Correa to reach the majors in the “Manny Machado” timeframe (2014).  However, a more likely timeframe for a major league debut is 2015-2016 while fully realizing his potential several years later.  So, Dynasty Leaguers, if you are in it for the long haul, go after Correa.

2. Jonathan Singleton (1B)

2013 Age: 21 BP: California
Ht: 6-2  Weight: 235 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2013
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 AA 461 94 21 79 7 .284 .396 71.6 19.1 .351

Christmas came early last year for Jonathan Singleton as he was stuck behind Ryan Howard in Philadelphia but now the path is clear for a starting first base gig in Houston.  Drafted in the year of “Trout”, Singleton was selected by Philadelphia in the eighth round, where the Phillies saw a prototypical power hitting first baseman with good athleticism for his size.

In 2012, Singleton played his entire age 20 year in Double-AA and by all accounts, started to discover his power.  He hit 21 home runs in 461 at-bats to go along with 27 doubles and a .497 slugging percentage.  Of course with the leverage swing comes a ton of strikeouts, 131 or a 71.6% contact rate.  While his batting average was a decent .284, it was aided by an inflated .351 BABIP and given his demonstrated speed on the basepaths, a .240-.250 batting average would seem to be more typical of what we can expect from Singleton.

While this batting average might be a negative to fantasy owners, Singleton’s on base percentage should be very good as his 19.1% walk ratio makes up for his long swing.  Put it all together and you’re looking at a first division starter, capable at hitting 30 home runs, a .330 on base percentage, and plenty of RBI potential as a middle of the order bat.

Fantasy Impact: Singleton is young with a bright future.  He could easily become a top 10 fantasy first baseman and a player taken in the top five rounds of a draft.  He will always put pressure on the batting average category, but the power and RBI potential should offset that negative value.

3. George Springer (OF)

2013 Age: 23 BP: Connecticut
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Left ETA: 2013-14
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 A+-AA 506 109 24 87 32 .300 .377 69.2 12.3 .387

A player that hits .300 with 24 home runs, 32 stolen bases and plays a great outfielder should be considered one of the game’s best prospects.  While I will probably rank George Springer in the 50’s on my top 100 prospect list, the scouting of Springer doesn’t equal the statistics of Springer.  Let me explain…

George Springer looks like an athlete and reminds me of a slightly larger version of Michael Choice, the young Oakland A’s prospect.  He has power, speed and is a gifted outfielder that runs great routes to the ball, with a very quick release in his outfield throw.  That said, I’m worried about the swing.  While the swing is quick and violent, there’s a definite hitch in the swing that is susceptible to breaking pitches.  While the 69.2% contact rate tells part of the story, the scouting report in his small sample size in Double-AA shows even more concern. If you also consider that Springer will play his age 23 year in Double-AA, you worry about how much of adjustment he will be able to make.

Fantasy Impact: Springer may be an intriguing fantasy player with his power/speed combination in the mold of Chris Young.  As with many players with this profile, he could struggle with his batting average but will have the advantage, particularly over the next few years, of playing in a at-bat craved Astros lineup.

4. Domingo Santana (OF)

2013 Age: 20 BP: D.R.
Ht: 6-5  Weight: 228 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2012 HiA 457 87 23 97 7 .302 .385 67.6 12.0 .395

I didn’t have the courage to rank Santana ahead of Springer, but I definitely considered it, even though Santana contact was even worse.  There are three primary reasons to be bullish about Santana:

  1. He has enormous raw power with a highly leveraged swing with crazy bat speed;
  2. Is a very large human at 6’5’’ and over 225 pounds; and
  3. Is very young and will play nearly his entire age 20 year in Double-AA.

As with many power hitters, if Santana can cut down on the strikeouts to get to his raw power, he has a chance to be a first division starter or more.  Given his swing, his power could equate to 30+ home runs in the major leagues.  While he could steal high single digit bases initially, as he continues to fill out, I do not anticipate the speed to continue.

Fantasy Impact: Has a huge power ceiling and middle of the lineup potential.  While he’s very young, the Astros will be aggressive with Santana and will move him quickly if he can cut down the strikeouts.  If not and Santana must repeat Double-AA, he could still enter the majors at age 22.  He’s definitely draftable in a 15-team Dynasty League format.

