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, 2011.
John Manuel will chat about the Astros' farm system beginning at 12 p.m. ET.
Nothing gets me ready for a chat like the Diane Rehm show and tuna sandwiches . . . so let's chat Astros!
Ben (Leland Grove): Who would be your biggest sleepers in Houston's system - one hitter and one pitcher?
Ben, this whole system is sleepers after
the top few guys, because there are so few sure things, ya know? I would
say R.J. Alaniz as a pitcher works, he's a NDFA from '09 who has the
best curveball in the system and solid-average velocity, touching
above-average, to go with it. I'm not sure they have a hitter that
qualifies. The 11-30 is super-heavy with pitchers. I suppose Jose Altuve
is the correct answer here, though I would prefer to tamp down some of
the hype about the internet's favorite 5-foot-5 Astros prospect. But
he's one of the very few hitters in the 11-30.
Harry (Houston, TX): How close did Ben Heath come to making the list?
I didn't consider him too seriously for
the top 10, but he's in the 18-25 range. There are some real questions
about (a) how his offensive approach will work at higher levels and (b)
if he'll receive enough to be a catcher long-term. That said, he's the
best catching prospect in the system. Roberto Pena, who just missed the
top 30, is the best defensive C, but Heath's a better overall prospect,
as Pena's bat has a long way to go.
JAYPERS (IL): Your thoughts on Ross Seaton's season in High-A? What does he need to improve upon?
Everything! The good parts: Seaton stayed
healthy, took every turn and regained his prep velocity. We have a good
number of reports of him sitting 90-91 with his sinker and hitting 94
with his four-seamer. But his pitchability is pretty poor right now, and
that won't fly in Lancaster because everything else does. His delivery
falls apart out of the stretch, according to one scout I talked to, but
his numbers were actually better with runners on base. I think the big
reason for that is that he was just so bad from the windup. Seaton ranks
higher than he probably should considering the numbers, and that's a
sign of the system still lacking depth. He's in the top 20.
Kyle (Dallas, TX): Did 2010 draftees Mike Kvasnicka and Vincent Velasquez make your 11-20 range? What's the rundown on both?
Yes. For the rundown, buy the book. The
quick version: Velasquez would have been in the top 10 but he had
postseason Tommy John surgery, and that means 2010 will be the only year
from 2009-2011 that he'll pitch. I like the TJ track record but I'm
fine being conservative with someone with Velasquez's limited pitching
history. Kvasnicka ranks behind him because I'm just not sure where he's
going to play. The Astros will try him at 3B in 2011, but the reviews I
got on that were mixed, and he's going to have to prove his power is
more than just gap power. I do like him, I think the consensus might
have Wates below him, but I like Wates' athleticism, bat and speed a bit
better at this time. That's probably one where I didn't go with the
JAYPERS (IL): Was the dropoff in velocity the
main reason for Folty's struggles in Greeneville, or was his slurve more
to blame? How much has he improved since then, according to scouts
you've spoken to?
I don't think he struggled that much there
honestly; he was inconsistent with everything, but that's what high
school pitchers do, and some clubs use the Appy as advanced Rookie ball,
like Atlanta and Minnesota, so his performance there was fine for me.
His breaking ball, as the scouting report indicates, improved in
instructional league and that's his biggest area of need in terms of
stuff going forward. Obviously his other concern is just grinding it out
through a full season; he can ask Tanner Bushue about how easy or hard
that is to do.
Phil (Houston): Hi John,
Thanks for taking our Astros question. You guys at Baseball America do a
wonderful job. I had one quick question: Where would Jon Villar rank on
the Phillies prospect list in the Top 10?
Phil, I didn't do Phillies this year, I
passed it off to Philly area native Matt Forman, and he knocked it out
of the park. Working with Matt's list, I'd probably put Villar at 5, but
he's a tough guy to rank. His tools are pretty huge, and so are his
strikeout totals. I'm of two minds with him, and originally had him at
No. 2 on the list. The Astros are quite convicted about DeShields' bat,
to borrow a Mike Radcliff word, so I went with him at 2. But Villar's
tools, just raw tools, are better than any other SS in the minors not
named Manny Machado.
JAYPERS (IL): If you had to compare Lyles to any established major leaguer at this stage of his career, who would it be and why? Thanks John.
I didn't get a comp, Jaypers, and I'm not
coming up with one off the top of my head, a tall RHP with an avg FB and
above-average secondary stuff. Stuff-wise, he seems pretty close to
Jeremy Hellickson, but he's taller and actually doesn't throw as hard.
