Houston Astros: Top 10 Prospects

Houston Astros

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, 2009.

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1. Jason Castro,
2. Bud Norris, rhp
3. Ross Seaton, rhp
4. Brian Bogusevic, of
5. Chris Johnson, 3b
6. Jordan Lyles, rhp
7. Felipe Paulino, rhp
8. Drew Sutton, 2b/ss
9. Collin DeLome, of
10. Jay Austin, of
Best Hitter for Average Brian Bogusevic
Best Power Hitter Chris Johnson
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Drew Sutton
Fastest Baserunner Jay Austin
Best Athlete Jay Austin
Best Fastball Bud Norris
Best Curveball Ross Seaton
Best Slider Samuel Gervacio
Best Changeup Brad Dydalewicz
Best Control Pollin Trinidad
Best Defensive Catcher Jason Castro
Best Defensive Infielder Tommy Manzella
Best Infield Arm Chris Johnson
Best Defensive Outfielder Josh Flores
Best Outfield Arm Yordany Ramirez
Catcher Jason Castro
First Base Lance Berkman
Second Base Drew Sutton
Third Base Chris Johnson
Shortstop Tommy Manzella
Left Field Carlos Lee
Center Field Michael Bourn
Right Field Hunter Pence
No. 1 Starter Roy Oswalt
No. 2 Starter Bud Norris
No. 3 Starter Ross Seaton
No. 4 Starter Jordan Lyles
No. 5 Starter Wandy Rodriguez
Closer Jose Valverde
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Lance Berkman, of Astros
2000 Wilfredo Rodriguez, lhp Out of baseball
2001 Roy Oswalt, rhp Astros
2002 Carlos Hernandez, lhp Dodgers
2003 John Buck, c Royals
2004 Taylor Buchholz, rhp Rockies
2005 Chris Burke, 2b Diamondbacks
2006 Jason Hirsh, rhp Rockies
2007 Hunter Pence, of Astros
2008 J.R. Towles, c Astros
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Mike Rosamond, of Out of baseball
2000 Robert Stiehl, rhp Out of baseball
2001 Chris Burke, ss Diamondbacks
2002 Derick Grigsby, rhp Out of baseball
2003 Jason Hirsh, rhp (2nd round) Rockies
2004 Hunter Pence, of Astros
2005 Brian Bogusevic, lhp Astros
2006 Max Sapp, c Astros
2007 *Derek Dietrich, 3b (3rd round) Georgia Tech
2008 Jason Castro, c Astros
*Did not sign
Chris Burke, 2001 $2,125,000
Jason Castro, 2008 $2,070,000
Max Sapp, 2006 $1,400,000
Brian Bogusevic, 2005 $1,375,000
Robert Stiehl, 2000 $1,125,000
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Houston Astros

When the Astros wheeled across the finish line in 2008, team officials said they had two reasons to be optimistic. The big league club improved by 13½ games over the year before, and the June draft launched what Houston hopes is the rebirth of a depleted farm system.

If that sounds as if it's grasping at straws, well, it is. The Astros have traveled a bumpy and unsettling road since their 2005 World Series loss to the White Sox, so they'll take anything they can get in order to combat the painful reality that they have fallen from power in the National League Central.

While the Astros finished 86-76 and leapfrogged the Cardinals for a third-place finish, they had to hoof it to get there. Talk of wild-card contention briefly bubbled up in August but quickly faded despite a 42-24 second half. Nevertheless, it provided first-year general manager Ed Wade with some comfort after attempting to clean up the mess he inherited.

The immediate future hardly looks encouraging, however. Between the majors and the recent draft class, the farm system has been gutted in recent years by trades, the loss of draft picks and the unwillingness of owner Drayton McLane to pony up signing bonus money that might have cushioned the fall.

In 2007, for example, Houston gave up its first- and second-round picks as free-agent compensation, then failed to sign its third- and fourth-rounders. A year later, just one player from the first six rounds of that draft, outfielder Collin DeLome, remains in the organization.

The aftermath has been tough to stomach. Astros minor league affiliates combined for a disturbing .397 winning percentage in 2008, easily the worst mark in baseball. Scouts from other organizations say they have to search far and wide to find Houston prospects who might be big league contributors.

The Astros say the reconstruction is under way. They spent $6.5 million on the 2008 draft, their first under scouting director Bobby Heck. Heck, a former disciple under then-Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik, demonstrated that he wasn't afraid to take chances, spending the 10th and 38th choices on catcher Jason Castro and righthander Jordan Lyles though neither was considered a consensus talent for those slots. Initial returns on both players, however, were positive.

After the season, Houston handed out contract extensions through 2010 to Heck, farm director Ricky Bennett and assistant GM David Gottfried.

At the same time, however, the Astros continued their penurious ways by announcing they would pull out of Venezuela. Thanks to the efforts of Andres Reiner, who left to join the Rays three years ago, they had been scouting pioneers in the nation, signing such players as Bobby Abreu, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora and Johan Santana.

The organization also experienced several changes. Longtime field coordinator Tom Wiendenbauer was reassigned to the scouting department, with administrative coach Al Pedrique taking his place. Triple-A Round Rock manager Dave Clark moved up to become the big league third-base coach after Jackie Moore left to become bench coach for the Rangers.

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