Who Are the 2015 Astros’ Top Minor League Prospects?
By Bill Gilbert
This is the time of year when various organizations involved in scouting develop lists of minor league prospects. Four such projections are from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN and John Sickels. Their lists of the top 10 prospects in the Astros organization are shown below:
Carlos Correa and Mark Appel are clearly the top two Astro prospects. Both were No. 1 overall draft picks. Correa has steadily advanced through the minors, with a batting average of .308, but suffered a broken leg last year and missed half the season. He is reported to be fully recovered now. He should be at Double A in 2015.
Appel’s path has been a little rockier. He was hit hard, playing at Lancaster, in the High Class-A California League last year before doing much better at Double A Corpus Christi and in the Arizona Fall League. In fairness to Appel, Lancaster is considered by many to be the most difficult park in the minors for pitchers because of the constant wind and dry desert air. Appel should get some experience at Triple A in 2015.
Baseball America’s list of the top 100 minor league prospects contains only two Astros, Correa, (No. 4) and Appel (No. 31). Last year there were six. George Springer and Jon Singleton were promoted to the majors, Mike Foltynewicz was traded to Atlanta in the trade for Evan Gattis and Lance McCullers dropped off the top 100 list.
Velasquez is the consensus No. 3 prospect in the Astro organization. He was picked by the Astros in the 2nd round in 2010. However he has struggled with injuries and has pitched only 265 innings in the 5 years he has been in the organization. However, he has been effective when healthy, striking out 10.55 batters per 9 innings in his career. He should be at AA Corpus Christi this year.
Feliz has an arm that has impressed scouts since he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. However, he has reached only the Low Class-A level and needs a breakout season.
Phillips had his breakout season in 2014, batting .310 with 17 home runs and 23 stolen bases in a season divided between Houston’s two Class-A teams. He was Houston’s 6th round draft choice out of high school in 2012. He should reach the Double A level in 2015.
Moran was the 6th player taken overall by the Florida Marlins in 2013. He was traded to the Astros in 2014 and finished the season at Double A Corpus Christi. He has a .297 batting average over 3 stops in his brief career but has not shown much power.
Hernandez has made steady progress through the Astros farm system in his four years since being signed out of the Dominican Republic. He had a strong 2014 season mostly at Lancaster, batting .292 with 21 home runs and 33 stolen bases.
Hader was drafted by Baltimore in the 19th round in 2012 and came to the Astros in the trade for Bud Norris. In 2014, he showed that it was possible for a pitcher to excel at Lancaster with a 9-2 record and an ERA of 2.92 and 9.68 strikeouts per 9 innings. He was named the top pitching prospect in the California League. He should be at Double A Corpus Christi in 2015.
McCullers struggled at Lancaster in 2014 with a 3-6 record and an ERA of 5.47. However, he struck out 10.32 batters per 9 innings.
Santana, the third Dominican on the top 10 list, signed with the Phillies at the age of 16 and was traded to the Astros in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011. His star lost a little luster in 2014 when he was promoted to Houston at mid-season and struck out in 14 0f his 18 plate appearances. However, he had a good year at Triple A batting .296 with 16 home runs despite an alarming total of strikeouts.
The only two players from the 2014 draft that made any of the lists were Derek Fisher, a supplemental first round pick that played in the College World Series for Virginia, and J.D. Davis, a third round pick from Cal State Fullerton. Both played well in short-season leagues. Fisher batted .310 with 17 stolen bases and Davis batted .293 with 13 home runs.
The Astros top prospects are all in the 20-23 age range and Santana is the only one who has played at Triple A. As a result, they are not likely to have an impact in 2015. Appel is the most likely to provide some help in this season. However, if their development continues, several should be ready to contribute in 2016.
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