|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2009 Prospect
30 scouting reports on every team
|1.||Jason Castro, c Born: June 18, 1987 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 210|
|Drafted: Stanford (1st round), 2008 • Signed by: Joe Graham/Bobby Heck|
Background: Castro was the first
building block in the Astros' effort to rebuild their farm system
after hiring Bobby Heck as scouting director. Mostly a reserve at
first base and DH his first two years at Stanford, Castro finished
second in the Cape Cod League batting race (.341) in 2007, often
playing the outfield in deference to teammate Buster Posey but also
displaying his athleticism. He then led Stanford to the College World
Series in 2008 as the Cardinal's starting catcher, leading the
Pacific-10 Conference with 105 hits. Houston drafted him 10th overall
that June and signed him for $2.07 million, the second-largest bonus
in franchise history. While some clubs thought Castro was a bit of a
reach at No. 10, the Astros took him with the expectation that he'd
move quickly through the system and solidify a premium position. So
far, so good for Castro, who has established himself as one of the
top catching prospects in the game while batting .300/.380/.446 in
his first full pro season. After opening 2009 at high Class A
Lancaster, he advanced to Double-A Corpus Christi in June, then left
the Hooks in August to help Team USA win a gold medal at the World
Cup. He also participated in the Futures Game in July, when he
homered on a breaking ball from Blue Jays lefty Luis Perez.
Strengths: Castro has a sound approach at the plate, showing good feel for the strike zone with a knack for staying inside the ball. He makes consistent contact and gets on base by working the count and putting the ball in play to all fields. While he's not a power hitter, he has a solid swing and is able to generate loft. He doesn't show a discernible platoon split, hitting well against both lefties and righties. Castro is solid behind the plate in every regard. He has a solid-average arm and makes accurate throws, recording 2.0-second pop times thanks to his athleticism, quick release and footwork. He threw out 45 percent of basestealers last season. He has soft hands and receives the ball well.
Weaknesses: Castro isn't likely to become a big power threat, projecting to have fringe-average to average power and hit 10-15 homers a season. He runs better than most catchers, but he still has below-average speed. He appeared worn down in the Arizona Fall League after his first full pro season. Astros officials noted that he lost about 15 pounds since the beginning of the year, so he'll need to learn to stay stronger throughout the course of a season while catching in the Texas heat.
The Future: While Castro doesn't have one overwhelming tool, he's solid in nearly every phase of the game. He profiles as an average to a tick above-average starting catcher in the big leagues, along the lines of an A.J. Pierzynski, who is a similarly built, lefthanded hitting catcher. Castro's future home run power the biggest variable in his projection. He figures to start 2010 at Triple-A Round Rock but has a chance to reach Houston at some point during the season. He should establish himself as the Astros' catcher by 2011, shoring up a position where the club has seen recent first-round picks (Max Sapp) and No. 1 prospects (J.R. Towles) fizzle.
|2.||Jiovanni Mier, ss Born: Aug. 26, 1990 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 175|
|Drafted: HS—Bonita, Calif. 2009 (1st round) • Signed by: Doug Deutsch|
Background: Mier was the first prep
shortstop drafted in 2009, going 21st overall and signing for
$1,358,000. He signed quickly and impressed pro scouts with a strong
showing in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, where he ranked as
the top position prospect.
Strengths: Mier has an advanced feel for the game at the plate and in the field. He has a good eye, works deep counts and shows good pitch recognition. He has a smooth, loose, line-drive stroke with quick hands and solid bat speed. He projects to stay at shortstop with a plus arm, great actions, good hands and above-average range to both sides. He's an average runner, and he'll show faster times from home to first because he gets out of the box quickly.
Weaknesses: Mier has below-average power, though some think he could eventually hit as many as 15 homers a season because he shows some ability to lift the ball. Shortening his stride has helped his timing at the plate, though on occasion he'll still lunge and get out on his front leg. He needs to improve his basestealing and tone down his aggressiveness on the basepaths. Like many young shortstops, he has a tendency to rush his actions in the field.
The Future: Though Mier has yet to play full-season ball, he has a higher ceiling than Jason Castro and could be a perennial all-star who provides value in both run creation and prevention. He should start 2010 at low Class A Lexington.
|3.||Jordan Lyles, rhp Born: Oct. 19, 1990 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 185|
|Drafted: HS—Hartsville, S.C., 2009 (1st round supplemental) • Signed by: J.D. Alleva/Clarence Johns|
Background: Few teams saw Lyles,
South Carolina's top prep talent in 2008, as an early-round pick. He
excelled in a predraft workout for the Astros, who drafted him 38th
overall and signed him for $930,000. He justified Houston's faith by
finishing second in the South Atlantic League with 167 strikeouts
Strengths: Lyles' fastball sits at 89-91 mph, touches 93-94 and has late life in the zone. He has a lot of confidence in his changeup, which has fade and heavy sink at its best and could be a plus offering down the road. He adds and subtracts from his curveball, throwing it in the mid-70s for an early-count strike and burying it at 77-80 mph when he gets ahead. He has a clean arm action and repeats his athletic, easy delivery. He hides the ball well behind his back shoulder, adding deception. He has advanced control for his age and keeps hitters off balance by working both sides of the plate.