But stuff-wise, that might be a good comp.
John (Temple): What position does Mike Kvasnicka end up playing?
It's 50-50 between 3b and a corner OF spot for me. the Astros are quite committed to him at 3B right now.
James (Austin): Southpaws Pat Urckfitz and
David Berner successfully navigated the Cal League last season. Any
chance either gets plugged in to Corpus' starting rotation this season?
I love Urckfitz as a future bullpen guy,
talked to him in the AFL and like him as a reliever, which is the role
that he'll play next year. Berner is just a guy, a lefty with
below-average stuff and pitchability. He did not make the top 30;
Urckfitz got written up though.
Jasen (FLL): When do you expect to see
Deshields in an Astro's uniform and at what position? I am very
surprised you think he has a chance to bat #3.
Sorry for the slight delay, blame Jim
Callis! He's hard to get off the phone . . . anyway, DeShields will
start off at 2B and there's no reason he can't try it if his arm is
healthy. If he takes to the pro instruction, he should be athletic
enough to handle it in a Ray Durham kind of fashion. Remember he's going
to be full-time at baseball for the first time in 2011, so he could
take some quantum leaps. That said, the consensus of scouts in Georgia
was that he was going to wind up in CF.
Phil (Pflugerville): Where does Rule 5er Aneury Rodriguez slot in the prospect rankings?
I haven't researched every single top 10,
but a cursory glance that I did with BA's own Matt Eddy (@eddymk) was
that he ranks higher than any Rule 5 prospect in Handbook history. He
just missed the top 10. People do get a little over-heated on him, as I
may have a bit before the Rule 5. As a starter, his velocity was
fringe-average in 2010, 88-90, 88-91, a lot of the time. Two scouts I
talked to at the Winter Meetings had seen him higher this winter, 92-93 a
lot, but those were in shorter stints. He's a back-of-the-rotation
profile, best case scenario is No. 4 starter, and he's in the mix for
Houston's No. 5 spot. I liked the pick for Houston's current needs, and
think he can beat out FA signee Ryan Rowland-Smith, who might be a
better fit in the bullpen anyway.
Jasen (FLL): The dip in Foltynewicz's fastball
velocity looks like a major concern. Was that just a fluke or is
something serious to be concerned with?
It's not. His velocity was inconsistent as
a pro but he threw well in instructional league. Matt Eddy covers the
Appy League like no one's business, and he has reports from managers of
Folty throwing 95-96 in one start, 90-94 in another, 88-91 in another
and 88-93 in yet another. It's not a concern, it's an adjustment to pro
ball and 5-man rotations.
Willie T (Spring Branch): Any information you
can provide on 41st rounder Bryce Lane, who sucked in his pro debut in
the Appy but somehow tore it up as an injury fill-in at Lancaster
(albeit in a very abbreviated and probably meaningless stint)?
He's just a guy, I made sure to ask about
him thanks to that small but successful jump he made late, but he's an
org player until he proves otherwise.
Hankmed (San Antonio): Does the munchkin (aka Jose Altuve) start the year in Corpus or return to Lancaster?
He has a chance to go to Corpus Christi,
but more likely, he'll go wherever Jio Mier goes. They worked well
together at Lexington, have a good rapport, and frankly Altuve is more
useful to the Astros helping Mier than as a prospect. He made the top 30
because he does have his supporters, but we also have reports that he
has no plus tool. Other reports say his best tool, his defense, is
above-average, and his speed, which is average out of the box (at times
below-average) but average-to-plus once he's underway. He's going to
have to be David Eckstein; he's going to have to do everything right to
make it. He's toward the back of the 30. Also, contrary to some reports,
he was not Rule 5 eligible.
Kyle Reese (The Future): Will Brian Bogusevic see time in the OF for the Astros this year?
I think he will be a bench piece this
year; he also is in the mix at 1B behind Wallace and I guess Carlos Lee.
He's a big league reserve, and if it all comes together, he's a John
Victor (El Paso): The Astros are locked in to
pitching hell Lancaster for I believe two more seasons. Have you heard
anything about plans longer term to try and get back to the Carolina
I have not, but at least they aren't in
Bakersfield, which is a better market but a much worse ballpark. The
better idea might be just having an FSL team in Kissimmee, wouldn't it?
