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Lyles starred in three sports at Hartsville (S.C.) High. While he used his 6-foot-4 frame to start in basketball, Lyles stood out more in baseball and football. As a prep senior, he was an all-state wide receiver with had 81 catches for 1,568 yards and 23 touchdowns for 1,568 yards. His three-sport background kept him off the baseball showcase circuit, but he entered the spring of 2008 as the top prep prospect in Palmetto State and committed to South Carolina. Coached by 1994 Braves first-round pick Jacob Shumate at Hartsville, Lyles came out of basketball season throwing just 86-88 mph. Astros area scout J.D. Alleva and crosschecker Clarence Johns stayed on him all spring, and Lyles' velocity became more consistent as he got into baseball mode. He clinched Houston's interest with a strong workout at Minute Maid Park, where he hit 90 mph and commanded his fastball well. The Astros drafted him 38th overall and signed him for $930,000. Considered an overdraft at the time, Lyles has made Houston look smart. He has breezed through the minors and was the only teenager to play in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2010. Lyles has mound presence and a knack for pitching that are beyond his years. He throws four average to plus pitches, and his athleticism, clean arm action and textbook delivery help him throw quality strikes with all of them. His fastball sits at 88-93 mph with average life. He commands it well down in the strike zone and to both sides of the plate. While his fastball grades out as a tick above-average thanks to his command, his slider and changeup are true plus pitches. Scouts prefer his changeup, which he throws with good arm speed and has some depth. At times, it's a 70 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. His changeup helped him neutralize lefthanders at Double-A Corpus Christi, though he was hit harder at Triple-A Round Rock. Lyles throws a low-80s slider with depth and also a cutter that reaches as high as 87 mph. He's able to pitch inside well with the fastball and cutter, which helps him saw off hitters and sets up his changeup on the outside corner. Lyles has great body control, allowing him to repeat his delivery and pound the strike zone. He has been durable as a pro, never missing a start and pitching a career-high 159 innings last year. He may gain a little more fastball velocity as he matures physically, but Lyles doesn't overpower hitters and won't be a power pitcher. He profiles as a No. 3 starter on a major league contender. Manager Brad Mills says Lyles is a leading candidate for the fifth spot in Houston's rotation, competing with journeyman Nelson Figueroa, freeagent signee Ryan Rowland- Smith and Rule 5 draft picks Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton. Lyles could use some time to solve Triple-A hitters, but he'll pitch in the big leagues in 2011, whether it's in April or later.
Rated by Baseball America's as the top 12-year-old prospect in 2005, DeShields has worn the spotlight that comes with that notoriety and his name for years. His father Delino Sr. played 13 seasons in the majors and was traded straight up for Pedro Martinez in 1993. The son went eighth overall in the 2010 draft--four spots higher than his old man went in 1987--and signed for $2.125 million, a franchise draft record. Few 2010 draftees can match DeShields' athleticism, top-of-the-line speed and sheer explosiveness. He's an 80 runner and should be even more of a basestealing threat than his dad, who swiped 463 bases in the big leagues. His bat speed helps him catch up to the best of fastballs, and he has the strength to project to hit for average power. His swing is fairly low-maintenance and compact. The Astros started DeShields in the center field and intended to move him to second base in instructional league until elbow soreness kept him from throwing. He has a below-average arm, but it's fine for second or center. While his low-energy body language put off some scouts, Houston believes in his makeup. The Astros expect DeShields to be healthy enough to give second base a try in 2011 at low Class A Lexington. His bat will play anywhere. He projects as a leadoff man or possibly a No. 3 hitter.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $105,000, Villar began blowing up as a prospect when he made his full-season debut last year. The Astros targeted him in the Roy Oswalt trade, securing him as the key piece after general manager Ed Wade saw him play in person. They immediately pushed Villar to high Class A Lancaster after acquiring him. He has impressive raw tools, with his speed, arm and defense all rating ahead of his bat at this point. That's not a huge shock considering he has plus-plus speed and arm strength, and some scouts think his shortstop play will be just as good once he develops. He has excellent range, especially to his left. The game still gets too quick for him at times, which contributed to his 56 errors in 130 games last year. Villar is overly aggressive at the plate, and his swing (especially from the left side) can get long. He has a hitch in his lefthanded stroke and will have to shorten up to make more consistent contact. He doesn't have much power, though it's not an important part of his game. He needs to polish his skills, but Villar has huge upside as a switch-hitting, top-of-the-order disruptor and potential Gold Glove shortstop. With 2009 first-round pick Jio Mier pushing him from behind, he could spend 2011 in Double-A.
