Houston Astros: Chat
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.
Glad to be here. Just as a reminder, the
Arizona Fall League championship game is being shown tomorrow on the
MLB Network at 2:30 p.m. ET. I've got my Saturday afternoon schedule
Luke (Des Moines): Ben, what is your overall
prognosis of Houston's farm system compared to other organizations?
Still one of the weakest systems in the game, or are you hopeful?
It won't be the No. 30 farm system in
baseball, but it's going to be in the 21-30 range. For me, the Astros
have three Top 100 prospects with Castro, Mier and Lyles. That's a
solid start, and having top frontline guys is more important than
having depth. There are a few guys after the big three that I think
have the chance to be solid bullpen arms like Gervacio, Chia-Jen Lo,
Evan Englebrook and Danny Meszaros, but there are too many low
probability, low-reward players still in the system right now.
Warren (Texas): Who are the sleepers in the
organization that still have a chance to impact MLB but that we may not
have heard of? Any personal favorites? Thanks for the chat!
Arecenio Leon spent the year in low Class
A Lexington as a 22-year-old reliever and put up bad numbers, but he
might have the best pure stuff of anyone in the system. He throws 93-96
and flashes a wipeout slider at 86-88 with good tilt, he just has
absolutely no clue where it's going right now. He's a long shot, but I
have talked to scouts who like him, at least as a lottery ticket with a
Rick (Dallas): Enjoy the work and chats Ben
Regarding Jason Castro, can we safely say he is the #1 minor league
catching prospect given Weiters and Posey are in the ML's. Would you
rank Castro in top ten of BA's top 100 prospects?
No, I wouldn't go that high on Castro.
He's not in the Posey (who is still prospect-eligible), Carlos Santana
or Jesus Montero level of elite catching prospects, but he's certainly
in the next tier.
Dave (Pensacola, FL): What happened to David Duncan? He was shelled in the California League and wasn't much better in Low A.
His splitter is a solid pitch, but he's
tossing 86-89 mph fastballs with a slow, loopy curveball. Lancaster is
particularly unkind to pitchers with fringy stuff that don't miss many
willy (pitt): I know comps are often
misleading, but is there a bit of Derek Jeter in Mier? What kind of
offensive output do you think he's capable of at his peak, and what do
you expect from Mier at Lexington in 2010? Thanks.
I'm not going to go that far, but man, I
really, really like Jiovanni Mier and he got great reviews from the
scouts I talked to. He's a true shortstop with the potential to be an
above-average defensive shortstop and he's made significant improvement
at the plate as well. I don't think he'll be a career .300-.320 hitter
like Jeter, but he has impressive pitch recognition skills, can get on
base at a high clip and should grow into enough power down the road,
probably anywhere from 10-20 homers per year. He's several years away,
but he has a dynamic skill set.
Steve (Dallas): What are your thoughts on the future of Henry Villar? He has a great K/BB ratio.
He does, but the stuff doesn't quite match
the performance record. He'll mix in three pitches with a fastball,
slider and changeup, but it's average velocity out of the bullpen at
89-91 and has some troubles finishing his slider.
Luke (Des Moines): Hey, Ben, I like Gervacio,
but I'm a little surprised that he ranks #4. How much upside do you
think he has and what prompted you to put him above Seaton and others?
Thanks for the chat.
In most farm systems, he wouldn't be the
No. 4 prospect in an organization, but the talent level really drops
off after the top three guys. I don't think Gervacio has tremendous
upside, but he is a guaranteed major leaguer and one who should have
solid value as a middle reliever, which is more than I expect out of
Seaton at this point.
Jake (Houston): Had Bud Norris been eligible, where would he have ranked?
Probably No. 4 behind Jordan Lyles, though
since he wasn't eligible for the list, I spent most of my time with
scouts bearing down on the other players in the organization.
Mike (Minneapolis): What is Jason Castro's
upside? Is he going to be a servicable bat with more value in the
defense or is he going to be a well-rounded impact catcher in the bigs?
He's a well-rounded guy without too many
glaring weaknesses or a plus-plus tool. The average NL catcher this
year had a .325 OBP and a .385 SLG. The bar for catchers to hit is set
fairly low, and with Castro's short swing and ability to work the
count, I don't think he'll have much trouble at least matching and
likely exceeding that line in his peak. If you couple that with average
or better defense behind the plate, that's a valuable player at a
Jon (Lexington, KY): I know he's old, but will Brian Pellegrini warrant top 30 consideration? He did break Hunter Pence's Lexington home run record
He had a great year and he's in
consideration for the back end of the top 30 just because he does have
some power, but he is a 23-year-old in low Class A who's limited
defensively and doesn't handle breaking balls well.
Ryan D. (Moorpark, CA): Was Koby Clemen's
strong offensive season in Lancaster more a result of a ridiculous,
hitter friendly park or does he actually project as a big leaguer down
At this point he's already beaten a lot of
people's expectations, but the power numbers are going to come down, of
course. He's more of a doubles hitter who works the gaps than a true
power hitter, though he'll have a chance to hit for power down the
road. He did tone down some of the moving parts in his swing this year,
keeping his head still, shortening some of his actions and keeping a
firmer foundation underneath him. The problem is he doesn't really have
a position, and the bat isn't as palatable at first base or in a corner
The Big Ragu (Milwaukee): I believe when all
is said and done that Tanner Bushue will have a better career then
either lyles or seaton.
Honestly in the end a pitcher either has nasty stuff or he doesn't and
although to this point of there young careers Lyles and to a lesser
degree Seaton have had more success I believe Bushue has the most
upside if the boy can just stay healthy and since he hasnt had arm
toubles I belive he has a breakout season in 2010. What are your
thoughts. Thanks Dude.
