2012 Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports




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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.

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Houston Astros

After clinging to respectability the last four seasons, the Astros finally bottomed out in 2011.

At 56-106, Houston had its worst season ever and lost 100 games for the first time. It took a total team effort, with the Astros ranking 13th in the National League in scoring (despite playing in a hitter's park), 16th and last in runs allowed and 15th in both defensive efficiency and fielding percentage.

The club's disintegration has several obvious causes, such as a decline in Opening Day payroll from $103 million (eighth in MLB) as recently as 2009 to $71 million (20th) in 2011. The franchise is in limbo this offseason as it awaits the finalizing of a sale from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane for $680 million, which also includes a 60 percent share in the Houston Regional Sports Network. MLB continues to look into Crane's past and is trying to nudge the team into the American League.

The most obvious reason for Houston's collapse is its failures in scouting and player development. Once a pace-setter in Venezuela, the Astros now hang their Latin program's hat on Jose Altuve, a 5-foot-7 scrapper who led the minors in batting but made little impact in his big league debut. Altuve was one of four players who went from instructional league in 2010 to the majors in 2011, along with righthander David Carpenter, outfielder J.D. Martinez and third baseman Jimmy Paredes.

Martinez is a rare draft success for Houston, which had a brutal run from 2005-07. Just four players from those three drafts have reached the majors, ranking worst in MLB. Only one player has provided long-term big league value: 2006 sixth-rounder Bud Norris.

Bobby Heck took over as scouting director in 2008 and the organization has made progress, but it has been slow. The organization's emphasis on athleticism and raw tools still could pay dividends, but Heck's drafts have produced only four big leaguers so far: Jason Castro, Jordan Lyles, Martinez and J.B. Shuck. How much of an impact they'll make remains to be seen.

With the big league club foundering and the upper levels of the system still thin, Houston traded two of its most marketable commodities in July for five members of its current Top 10. Hunter Pence went to the Phillies for four minor leaguers, including first baseman/left fielder Jonathan Singleton (No. 1), righthander Jared Cosart (No. 2) and outfielder Domingo Santana (No. 6). Righthander Paul Clemens (No. 5) and lefty Brett Oberholtzer (No. 7) arrived in a four-player package from the Braves for Michael Bourn.

The added depth should allow the Astros to slow down the development of young prospects such as shortstop Jonathan Villar, second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. and righthander Mike Foltynewicz Several players could repeat levels after looking overmatched in 2011, when Houston's affiliates combined for an MLB-worst .409 winning percentage in the minors. Due to their poor drafts and foreign presence, the Astros have finished 30th in organization winning percentage in three of the last four years, and they ranked 29th in 2010.

As one veteran scout put it, "When you have one bad draft, it takes two good ones to make up for it." So Heck and the Astros are digging out of a deep, deep hole.

1. Jonathan Singleton, 1B/OF Born: Sep 18, 1991 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 215
Drafted: Millikan HS, Long Beach, 2009 (8th round).  Signed by: Demerius Pittman (Phillies).
Background: The Astros scouted Singleton heavily for the 2009 draft, Bobby Heck's second as scouting director. Singleton had a subpar senior season at Millikan High in Long Beach and fell to the eighth round, where he signed with the Phillies for $200,000. Almost immediately, he outperformed his draft round. He tore up the low Class A South Atlantic League in the first half of 2010, and though he cooled off afterward, he still ranked as the circuit's No. 1 prospect at season's end. With Ryan Howard signed through 2016, Philadelphia moved Singleton to left field in instructional league after the 2010 season, then moved him to Houston last July in the Hunter Pence deal that also brought righthanders Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid and outfielder Domingo Santana to the Astros organization. One Phillies official said of all the prospects his team has traded the last three years—a group that also includes Carlos Carrasco, Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar—Singleton has the highest upside.

Scouting Report: Scouts use words like "explosive" and "impact" when describing Singleton's bat. He has pure hitting skills with emerging home run power. He uses the whole field naturally while showing the bat speed to turn on good fastballs. He has the barrel awareness, hitting rhythm and timing teams want in a middle-of-the-order threat. He draws power from both his lower half and his strong hands and wrists. Singleton's well above-average pop presently plays more as average, as he's too patient at times and lets pitches go by that he should drive. He has advanced pitch recognition for his experience level, though, which should allow his power to grow as he gains experience. The biggest concern will be how fares against lefthanders. Scouts say he hangs in well against breaking balls for his age, but he batted .248 with no homers against them in 153 at-bats in 2011. While he's not as athletic as his father Herb, who played quarterback for Oregon in the early 1970s, Singleton is "baseball athletic," as one Astros official put it, with good body control and coordination. He's better defensively at first base than in left field, where his well below-average speed was a hindrance. Houston still could give him some time in left to maintain some versatility but prefers him at first, where he has nimble feet. He has enough arm strength for first base and makes accurate throws. One scout expressed some trepidation that Singleton could get too big and immobile if he doesn't watch his body.