Foltynewicz gave up a three-run homer in the afternoon on draft day last June, but got a lift that evening when the Astros made him the first Illinois high school pitcher drafted in the first round since Kris Honel in 2001. They bought him out of a Texas scholarship with a $1.305 million bonus, the second-largest Houston ever has given to a pitcher. While Jordan Lyles is a better overall prospect, Foltynewicz has the best raw arm in the system and flashes three plus pitches. His fastball hit 96 in the spring and sat at 93-96 mph in instructional league, though it dipped into the upper 80s at times during his debut. He has good life on his fastball and pitches aggressively with it. His changeup was his best pitch in his debut, featuring heavy late sink and good arm speed, and it comes out looking like his fastball. Houston tightened up his slurvy breaking ball in instructional league, and if the changes take he'll have a true curveball in the upper 70s. His delivery is fairly clean and his arm works well. Ticketed for low Class A in 2011, Foltynewicz has a high ceiling and just needs innings to improve his feel and command. If he maintains his top-end velocity and improved breaking ball, he could be a future front-of-the-rotation starter.
The first prep shortstop drafted in 2009, Mier signed for $1.358 million, then ranked as the top position prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League after hitting .276/.380/.484. His first full pro season was rougher, as he was hitting .199 as late as June 17. He grinded his way through the season, however, batting .260 in the second half and ranking sixth in the low Class A South Atlantic League with 63 walks. Mier draws J.J. Hardy comparisons as a solid athlete with smooth actions and sound fundamental skills at shortstop. He's fairly consistent and projects as a possible plus defender with soft hands and a slightly above-average arm. He controls the strike zone and has average raw power. He has a frame capable of carrying more weight and will have to eat better and get stronger after losing 15 pounds during last season. While Mier has a quick bat when he's right, his slow start led to pressing and a stiff, robotic stroke as he worried about his swing mechanics. He struggled at times with his first serious bout of adversity. He has average speed. The acquisition of Jonathan Villar pushed Mier down the organization's depth chart. Villar is younger but has played at a higher level, and the Astros will separate them in 2011. Mier figures to start the season in high Class A
Nova Southeastern had four players drafted in 2009. The Astros had a strong report on Martinez thanks to area scout Greg Brown, who since has become the Fort Lauderdalebased NAIA school's head coach. Martinez signed for $30,000 as a 20th-round pick, then won the short-season New York-Penn League batting title (.326) in his pro debut. He won the South Atlantic League MVP award after leading the league in hitting (.362), on-base percentage (.433) and slugging (.598), and he ranked second overall in the minors in hits (183) while reaching Double-A. A late bloomer physically, Martinez has added 20 pounds since signing, gaining strength for his unorthodox swing. He gets his front foot down early, lays the bat back and then unloads with good natural timing. Despite the front-foot approach, he recognizes pitches, stays back on breaking balls and squares up good pitches. His flat swing path means much of his power is to the gaps, and he projects to hit 35-40 doubles and 15-20 homers annually. He's capable in right field and has an accurate arm but profiles better in left because he has below-average speed and fringy arm strength. Martinez already has moved quickly and will start 2011 back in Double-A. If Houston finds a taker for Carlos Lee's albatross contract, Martinez could provide a high-energy, low-cost replacement. He profiles as a second-division regular.
