2013 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.

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Houston Astros

No organization needed a fresh start more than the Astros.

And no team has made more alterations since November 2011, when Major League Baseball approved Jim Crane's purchase of the team from Drayton McLane.

The changes have come in rapid-fire fashion. For a $70 million discount on the $680 million purchase price (which included a 60 percent share in the Houston Regional Sports Network), Crane agreed to move the Astros to the American League West, effective in 2013. Then he fired general manager Ed Wade and hired Jeff Luhnow, formerly vice president of scouting and player development for the Cardinals, to succeed him.

Luhnow immediately started a makeover of Houston's front office. Assistant GM Bobby Heck, who ran the club's drafts from 2008-12, didn't have his contract renewed, and several amateur and pro scouts also were fired. Farm director Fred Nelson, a member of the organization since 1985, was offered a different position after getting replaced by former big league outfielder Quinton McCracken.

Luhnow also completed the dismantling of the big league roster that Wade started in 2010-11, when he traded veterans such as Lance Berkman, Michael Bourn, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. The 2012 Astros weren't competitive to begin with, and fell to absurd levels after Luhnow dealt Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez through the season, slashing an Opening Day payroll of $61 million to barely more than $10 million.

The Astros suffered through a 4-33 stretch after the deals, costing manager Brad Mills his job, and went 55-107 overall. Triple-A manager Tony DeFrancesco took over for Mills on an interim basis, until Luhnow hired Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter as the permanent replacement.

While five of the 2011 trade acquisitions made the Astros Top 10 Prospects list a year ago, none of this year's additions cracked this Top 10. Houston did add potential impact players in the draft, however, while picking No. 1 overall for the first time since 1992.

Twenty years earlier, the Astros passed on Derek Jeter to take the more signable Phil Nevin. This time around, Luhnow, Heck and scouting director Mike Elias devised and executed a plan to stretch Houston's $11.2 million bonus pool with impressive results.

Though the consensus had the Astros taking Stanford righthander Mark Appel at No. 1, they opted instead for Puerto Rican prep shortstop Carlos Correa. Houston signed him quickly for $4.8 million, $2.4 million less than the assigned value for his pick, and used the savings to sign supplemental first-round righthander Lance McCullers Jr. ($2.5 million) and fourth-round third baseman Rio Ruiz ($1.85 million) to above-value bonuses.

The trades and recent drafts have brought depth the system had lacked for years. That allowed the Astros to let former first-rounders Delino DeShields Jr. and Mike Foltynewicz repeat low Class A at age 20, and they both responded with strong seasons. After finishing the worst cumulative minor league record in 2008, 2009 and 2011 (and 29th in 2010), Houston affiliates had the best winning percentage (.546) in the game in 2012.

At the end of the season, the Astros unveiled a new uniform and logo, harkening back to their 1980s caps and introducing a blue-and-orange color scheme. Coming off back-to-back seasons that were the worst in franchise history, it's a good time to make a clean break with their recent past.

1. Carlos Correa, ss Born: Sep 22, 1994 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R., 2012 (1st round).  Signed by: Larry Pardo/Joey Sola
Carlos CorreaBackground: Correa is a product of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, the top finishing school on the island for prospective draft picks. The academy has produced 56 draft picks since 2004, though none has reached the major leagues yet. With a strong tour of high school showcase events in 2011, Correa vaulted himself into first-round consideration for 2012. The Miami recruit continued to thrive as a high school senior, starring at Puerto Rico's Excellence Games in May and wowing clubs in workouts shortly before the draft. The Astros considered him a legitimate top-of-the-draft talent but took him No. 1 overall in part because he signed quickly for $4.8 million. His bonus set a club record though it was well below the $7.2 million assigned value for his pick, which allowed Houston to use the savings elsewhere in the draft. Correa became the highest selection ever from Puerto Rico, surpassing Ramon Castro, whom Houston took 17th overall in 1994. The Astros challenged Correa late in the summer, sending him to advanced Rookie-level Greeneville as a 17-year-old in August, and he responded well with five extra-base hits in 11 games.