The Future: Brett Wallace was the key piece in the deal that sent Roy Oswalt to the Phillies in 2010, but he won't be an impediment to Singleton, the Astros' first baseman and No. 3 hitter of the future. He'll start 2012 at Double-A Corpus Christi and could spend the next two seasons in the minors and/or move back to left field if Wallace fulfills his early promise. If Wallace continues to struggle to get to his power, Singleton could take over in Houston in 2013. The best first-base prospect in the minors, he has a chance to hit .300 with 25-30 homers annually.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'09 Phillies (R) 100 12 29 9 0 2 12 18 13 1 0 .290 .395 .440
'10 Lakewood (LoA) 376 64 109 25 2 14 77 62 74 9 7 .290 .393 .479
'11 Clearwater (HiA) 320 48 91 14 0 9 47 56 83 3 3 .284 .387 .413
'11 Lancaster (HiA) 129 20 43 9 1 4 16 14 40 0 0 .333 .405 .512
Minor League Totals 925 144 272 57 3 29 152 150 210 13 10 .294 .393 .456

2. Jarred Cosart, RHP Born: May 25, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180
Drafted: Clear Creek HS, League City, Texas, 2008 (38th round).  Signed by: Steve Cohen (Phillies).
Background: Shortly after Cosart starred in the 2011 Futures Game—he missed the 2010 contest with elbow tenderness—the Astros acquired him from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence deal. Promoted to Corpus Christi after the trade, he allowed one run or less in five of his seven Double-A starts.

Scouting Report: Some scouts describe Cosart's delivery as max effort, while Houston prefers to call it energetic. All sides agree his quick arm and athleticism produce electric stuff. "You see this little guy out there and then—wham!—the ball explodes out of his hand," said one scout. Cosart's fastball sits around 95 mph and touches 98, and his curveball has excellent shape and upper-70s power when it's on. He also flashes a plus changeup that he throws with good arm speed. Cosart needs to add some strength and control his delivery in order to throw more strikes, which helps explain why someone with dominant stuff averaged a modest 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2011. Some scouts question his durability.

The Future: Cosart has the stuff to be a No. 1 starter, though he may lack the command, consistency and durability to be a true ace. Ticketed for Double-A to start 2012, he could be a closer in the Brad Lidge mold if starting doesn't work out.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'09 Phillies (R) 2 2 2.22 7 5 0 24 12 8 6 0 7 25 .141
'10 Lakewood (LoA) 7 3 3.79 14 14 0 71 60 34 30 3 16 77 .219
'11 Clearwater (HiA) 9 8 3.92 20 19 0 108 98 55 47 7 43 79 .232
'11 Corpus Christi (AA) 1 2 4.71 7 7 0 36 33 20 19 4 13 22 .232
Minor League Totals 19 15 3.84 48 45 0 239 203 203 102 14 79 203 .221

3. George Springer, OF Born: Sep 19, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 205
Drafted: Connecticut, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by:John Kosciak/Bobby Heck.
Background: Drafted out of high school by the Twins in the 48th round, Springer instead went to Connecticut, honing his raw tools and helping the Huskies reach back-to-back NCAA regionals. He also starred for the U.S. college national team in 2010 before becoming the 11th overall pick last June, the highest-drafted Husky ever. His $2.525 million bonus is the largest in Astros draft history.

Scouting Report: Springer has a power-speed combination in the Matt Kemp mold and could be a five-tool player if his bat becomes more consistent. His quick hands and strong wrists generate explosive bat speed and above-average power potential. His approach at the plate vacillates between too passive and too aggressive, but he sliced his strikeout rate from 29 percent as a sophomore to 16 percent as a junior. He needs to keep improving his pitch recognition and feel for the strike zone, but he isn't afraid to draw a walk. With his plus speed and arm strength, Springer played center field in college but played right for USA Baseball's College National Team in 2010 and is adept in both spots. His speed also plays on the bases, as he stole 64 bases in 73 tries in his final two college seasons.