Paredes advanced slowly through the Yankees system, in part because of 2008 shoulder surgery that pushed him to the right side of the infield. He showed enough tools in his 2010 full-season debut to be the key prospect the Astros got from New York in the Lance Berkman trade. Paredes ranked second in the South Atlantic League in hits (158) and third in steals (50). Houston has targeted athletes and speed while rebuilding its farm system, and Paredes fits the mold. He's both quick and fast, with an explosive first step and easy plus speed. He already has a feel for stealing bases, getting caught just 11 times last year. A switch-hitter, he has more power and a better swing from the right side. As a lefty, he has a contactoriented approach and needs to incorporate his lower half more in his swing. Paredes' arm strength has returned to average, and he has decent hands and infield actions. Footwork was a problem for him at second base, and most scouts discount his ability to stay in the middle infield. Some see him as a better fit in center field or as an offensive-minded utilityman. The Astros moved Paredes to third base in instructional league and were pleased with the results, adding him to the 40-man roster. He'll play the hot corner in high Class A this year.
Bushue split time between baseball and basketball in high school, and his athleticism attracted the Astros. He wasn't expected to be a second-round pick in 2009, but his late helium, projectable frame and flashes of 93-mph heat prompted Houston to jump up and draft him there. Lexington's youngest player for much of 2010, he missed two weeks with a toe injury that required postseason surgery but still led the Legends with 134 innings--and the South Atlantic League with 18 homers allowed. The owner of the system's best curveball, Bushue uses a high arm slot to throw it with plenty of depth. He commands the curve well and misses bats with it. His velocity backed up in his first full season, with his fastball usually sitting at 86-88 mph and his curve operating at 69-73. He'll need to add strength and improve his finish in his delivery to get to the low-90s fastball the Astros and most scouts who saw him as an amateur projected him to have. Bushue has decent feel for his developing changeup. His delivery is fluid and he throws with ease, giving him good control. Houston hopes Bushue's experience, full health and some added strength will lead to improved velocity in 2011. He'll need it as he heads to Lancaster's launching pad.
Wates was an NCAA Division I recruit in soccer as well as baseball, hinting at his athletic ability. He established himself as a prospect by hitting .312 with wood bats in the summer Cape Cod League in 2009. He hit .367 as a three-year starter at Virginia Tech, where he was one of a school-record eight Hokies drafted in 2010, signing for $550,000 as the 90th overall pick. While he played first base and the outfield corners in college, Wates profiles best in center field thanks to his above-average speed and athleticism. His belowaverage arm is playable in center, and his bat fits better there. Wates has an unorthodox swing that's short but a bit loopy. While he has a knack for barreling balls and uses the entire field, his swing path lends itself to average power at best. He has a polished approach, having developed better patience and improved pitch recognition as he's gained experience. He also has good instincts on the bases. An athlete who can hit, Wates has a chance to be a Shannon Stewart type of offensive player with center-field ability as a bonus. His polish gives him the chance to move quickly, and he could start his first full pro season in high Class A.
Houston once owned a virtual monopoly on top Venezuelan talent, but that pipeline dried up when scout Andres Reiner moved on to the Rays. Now the Astros are trying to re-establish themselves in Latin America, which led to signing Ovando for a franchiserecord $2.6 million last July. They announced the signing with a lengthy press release comparing him physically to players such as Cliff Floyd, Jason Heyward and Darryl Strawberry. Big money in Latin America often goes to players who show present hitting ability and power, and that describes Ovando. The Astros like his feel for hitting and solid pitch-recognition skills for his age, which make them confident he'll get to his plus raw power. His swing has a lot of movement in it, but Houston believes he can tone that down while maintaining his natural rhythm. His long, lean frame leads to some length and holes in his swing. The Astros project Ovando as a future right fielder, though he has inconsistent throwing mechanics and grades on his arm strength range from below- to above-average. He's a fringe-average runner who should slow down as his body thickens. Ovando had a solid instructional league while facing the best pitching he's ever seen, an encouraging start. He'll begin 2011 in extended spring training before making his pro debut with one of the organization's two Rookie-level teams.