Gio (Houston): Henry Villar has been much more
adept at pitching out of the bullpen but the Astros seem intent of
making him a starter. What do they see and will he stick there?
He's a mixed bag, some scouts like him as a
starter too, but he was in the majors as a reliever and there's a lot
more opportunity for him there. He is a dark horse for that fifth
starter's spot. I don't actually remember where he wound up ranking, I
think he was a guy I moved up late in the process; somewhere 18-25. His
best pitch is his changeup, which profiles him a bit better as a
starter, and his slider is his weakest pitch, which again hurts him as a
setup guy, because it's not a swing-and-miss pitch.
Aurelio (Brownsville): Is Chia-Jen Lo healthy?
HE did not throw in instructs; he did not
have surgery, and the Astros expect him to be ready for spring training.
That was what I had as of early December; I have not done an update in
the last month.
Frank (Galveston): Is trade pickup Wes Musick in the rotation at CC and does he fall within the Top 30?
That deal happened after the handbook
deadline, but I think Musick would have slotted into the middle of this
top 30, behind R.J. Alaniz but probably ahead of Fernando Abad, because
he's got a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter. It's a plus
changeup, according to our reports, and a solid-average fastball with a
chance for an average curve. Sounds like another John Halama, who once
upon a time was my favorite Astros prospect, non-USC division.
Nick (Boston): I am surprised by how low Austin
Wates was, is it because of his lack of a position? What can we expect
from him in the future? CF?
I think most are surprised he's in the Top
10, actually. The Astros believe he can play CF, and I talked to enough
scouts when Wates was an amateur who believe he can do it too, so he
ranked 9th. He's not a profile guy if he doesn't play CF, he doesn't
have the power for the corner spots (1b, lf) that he played in college.
As stated earlier, I like the bat, even if the swing's a bit unorthodox,
and I like his speed and athleticism.
BaggyWasRipped (Cooperstown): Does Tanner Bushue get skipped to AA?
Doubtful. More likely he goes back to
Lexington. He's a guy whose stuff was down, to an extent. Again, I think
people cherry-pick out scouting reports. We wrote last year that he hit
93 with his fastball before the draft, but no one ever said Bushue sat
93. The fact that he hit 93 encouraged scouts to believe it's in there
and that it's within reason to project his fastball to improve from the
upper 80s, where it sat in high school while touching the low 90s. He
sat in the mid-to-upper 80s this year; lots of 84-88 reports. But he's a
projection guy all the way, athletic, good frame. I expect the Astros
to keep him in A ball rather than push him to Double-A, and a repeat at
Lexington in a prospecty rotation with Foltynewicz, Alaniz, Bobby Duran
and maybe a repeating Zach Grimmett would be interesting.
Dan (Missouri): Jose Altuve had some of the
best numbers in the Astros minor league system last year. However, at
5'5" and on the shy side of 150lbs, will his smallish stature keep him
from ever being considered a "prospect"?
Asked and answered. His stature won't keep
him down; the fact that his body keeps him from having big-time tools
is what will keep him down. Know any 5-5, 155-pound guys with average
power, or average hitting ability? Plus at that size, not being a
burner, it's a much tougher sell.
Doug (McLean, VA): Telvin Nash has plus plus
power tool for a 19 year-old (13 homeruns in 200 ABs in 2010) can he
develop enough in other areas to be an MLB regular?
The Astros believe so; I'm pretty sure
internally, he's in their Top 10. He just missed ours because he has a
lot of swing and miss and I'm not convinced he's more than a 1B. If he's
in LF, at least early career, then he has a bit more wiggle room and
defensive value. I learned a lesson from BA's aggressive ranking in 2003
of Brian Dopirak to go crazy on righthanded-hitting,
righthanded-throwing 1Bs who don't have defensive versatility. That
could be Nash's path. His power is legit, and he's working out in the
ATL, I understand, with Jason Heyward and Xavier Avery, among others,
working to improve his batting eye and maintain his athleticism.
Michael N (San Antonio): Why do you see J.D.
Martinez returning to the Hooks to start the season as opposed to
playing in Bricktown Ballpark in OKC, particularly as Ed Wade is much
more apt to push prospects along than GMs past?