Scouting Report: Correa has tools worthy of a No. 1 overall pick, earning comparisons to players such as Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Zimmerman. Tall and athletic, Correa has the potential to hit for power while playing the left side of the infield. His best attributes are his well above-average pop to all fields, which Houston scouting director Mike Elias describes as "freak-show power," and his cannon arm. Correa has an easy swing with plenty of bat speed and leverage. He's balanced at the plate, uses his hands well and has natural hitting rhythm, and the Astros expect him to hit for average as well as power. He impressed club officials by laying off breaking balls out of the zone after signing, though at his size, he has holes in his swing that he'll have to tighten. Correa is the best present defender the organization has at shortstop. His arm strength earns plus-plus grades, and he has excellent footwork and body control. There's some concern that he'll outgrow shortstop as he matures physically. If so, scouts expect him to be a premium defender if he has to slide to third base. He has excellent defensive instincts and work ethic, and he did nothing after signing to convince scouts that he'll have to move. He also lost weight this summer while playing every day for the first time, so his lanky frame should keep him at shortstop for at least the short term. Correa plays with energy, consistently producing above-average running times to first base. He's likely to slow down as he grows, though, and stealing bases isn't expected to be a significant part of his game.

The Future: Houston has tried to temper expectations for Correa, but with his talent and personality, it's hard not to see him becoming the face of the franchise. He's advanced enough to earn a spot at the organization's new low Class A Quad Cities affiliate to start his first full pro season, and a strong performance could put him on the fast track. If all goes well, he could reach Houston as early as 2015. He has the power to be an all-star at any position.

'12 Astros (R) 155 23 36 11 1 2 9 7 36 5 1 .232 .270 .355
'12 Greeneville (R) 35 5 13 3 1 1 3 5 8 1 0 .371 .450 .600
Minor League Totals 190 28 49 14 2 3 12 12 44 6 1 .258 .305 .400

2. Jonathan Singleton, 1b Born: Sep 18, 1991 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 235
Drafted: Millikan HS, Long Beach, 2009 (8th round).  Signed by: Demerius Pittman
Jonathan SingletonBackground: The son of a former Oregon quarterback, Singleton signed with the Phillies for $200,000 in 2009, then was traded to Houston with righthanders Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid and outfielder Domingo Santana in the 2011 Hunter Pence deal. The No. 1 prospect on this list a year ago, he set career highs with 27 doubles, 21 homers and 88 walks in his first full season as an Astro.

Scouting Report: Singleton has a smooth swing with strength, and he knows his strike zone well. He uses his advanced plate discipline to focus on a particular hitting zone, takes aim and unleashes his well above-average raw power. He has a solid knack for hitting, showing enough bat speed to turn on fastballs while also using the whole field. Advanced lefthanders with good breaking balls still can handle him. Singleton has the tools to be an average first baseman but made too many careless errors in 2012. He's a well below-average defender in left field, where his lack of speed and arm strength hinder him. Scouts would like to see him play with more energy.

The Future: Singleton remains the best first-base prospect in baseball. Brett Wallace hasn't sewn up the big league starting job, leaving the door open for Singleton as soon as he proves he's ready. His next stop is Triple-A Oklahoma City.

'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
'12 Corpus Christi (AA) 461 94 131 27 4 21 79 88 131 7 2 .284 .396 .497
Minor League Totals 1386 238 403 84 7 50 231 238 341 20 12 .291 .394 .470

3. George Springer, of Born: Sep 19, 1989 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Connecticut, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: John Kosciak
George SpringerBackground: The highest-drafted player in Connecticut history, Springer went 11th overall and signed for $2.525 million in 2011. In his first full pro season, he ranked in the top six in the high Class A California League in all three slash stats at .316/.398/.557 before finishing at Double-A Corpus Christi.