Looking for competition for their No. 5 starter spot, the Astros double-dipped in the major league Rule 5 draft pool, starting with Rodriguez (and followed by Yankees farmhand Lance Pendleton in the second round). He's a good fit for the back of the rotation with a track record for durability. Originally signed by the Rockies, Rodriguez went to the Rays in the spring of 2009 in a trade for Jason Hammel. Rodriguez was once considered a projection righthander but has never filled out physically or added significant velocity. He tends to cut off his delivery and doesn't get enough extension out front. He has become a reliable starter, with four pitches that peak at average and often are fringy. His fastball sat at 88-92 mph last season, but he threw harder in the winter Dominican League, working at 90-91 and touching 93. He throws both a slurvy curveball in the upper 70s, and a mid-80s cutter-type slider. When it's on, the slider stands out as his best secondary pitch, with late tilt. His changeup remains fringy, and he's a flyball pitcher. Rodriguez will compete with Jordan Lyles, almost three years his junior, and veteran Nelson Figueroa for the fifth starter spot. If he doesn't win it, he'll likely be placed on waivers and offered back to the Rays rather than shifted to the bullpen.
Velasquez would rank in our Astros Top 10 if not for postseason Tommy John surgery, and he's not expected to pitch until instructional league in 2011. While the track record for players recovering from that procedure is strong, Velasquez still has a long rehabilitation road ahead of him. In his brief pro debut, he showed athleticism, a projectable body and good present stuff. A two-way recruit who would have played shortstop and pitched had he made it to Cal State Fullerton, Velasquez signed for $655,830 as a second-round pick last June. He has a fluid delivery and good arm strength, showing average present fastball velocity with more to come. He sat at 88-93 mph after signing, and his curveball has some power as well. He showed an aggressive approach and willingness to attack hitters inside with his fastball. His changeup is advanced for a high school pitcher, especially one with his limited experience, and some scouts grade it as a future plus pitch. He missed much of his junior season with a stress fracture and ligament strain, though he still played shortstop and outfield and even tried throwing lefthanded. Now he'll miss another year of development.
Nash has the best raw power in the organization, and with righthanded power getting harder to find, he has definite value. The 100th overall pick in the 2009 draft, he played with 2008 No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham at Griffin (Ga.) High and has moved from first base to left field as a pro. He's a below-average runner and has solid arm strength, and he's a fair athlete who played tight end and defensive end in high school football. The Astros plan to keep him in left field as long as possible, and he'll have to commit to himself more to defense for the move to take. His strength plays best at the plate, where he generates good bat speed and has plenty of leverage. Some scouts gave his raw power well above-average grades when he was an amateur, and he ranked fourth in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in home runs. He has some feel for hitting despite his high strikeout totals, and the Astros see him developing into a .250-.260 hitter with 30-homer power. Nash is strong enough to drive the ball to the opposite field but is raw at the plate due to his football focus in high school. He responded well to instruction, especially from outfield and baserunning coordinator Eric Young, who has left the organization to become Arizona's first-base coach. Nash figures to hit in the middle of the order for Lexington in 2011 and may need 2,000 pro at-bats to get it all figured out.
Kvasnicka was a second-generation Minnesota player and is now a second-generation pro. His father Jay played for the Gophers, was a Twins eighth-round pick in 1988 and topped out in Triple-A. Mike was drafted by the Twins out of high school but went to college instead and became a three-year starter at Minnesota, leading the Big Ten Conference in doubles as a junior. Kvasnicka was an all-conference choice as an outfielder his last two seasons, but as a junior he attracted draft interest at catcher. The Astros drafted him in the supplemental first round and signed him for $936,000 last June. They liked his power potential, athleticism and defensive versatility. He split most of his pro debut between right field and the hot corner, and he also spent five games behind the plate. He's physical and has the strength and bat potential to fit a corner spot. He switch-hits with a sound swing and power from both sides. Kvasnicka started convincing skeptical Astros coaches that he could handle third base in instructional league, as his baseball savvy and work ethic helped him make rapid improvements. His hands and feet work well enough that he should become an average defender, and he has a solid, accurate arm. He has fringy speed but moves well for his size. Kvasnicka profiles well if he can handle third base, so the Astros will watch his defense closely when he makes his full-season debut in low Class A.