Could definitely see him in Triple-A OKC
to start the year. I don't know that Martinez has everyone convinced
that he's for real, because like Wates, he has an unorthodox swing. His
is described in some detail in the writeup. Martinez would be a nice
place-holder if the Astros can move Carlos Lee — longtime BA readers
may recall Lee's a personal all-time favorite, as I covered him when he
was 17 in the SAL at Hickory. It's a shame that El Caballo's contract
has become an albatross, but I think moving him is job one for Wade this
year, especially with the team being for sale. Martinez would be a
natural guy to take Lee's place, so I do think he'll be pushed.
Michael N (San Antonio): Does Jay Austin ever put things together at the plate?
Signs point to no, hence he didn't make
the top 10. Not a lot of encouraging signs in his development this year,
and he doesn't seem to be making a lot of adjustments, which is a
bigger concern. Still has some pretty big tools, but the hit tool is the
one that counts the most.
Angel (Hidalgo): TJ Steele suffered through an injury-plagued 2010. What's his prognosis for the new year?
Prognosis Negative! (wish I could just add
the link: http://seinfeld.wikia.com/wiki/Prognosis_Negative)
Anyway, Steele didn't make the top 30. His track record going back to
Arizona is big tools, no plate discipline, injury-prone. I'll pass, and
will be happy for him if he proves me wrong.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): What was the discussion and factors that resulted in Villar being the 2014 shortstop rather than Mier?
Villar has much bigger tools — better
range, better arm, much better speed. You see a lot of 60s and 70s on
Villar's reports, more 50s and 60s on Mier.
Greg (Ohio): What's the reason for the texas whoopin' Jordan Lyles took at AAA last year?
He was the only teenager in the Pacific
Coast League, and Triple-A hitters are good. I think that explains it
best. I put very little stock in those six starts. Good that he made
them, but all they indicate is that he's probably not going to win the
fifth-starter spot in 2011, at least at the outset. I think the Astros
think that too, hence 2 Rule 5 picks plus signing Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Greg (Ohio): Why Austin Wates behind JD Martinez?
Because Martinez hit in Double-A, and
there's a bit more known with him. That was a pretty loud year. Wates
has hardly played pro ball and doesn't have the huge tools like
DeShields has that allowed him to rank that high as a new draftee. If
Wates can't handle CF, then he's a LF like Martinez, and Martinez's bat
profiles much better there.
Michael (Houston): How much can Lyles' fastball
improve (velocity)? I've seen him pitch in person several times, and
it appears that he could add some weight. His delivery is also very
easy. Are these the recipe to gaining more on the fastball while
maintaining his excellent command?
I got mixed reports on that but you're
right in that he does it easy and has a projectable frame. I thought the
report said he can throw a bit harder, but he's never going to be a
power pitcher with a dominant fastball. That's the important takeaway,
whether he throws 1-2 mph harder consistently or not.
Jake (Goodyear, AZ): Hi there, you say that
Jordan Lyles profiles as a No. 3 starter on a major league contender,
but he's #1 on the list...what does that say about the Astros farm
They do not have a star-caliber player is
what it says. DeShields and Foltynewicz could be, but they have a long
way to go. As I wrote in the overview, the system has improved, but it's
been baby steps, and it was a huge hole to crawl out of. This farm
system was 29-30-30 the previous three Handbooks; that's Death Valley.
Michael (Houston): What is the upside potential for Ruben (R.J.) Alaniz? Legit prospect? Why did scouts pass on drafting him?
People just couldn't see him because of an
outbreak of swing flu that wiped out his high school baseball season.
He had a lot of looks and exposure that summer via workouts and his play
in a summer league in the East Cobb Complex around Atlanta, so the
Astros had to pay him a six-figure bonus to get him. He's a dude, top 15
in the top 30.
Jasen (FLL): Will Villar be able to contribute with the bat? Or primarily just a defensive player with speed on the bases?
That's the big question. He has hitting
tools but he needs to have more of a contact, little man's approach. I
think he'll hit for average but not much power, but he could be an
Randy (Cactus Corners): Delino DeShields Jr at
second base? Isn't there alot more value in profile CF who can hit?
Seems al that speed is wasted playing the infield.
I respectfully disagree. I'd rather have a
premium athlete involved a lot more if possible, and 2Bs make more
plays than CFs. Also Michael Bourn is quite good defensively now in
Houston, and Austin Wates from the '10 draft also might wind up in CF,
so the Astros aren't wasting him by trying him at 2B at all.
Tony (Lakeland, FL): Who is most likely in your opinion to jump into the top 10 next year?
Nash, Alaniz and Kvasnicka.
