Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects

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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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1. Jordan Lyles, rhp
2. Delino DeShields Jr., of/2b
3. Jonathan Villar, ss
4. Mike Foltynewicz, rhp
5. Jio Mier, ss
6. J.D. Martinez, of
7. Jimmy Paredes, inf
8. Tanner Bushue, rhp
9. Austin Wates, of
10. Ariel Ovando, of
Best Hitter for Average J.D. Martinez
Best Power Hitter Telvin Nash
Best Strike-Zone Discipline J.B. Shuck
Fastest Baserunner Delino DeShields Jr.
Best Athlete Delino DeShields Jr.
Best Fastball Mike Foltynewicz
Best Curveball R.J. Alaniz
Best Slider Jordan Lyles
Best Changeup Jordan Lyles
Best Control Jordan Lyles
Best Defensive Catcher Roberto Pena
Best Defensive Infielder Jonathan Villar
Best Infield Arm Jonathan Villar
Best Defensive Outfielder Jon Gaston
Best Outfield Arm Jon Gaston
Catcher Jason Castro
First Base Brett Wallace
Second Base Delino DeShields Jr.
Third Base Chris Johnson
Shortstop Jonathan Villar
Left Field J.D. Martinez
Center Field Michael Bourn
Right Field Hunter Pence
No. 1 Starter Jordan Lyles
No. 2 Starter Wandy Rodriguez
No. 3 Starter Mike Foltynewicz
No. 4 Starter Brett Myers
No. 5 Starter J.A. Happ
Closer Bud Norris
Year Player, Position 2010
2001 Roy Oswalr, rhp Phillies
2002 Carlos Hernandez, lhp Rays
2003 John Buck, c Blue Jays
2004 Taylor Buchholz, rhp Blue Jays
2005 Chris Burke, 2b Reds
2006 Jason Hirsh, rhp Yankees
2007 Hunter Pence, of Astros
2008 J.R. Towles, c Astros
2009 Jason Castro, c Astros
2010 Jason Castro, c Astros
Year Player, Position 2010
2001 Chris Burke, 2b Reds
2002 Derick Grigsby, rhp Out of baseball
2003 Jason Hirsh, rhp
(2nd round)
2004 Hunter Pence, of
(2nd round)
2005 Brian Bogusevic, lhp Astros
2006 Max Sapp, c Out of baseball
2007 *Derek Dietrich, 3b
(3rd round)
2008 Jason Castro, c Astros
2009 Jiovanni Mier, ss Astros
2010 Deline DeShields Jr., 2b/of Astros
Ariel Ovando, 2010 $2,600,000
Delino DeShields Jr., 2010 $2,150,000
Chris Burke, 2001 $2,125,000
Jason Castro, 2008 $2,070,000
Max Sapp, 2006 $1,400,000
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Houston Astros

History will look back at 2010 as a year when the Astros switched directions. Houston began to retool at the major league level and re-emphasized scouting and player development. Most significantly, owner Drayton McLane put the team on the market after the season.

Franchise stalwarts Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt were the two biggest remaining links to the franchise's lone pennant, won in 2005. But as the Astros got off to a 0-8 start and sat at 17-34 in mid-May under first-year manager Brad Mills, it was the clear the team had no chance to contend. General manager Ed Wade finally was able to convince McLane that it was time to rebuild, and Houston traded both Berkman and Oswalt in July.

Oswalt went first, going to the Phillies for J.A. Happ and two prospects, outfielder Anthony Gose and shortstop Jonathan Villar. Houston immediately spun Gose to the Blue Jays for Brett Wallace. Two days later, Berkman joined Oswalt as an ex-Astro as he was traded to the Yankees in exchange for righthanded reliever Mark Melancon and minor league infielder Jimmy Paredes. Happ and Melancon bolstered the Astros' pitching staff, Wallace took over at first base for Berkman and Villar and Paredes immediately became two of the system's best prospects.

The trades brought in some much-needed talent to an organization slowly climbing out of the hole it dug with a run of poor drafts and a fallow period in Latin America. Combined with the Astros' narrow focus on competing at the major league level and not investing in their future, those factors conspired to drain the system.

While Houston hasn't hit the jackpot yet in three drafts under assistant GM/scouting director Bobby Heck, those drafts have given the system a boost. Jason Castro, Heck's first first-rounder, graduated to the majors in 2010 and has a chance to have a career similar to the player he's often compared to, A.J. Pierzynski. Heck's second selection, righthander Jordan Lyles, has blossomed from a surprise supplemental first-round pick in 2008 to the Astros' top prospect and reached Triple-A as a teenager.

Houston had extra picks and emphasized athletes in the 2010 draft. Heck hasn't been afraid to buck the industry consensus, and he did it again by taking outfielder/second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. with the eighth overall pick. DeShields signed for $2.15 million, a club record for a draft pick. The club also gave out it largest international bonus ever, landing Dominican outfielder Ariel Ovando for $2.6 million.

The Astros still have much more work to do with their farm system, which Baseball America ranks as the 26th-best in the game, and the major league club, which has had three losing seasons in the last four years after only one sub-.500 record in the previous 15. A rotation built around veterans Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez and younger arms Happ and Bud Norris holds promise, but the bullpen needs help and the offense ranked 28th in the majors in scoring and 29th in home runs last year.

In the short-term, Houston needs more production from Castro and Wallace, not to mention veteran Carlos Lee, who is still owed $37 million over two years. The Astros also hope third baseman Chris Johnson can build on an impressive half-season big league debut.

Mills showed some managerial acumen, as the Astros went 40-33 in the second half and played with more energy than they had under his predecessor, Cecil Cooper. Now Mills needs more young talent to work with.

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