The Future: The most well-rounded position player in the system, Springer could move quickly. He'll start 2012 at low Class A Lexington, with his bat dictating his timetable.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'11 Tri-City (SS) 28 8 5 3 0 1 3 2 2 4 0 .179 .303 .393
Minor League Totals 28 8 5 3 0 1 3 2 2 4 0 .179 .303 .393

4. Jonathan Villar, SS Born: May 02, 1991 B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195
Signed:Dominican Republic '08. Signed by: Sal Agostinelli (Phillies)
Background: Villar signed for a $105,000 bonus in 2008 with the Phillies, who sent him to the Astros in the Roy Oswalt trade two years later. Teaming with steadier but less toolsy Jose Altuve at high Class A Lancaster and Corpus Christi, Villar had an uneven 2011 season, striking out a system-high 156 times and committing 36 errors.

Scouting Report: Villar's tools are loud, as he earns 60 and 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale for his speed, arm and defensive ability at shortstop. He's flashy, sometimes to a fault, on defense. Some scouts thought he coasted during the regular season, leading to careless errors and empty at-bats, but Villar competed much better in instructional league. He's a switch-hitter with solid gap power, particularly from the right side, but won't fully tap into it until he stops chasing pitches out of the strike zone. He's more of a slasher while hitting lefthanded. An aggressive basestealer, he led Houston farmhands with 34 thefts in 46 tries in 2011.

The Future: Villar may be the toolsiest shortstop in the minors other than the Rangers' Jurickson Profar, who's much more polished. The Astros hope to let Villar catch his breath at bit with a return to Double-A, but he could play his way into the major league mix in 2012.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'08 Phillies (R) 214 37 58 6 3 1 21 30 56 27 8 .271 .367 .341
'09 Phillies (R) 94 14 26 7 1 0 14 13 24 11 2 .277 .364 .372
'09 Williamsport (SS) 39 6 9 1 1 0 5 4 14 6 0 .231 .302 .308
'10 Lakewood (LoA) 371 61 101 18 4 2 36 26 103 38 13 .272 .332 .358
'10 Lancaster (HiA) 129 18 29 6 2 3 19 12 50 7 2 .225 .294 .372
'11 Lancaster (HiA) 174 26 45 7 4 4 26 25 56 20 6 .259 .353 .414
'11 Corpus Christi (AA) 324 52 75 16 2 10 26 29 100 14 6 .231 .301 .386
Minor League Totals 1345 214 343 61 17 20 147 139 403 123 37 .255 .331 .370

5. Paul Clemens, RHP Born: Feb 14, 1988 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180
Drafted: Louisburg (N.C.) JC, 2008 (7th round).  Signed by: Billy Best (Braves)
Background: Clemens broke Javier Lopez's single-game strikeout record at Robinson High (Fairfax, Va.), then took his raw power arm to Louisburg (N.C.) JC before signing with Atlanta as a seventh-rounder in 2008. Astros field coordinator Paul Runge got to know him at the end of his three-decade tenure in the Braves organization and recommended him as part of the payment Houston received in the Michael Bourn trade last July.

Scouting Report: Clemens' fastball sits at 93-96 mph. He has cleaned up his delivery and shortened his arm action over the last few years, helping him find the strike zone more often, but he's still effectively wild. He has improved his direction to the plate, wasting less energy in his high-effort motion. Clemens' secondary pitches have progressed, and his mid-70s downer curve is a plus pitch at times. He also throws a hard cutter/slider hybrid as well as a solid changeup than enables him to handle lefthanders better than righthanders.

The Future: Clemens needs innings to keep honing his repertoire and control as a starter. He'll start 2012 back at Triple-A Oklahoma City. At worst, he profiles as a big league reliever.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'08 Braves (R) 1 0 0.00 1 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 .100
'08 Danville (R) 3 3 3.39 12 8 1 58 57 33 22 6 18 57 .246
'08 Rome (LoA) 0 1 9.00 1 1 0 4 7 5 4 0 2 0 .368
'09 Rome (LoA) 6 5 5.91 26 11 3 85 105 67 56 7 49 64 .291
'10 Rome (LoA) 2 0 1.42 8 0 1 19 11 5 3 1 8 16 .162
'10 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 0 4 3.69 27 8 2 76 83 46 31 5 28 65 .268
'11 Mississippi (AA) 6 5 3.73 20 20 0 109 103 57 45 8 44 93 .240
'11 Corpus Christi (AA) 2 1 2.35 5 5 0 31 23 9 8 3 12 26 .200
'11 Oklahoma City (AAA) 0 1 15.43 1 1 0 5 4 8 8 1 6 6 .222
Minor League Totals 20 20 4.08 101 54 7 390 394 394 177 31 167 329 .252