It's understandable how Alaniz slipped through the cracks of the draft. The tall, projectable righty was injured midway through the 2008 high school season, then a swine flu outbreak in the Rio Grande Valley canceled his 2009 high school baseball season. Alaniz already had made an impression on area scout Rusty Pendergrass, who followed him during the summer as Alaniz tried to make up for lost time by pitching in summer league games at Atlanta's East Cobb complex and various tryouts. He touched 95 mph in the Astros workout Pendergrass set up, and Houston won his services with a $150,000 bonus. Alaniz led Rookie-level Greeneville in wins in his debut and generally dominated with the exception of three awful starts, when he yielded 21 of his 32 runs in eight innings. He showed good life on his fastball, which reached 94 mph after signing and sat at 90-91, and impressed with his ability to locate it. His curveball ranks as the best in a system populated more by sliders than curves. It's an average pitch with depth when he stays on top of it, and it can get better because he has a nice ability to spin it. His changeup has good sink and gives him a third potential average to plus pitch. Alaniz has to be more consistent with his mechanics and release point, but his upside is intriguing. He's set to join the Lexington rotation in 2011.
Abad is one of the Astros' biggest success stories. It took him seven seasons to get past A-ball, and in 2009 he made three Double-A starts and earned a 40-man roster spot. He followed that up by jumping from Corpus Christi to the major leagues in 2010--despite missing six weeks with a shoulder strain--and finishing the year in the big league bullpen after a brief return to Triple-A. Abad has the fastball command and solid changeup to start, though he's had a hard time staying healthy as a starter. His fastball can touch 93-94 mph and usually operates at 88-91. He has natural deception in his delivery and has maintained looseness in his arm while adding 35 pounds since signing. He has average fastball command and excellent control, with a career walk rate of 1.4 per nine innings in the minors. Abad varies the speed on his slurvy breaking ball, which has inconsistent shape and varies from below average to fringy. He impressed manager Brad Mills in his big league callup, and while he could get a shot at the fifth starter competition, he'll more likely fill a lefty reliever role in Houston.
Signed for an over-slot $700,000 bonus as a supplemental third-rounder in 2008, Seaton had the unenviable task last season of being the workhorse pitcher for Lancaster, where the wind howls out past the outfield fences and the dry infield is one of the minors' fastest. He had some of the worst numbers in the minor leagues, ranking fourth-worst in ERA and seventh in hits allowed. The Astros admit it's difficult to evaluate players at Lancaster, and Seaton is a fine example. At home, he posted a 9.16 ERA and gave up 16 home runs in 56 innings, with a .387 opponent average. On the road, he allowed six homers in 90 innings and a .283 average. Seaton's stuff was better in 2010 than in his first full season, as his velocity returned to prep levels. His two-seam fastball sat at 90-91 mph, and he ran his four-seamer back to 94. He also maintained his velocity throughout the season, and took every turn for the second straight year. Seaton can spin a breaking ball, and at times his slider has two-plane break, giving him a strikeout pitch. His firm changeup has its moments. Seaton doesn't get a ton of movement on his fastball, and leaves it up in the zone when he doesn't finish off his delivery. He doesn't locate well when he's behind in the count. His delivery got more out of whack out of the stretch, though his numbers were better with runners on base. Seaton is a hard worker and student of the game, and the Astros are encouraged by his velocity. He'd likely return to the high Class A if not for Lancaster's unforgiving environment, but a promotion to Corpus Christi is likely.
Shuck had a 3.87 ERA in 223 innings at Ohio State and slugged .409 with metal bats as a two-way player, with 34 stolen bases and one home run. His best tool always was his above-average speed, and the Astros drafted him as an outfielder. He has already reached Triple-A and was off to a hot start in the Arizona Fall League (7-for- 20) before a knee strain shut him down. Shuck has good bat control and a slashing approach. He has excellent plate coverage and isn't afraid of hitting with two strikes. He has walked more than he has struck out in the minors and has the best strike-zone discipline in the system. He's an above-average runner who has posted sub- 4.0 seconds times to first base. Shuck remains an inefficient baserunner who needs to become more aggressive and smarter as a basestealer. His arm is below-average but playable in left or center field. He fits better in left, and the Astros would like to see Shuck work harder on his defense, so they can see if he could handle center long-term. One club official compared his game to that of Dave Roberts, who moved much slower through the minors than Shuck and was a good fourth outfielder on championship-caliber clubs in Cleveland and Boston. Shuck figures to start 2011 back in Triple-A at the Astros' new Oklahoma City affiliate. He should earn a 40-man roster spot after the season, unless he secures one with a big league callup first.
