The 2015 Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects

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For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1. Carlos Correa, SS

Born: 09/22/94 Age: 20 Height: 6-4   Weight: 205   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: J.P. Crawford, Manny Machado, Jurickson Profar, Yamaico Navarro, Jorge Polanco
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 17 R 163 .232 .270 .355 .625 .123 4.3% 22.1% 87
2013 18 A 519 .320 .405 .467 .872 .147 11.2% 16.0% 147
2014 19 A+ 293 .325 .416 .510 .926 .185 12.3% 15.4% 144

Background: The former #1 overall pick missed half the year with a fractured fibia, the result of his spike sticking during a slide into third base in late June. Playing in the bandbox that is Lancaster, the then-19-year-old shortstop was – unsurprisingly – mashing to the tune of .325/.416/.510, all three career highs. He finished the year with 16 doubles, six triples, six homeruns, and 20 stolen bases (in 24 attempts) in 62 games. For his career, the Puerto Rican-born shortstop owns a .308/.389/.465 triple-slash line in 229 games. Projection: Correa’s  age put the organization in a precarious situation – either have the teenager feast in Lancaster’s home stadium (it’s sporting a 130 homerun park factor for right-hander hitters) or have him skip High Class A and head straight into the more advanced, albeit more neutral, Texas League. The organization opted for the safer route, and his overall numbers reflected that. According to StatCorner.com, Correa’s .325/.416/.510 production line drops to .314/.403/.482 once adjusted for park. Assuming he’s fully healed from his unfortunate injury, Correa’s likely headed for the TL to start the year, taking with him his above-average plate discipline, surprising speed (for a 6-foot-4 player), and blossoming power. He’s always going to be compared to whom the club bypassed in the draft, Byron Buxton, but Correa should be a star in his own right. Ceiling:  6.0-win player Risk:  Moderate MLB ETA:  2016    

 

 

2. Mark Appel, RHP

Born: 07/15/91 Age: 23 Height: 6-5   Weight: 225   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Josh Rainwater, Danny Miranda, Devin Anderson, Eric Gonzalez, Richard Castillo
Year Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A 33.0 3.82 3.40 7.4 19.3% 2.5 6.4% 0.55 64.5%
2014 22 A+ 44.3 9.74 5.32 8.1 18.4% 2.2 5.1% 1.83 47.0%
2014 22 AA 39.0 3.69 2.99 8.8 23.0% 3.0 7.9% 0.46 69.9%

Background: Again, much like Correa, Appel’s career will forever be compared/linked to the guy drafted directly behind him – Chicago’s Kris Bryant. It was a bit of an odd year for the former Stanford hurler – first, he struggled adjusting to Houston’s mix-and-match four-man rotation while trying to figure out Lancaster. Then there was some brief press given to how the organization handled the big right-hander and a reported bullpen session in Houston. Appel tallied just 83.1 innings last season, averaging 8.4 strikeouts and 2.6 free passes per nine innings. Projection: And then there was the whole worry-for-nothing over his bloated ERA to open the year. So let’s take a minute and break it down. Yes, Appel, the twice-drafted top 10 prospect, was sporting a horrendous 9.74 ERA and an equally troubling 5.32 FIP. But…and it’s a big one, too…he was still missing bats (8.12 K/9), still limiting free passes (2.23 BB/9), and a lot of his numbers were completely wonky – like his 1.83 HR/9, or his .414 BABIP, or his 47.0% strand rate. He was suffering from a lot of craptastic luck. And the pitcher everyone saw with Corpus Christi – the one who struck out 38, walked 13, and posted a 2.99 FIP – is where the true talent level resides. There a very good chance Houston will always regret not going with the high ceiling bat of Kris Bryant, especially with Jonathan Singleton struggling massively during his debut, but Appel should slide into Houston’s rotation sooner rather than later and be a solid #2 arm. Ceiling:  4.5-win player Risk:  Low to Moderate MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016    

 

 