6. Domingo Santana, OF Born: Aug 05, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 200
Signed: Dominican Republic '08. Signed by: Sal Agostinelli (Phillies)
Background: Santana seems like he has been around forever, but he was just 16 when he made his U.S. debut in 2009. He started 2011 as an 18-year old in low Class A with the Phillies, who signed him out of the Dominican for $330,000, and stayed in the South Atlantic League after getting included in the Hunter Pence trade. Santana had 10 multi-hit games in his 17 starts for Lexington.

Scouting Report: Scouts acknowledge Santana's raw hitting approach and most think he'll always have his share of strikeouts. If he makes consistent contact, though, he could become a prototypical right fielder in the Jermaine Dye mold. Santana's combination of tremendous leverage and excellent bat speed creates monstrous raw power. He needs at-bats to see more pitches, learn to identify them and manage the strike zone better. He's an average runner, though not a basestealer, and has a plus arm. He speaks English well, which has helped with his adjustment to pro ball.

The Future: The Astros envision an outfield of the future with J.D. Martinez in left, George Springer in center and Santana in right by the time they become competitive. If Santana cuts down on his strikeouts, he could move rapidly. He has a chance to put up sick numbers in Lancaster in 2012.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'09 Phillies (R) 118 17 34 6 1 6 28 15 44 3 1 .288 .388 .508
'10 Lakewood (LoA) 165 27 30 10 0 3 16 29 76 5 6 .182 .322 .297
'10 Williamsport (SS) 186 28 44 9 0 5 20 23 73 4 4 .237 .336 .366
'11 Lakewood (LoA) 350 45 94 29 4 7 32 26 120 4 1 .269 .345 .434
'11 Lexington (LoA) 68 13 26 4 0 5 21 6 15 1 0 .382 .447 .662
Minor League Totals 887 130 228 58 5 26 117 99 328 17 12 .257 .352 .422

7. Brett Oberholtzer, LHP Born: Jul 01, 1989 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 230
Drafted: Seminole (Fla.) CC, 2008 (8th round).  Signed by: Gregg Kilby
Background: Oberholtzer grew up in suburban Philadelphia and was a fan of Michael Bourn when Bourn was a Phillies minor leaguer. He introduced himself to Bourn when their paths crossed in spring training when the Braves and Astros played, then he was traded—along with his Double-A road roommate Paul Clemens—for Bourn last July.

Scouting Report: Oberholtzer combines a four-pitch mix with pitching savvy to try to let hitters get themselves out. He has a No. 4 starter profile with no plus pitch but a durable, innings-eating frame, and he knows his strengths and weaknesses. Oberholtzer pitches inside with his 88-92 mph fastball, and his slider can be an asset when he locates it. He can back-foot it against righthanders and it helps him neutralize lefties. His average curveball has good shape, and his average changeup features solid arm speed. Some funk in his delivery gives him deception. Oberholtzer needs to hone his average control and improve his command of all his pitches.

The Future: Oberholtzer's overall package resembles another Astros trade acquisition, J.A. Happ. He and Clemens will team again at Triple-A in 2012 and will jockey for a callup when the Astros need another starter.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'08 Braves (R) 4 1 2.89 10 0 0 37 34 16 12 1 10 32 .233
'09 Danville (R) 6 2 2.01 12 12 0 67 46 17 15 1 6 56 .186
'10 Rome (LoA) 0 2 1.96 4 4 0 23 22 7 5 1 5 19 .242
'10 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 6 6 4.15 22 18 2 113 123 59 52 7 18 107 .267
'11 Mississippi (AA) 9 9 3.74 21 21 0 128 119 65 53 6 42 93 .237
'11 Corpus Christi (AA) 2 3 5.27 6 6 0 27 28 16 16 3 10 28 .255
Minor League Totals 27 23 3.49 75 61 2 395 372 372 153 19 91 335 .239

8. Delino DeShields, 2B Born: Aug 16, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 188
Drafted: Woodward Academy, College Park, Ga., 2010 (1st round).  Signed by: Lincoln Martin
Background: The son of the 13-year big leaguer who now manages in the Reds system, DeShields doesn't look much like his lithe father. He's built more like Mike Tyson and was a star prep football player before being drafted eighth overall in 2010. Signed for $2.125 million, he struggled in 2011 as the sixth-youngest player in the South Atlantic League.