Inside and outside the organization, scouts were stunned at the lack of athleticism in Houston's farm system when Bobby Heck took over as scouting director. Starting with his first draft in 2008, Heck has emphasized athleticism, often over instincts, and Austin is perhaps the greatest example of this. Houston signed him away from a Southern California scholarship for a $715,000 bonus, and he remains one of the system's best athletes. However, he has put in two full seasons and remains green, raw and unskilled. His bat has lagged behind as he struggles in many aspects. He remains both undisciplined and poor at pitch recognition. He hasn't picked up bunting yet, nor has he become the student of the game he needs to be. His pure talent has gotten him this far, as he slaps pitches the other way and uses his well above-average speed to beat out hits and steal bases. He led the high Class A California League with 54 steals last season (though he was caught 20 times) and plays a strong center field, with good range that could become better with improved jumps and routes. Austin's arm has backed up as a pro, and is merely fringy though he once hit 90 mph off the mound as an amateur. He's young and his numbers weren't stunning for Lancaster, so he could return there to begin 2011.
DeLeon was converted to pitching in 2010 and finished the season on the 40-man roster. A shortstop for his first four pro seasons, he hit .213 with just six home runs and 173 strikeouts in 653 at-bats. He showed the biggest arm in the system this year, running his fastball up as high as 98 mph and sitting at 94-96 out of the bullpen. DeLeon dominated the New York-Penn League essentially with one pitch, though he showed more confidence in his short, show-me slider as the season wore on. The Astros stretched DeLeon out late in the season, as he threw 82⁄3 innings in his final four outings, including a save in Tri-City's NY-P championship run. There's nothing subtle about DeLeon, who has a quick arm and lets it fly. He's athletic enough to project him to have average control down the line, but his lack of experience could be more exposed as he heads to full-season ball as a pitcher. He could begin the year in low Class A with a chance to skip a level to Corpus Christi if he gets off to a strong start.
Heath had hit just three home runs in his first two seasons at Penn State, but he hit 29 in 2010 between college and pro ball. He set a new Penn State single-season record with 19 in the spring, then slammed 10 more in his pro debut after signing for $160,000 as a fifth-round pick. Heath has more raw power than any 2010 Astros draftee despite a fairly unorthodox swing. Even though he's good-sized, he squats (though not quite as low as Jeff Bagwell) and has a lot of pre-swing movement. He has quick, strong hands and the classic high finish most power hitters have, and while he won't hit for a high average, he should get to his power consistently enough to hit 20-25 homers annually. The question is whether he'll be able to stay behind the plate. He doesn't do much pretty back there and has just average arm strength. He threw out 24 percent of basestealers in his first pro summer. His hands and footwork have to improve for him to be an average receiver down the line. He has to learn to call a game and handle a pro pitching staff, and he got a crash course in doing that in his debut. He runs like a typical catcher. Injuries and the Astros' lack of catching depth allowed Heath to finish the season in Double-A. He's likely to head back a step to Class A in 2011, and he could post amazing numbers if he stays at Lancaster for a while.
The 2009 season was Villar's first full season in the United States, and he earned a spot on the 40-man roster in spite of peaking at low Class A. The Astros sped up his development in 2010, opening him in the Corpus Christi bullpen. He moved into the rotation in July after serving as the Hooks' part-time closer, and he finished the season in the big league bullpen. Villar's best pitch is his changeup, which has depth and fade and at times gets mistaken for a splitter. His changeup and solid command of his 86-92 mph sinking fastball help him neutralize lefthanders, who posted a .677 OPS against him in Double-A. At his best, Villar's slider gives him a third average pitch, but it's more of a groundball pitch than a swing-and-miss offering. Righthanders had a .770 OPS against him. The Astros intend to give Villar a shot to start in spring training, and he's a longshot candidate for their fifth starter's job. Considering he's had more success as a reliever than as a starter, it's more likely that he'll earn a bullpen spot in Houston in 2011.