It's possible, but I think you might be
underrating Lyles who, just for reference, was born on the same exact
day as Tyler Matzek, the Rockies' outstanding first-round pick THIS
year. He has the potential for three average or better pitches with
potentially above-average command and a free-and-easy delivery. There's
a lot to like there.
D. Meter (Florida): What are you thoughts on Telvin Nash? Top 30 material yet?
Top 30 for certain with his kind of raw
power and athleticism, but the contact issues are a concern for a
player whose value is almost all in his bat and is so far away from the
Brett (Mount Prospect, IL): There just seems
to be something about Jio Mier that makes him sound like a future star.
Was he the safest HS pick in the draft? Am I crazy for thinking he will
be the best position player not named Ackley in the 2009 draft? Is
Castro's pro experience the reason he is higher than Mier?
Mier's tools combined with his plate
discipline and instincts make him a safer prospect than most high
school picks, so no, I don't think you're crazy at all, especially
considering the lack of top-shelf hitting prospects in this year's
GR (Jersey): Were Chris Johnson and Tommy Manzella considered prospects or did their weak cups of coffee eliminate them?
They'll be in the top 30, but they look
more like fringy big leaguers or backups. Johnson shows some flashes of
ability to hit and hit for some power, but he needs to learn to work
the count better, not chase so many pitches out of the zone and bring
his footwork and agility up to par at third base. There's talk within
the organization that Manzella might take over their starting gig at
shortstop. He does have a solid arm, hands and footwork, but he's
really more of a spray hitter without much pop, so it's hard to see him
as more than a slightly above replacement-level player at best.
GR (Jersey): Yordany Ramirez ... career minor leaguer or will his defense get him to the big leagues some day?
The defense gets great marks, but he's not
going to make much of an impact at the big league level until he learns
to take a pitch. A .275 OBP in the PCL doesn't translate too kindly in
the big leagues.
Harry (Jefferson City MO): How far down the list did Bogusevic fall, and what is your opinion of his overall tools?
He's still in the 30, and with his
background it's tough to get a great read on him because he's 25, but
not really 25 in terms of his offensive development level. He's got a
pretty good idea of the strike zone and has impressive instincts in the
outfield and on the bases. It's a fairly quick swing, but he's not a
high-contact hitter so I don't expect him to hit for a high average and
his lack of power might get exploited at the next level.
Rob (Alaska): I know he's not a prospect any
more, but is there any hope left for J.R. Towles? To the extent that
his minor league record means anything, he would still seem to deserve
a shot as an everyday player.
Still think it's too early to give up on
Towles. He's been given barely 250 PAs in Houston and has a solid minor
league track record. I think Castro is their catcher of the future, but
I wouldn't give up on Towles yet.
GR (Jersey): What's next for Gaston? Can he sustain the power in heavier air?
Most scouts I talked to lean toward no. He
can generate some loft in his swing, but guys who swing and miss that
much in A-ball tend to get eaten alive by more advanced pitching.
Paul (Galveston): Who are some of the sleepers in the organization that could take off in 2010?
I mentioned Leon earlier, but I think Evan
Englebrook has a chance to help their bullpen as soon as next year.
He's 27 and 6-foot-8 , and sometimes taller pitchers take longer to
develop because there are just so many moving parts and levers that
it's tough to repeat them all consistently and throw strikes. He's
improved in that regard, throwing out of the stretch consistently and
shortening up his leg kick to reduce some of the moving parts from his
delivery, although there's still some effort there. He's not going to
miss too many bats, but he sits around 94-96, hits 97 and gets a good
amount of groundballs.
Maggie (Los Angeles, CA): Matt Nevarez was
traded to the Astros in August, and I am wondering what his opportunity
and future will be with the organization?
Another interesting sleeper in the system.
He doesn't quite have the stuff to match Leon, but he does have better
control. He'll throw 93-94 and touch 95 with a short, inconsistent
slider in the low-80s. His control still needs work but he's made a lot
of strides with his ability to throw strikes since signing. He was a
little old for the South Atlantic League, but I could see him moving
quickly through that system and helping Houston's bullpen in a couple
of years if everything clicks for him.
mike (atlanta): Who do you prefer between Jay Austin and Xavier Avery from the Orioles? Both are Ga boys in the 2008 draft.
Austin. I'm not sold on him yet, but Avery
had a very disappointing year and I do think that the numbers Austin
posted in the second half of the season were indicative of true
improvement with him starting to learn how to drive the ball more than
just being a slap-and-run hitter.
baseballnut (Great State of Texas): With all
the new hires the Astros have made since Bobby Heck has come on board,
do you see any improvements in draft classes and are the Astros on
their way back to rebuilding their farm system?
It's hard to judge a draft just one year
later, but I do think there's progress. The current front office is
hamstrung by the deterioration of their farm system from the previous
several seasons, the no-trade clauses they inherited and that bloated
Carlos Lee contract. I think there's more they could have done trading
away some of their useful big leaguers, even if it's just for solid
prospects, but rebuilding the system isn't going to be easy. It would
be nice to see more of a full-out commitment to scouting and player
development—going over slot in the draft, working the trade markets for
prospects—because I can't see the big league club contending for a
playoff spot in the near future. But they have made some very promising
draft picks at the top of the draft the last couple of years, so
there's definitely reasons to be optimistic on the scouting side in
Thanks for all the questions, but I've got
to get back to helping put together the Prospect Handbook. I won't be
chatting next week, so a happy Thanksgiving to all.