Kevin (Houston): Is it safe to say that the
Koby Clemens overdraft has proven to be accurate? Is he in the future
in any capacity at the big league level?
Jim Callis wrote this way back when Koby
was first drafted — the fact that him being an Astros farmhand helped
convince his dad to play one more season in Houston was a win for the
organization. He's been a good organizational player, nothing wrong with
that, a lot of eighth-rounders do that. When I was in the AFL, one
observer told me he saw Clemens working out at 2B, and that he was
surprised by it, that Clemens looked OK there. If he makes it, he'll
make it on sheer hard work and his solid hitting ability. It sounds like
his makeup is as good as anyone in the organization. I'm rooting for
him, but he didn't make the top 30.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Besides Deshields and Foltynewicz, what other Astro prospects will be stocking the low A Lexington team in 2011?
Wates could be there, though I believe
he'll be pushed. Expect Alaniz there, as mentioned previously when I
talked about the Lexington rotation, and Kvasnicka could be there.
Telvin Nash is a key part of that team. Not sure all these guys are
prospects, but Ben Orloff will be there, as will Daniel Adamson and
probably Chris Wallace, plus Thomas Shirley, Carlos Quevedo and Jake
Jason (Charlotte): Did Jake Buchanon get any consideration the for list ?
Not really, below-average fastball, some
pitchability but not a great profile in terms of body, physicality, etc.
I like him as an org player.
Mark (Fargo, ND): Who has the best chance in the Astros top 30 of becoming a closer?
I'll take conversion guy Jorge De Leon,
who came into 2010 as an infielder and ended it as a righthander on the
40-man roster. He's up to 98 mph, a guy who other organizations
definitely took note of and who would have been popped if he'd been Rule
Ryan (Abingdon, MD): I've heard that while
Dustin Pedroia is listed at 5'9", he's actually several inches shorter.
Do you think the 5'5" listing for Altuve is accurate?
I think it is accurate. I haven't seen him
in person but talked to several coaches in the organization and 5-5 was
the consensus. I believe Pedroia is closer to 5-7 than 5-9, but this is
glenn (Harrisonburg VA): What Astro prospects have a chance of making the top 100 prospect list this year?
Lyles will be on there obviously, and fairly high. For me, DeShields and Villar also are top 100 guys, but that's about it.
jedjethro (Ed Wadesville): John, Thanks for the
chat. Other than lack of talent do you see any overriding weaknesses
either in the Astros system or approach? I'm wondering if there's
another organization that's as offensively on-base-skills-challenged as
I don't think that OBP criticism holds up;
JB Shuck, Mier, Wates all control the strike zone well and those are
three of their best hitters. They just don't have many hitting prospects
period. They had zero athletes in the system, zero. I think other
scouting departments would have taken over in Houston in 2008 and said,
damn, we have zero talent, let's load up on college players. But the
Astros instead have consistently gone for athletes, upside, you can even
say risky picks. They've been consistent. We'll see how it all works
out; returns right now are solid, not spectacular, but to really turn a
system around, you have to have a fire sale of MLB talent, and the
Astros didn't really ever do that. Even when they did deal Oswalt and
Berkman, they got MLB talent back (Happ, Melancon), not just prospects,
and they sold low on Berkman.
Rob (Hamilton, ON): Besides JD Martinez, anything else from the late rounds of the 2009 draft panning out that looks exciting?
Jake Goebbert can hit some; he could put
up some big numbers in Lancaster in 2011 and got some consideration.
He's probably a left fielder long-term though, so he's going to have to
really hit. That might be it.
Carlos (Boston): What can you tell us about Rod Quintero?
Quintero is an arm-strength guy and a
Cuban refugee who went to JC at Chipola and was a nice find as a
late-round guy. He's on the depth chart, but frankly I didn't have
enough quality info to rank him in the top 30. Same for sleeper Luis
Perdomo, who was quite good in the GCL, and some sources outside the
system like him as a top 20 type of prospect. I have him as a four-pitch
guy with no standout pitch and an 86-92 mph fastball, so that wasn't
enough to rank him, but he had an excellent US debut and is a nice
sleeper to keep track of.
Well, that's going to do it for the Astros
chat. Thanks for the questions; if you have more you can hit me up on
Twitter at @johnmanuelba and I'll do my best to get to all of them.
Thanks for coming by and making this a fun exercise, I'm up to 12
organizations which remains the BA record in terms of Top 30s. They've
all been pretty fun to do. Have a great weekend.