Keuchel's pedigree suggests he would rank much higher on this list. He was a Friday starter in the Southeastern Conference at Arkansas, and enough of an athlete to be recruited as a quarterback by his hometown college, Tulsa. But he doesn't have the pure stuff to rate as a premium prospect. Keuchel had a successful 2010 season, leading the organization with 174 innings and reaching Double-A. He generates impressive sink on his fastball and changeup, and he gave up just 10 home runs in the hitter-friendly California League--with eight in 58 innings at Lancaster's unforgiving park. His 1.9 walks per nine innings ratio adds to his appeal. The problem is that his fastball has lost velocity since college. He sat at 86-91 mph and touched 93 for the Razorbacks, but his delivery has become stiffer and more mechanical since signing, and he worked at 83-86 in 2010. Keuchel's curveball has been a swing-and-miss pitch at lower levels because he locates it well, but scouts consider it fringy because it breaks early. If he regains velocity and arm speed by improving his tempo and delivery, he should fit at the back of a big league rotation. It's hard to see him continuing to have success otherwise, so the Astros hope his velo bounces back when he returns to Corpus Christi to start 2011.
Greenwalt committed to South Carolina in 2007, part of a recruiting class that helped the Gamecocks win the College World Series in 2010, but he signed with the Astros instead for a $120,000 bonus. He's the only viable member of the Astros' historically thin 2007 draft class, when they lacked a first- or second-round pick and failed to sign their third-, fourth- and eighth-round picks. Greenwalt has never had great success, but he's becoming a durable bulldog on the mound with a back-of-the-rotation ceiling. He threw well in the Arizona Fall League and didn't give up a home run in 15 innings. His fastball will never be a plus pitch, as it sits at 88-91 mph and maxes out at 93, but he gets solid sink on it. His slider and changeup, though, are both plus pitches at times. He has depth to his slider, which helps him get groundballs as well, and sink on his changeup, which most scouts consider his best pitch. He's consistent with his secondary pitches, with decent command of both. His fastball command suffers due to his short arm action and stiff delivery. Greenwalt will report to Double-A and hope to build off his AFL success.
Carpenter was a catcher at West Virginia and in his first year in the minor leagues with the Cardinals. St. Louis shifted him to the mound in the middle of 2008, putting him back in Rookie ball as he learned his new craft. Carpenter has credited Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter as well as another catcher-to-pitcher conversion, Jason Motte, with helping him adjust to the mound. He took to pitching quickly, racking up 32 saves in his first two full seasons before St. Louis traded him to Houston for Pedro Feliz last year. Carpenter showed similar stuff after the trade as he had before, with a good fastball and feel for throwing strikes. His fastball and raw arm strength are his biggest weapons, as he reaches 95 mph and sits in the low 90s. Carpenter's breaking ball is a slurvy slider with some power, reaching 81-82 mph at its best. He goes after hitters but lacks command at this point, and he rushes through his delivery. Added to the 40-man roster, he could work into Houston's sixth- or seventh-inning mix by late 2011 or in 2012.
The Astros know they still have a long way to go to rebuild the farm system and have cast a wide net to find talent. They signed Lo at age 22 out of Taiwan in 2008 for $250,000, after he put together a distinguished career on Taiwan's national teams, including the 2008 Olympic squad and World Baseball Classic roster in 2009. Lo has worked in relief exclusively since signing but missed almost all of the 2010 season with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. He threw his last pitch that counts on April 30. Lo tried to get back on the field with rehabilitation and rest but wasn't ready to let it fly. Astros officials say he'll be ready by spring training, and he never had surgery. When he was healthy, Lo reached 96 mph with his fastball, though it was fairly straight from a high three-quarters arm slot. He had more movement when his fastball ranged from 88-93 mph, and he had plenty of confidence in his heater. He made progress in spring training using his hard, upper 70s curveball more, and it has potential to be an average or better big league pitch. Lo's changeup is more for show than anything, and he's strictly a relief option. Houston's bullpen is wide open, and if healthy Lo could work into that equation with a strong start.