5. Jared Cosart (RHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Texas
Ht: 6-3  Weight: 180 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AA/AAA 114 106 42 3 4.01 7.24 3.30 1.40

Jarred Cosart became more of a household name after his impressive showing in the 2011 Futures Game.  In fact, that performance went a long way to him being included in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies.  However, the velocity and biting curve that he showed in that one inning has yet to translate into the profile of a starting pitcher.

While Cosart’s stuff is definitely plus with a mid 90’s fastball and an excellent upper 70’s curve, and a change-up that will flashes plus, Cosart mechanics are not very good.  His delivery is clearly one of maximum effort and he does have significant scapular loading on his delivery which puts a lot of stress on his elbow and shoulder.  In looking at him pitch, you can’t help but wonder whether long-term his final destination will be the bullpen.

Another red flag with Cosart is his inability to throw strikes.  A BB/9 of 4.01 will not translate as he moves to the majors.  What I find a bit perplexing is that the stuff is there, but maybe the stuff is too good as many of pitches have so much movement, they go in and out of the strike zone.

Fantasy Impact: Cosart was once a top prospect but his stock has definitely taken a hit.  While ownable in a 15-team dynasty league, I’m concerned enough that I would be trying to package him in a trade based on his name recognition.

6. Delino DeShields (2B)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Georgia
Ht: 5-9 Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB BABIP
2012 A-A+ 537 123 12 61 101 .287 .382 75.2 15 .359

I was really down on Delino DeShields after the 2011 season as his ability to make hard contact, work a count, and identify pitches were just not there.  You could see the crazy speed, but he wasn’t hitting enough to take advantage.  That all changed in 2012 as DeShields starting figuring things out, even though he repeated Low-A.

Deshields has nice bat speed that does have a little pop, but it’s the speed and his ability to steal bases that has everyone excited.  While Billy Hamilton got all the press and rightly so, DeShields stole 101 bases and the most important thing is he hit and was able to take a walk (15.5% walk rate).

If I was doing strictly a ranking from a fantasy standpoint, Delino Deshields would be a top 100 prospect, maybe even a top 50 prospect, but as a pure baseball prospect, he’s not there. Unfortunately, it will not be until he enters Double-AA and encounters better pitching that we can truly assess whether he’ll be able to make it the majors as a utility player or a major league regular.

Fantasy Impact: On the speed alone, you have to draft DeShields for your Dynasty League.  It’s a lottery pick for sure, but one that I would gladly take.  He’s not an early pick but I would consider him a prospect in the range of 50-60 in my fantasy draft.

7. Robbie Grossman (OF)

Grossman caught the industry’s attention last year when he walked 104 times in 490 at-bats but it was after repeating High-A.  In 2012, he had a decent year with 10 home runs and 11 SB (11 CS) while batting .267 in Double-AA. In the end, I’m not sure there’s a tremendous of talent there, but Grossman is somebody that we should continue to monitor.

8. Mike Foltynewicz (RHP)

Foltynewicz is a former first round draft pick in 2010 that had a very nice bounce back year in 2012 to improve his stock.  He has an above average fastball that sits 92-93 with an improving slurvy breaking pitch that became a true out pitch.  His delivery is not consistent and he has a tendency to leave pitches up and is therefore susceptible to giving up home runs.

9. Nick Tropeano (RHP)

Tropeano has average stuff with a fastball sitting 88-91 with his slider lacking a lot of bite.  However, he’s got a plus-plus change-up to go along with his ability to hide his pitches that has been making hitters look silly in the lower minors.  It’s likely he’ll be exposed as he moves to the upper minors, particularly if his slider doesn’t develop.  But for now, he’s an intriguing prospect.

10. Lance McCullers (RHP)

During his teenage years, Lance McCullers was considered one of the best prospects in the country.  He did fall to 41st pick in the 2012 draft where Houston, after saving money by selecting Correra, was able to throw $2.5M at the 18 year-old.  McCullers has a plus fastball that he throws in the mid 90’s and a wipeout slider, but his arm action is not good and you have to wonder whether he will eventually be moved to the bullpen.

2 comments on “Houston Astros

  1. Rich,
    Once again, really great job on prospects. This is a very nice site. Just a comment on Robbie Grossman. I had the chance to see him play the game before he was traded to the Astros organization, this year. His stats may not get him to the majors, but I liked how he hustled and he is the type of player I like to pull for. I wish him luck.
    Brad Dengler

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