Scouting Report: Springer is a true power-speed threat. His strong, quick hands generate tremendous whip and bat speed, giving him power to all fields. He doesn't have to cheat to drive the ball, but he does leak out with his front side at times, leading to strikeouts. He tends to play too fast, though scouts think he'll adjust with experience. Springer's above-average speed plays well on the bases and in center field, and managers rated him the Cal League's top defensive outfielder. His arm is above-average as well. His energy is infectious, and the Astros credit him with helping Delino DeShields Jr. play harder after rooming with him in instructional league and spring training.

The Future: If Springer can make more consistent contact, he'll be a five-tool player. Whether he sticks in center field or shifts to right will depend in part on how other players fall into place. He'll return to Double-A to start 2013 and could hit his way to the majors before season's end.

'11 Tri-City (SS) 28 8 5 3 0 1 3 2 2 4 0 .179 .303 .393
'12 Lancaster (HiA) 433 101 137 18 10 22 82 56 131 28 6 .316 .398 .557
'12 Corpus Christi (AA) 73 8 16 3 0 2 5 6 25 4 2 .219 .288 .342
Minor League Totals 534 117 158 24 10 25 90 64 158 36 8 .296 .378 .519

4. Lance McCullers, rhp Born: Oct 2, 1993 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Jesuit HS, Tampa, 2012 (1st round supplemental).  Signed by: John Martin
Lance McCullersBackground: McCullers' father Lance Sr. was drafted 41st overall in 1982 and pitched seven seasons in the majors. Lance Jr. went in the same spot 30 years later, with his high price tag helping him fall that far. He signed for $2.5 million, the biggest bonus in franchise history for a pitcher.

Scouting Report: Powerful and athletic, McCullers flashed two of the best pitches in the 2012 draft class: a fastball that reaches 100 mph and sits at 93-97 late into games, and a slider with depth and late bite that hits the mid-80s. His changeup shows signs of becoming an average pitch. McCullers pitched sparingly early in his prep career and didn't become a full-time starter until 2012, when he showed a better feel for pitching to go with his electric stuff. He's still new to a starter's routine and will have to improve his control and command to stay in that role. He has effort in his delivery, but scouts credit his Jesuit High (Tampa) pitching coach, 1997 first-round pick Geoff Goetz, with improving it.

The Future: Some scouts believe McCullers will wind up in the bullpen like his father. The Astros will give him every chance to remain in the rotation, and he could be a frontline starter if he does. He'll begin his first full pro season in low Class A.

'12 Astros (R) 0 1 1.64 4 4 0 11 10 2 2 0 2 12 .233
'12 Greeneville (R) 0 3 4.80 4 4 0 15 10 11 8 2 10 17 .182
Minor League Totals 0 4 3.46 8 8 0 26 20 20 10 2 12 29 .204

5. Mike Foltynewicz, rhp Born: Oct 7, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 200
Drafted: Minooka (Ill.) Community HS, 2010 (1st round).  Signed by: Troy Hoerner
Mike FoltynewiczBackground: Foltynewicz signed for $1,305,000 as the 19th overall pick in 2010. After a rough introduction to full-season ball in 2011, he benefited as much as any Astros farmhand from increased depth in the organization. He repeated low Class A in 2012 and was named the South Atlantic League's pitcher of the year, tying for the league lead in wins (14) while ranking fourth in ERA (3.14).

Scouting Report: More mature physically and in terms of his preparation, Foltynewicz learned to pitch off his fastball in 2012. He now relies more on a four-seamer that ranges from 93-99 mph, a pitch he pairs with his curveball to work up and down in the strike zone. His curve shows signs of becoming a plus pitch with good shape and bite, though it gets slow and loopy at times. Scouts see the ability to spin a breaking ball, however. Foltynewicz's changeup remains ahead of his curve, earning average to plus grades from scouts. He has an ideal frame with athleticism, and the Astros believe he should develop into an innings-eater. He's still a bit raw when it comes to defense and holding runners.

The Future: Improving his fastball command and the consistency of his secondary pitches are Foltynewicz's goals for 2013, when he'll either have to survive high Class A Lancaster or skip a level to Double-A. He has the upside of a No. 2 starter.

