In their annual rankings of Major League Baseball’s 101 best potential players, Baseball Prospectus has named five players from the Houston Astros organization, including four in the Top 50.
It should come as no surprise that the Astros have a farm system loaded with talent, as that has and will always be the goal of General Manager Jeff Luhnow. Still, it’s always nice to see writers outside of the Houston bubble recognize what is brewing just beneath the major league surface here.
On Friday, MLB.com released their rankings of the Top 100 prospects, naming seven Astros to their list. Lance McCullers (#52) and Delino Deshields Jr. (#66) were left off of Baseball Prospectus’ list.
Let’s look at who did make BP’s list.
(#57) Jonathan Singleton:
Undeterred by a sluggish 2013 season, Singleton comes in as BP’s top (and only) first baseman prospect. After serving a 50 game suspension to start the season, Singleton struggled in AAA Oklahoma City, batting .220 with just six HRs in almost 300 plate appearances. Nevertheless, Luhnow told me he expects Singleton to “spend significant time at the major league level this year.”
Already a member of the Astros 40-man roster, Singleton will look to win a spot on the major league club out of Spring Training, where he will face the stiff competition of Brett Wallace, Jesus Guzman, and the infamous pooping sno cone vendor.
(#43) Mike Foltynewicz:
With a fastball that routinely reaches triple digits, “Folty” struck out 124 batters in 129.1 innings pitched in mainly AA Corpus Christi last year. He has shown trouble controlling his pitches, issuing 66 walks last season, but a true 80 grade fastball is too enticing to not make him a top prospect.
The Astros announced that they have extended a non-roster invitation to Foltynewicz for Spring Training, meaning he will be given the opportunity to show his potential against major league talent. Without a true breaking ball, Folty could probably use another year in the minors to refine his pitching approach.
Although he is still considered a starting pitcher, it would not be a shock to anyone if he is transitioned into a bullpen role. That being said, the Astros strategy has tended to be “make a pitcher a starter for as long as possible, then switch to the bullpen at the last minute.”
Expect to see Foltynewicz start in AAA Oklahoma City, with the possibility of a late September call-up.
(#21) Mark Appel:
The top overall pick by the Astros in the 2013 draft has already made a name for himself in just a few months in professional baseball. Appel came out of college with the label of “polished” and has shown major league potential in minimal appearances, striking out 27 batters in 33 innings pitched last season.
Appel has earned the distinction as one of the few “high floor” prospects, meaning the potential for a bust is miniscule. He repeats his delivery very well and has great command of his pitches. His mid-90s 2-seamer, as well as a plus slider and change-up make Appel a difficult matchup for any hitter.
Houston invited Appel to Spring Training as a non-roster member. Although he theoretically could pitch in the majors right now, Luhnow does not seem to want to rush him. Expect to see him start in AA Corpus Christi before moving to OKC and possibly the majors later this year.
(#20) George Springer:
If you don’t know about George Springer, I don’t know where you have been. Springer hit .303 with 37 home runs, 45 stolen bases, and 108 runs batted in across AA and AAA. Couple that with his seemingly effortless defense in centerfield and you have a guy with the potential to be a superstar.
Concerns about his strikeout rate (161 Ks last season) are just about the only knock on Springer. BP went as far as to say, “Springer is one of the few prospects in baseball with 30/30 upside.”
Still not a member of the Astros 40-man roster, the only thing keeping Springer from being in Houston on Opening Day is concerns about his arbitration date. The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drillech does a great job of explaining the sticky situation here.
Regardless, you will see George Springer in an Astros uniform this season. Get ready.
(#5) Carlos Correa:
Somehow, 2012’s number one overall pick and 19-year old superstar shortstop Carlos Correa managed to fly under the radar of many Astros fans this season. In High A Quad Cities, Correa hit .320 with nine home runs, 33 doubles and 86 runs batted in, all while facing almost exclusively competition that was older than him.
Not only can he hit, Correa has shown potential as a Gold Glove caliber defender at shortstop. BP gave him a 70 grade arm and a 60 grade glove. At a premium position such as shortstop, any potential is valued greatly and Correa shows massive potential in all areas of his game.
A non-roster invitee to Spring Training, Correa will be given the opportunity to earn his spot at the major league level, though he is unlikely to do so this year. Correa will not turn 20 years old until September, meaning he will probably be given at least another year in the minors, even though he has the potential to play for Houston now.
Luhnow said in a recent interview, “Every decade or so, a special player gets to MLB before he turns 21, & I think [Correa] has a chance to be that type of player.”
Expect to see Correa in AA Corpus Christi to start the year, eventually landing in AAA OKC. He will likely be given the full year in the minors to develop, although there is a chance he could be called up at the end of the season.