3. Lance McCullers, RHP

Born: 10/02/93 Age: 21 Height: 6-2   Weight: 205   B/T: L/R                                                          
Top CALs: Jordan Norberto, Henry Owens, Adys Portillo, Victor Payano, Aaron Sanchez
Year Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 A 104.7 3.18 3.05 10.1 26.2% 4.2 11.0% 0.26 68.6%
2014 20 A+ 97.0 5.47 5.73 10.7 26.4% 5.2 12.8% 1.67 71.5%

Background: One of the reasons – if not the reason – the club went with Correa to open the 2013 draft, McCullers, who ended up signing an over-slot bonus with the saved money, was another victim of playing in Lancaster; his ERA spiked by more than two full runs and his homerun rate ballooned by nearly eight-fold. The young right-hander also dealt with some back issues for a month – the result, presumably, from the whiplash he suffered from snapping around to see those homeruns surrendered. McCullers’ final numbers: 97.0 IP, 115 K, and 56 BB. Projection: McCullers’ control, which was already penciled in as below-average entering the year, took a large step backwards last season. Perhaps some of that the result of pitching in Lancaster, but, again, it was already fringy at best. Given his age, there’s still plenty of time to figure out the strike zone. Potential #3-type arm but plenty of risk comes along because of said control issues. Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player Risk:  Moderate to High MLB ETA:  2017     4. Brett Phillips, CF/RF

Born: 05/30/94 Age: 21 Height: 6-0   Weight: 175   B/T: L/R                                                          
Top CALs: Estarlin Martinez, Austin Dean, Seth Conner, Zach Larson, Exicardo Cayones
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 18 R 219 .251 .360 .360 .720 .109 12.8% 21.9% 118
2013 19 R 113 .247 .371 .353 .724 .106 15.0% 18.6% 114
2014 20 A 443 .302 .362 .521 .883 .219 8.1% 17.2% 148
2014 20 A+ 128 .339 .421 .560 .980 .220 10.9% 15.6% 156

Background: After struggling through two down years to open up his career – he posted OPSs of .720 and .678 – something clicked for the former sixth round pick and he breezed through the Midwest League (.302/.362/.521) before earning – and passing with flying colors – a 27-game stint with Lancaster (.339/.421/.560). Overall, Phillips hit an aggregate .310/.375/.529 with 29 doubles, 14 triples, 17 homeruns and 23 stolen bases (in 37 attempts). Projection: You get the sense that Phillips, a potential power-speed combo bat, is the type of players the Mets’ organization (and fan base) envision Brandon Nimmo being/becoming. Not even close. While Nimmo gets the nod for his above-average/plus patience at the plate, Phillips has solid-average or better tools across the board: 15- to 20-homerun potential, 15 or so stolen base speed, and the ability to hit both southpaws and right-handers. Phillips is a guy who could spike into the game’s top 35 prospects with a strong start to 2015. The lack of a track record does add some risk, though. Ceiling: 3.0-win player Risk:  Moderate to High MLB ETA:  2018    

 

 

5. Vincent Velasquez, RHP

Born: 06/07/92 Age: 23 Height: 6-3   Weight: 203   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Scott Mitchinson, Aaron Blair, Henry Sosa, Michael Torrealba, Jose Guzman
Year Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 20 A- 45.7 3.35 2.98 10.1 26.8% 3.4 9.0% 0.39 70.1%
2013 21 A 110.0 3.19 2.99 10.1 27.2% 2.7 7.3% 0.57 72.2%
2013 21 A+ 14.7 6.14 5.00 11.7 29.2% 4.9 12.3% 1.23 66.0%
2014 22 A+ 55.3 3.74 3.96 11.7 31.4% 3.7 10.0% 0.98 75.1%

Background: One of the slower moving top prospects in Houston’s organization, Velasquez, who’s entering his age-23 season, has totaled just 70 innings in the California League despite entering pro ball in the second round of the 2010 draft. A plethora of injuries, mainly of the arm variety, including Tommy John surgery, have hampered the promising right-hander. Though not to be completely predictable, a groin injury shortened his 2014 campaign to just 64 innings (12.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9). Projection: Tell me if you’ve heard this one before – the guy had all the talent in the world, but just couldn’t shake the injury bug. Including his debut-shortened season in 2010 Velasquez has been in the organization for five seasons and has managed to throw just 263.2 innings – albeit, 263.2 innings of pretty damn good ball. Just look at his numbers in Lancaster last year: 55.1 IP, 72 K, and 23 BB. The countdown on his days remaining as a starting pitcher has already begun ticking with each passing injury. Luckily enough, his major malady last season didn’t involve his right wing. He has legit, legit front-of-the-rotation potential, but… Ceiling:  4.0-win player Risk:  High to Extreme MLB ETA:  2017    