'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
'12 Lexington (LoA) 14 4 3.14 27 27 0 152 145 65 53 11 62 125 .241
Minor League Totals 19 18 4.00 65 65 0 331 340 340 147 24 128 252 .255

6. Delino DeShields, 2b Born: Aug 16, 1992 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 210
Drafted: Woodward Academy, College Park, Ga., 2010 (1st round).  Signed by: Lincoln Martin
Delino DeShieldsBackground: Delino DeShields Sr. stole 463 bases in a 13-year big league career and now manages in the Reds system. He helped mentor Billy Hamilton, whose pro-record 155 stolen bases in 2012 obscured the fact that DeShields Jr.—who signed for $2.125 million as the eighth overall pick in 2010—stole 101 himself in a breakout year.

Scouting Report: Humbled after hitting .220/.305/.322 at low Class A in 2011, DeShields got in better shape and regained his speed, which grades as a 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also played harder and smarter, and his bat heated up when he stopped trying to pull everything and used the whole field. He's surprisingly strong for his size and could develop average power. He draws walks, so he'll profile as an elite leadoff hitter if he can maintain his improvements. DeShields is an aggressive basestealer who reads pitchers well and has a quick first step. He also has worked to grow as a defender, improving his footwork around the bag at second, though his arm strength and accuracy remain erratic.

The Future: DeShields batted .318 in the California League playoffs and may advance to Double-A to start 2013. If he can't stay at second base, center field is always an option for a player with his explosive speed.

'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
'12 Lexington (LoA) 440 96 131 22 5 10 52 70 108 83 14 .298 .401 .439
'12 Lancaster (HiA) 97 17 23 2 3 2 9 13 23 18 5 .237 .336 .381
Minor League Totals 1082 200 279 47 11 21 117 141 269 136 31 .258 .350 .380

7. 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
Jarred CosartBackground: Signed by the Phillies for $550,000 in 2008, Cosart quickly emerged as one of their more electric arms. Houston targeted him and Singleton in the 2011 Hunter Pence trade, but blisters interrupted his first full season with the Astros in 2012. He rallied late, allowing no earned runs in five of his last 10 starts, then threw well in the Arizona Fall League despite poor numbers.

Scouting Report: Cosart has a live, quick arm that produces a hard sinker that sits at 94-97 mph and touched 99 in the AFL. His fastball has excellent life down in the zone, which produces plenty of ground balls but makes the pitch tough to control. He excels at keeping the ball in the park, and he nearly got as many double plays (18) as he allowed extra-base hits (26) in 2012. Cosart throws his curveball with power, reaching 81-82 mph with good shape, and his solid straight changeup plays off his fastball well. Better command of his curveball would produce the strikeouts expected of a pitcher with such electric stuff.

The Future: Cosart has shown flashes of brilliance but not consistency. While Houston intends to keep developing him as a starter, many scouts believe he'll wind up a closer. He's slated for the Triple-A rotation to start 2013.

'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
'12 Corpus Christi (AA) 5 5 3.52 15 15 0 87 83 37 34 3 38 68 .241
'12 Oklahoma City (AAA) 1 2 2.60 6 5 0 28 26 10 8 0 13 24 .239
Minor League Totals 25 22 3.66 69 65 0 354 312 312 144 17 130 295 .227

8. Rio Ruiz, 3b Born: May 22, 1994 B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180
Drafted: Bishop Amat HS, La Puente, Calif., 2012 (4th round).  Signed by: Tim Costic
Rio RuizBackground: Ruiz was a high-profile prep athlete as a star quarterback and baseball player at Bishop Amat High (La Puente, Calif.), the alma mater of Michael Young and several NFL players. A sprained left knee sidelined Ruiz as a senior in football, and a blood clot in his neck that required surgery ended his baseball season in March. The Astros had scouted him extensively and believed he had the sweetest swing in the 2012 draft, so they invested a fourth-round pick and $1.85 million in him.