Scouting Report: DeShields' youth and inexperience showed in his first full pro season. He didn't make consistent contact but still showed bat speed and strength. He must improve his ability to identify pitches and work counts. He could develop average power, though he mostly drives balls to the gaps for now. DeShields graded as an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale as an amateur, and as a 70 runner as he adjusted to the pro grind, though he's still learning to maximize his speed on the bases. In his first extended time at second base, he improved his footwork and double-play pivot and became more consistent after making seven errors in his first 13 games. He made adjustments, including shortening up his longer arm stroke. He still has fringy arm strength that will play in center field if he can't stick in the infield.

The Future: The Astros are encouraged by DeShields' progress and still love his upside. He'll probably head back to low Class A to start the 2012 season.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'10 Astros (R) 9 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 .111 .200 .111
'10 Greeneville (R) 67 11 21 6 1 0 8 5 18 5 1 .313 .356 .433
'11 Lexington (LoA) 469 73 103 17 2 9 48 52 118 30 11 .220 .305 .322
Minor League Totals 545 87 125 23 3 9 56 58 138 35 12 .229 .310 .332

9. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Born: Oct 07, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Minooka (Ill.) Community HS, 2010 (1st round).  Signed by: Troy Hoerner
Background: The Astros signed the top high school pitcher out of Illinois in back-to-back drafts in Tanner Bushue (second round, 2009) and Foltynewicz (19th overall, 2010). Recipient of a $1.305 million bonus, he lost his first nine decisions as a pro, including six of his first seven starts in 2011.

Scouting Report: Foltynewicz is the best homegrown arm in the system. He combines a good pitcher's frame and athleticism to throw four-seam fastballs that sit in the low 90s and top out at 96 mph. Houston has de-emphasized an 89-93 mph two-seamer and a slider he used in high school, having him use mainly four-seamers and focus on a curveball. The Astros liked how he made the adjustments and had to stay on his catchers to have him throw more curves. Foltynewicz still is learning to throw the curve with power and confidence, but it has plus potential. He has solid feel for an average changeup that flashes plus. He needs to refine his control and command, because he doesn't throw enough quality strikes.

The Future: After adding pitching depth via trades, Houston won't have to rush Foltynewicz. He'll return to Lexington to open 2012 and should get tested by Lancaster's gusting winds and rock-hard infield later in the season. If everything comes together, he can be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'10 Greeneville (R) 0 3 4.03 12 12 0 45 46 24 20 3 15 39 .256
'11 Lexington (LoA) 5 11 4.97 26 26 0 134 149 84 74 10 51 88 .270
Minor League Totals 5 14 4.73 38 38 0 179 195 195 94 13 66 127 .266

10. Telvin Nash, 1B/OF Born: Feb 20, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 230
Drafted: Griffin (Ga.) HS, 2009 (3rd round).  Signed by: Lincoln Martin
Background: A prep teammate of Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, Nash was recruited by college football programs before committing to Kennesaw State for baseball. He homered five times in his first 15 games in 2011, his first stab at full-season ball, before a broken hamate bone in his left hand sidelined him for two months.

Scouting Report: Scouts look for players with a carrying tool, and Nash has one in his well above-average righthanded power. Even after hamate surgery, which usually saps a player's pop, he homered nine times in 210 at-bats. He has good bat speed and even better strength, and his bat will get quicker if he can eliminate a wrap in his swing. That flaw also leads to an excessive amount of strikeouts, though he's not afraid to take a walk. Nash has seen time at both first base and left field but projects as a subpar defender at both spots. He's a well below-average runner with fringy arm strength.

The Future: With Jonathan Singleton joining the organization, Nash is blocked at first base and will have to work hard to become a passable left fielder. If the Astros move to the American League, he could be their future DH. If healthy, he could put up huge home run numbers in Lancaster in 2012.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'09 Astros (R) 142 15 31 10 1 1 20 12 45 1 2 .218 .280 .324
'10 Greeneville (R) 200 30 53 12 1 12 39 25 64 1 1 .265 .348 .515
'10 Tri-City (SS) 13 2 4 1 1 1 1 0 7 0 1 .308 .308 .769
'11 Astros (R) 13 5 5 2 0 0 0 3 2 0 0 .385 .500 .538
'11 Lexington (LoA) 268 41 72 16 0 14 37 40 103 2 0 .269 .373 .485
Minor League Totals 636 93 165 41 3 28 97 80 221 4 4 .259 .347 .465