 

 

6. Colin Moran, 3B

Born: 10/01/92 Age: 22 Height: 6-4   Weight: 215   B/T: L/R                                                          
Top CALs: Cheslor Cuthbert, Kevin Ahrens, Anderson Hidalgo, Adrian Cardenas, Eric Campbell
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A 175 .299 .354 .442 .796 .143 8.6% 14.3% 127
2014 21 A+ 392 .294 .342 .393 .735 .100 7.1% 13.5% 110
2014 21 AA 123 .304 .350 .411 .760 .107 7.3% 18.7% 114

Background: Acquired for the strikeout-abhorrent Jarred Cosart, who posted a 3.77 FIP as a 24-year-old last season, Moran wasted little time before making his way into Class AA since becoming the sixth pick in the draft two years ago. The lefty-swinging third baseman had a fine debut in Low Class A (.299/.354/.442) and the Marlins, never afraid to challenge a prospect, pushed him to the Florida State League to begin the year. He would hit .294/.342/.393 prior to being acquired by Houston and .304/.350/.411 in the Texas League after the deal. Projection: Solid, yet uninspiring numbers thus far for the then-22-year-old. The power has yet to develop for Moran, who’s slugged just 11 homeruns in his first 690 plate appearances. The hit tool and his glove are his best offerings; otherwise, he’s simply been average. At the end of the day, Houston traded a league average, cost-controlled starting pitcher for a third baseman who could slightly outperform him, though that comes at a higher risk. Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player Risk:  Moderate MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016    

 

 

7. Josh Hader, LHP

Born: 04/07/94 Age: 21 Height: 6-3   Weight: 160   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Jake Thompson, Aaron Sanchez, Johnny Barbato, Tyler Chatwood, Frank Lopez
Year Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 A 85.0 2.65 3.93 8.4 21.4% 4.5 11.4% 0.42 67.6%
2013 19 A 22.3 3.22 4.05 6.5 17.2% 4.8 12.9% 0.00 73.3%
2014 20 A+ 103.3 2.70 4.10 9.8 26.6% 3.3 9.0% 0.78 74.5%
2014 20 AA 20.0 6.30 4.87 10.8 25.5% 7.2 17.0% 0.90 65.2%

Background: His work in the California League last season – 103.1, 112 K, 38 BB, and a 2.70 ERA – was enough for the lanky left-hander to earn the league’s Pitcher of the Year and the franchise’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year as well. The franchise pushed the then-20-year-old up to Class AA for a brief 20-inning stint, and the results weren’t downright terrible either. Hader came to Houston via the Bud Norris deal with Baltimore two years ago. Projection: Hader was one of the rare instances – at least those that come to mind – where a young pitcher not only survived but excelled playing in Lancaster. His strikeout rate jumped to a career high (9.75 K/9, 26.6%); his walk rate dropped (3.31 BB/9, 9.0%); and his homerun numbers jumped only modestly despite average-ish groundball totals. Hader still has some room to fill out, so it’s possible his fastball ticks up slightly in the next year or two as well.  He’s a solid bet to develop into a #4 arm. Ceiling: 2.0- 2.5-win player Risk:  Moderate MLB ETA:  Mid 2016    

 

 

8. Derek Fisher, LF

Born: 08/21/93 Age: 21 Height: 6-1   Weight: 207   B/T: L/R                                                          
Top CALs: Danny Mars, Donavan Tate, Bralin Jackson, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Dustin Biell
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 20 A- 172 .303 .378 .408 .786 0.105 9.3% 20.3% 133

