In Luhnow we trust has been the Astros’ fans feeling since he joined the organization. It was well-known that Jeff Luhnow had a great influence on the drafting by the St. Louis Cardinals. He inherited one of the worse farm systems in baseball, with very little going on at the major league level. His job was to turn some of the Astros veteran players into prospects, which he did. He predicted that the Astros would struggle at the major league level, and he was 2 for 3 with the #1-overall picks.
In 2012 Luhnow took a surprise pick #1 in shortstop Carlos Correa, even though Byron Buxton had higher reviews at the time. In 2013, he took starter Mark Appel over the surging third-baseman Kris Bryant. In 2014 he took starter Brady Aiken with #1 pick, but did not get him to sign the dotted line because of controversy over medical concerns.
Because of failing to sign Aiken last year, the Astros get the second overall pick, to go with the fifth overall pick from their improved play last year. So let’s look at the depth at each position at the minor league level, and which position they need to improve. Closer to the draft, I will do a series of articles looking at the top prospects who are eligible to be drafted.
1) Max Stassi
Looking at the catchers, Stassi is the only one in the top 20 prospects in the Astros system. He was on the brink of making impact in 2013 before he got injured. Stassi hit 0.247/ 9 HR’s/ 45 RBI in 101 games at Triple-A. Heineman had a great season in 2013 with Lancaster hitting 0.286/ 13 HR’s / 71 RBI’s, but struggled in Double-A in 2014. Nottingham was drafted out of high school in 2013 and could have the most potential, but is still raw in the Rookie leagues.
1) A.J. Reed
3) Tyler White
A.J. Reed showed promise in his first professional season hitting 0.289/ 12 HR’s / 54 RBI’s in 2014 after being drafted in 2014. Conrad Gregor hit for average, then was promoted to Lancaster where he went on a power binge (12 HR’s) after his dad caught his first home run.
1) Tony Kemp
3) Joe Sclafani
Tony Kemp might be moved to the outfield at some point because of the presence of Jose Altuve at second base. He has risen quickly after being drafted with college teammate Gregor in 2013. He made it to Double-A in 2014, and looks to be a prototypical lead-off hitter with run-scoring ability, speed, and a high on-base percentage with more walks than strike outs in 2014. Joe Sclafani made a name for himself playing in the Arizona Fall League in the off-season in 2014.
1) Carlos Correa
3) Chan Moon
While Carlos Correa is ranked the 2nd best overall prospect in baseball, there is not much else behind him. Correa should make his debut with Astros late 2015 or early 2016. Fontana has a great eye for the ball by drawing walks, 104 walks in 2013, and offers a little pop and some speed.
1) Colin Moran
2) Rio Ruiz
3) J.D. Davis
Third-base is one of the most loaded positions in the Astros farm system. However, only Colin Moran could make his debut in 2014. Moran offers a better potential batting average, while Rio Ruiz offers the power potential. J.D. Davis was drafted in 2014 and showed promise by hitting 0.293/ 12 HR’s / 52 RBI’s. This is a strong position that should continue to produce.
3) Derek Fisher
This is another strong position. Even though Domingo Santana had issues in 2014 with the big league club, he still has the chance to offer power. Preston Tucker is the most ready, followed by Teoscar Hernandez who hit 0.292/ 23HR’s/ 85 RBI’s/ 33 SB’s. Derek Fisher was drafted in 2014 in between the first and second round of the draft. In the lower ranks of the Astros farm system Fisher showed a great combination of speed and power hitting 0.310/ 18 HR’s/ 35 RBI’s/ 17 SB’s. Brett Phillips was named the Astros minor league hitter of the year in 2014, batting 0.310/ 17 HR’s/ 68 RBI’s/ 23 SB’s.
1) Mark Appel
6) Josh Hader
7) Kyle Smith
The pitching in the Astros future looks bright, with Mark Appel due to make his debut soon. Josh Hader has a great chance on making impact soon as a potential Chris Sale clone as he is a left-handed starter with some of the same tools. The top 6 prospects offer high strikeout ability, but all have areas they need to approve on. Finding a role for all of these pitchers will be interesting to follow over the next several seasons.
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Because the Astros lost Brady Aiken last year, one of the picks should be a college pitcher so that pitcher is as close as Aiken would have been to helping at the major league level in next 2-3 years. With Carlos Correa on verge of coming to the Astros and the chances of Tony Kemp moving to center field, the other pick should be a middle infielder.
There is a middle infielder type that may be available with the second pick that I’m going to keep my eye on, and I will write about the top available draft prospects closer to the draft. But unlike Basketball and Football, you should draft the best available player versus a particular need. A middle infielder and college pitcher should be considered though.
Please choose “wisely” Luhnow!
Check back later for the ranking of the top available prospects.