2005 Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects

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, 2005.

1. Chris Burke, 2b
2. Ezequiel Astacio, rhp
3. Willy Taveras, of
4. Mitch Einertson, of
5. Troy Patton, lhp
6. Matt Albers, rhp
7. Taylor Buchholz, rhp
8. Fernando Nieve, rhp
9. Josh Anderson, of
10. Hunter Pence, of
Best Hitter for Average Chris Burke
Best Power Hitter Mitch Einertson
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Todd Self
Fastest Baserunner Willy Taveras
Best Athlete Charlton Jimerson
Best Fastball Ezequiel Astacio
Best Curveball Taylor Buchholz
Best Slider Chad Qualls
Best Changeup Mitch Talbot
Best Control Ezequiel Astacio
Best Defensive Catcher Hector Gimenez
Best Defensive Infielder Wladimir Sutil
Best Infield Arm Tommy Whiteman
Best Defensive Outfielder Willy Taveras
Best Outfield Arm Charlton Jimerson
1995 Brian Hunter, of
1996 Billy Wagner, lhp
1997 Richard Hidalgo, of
1998 Richard Hidalgo, of
1999 Lance Berkman, of
2000 Wilfredo Rodriguez, lhp
2001 Roy Oswalt, rhp
2002 Carlos Hernandez, lhp
2003 John Buck, c
2004 Taylor Buchholz, rhp
1995 Tony McKnight, rhp
1996 Mark Johnson, rhp
1997 Lance Berkman, 1b
1998 Brad Lidge, rhp
1999 Mike Rosamond, of
2000 Robert Stiehl, rhp
2001 Chris Burke, ss
2002 Derick Grigsby, rhp
2003 Jason Hirsh, rhp (2nd round)
2004 Hunter Pence, of (2nd round)
Chris Burke, 2001 $2,125,000
Robert Stiehl, 2000 $1,250,000
Derick Grigsby, 2002 $1,125,000
Brad Lidge, 1998 $1,070,000
Lance Berkman, 1997 $1,000,000

After underachieving in 2002 and 2003, the Astros appeared to be doing more of the same last year. By late August, they had wasted most of the buzz from bringing Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte back home and hosting their first All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park. When Houston dropped two of three home games to the Cubs, it fell to 61-62 and a distant sixth in the National League wild-card race.

Then the Astros suddenly reversed course, winning 31 of their final 39 games to surge into the playoffs. They beat the Braves in the Division Series and took a three-games-to-two lead in the Championship Series before the Cardinals rallied to deny them a trip to the World Series. That disappointment only took away slightly from the most successful season in the franchise�s 44-year history, both on the field (Houston never had won a postseason series before) and at the box office (the club drew a record 3,087,872 fans).

Shortly after the World Series ended, the architect of the Astros� success resigned. General manager Gerry Hunsicker tired of haggling with owner Drayton McLane over big league payroll and player-development costs. Hunsicker presided over five playoff teams in nine years. Though he never had the biggest budget or the deepest farm system, Hunsicker was able to make trades both large (Carlos Beltran) and small (Brandon Backe) to address the team�s needs.

Fortunately for Houston, it had one of the game�s top GM prospects on hand to replace Hunsicker. Assistant GM/farm director Tim Purpura was immediately promoted and spent much of his first winter as GM waiting for Beltran to decide if he�d accept a club-record $105 million contract offer. Beltran ultimately declined, costing the Astros a dynamic talent.

Virtually every key management position has seen a change since the beginning of the 2004 season. Houston hired Tigers farm director Ricky Bennett to fill Purpura�s old role. Hunsicker reassigned scouting director David Lakey in June and gave those duties to Paul Ricciarini, the club�s coordinator of pro scouting.

The farm system has gone through upheaval on the field as well, after sliding from third in Baseball America�s talent ratings after 2001 to 29th after 2003. Five of Houston�s 10 best prospects, including four of the top five, have joined the organization since the end of the 2003 season.

Righthanders Ezequiel Astacio and Taylor Buchholz arrived in the Billy Wagner trade with the Phillies. Outfielder Willy Taveras was plucked from the Indians in the major league Rule 5 draft, and Hunsicker swung a deal with Cleveland to retain his rights. Outfielders Mitch Einerston and Hunter Pence and lefthander Troy Patton were products of Lakey�s last draft, with early returns indicating it may have been one of his best. Einertson, Pence, Patton and several other draft picks contributed heavily to Astros affiliates winning championships in the short-season New York-Penn and Rookie-level Appalachian leagues.

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