Background: There aren’t many injuries that can shackle a hitter like Tommy John surgery does for pitchers, but the closest thing to it in terms of recovery time/lasting effect might be a broken hamate bone – the exact injury the plagued Fisher during his junior campaign for Virginia last season. Fisher, who bypassed a chance at the pros coming out of high school as a sixth round pick in 2011, was in the midst of a breakout year before the injury happened. He finished his three-year career for the Cavaliers as a .296/.387/.498 hitter. The club pushed him to the New York-Penn League, where he batted .303/.378/.408 with four doubles, three triples, and a pair of homeruns. Projection: Prior to the draft I wrote,

“Fisher’s never going to hit for average, probably peaking around .265 or .270 in the big leagues, but there’s 25-HR pop in his bat with at least a solid-average eye at the plate. Again, though, he’s not likely to show any significant pop until at least the end of 2014 and more likely at some early in 2015 [because of the hamate injury].”

The lefty-swinging corner outfielder slugged his two homeruns in mid-August. He hit southpaws surprising well during his debut – small sample size warning – but it’s something to monitor moving forward. Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player Risk:  Moderate MLB ETA:  2017    

 

 

9. Domingo Santana, LF/RF

Born: 08/05/92 Age: 22 Height: 6-5   Weight: 225   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Cameron Maybin, Trayce Thompson, Michael Burgess, Michael Saunders, Victor Roache
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 18 A 467 .287 .362 .471 .833 .184 6.9% 28.9% 128
2012 19 A+ 525 .302 .385 .536 .921 .234 10.5% 28.2% 137
2013 20 AA 476 .252 .345 .498 .842 .245 9.7% 29.2% 137
2014 21 AAA 513 .296 .384 .474 .858 .178 12.5% 29.0% 125

Background: Santana’s continued to defy the odds at each stop – his swing-and-miss ways, which have more than tiptoed into red flag territory, have barely slowed his progress through the minor leagues. Last season, his first in Class AAA, the Dominican-born right fielder hit .296/.384/.474 with 16 homeruns and half-of-a-dozen stolen bases while sporting his trademark 29% K-rate and strong walk rate (12.5%). The club called him up in early July and he (infamously) fanned in 11 of his 13 plate appearances, a Major League record. Projection: Tantalizing as the tools may be – and there’s plenty to drool upon – CAL’s not too fond of Santana, linking him to a couple disappointing MLB bats (Maybin and Saunders) and a trio of high round busts (Thompson, Burgess, and Roache). Right now, Santana’s best hope is too become a league average bat, maybe a couple ticks better, and be a solid-average glove in the field. And if that’s the case – which, again, is a best scenario – he could be a slightly better than average regular. Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player Risk:  Moderate to High MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014    

 

 

10. A.J. Reed, 1B

Born: 05/10/93 Age: 22 Height: 6-4   Weight: 240   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: David Cooper, Xavier Scruggs, J.D. Davis, Mark Hamilton, Jonathan Rodriguez
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A- 150 .306 .420 .516 .936 .210 14.7% 14.7% 174
2014 21 A 135 .272 .326 .528 .854 .256 5.9% 23.7% 141

Background: A do-everything-guy at Kentucky last season – literally. The big lefty posted some eye-popping, video game-esque numbers with the bat, hitting .336/.476/.735 with an NCAA DI-leading 23 homeruns. And then there’s the work he did as a moundsman as the team’s de facto ace: 112.0 IP, 71 K, 29 BB, and 2.09 ERA. Both outstanding performances helped Reed bring home the Golden Spikes Award, which recognizes the top collegiate player in the country. Projection: Houston made the right decision and kept the bat in Reed’s hands – and that was before he slugged .289/.375/.522 with another 12 homeruns between the New York-Penn and Midwest Leagues. Now the awful news: The lefty-swinging Reed looked like a Punch-and-Judy hitter against southpaws during his debut, batting a modest .167/.265/.383 while fanning in 23 of his 68 plate appearances (33.8%). Granted, it’s an incredibly small sample size but the production is alarmingly poor. The power’s his only true above-average tool, though the patience at the plate should become no worse than average. At this point it looks like he could go one of two ways – flame out in the upper minors, especially once more advanced southpaws show up or turn into a Mark Trumbo-type offensive performer with a slightly better OBP. Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player Risk:  Moderate High MLB ETA:  2018     **All Stats Courtesy of FanGraphs**



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.