The Astros have something that they have not had in a while entering spring training; the outfield seems pretty set in stone. The starting outfielders should be an Evan Gattis or Chris Carter combo in left, Colby Rasmus in center, and George Springer in right. This leaves four players to fight for two reserve outfielder roles on the team from: Robbie Grossman, Alex Presley, Jake Marisnick, and L.J. Hoes. With the Astros signing Rasmus, how does it affect the top Astros outfield prospects?
L.J. Hoes appears to be the odd man out on the opening day lineup unless he has an amazing spring training. Robbie Grossman has shown flashes of brilliance, along with bouts of disappointment. The 25-man roster should have Presley (because of contract extension) and Marisnick (because of his potential speed and defensive ability). So the outfield appears to be set in stone, but in the Astros case, is that really a good thing?
The Astros have some prospects knocking on the door in Preston Tucker and Domingo Santana, as well as some talented prospects in Teoscar Hernandez, Tony Kemp, and Brett Phillips who are not quite ready. What does the one year rental of Colby Rasmus do to the development and advancement of these top prospects?
Rasmus is exactly that, a one year rental. Jeff Luhnow essentially said that at the Bloggers Roundtable. He said that he wanted to give Colby a chance to rebuild his value with the Astros in 2015, so he will be able to go out and get a big contract. Baring a trade or two, Gattis or Carter and Springer are not going anywhere. So beyond 2015, Rasmus is not in the Astros long-term plans in center field.
When Rasmus leaves after the Astros makes the playoffs in 2015, who takes over center field? The easy answer is George Springer, but the Astros like him in right, even though there are more walls for him to run into. Then there is Jake Marisnick who I like, but might be best suited as the fourth outfielder.
What do the top five outfield prospects, who should be ready in 2015 or 2016, have to offer in place of Colby Rasmus?
Believe it or not, Domingo Santana is the most major league ready outfield prospect that the Astros have to offer. Yes, he seemed over matched in his MLB debut last season, but he wasn’t really given much of a chance to correct himself. Jeff Luhnow said he still has confidence in Santana to turn around his career. He is still hitless in his MLB career and swings and misses more than Jon Singleton. Despite his struggles in 2015, Santana is still ranked in top-100 prospects by MLB Pipeline.
The one knock on Tucker is that he has struggled after each one of his promotions in the minors. But on the plus side, he rebounds at the beginning of the next season showing his ability to adjust to the next level of pitching. He offers a power bat with decent average to the Astros lineup. Some have questioned his defensive abilities, but his hitting tool is advanced. Like most Astros prospects, he does strikeout a fair amount of times.
Teoscar, while still relatively unproven has shown a good mixture of power and speed in the minor leagues similar to what Yasiel Puig has achieved in his short career so far. While he likely ticketed for a return to AA Corpus Christi to begin the 2015 season, he could soon find his way to AAA Fresno. He is now ranked seventh in the top ten Astros prospects by Baseball America.
My two favorite prospects are Preston Tucker and Brett Phillips because they are willing to give me the time of day (Hint…Hint Mark Appel). Brett Phillips brings a similar energy to the ballpark as George Springer does. He calls himself a class clown, but Lance McCullers Jr said that he’s not a class clown, but makes the game exciting. This was from a post written by CTH writer Kennon Riley. Phillips is more than a smack talker though, Baseball Prospectus says he is like Andrew McCutchen in terms of talent. I am working on an interview with Phillips, so keep tuned to CTH for that interview. He has also been called the #1 Sleeper prospect for 2015.
Tony Kemp has only been in the minors for one and a half seasons, but he has already reached AA Corpus Christi. Last season he scored 121 runs while stealing 41 bases. He is the prototypical center fielder who was originally a second baseman, but is being blocked by a short guy for the foreseeable future.
Does Rasmus Signing Hurt Prospects?
If anything, signing Colby Rasmus allows for the prospects to not be rushed to the minor leagues. The big issue though, unless Carter is traded, is that there will be only one opening in center when the next wave of outfield prospects come through.
In a clip from my interview with Brett Phillips, I asked him if he is worried about not having a place to play with Astros. This was his response, “no worries whatsoever, as long as I’m playing baseball, whether it’s in the minors or majors! I’m getting paid to do what I love, and everything else will play itself out if you have that mindset.”