Over the coming weeks, Craig and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.
Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.
The Astros' system had been emptied in previous years as ownership continued to trade off key prospects to get that one piece they believed would move them closer to a championship. Only in the past year really has this changed, as previous GM Ed Wade was able to acquire substantial prospects from the Phillies before being let go. Current GM Jeff Luhnow has done a very good job of acquiring talent on the whole, and there are a few prospects every fantasy owner should be aware of.
Graduates in 2012
AAA or Higher in 2012
These are prospects who reached either AAA Oklahoma City or the Majors in 2012. Generally they are expected to see the Majors in 2013, potentially for a significant amount of time.
Acquired from the Phillies in 2011, Cosart has been developed to this point as a starting pitcher, but it remains to be seen whether that will be his long term role in the Majors. Looking at some of the statistics, they don't necessarily lead me to think he will have the potential still to be a valuable starting pitcher for fantasy. He has posted decent strikeout rates in the minors, but not necessarily the dominant rates you would want to see at the lower levels of the minor leagues. Add in an elevated walk rate and scouting reports that indicate a potential difficulty for him to work well in a starting role, and the profile screams as a potential late inning reliever if he can't make it as a starter. There's value to that, but unless they converted him tomorrow, that value may not appear until 2014.
AA in 2012
These are players who reached the Astros' Texas League affiliate in Corpus Christi in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.
I wrote about Singleton right after his excellent Futures Game performance, and he looks like a prototypical 1B prospect. Singleton has shown solid power potential, along with the possibility of at least a solid batting average in his time in AA. He does strike out a fair amount (133 last year in 461 at bats), but he can also take a walk with the best of them, notching 88 last year. He'll likely start the season at AAA, but it would not surprise me if the 21 year old reached Houston by mid season. He seems unlikely to me to reach the top 10 at 1B in the Majors, but I think he could be a very useful player in nearly all formats once he is established in the bigs.
I wrote about Springer back in May, and the biggest issue I established at the time was regarding his ability to make contact (and avoid strikeouts). Springer has the potential to be a 20 hr/20 sb outfielder in the long term, but a 26.7% strikeout rate isn't going to help him out with the batting average at all. He hit .305 across the two levels this year, but that was very heavily influenced by his time in the California League.
Springer will likely return to AA to start the season, and whether he can at least somewhat improve that strikeout rate will determine how quickly he could move through the remaining levels to the Majors. He has shown the ability to draw a walk in all of his stops in the minors, including 11 in 61 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League this year. Either way, he is definitely worth owning in most fantasy dynasty formats, and seems likely to be in Houston by the end of 2014.
High-A in 2012
These players reached the Astros' California League affiliate in Lancaster, and are likely to be at least 2 full seasons away from contributing in the Major Leagues.
Delino DeShields Jr (BBRef Statistics)
If it weren't for some guy in the Cincinnati system stealing every base he possibly could, we might have heard a lot more about the season DeShields had in Low-A and High-A. He ended up stealing 101 bases in 120 attempts there, and really had the breakout season that had been expected of him since being drafted #8 overall back in 2010.
While DeShields isn't likely to provide a ton of power in the future, he is still just 20 years old, and will have a very good chance to reach AA before the end of the 2013 season. A second base prospect, DeShields has hit 9 and 12 homers respectively in the past two seasons, but it remains to be seen whether that will translate long term for him. Either way, he has the potential to be a game changer for fantasy providing he can make enough contact to let that speed work to his advantage.
Short Season in 2012
These players made it to one of the Astros' short season affiliates in either the Gulf Coast or Appalachian Leagues. They are likely to be at least 3 or more seasons away from contributing at the Major League level.
Carlos Correa (BBRef Statistics)
The Astros surprised a fair amount of people by selecting Correa instead of RHP Mark Appel with the top pick in the draft, but the reports on Correa indicate that he has the potential to be a top tier shortstop of the future for the Astros. He appeared in 50 games this season between the GCL and the Appy League, but the numbers don't really tell the potential story of Correa. The scouting reports are pretty consistent in their assessment of Correa: potential top flight shortstop in the long term, with a bat to match. He could be an excellent hitter for both power and batting average at his peak. Add in that he will play all of next season at age 18, and the sky really could be the limit for Correa.
Others of Note
Lance McCullers Jr (SP) - The son of a former Major Leaguer, McCullers fell to the 41st pick in the draft on signability concerns, despite being ranked as the #14 prospect in the draft by Baseball America. The extra money that the Astros saved on top pick Carlos Correa allowed them to give McCullers a top 10 bonus. There are concerns about what his role might be long term, but he is still very raw and has a lot of upside.
Domingo Santana (OF) - Santana hit very well in the Cal League this season, hitting .302 with a .921 OPS and 23 home runs. It sounds like the biggest concern on what Santana could be will be determined by whether he can improve his contact and pitch-recognition skills at his next level. The power potential is very good, and it will be interesting to see what he can do when he gets out of the Cal League.
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