Bogusevic completed the journey from first-round pitcher to big league hitter in 2010, reaching Houston in a September callup. He'll never have a conventional first-round pick's ceiling, but he has a chance to become a useful big league reserve along the lines of John Mabry. A star for Tulane's top-ranked 2005 team as a two-way player, Bogusevic returned to first base in 2010 and should be an average defender there. His average speed and plus arm, a natural carryover from his pitching days, leave him capable in all three outfield spots, ideal for a fourth outfielder. Now he just has to hit his way there. Bogusevic has a quick bat but doesn't have enough strength or loft in his swing to hit for more than below-average power. He has a contact approach yet still strikes out too much, in part because he's willing to work deep counts. His instincts are good for a conversion project, and he's an efficient basestealer and handles lefthanders well (.851 OPS, vs. .752 against righthanders). The total package should allow Bogusevic to carve out a career as a useful reserve in Houston, starting in 2011.
Altuve fits no standard profile. He doesn't lack tools, but he's difficult to compare to other players. He has a unique build, compared by some scouts to a fire hydrant, and some say he is two inches shorter than his listed height. At the end of last season, he may have been 10 pounds lighter as well. But he has baseball skills and enough tools to make things interesting. Defense is his best attribute. He has quick, strong hands that work well at the plate and in the field. He's agile and at times a dazzling second baseman, with arm strength to turn the double play well. He has developed a good rapport with shortstop Jio Mier, whom he has played with the last two seasons, and has gotten in time at third base as well. Offensively, Altuve shows enough power to punish mistakes but mostly plays a No. 2 hitter's game. He uses the whole field, has excellent baserunning skills that augment his average speed and shows the bat control to move runners. Altuve plays with energy that makes him a team leader and keeps winning people over. He may put up big numbers at Lancaster this season but will have to keep proving himself at higher levels to scouts who remain skeptical of a player with such a small body.
Pendleton has flown under the radar since his college days at Rice. He was a reliever on the 2003 national championship team but got more playing time as a hitter, with 20 homers in three seasons. The Yankees drafted him as a pitcher in 2005 and nursed him back from Tommy John surgery in his first pro season. Pendleton has proven his durability since then, tossing 430 innings over the next three seasons and reaching Triple-A in 2010. The Astros plucked him in the second round of the major league Rule 5 draft in December, and Pendleton immediately began working out at Minute Maid Park preparing for 2011. Pendleton throws strikes with an average fastball at 89-93 mph and three fringy secondary pitches: curveball, slider and changeup. His fastball command stands out more than any particular pitch, as he works on a downhill plane and keeps the ball down to both sides of the plate. Some scouts prefer Pendleton's sinking changeup as his best pitch, but he was more effective with his fringy downer curveball, holding righthanders to a .189 average. If Pendleton doesn't snag one of the Astros' 25-man roster spots, he'll have to clear waivers and be offered back to the Yankees before he can be sent to the minors. He has a chance to stick, either as the fifth starter or more likely in a long relief/set-up role.
The Astros have focused on high school pitchers in the last three drafts, and lefty Dallas Keuchel is the only college pitcher in the Top 30. While Jordan Lyles, Mike Foltynewicz and Tanner Bushue exemplify what the Astros are looking for--lean, athletic, projectable prep arms--Grimmett is in the next tier. He made a strong move in 2010, dominating in the first half as a reliever in low Class A before some uneven performances in eight starts down the stretch. Grimmett was headed to Connors State (Okla.) JC with his twin brother Nick, who has since moved on to Arkansas-Little Rock, when the Astros signed him away for a $100,000 bonus. They have found themselves a power arm, as Grimmett's fastball sits at 90-92 mph when he starts and bumps 93-94 repeatedly when he relieves. He throws both a curveball and a slider. His curve is soft, and some scouts consider his slider his best pitch. He throws it with tight rotation and power in the low 80s, has a knack for throwing it for strikes and uses it to neutralize righthanders. Grimmett's changeup has shown flashes but lags behind, and he needs a weapon to give lefthanders something to worry about. His overall command is below average, and he hasn't refined his mechanics enough to earn the label "strike-thrower" yet. If his change comes around, he'll return to a starting role in high Class A this year. He had a strong instructional league in longer three- and fourinning stints, so the Astros are optimistic he can hold down a rotation spot for at least another year.
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