Weaknesses: The development of Lyles' breaking balls will determine his ceiling. He didn't have a good one in high school, and his curve is still inconsistent, getting hammered when he leaves it up in the zone. He also added a slider late in the season.
The Future: The Astros might move Lyles past Lancaster's launching pad and send him to Double-A. He has the repertoire and control to fit in the middle of a big league rotation, and each of his pitches has enough projection for him to become a potential frontline starter.
|4.||Sammy Gervacio, rhp Born: Jan. 10, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 175|
|Signed: Dominican Republic, 2002 • Signed by: Julio Linares|
Background: Used exclusively as a
reliever since signing in 2002, Gervacio has struck out more than a
batter per inning at each of his stops in pro ball. He was effective
after joining the Astros last August, recording six holds and
allowing runs in just four of his 29 outings.
Strengths: Gervacio's best pitch is his slider, a plus pitch in the mid-80s. He trusts his slider and uses it more than his fastball, an 89-93 mph offering that touches 95. Hitters have a difficult time picking up the ball out of his crossfire delivery from a low three-quarters arm slot, making him tough on righthanders. He does a good job of inducing groundballs and has allowed just 30 homers in 448 pro innings.
Weaknesses: His changeup can be a solid pitch at times, but Gervacio uses it sparingly, leaving him more vulnerable against lefthanders. He throws across his body, but durability isn't as much of a concern with him working out of the bullpen.
The Future: Gervacio was prepping for the 2010 season with a stint in the Dominican Winter League. Barring a disastrous spring, Gervacio has claimed a middle-relief role in Houston's bullpen. If free-agent Jose Valverde doesn't re-sign with the Astros, Gervacio could get an opportunity to close games, though he'll have to prove he can get lefties out with the game on the line.
|5.||Chia-Jen Lo, rhp Born: April 7, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 181|
|Signed: Taiwan, 2008 • Signed by: Glen Barker|
Background: The Astros are trying
to raise their profile in Asia, and Lo was the first major
acquisition of Pacific Rim scouting director Glen Barker. Signed out
of Taiwan for $250,000 in November 2008, Lo pitched for his nation in
the Beijing Olympics and was on its World Baseball Classic roster but
didn't see any game action. He survived Lancaster and reached
Double-A in his first pro season.
Strengths: The Astros initially talked about using Lo as a starter but wound up deploying him as a reliever in part because his fastball sits at 93-96 mph when he works out of the bullpen. Both his short curveball and his changeup can be average pitches. Throwing from a high three-quarters slot, he creates deception that causes hitters to see the ball late.
Weaknesses: Lo has extreme confidence in his fastball, to the point where he sometimes doesn't use his secondary pitches enough. His control needs improvement after he walked 4.6 batters per nine innings in his pro debut. Shoulder tendinitis caused him to miss the last two weeks of May, but he was healthy afterward.
The Future: Houston thinks Lo could be ready to help its bullpen at some point in 2010, though he'll probably begin the season in Triple-A. If he refines and trusts a second pitch, he could be the Astros' closer of the future.
|6.||Ross Seaton, rhp Born: Sept. 18, 1989 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 213|
|Drafted: HS—Houston, 2008 (3rd round supplemental) • Signed by: Rusty Pendergrass/Mike Burns|
Background: Seaton's velocity and
draft stock skyrocketed during his senior high school season in 2008.
Teams backed off him because he was a valedictorian strongly
committed to Tulane, but the Astros signed the local product for
$700,000 as a supplemental third-round pick. He had a solid 2009
season as a teenager in low Class A, but his stuff wasn't as good as
it was in high school.
Strengths: At Lexington, Seaton stood out more with his size and control than his stuff. His fastball was down about 3 mph from high school, sitting at 87-91 mph and touching 93. Houston hopes he'll recover velocity after getting acclimated to the long pro season. He also throws an 81-83 mph slider that flashes average tilt, though it's not a true out pitch.
Weaknesses: Seaton's delivery lacks fluidity and can become mechanical, creating issues with his rhythm and timing. He doesn't fully incorporate his lower half, which he worked on in instructional league. He didn't throw a curveball in high school, but the Astros made him use one in the first half of last season and it was slurvy. His changeup also needs work.
The Future: Seaton wasn't as good as advertised in his first full pro season, which isn't unusual for a high schooler pitching every fifth day for the first time. Houston believes smoothing out his mechanics will help him in 2010, when he'll open the season in high Class A.
|7.||Tanner Bushue, rhp Born: June 20, 1991 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 180|
|Drafted: HS—Farina, Ill., 2009 (2nd round) • Signed by: Troy Hoerner|
Background: After missing most of
his high school junior season with a sprained right knee, Bushue
blossomed into Illinois' top prep prospect in 2009. A strong predraft
workout sold the Astros, who took him in the second round and signed
him for $530,000.
