The Baseball America Top 100 was published this past week. Click here for articles related to the top 100. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was the top ranked prospect, followed by Twins outfielder Byron Buxton and Cubs shortstop Addison Russell. The Joe Maddon era has brought a buzz back to the north side of Chicago and their six prospects in the Baseball America Top 100 provides further reason to feel good if you are a long-suffering Cubs fan.
As for the Astros, the names on the list are very predictable: Carlos Correa is the fourth-rated prospect, Mark Appel is at thirty-one. A year ago, it was the Astros who had six names on that list. Correa, who continues to tantalize Astros fans with the possibility of his arrival at Minute Maid Park in the coming years, was listed at seven, with a predicted arrival in the majors of 2016. He is expected to start the season in Double A.
What of the other five top prospects? Well, the second-ranked Astros prospect a year ago was George Springer, ranked eighteenth. Baseball America commented on Springer:
"The Astros likely won’t have any interest in calling up Springer until after May in order to delay his arbitration clock, so he has at least two solid months to learn to drive outside pitches the other way."
Springer actually made his first MLB start in April against Kansas City, recording one hit and two strikeouts and went on to play in seventy-seven games before a quad injury ended his campaign, highlighted by twenty home runs, one shy of Lance Berkman’s franchise rookie record.
Appel was at thirty-nine, with Baseball America noting:
"Appel’s stuff suffered a bit from his post-draft layoff, so he didn’t knock anyone’s socks off in his pro debut. A full spring of preparation should allow the No. 1 overall pick’s velocity to return."
Eric discussed Appel’s likely arrival in the majors here a few weeks ago. Appel has serious speed on his faster pitches but, even with a small-ish sample size, hasn’t quite developed enough variation in his usage to make the most of it, particularly at the highest level.
Mike Foltynewicz was at fifty-nine:
"Foltynewicz blossomed with the Astros’ tandem-starter system at Double-A. Greater pitch efficiency could help him get past six innings more than once, his 2013 total."
Folty was the price the Astros paid to acquire Evan Gattis in January, but it is important to recall that it wasn’t that long ago that Eric wrote on Folty’s development and likely role this coming season. Folty had a genuine 100mph cannon, even if his fourseam fastball was not his best pitch in terms of generating swings and misses.
The only prospect from 2014 who has fallen off the list and yet remains in the farm system is Lance McCullers, Jr. who was at seventy-seven:
"McCullers’ fastball and hard breaking ball are both premium pitches. His changeup has to progress to keep him a rotation option long-term"
McCullers spent last season at Lancaster, a place where Appel struggled to find his feet. His 5.47 ERA over twenty-five games and ninety-seven innings was tempered somewhat by the 115 strikeouts he achieved. Watch a video of McCullers throwing an impressive inning here.
"Singleton really has to work on when to toke, er, take and when he’s too passive. Attacking fastballs he can hit is a must."
Singleton’s stock plummeted from his 2011 Baseball America ranking of thirty-nine. The 2014 preview says enough, but there is more on why Singleton developed a troubling reputation here. His first season was not exactly stellar: a .168 average tempered somewhat by the obvious power in his thirteen home runs and forty-four RBIs. Much more is expected of Singleton in his second year in the majors.
The ebb-and-flow of a roster in transition means that a team like the Astros will see prospects come and go. The 2014 class has, largely, proven itself to be worthy of serious consideration and while the 2015 class is small, it features one of the most exciting prospects that the Astros have had in many years and a first-overall who should contend for a spot in the starting rotation before too long.
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