Scouting Report: Houston loves Ruiz's pretty swing path, track record of hitting and balance at the plate. He has powerful hands and forearms, producing homers with strength and bat speed. Some club officials project him as a plus-plus hitter with above-average power, though area scouts saw Ruiz as merely solid in both regards. He has plenty of arm strength for third base, having hit 95 mph off the mound as a junior. He's athletic with good body control and soft hands, so he should just need repetitions to become a dependable defender. He has below-average speed.

The Future: As a lefthanded-hitting, Southern California third baseman with power and an easygoing demeanor, he draws comparisons to Eric Chavez. Ruiz will play alongside No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa in low Class A in 2013.

'12 Astros (R) 85 13 23 8 2 0 11 12 22 2 0 .271 .361 .412
'12 Greeneville (R) 50 8 11 3 1 1 7 4 10 0 0 .220 .291 .380
Minor League Totals 135 21 34 11 3 1 18 16 32 2 0 .252 .336 .400

9. Nick Tropeano, rhp Born: Aug 27, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205
Drafted: Stony Brook, 2011 (5th round).  Signed by: John Kosciak
Nick TropeanoBackground: Before the whole world found out about Stony Brook with its trip to the 2012 College World Series, Tropeano served as the team's ace the previous two seasons. The first two-time America East Conference pitcher of the year, he has gone 15-9, 2.85 since signing for $155,700 as a 2011 sixth-round pick.

Scouting Report: Tropeano's plus changeup has been his out pitch since his amateur days. He throws it with good arm speed, and it features fade and sink. It's even more effective now that he pitches off his fastball more and has added velocity. He worked at 86-90 mph in college but now sits at 90-95 mph, thanks to using his fastball more often and incorporating his lower half better in his delivery. Tropeano also throws a solid split-finger fastball that gets swings and misses when it's on. His slurvy slider remains below-average and he gets on the side of it too often, though he keeps it down in the strike zone. He needs to focus on making it shorter and deeper instead of forcing the spin and getting on the side of the ball. He throws strikes and commands his fastball well.

The Future: Following a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League, Tropeano is headed for a faster track in 2013. He'll open the season in Double-A and may not be much more than a year away from the majors. He has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter.

'11 Tri-City (SS) 3 2 2.36 12 12 0 53 42 18 14 1 21 63 .208
'12 Lexington (LoA) 6 4 2.78 15 14 0 87 77 29 27 3 26 97 .227
'12 Lancaster (HiA) 6 3 3.31 12 12 0 71 72 37 26 8 21 69 .254
Minor League Totals 15 9 2.86 39 38 0 211 191 191 67 12 68 229 .232

10. Nolan Fontana, ss Born: Jun 6, 1991 B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Florida, 2012 (2nd round).  Signed by: John Martin
Nolan FontanaBackground: Fontana's grandfather Lew Burdette won 203 games in the majors and beat the Yankees three times in the Braves' 1957 World Series triumph. Fontana made three College World Series trips as Florida's starting shortstop, making just 23 errors in three seasons. The 61st pick in the 2012 draft, he signed for $844,100 and went straight to low Class A.

Scouting Report: Fontana evokes compliments such as "ballplayer" and "grinder." He has excellent defensive instincts, soft hands and solid arm strength. He doesn't have ideal range for a shortstop, but it would shock few scouts if he willed himself to be an average big league defender there. He would thrive at second base and provides enough offense to profile there. Fontana knows the strike zone, works counts and handles the bat well. He walked 65 times in 49 pro games, though he struck out 44 times and may need to get a little more aggressive. He has doubles power to the gaps, above-average speed and good baserunning instincts. He wore down at the end of the season and will have to get stronger to hold up over a 162-game schedule.

The Future: While Fontana may not be a star, scouts are certain he'll be a big leaguer, likely in the mold of another former Gator, David Eckstein. Fontana will push toolsier shortstops Jonathan Villar and Jio Mier in 2013 and could start his first full pro season in Double-A.

'12 Lexington (LoA) 151 37 34 9 1 2 25 65 44 12 2 .225 .464 .338
Minor League Totals 151 37 34 9 1 2 25 65 44 12 2 .225 .464 .338