Astros Prospects: The Best Outside the Top 30, Part Two

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Part one of this article covering Triple-A and Double-A can be found here. This installment discusses Astros prospects at Single-A Lancaster and Quad Cities.

High-A Lancaster

The Lancaster JetHawks play in a hitter’s ballpark where numbers tend to be inflated (hitters in a good way and pitchers in a negative way). Although the JetHawks are playing below .500 in the High-A California League, the talent level is high. Several productive members of this team are not on the Top 30 list.

Jamie Ritchie is 22 and in his second professional season after being drafted in the 13th round in 2013 by the Astros. He is not a power guy, hitting only six home runs in 137 minor league games, but his average and on-base percentage are impressive.

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Ritchie’s numbers in his first season were .331/.455/.465. He started 2015 at Quad Cities, playing 70 games, hitting only .266, but his OBP was an exceptional .428, as he walked 70 times in 72 games. After his promotion to Lancaster, Ritchie’s average jumped to .309 in the desert air. His career numbers are .292/.438/.412, 113 walks against only 88 strikeouts – a catcher that gets on base that often is a man that rises quickly through the system.

Tyler Brunnemann is another 2013 draftee (40th round) who is working his way through the farm system. The 24-year-old right-hander out of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, has been a strikeout machine, with 176 K’s against only 42 walks in 150 minor league innings since his start at Greeneville in the Appalachian (Rookie) League.

Brunnemann’s four-year minor league record is 6-4, 2.88 ERA in 92 games. Look for him to soon advance to Double-A.

Low-A (Full Season) Quad Cities

The River Bandits are the best in the Midwest League with, at this writing, seven more wins than any other league rival and a twelve game winning streak from July 26 through August 8. The River Bandits have lost many players to Lancaster this season, yet they continue to play great baseball. This team is packed with talent, not on the Top 30 list.

River Bandits’ Nick Tanielu’s hot hitting has him in line for a promotion. Photo courtesy @QCBanditPhotog.

Nick Tanielu is a 22-year-old infielder, leading the River Bandits in hitting (.313). The second-year pro was drafted in 2014 in the 14th round and hit .300 for Tri-City in the New York-Penn League (Short Season A). His two-year line of .308/.356/.435 will likely get him promoted to High-A Lancaster before long.

Joshua James is another strikeout artist. The 22-year-old, 2014, 34th round pick by the Astros out of Western Oklahoma State Community College, is off to a great start in his professional career. His two-year record is 6-5, 2.73 ERA, with 118 strikeouts, and 50 walks in 131.2 innings between Greeneville (Rookie) and Quad Cities.

Brock Dykxhoorn, at age 21, is one of the youngest pitching prospects in the Astros farm system. The 6’8″ 250-pound Canadian right-hander was a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft, and after a bit of a slow start at Greeneville, he has improved this season with Quad Cities.

Dykxhoorn’s record in 2015 is 6-3, with a 3.50 ERA, 21 walks, 77 strikeouts, in 79.2 innings. His rapidly improving skills will likely see him moving up quickly.

The players mentioned are by no means the only talent outside the Top 30. The beauty of the Astros process is the depth of the farm system; the sheer numbers of players with the ability to learn, grow, and possibly become impact players in the Major Leagues. The deep talent pool is the reason the Astros could trade Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, Adrian Houser, and Domingo Santana without crippling the system.

Obviously, not all of these players will develop into big leaguers, and it is equally possible that some in the Top 30 won’t make it either. The fact that Houston has so many promising pitchers and position players bodes well for the future of the team. The organization is well stocked, giving Luhnow the flexibility to develop prospects, offer some in trades, and not worry much about attrition as some players drop by the wayside.

The Astros minor league system is probably the best it has been in many years, and it’s far more than just the Top 30. Keep an eye on players outside that group – players worth watching as possible future Major Leaguers.

Photos by @QCBanditPhotog

(All statistics via MiLB.com.)

Next: Astros Prospects: The Best Outside the Top 30, Part One

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