Strengths: Bushue shows a good feel for pitching and the ability to work both sides of the plate. His fastball currently sits at 88-90 mph, but he's so athletic—he was a high school basketball standout—and generates velocity with such little effort that it's easy to project his heater as a future plus pitch. He already touches 94 mph on occasion, and his athleticism also should allow him to repeat his delivery and throw strikes. He also shows the ability to spin a breaking ball, with the makings of a power curveball.
Weaknesses: Bushue needs to stay healthy so he can soak up more experience. He hasn't had any arm problems, but he had the knee injury in 2008 and had his pro debut ended by stress fractures in his lower back in July. That also limited him in instructional league. He shows aptitude for a changeup, but it's still a work in progress. He also throws a slider, though it's not as promising as his curve.
The Future: The Astros expect Bushue to be healthy and able to handle a full season of starts in low Class A in 2010. He's just beginning to scratch the surface of his ability and has the potential to develop the best stuff among Houston's starting pitching prospects.
|8.||Jay Austin, of Born: Aug. 10, 1990 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 170|
|Drafted: HS—Atlanta, 2008 (2nd round) • Signed by: Lincoln Martin/Clarence Johns|
Background: Some Astros officials
though Austin might begin 2009 in extended spring training after he
struggled mightily in his pro debut. Instead, he broke camp with
Lexington and was the youngest everyday player in the South Atlantic
League. After he batted .245/.296/.308 in the first half, he hit
.291/.346/.418 after the all-star break.
Strengths: Austin is the best athlete in the system. He has well-above-average pure speed, which gives him the potential to be a quality basestealer and center fielder. At the plate, he has a compact stroke and good bat speed.
Weaknesses: Austin's bat is a major question mark, as he has issues with pitch recognition and doesn't adjust against breaking balls. His power is well-below-average, and he lacks the strength and loft in his swing to project that he'll add much more. His speed doesn't play as well in game situations because he doesn't get out of the box quickly or have much feel for stealing bases or getting good jump and routes in the outfield. He has a fringe-average arm.
The Future: Austin will begin 2010 in high Class A, where he'll try to build on his second-half success. He has enticing tools, but he has a lot of refining to do if he's going to be more than an extra outfielder in the major leagues.
|9.||Jon Gaston, of Born: Oct. 13, 1986 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 210|
|Drafted: Arizona, 2008 (7th round) • Signed by: Mark Ross|
Background: One year after hitting
.193 with two homers in his first taste of pro ball, Gaston took
advantage of the hitter-friendly winds at Lancaster's Clear Channel
Stadium. He hit .308/.397/.692 at home en route to leading the minors
in runs (119), homers (35), extra-base hits (81) and total bases
(310). He continued to show power in the Arizona Fall League after
Strengths: The Astros helped Gaston tap into his power by getting his hands deeper and into a better position to drive the ball. When teams pitch around him, he's willing to take a walk. Though his bat will have to carry him, he has more athleticism than his stocky build might indicate, with fringe-average speed and a solid arm.
Weaknesses: Gaston uses a big load mechanism, angling his bat to get into a launch position and tilting his back side to turn and drive the ball. It's an all-or-nothing approach, which is why he struck out 164 times, and more advanced pitchers in less favorable hitting environments could exploit the holes in his swing. He'll have to work to become an adequate defender on an outfield corner, and if he loses a step he might be destined for first base.
The Future: In Double-A, Gaston will get the chance to prove his 2009 numbers weren't entirely a product of Lancaster. If he does, he'll be on the fast track to Houston.
|10.||T.J. Steele, of Born: Sept. 21, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 185|
|Signed: Arizona, 2008 (4th round) • Signed by: Mark Ross|
Background: He outperformed former
college teammate Jon Gaston at Arizona and in 2009 at Lancaster, but
Steele couldn't stay in the JetHawks' lineup. He injured his
hamstring in spring training and missed the first two weeks of the
season, then appeared in just 50 games because he kept tweaking the
Strengths: Steele is one of the toolsiest players in the system. He's an excellent defensive center fielder with plus speed and arm strength. He has above-average bat speed and average raw power, and there's also projection remaining in his athletic frame. He shows ability to put backspin on a ball and has cut down on his propensity to swing and miss since college.
Weaknesses: Despite Steele's tools and college pedigree, he remains raw and his offensive game is still a question mark. He lacks pitch recognition and is too impatient at the plate to get on base at a high clip. He has drawn just 15 walks in 90 pro games. He hasn't shown much home run power yet, partly because he doesn't get himself into hitter's counts.
The Future: Steele could become an everyday center fielder if he becomes more selective at the plate. That's his top priority when he advances to Double-A in 2010.
|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2009 Prospect
30 scouting reports on every team