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Houston Astros 2015 Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

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The prospect staff at Fake Teams continues their fantasy prospect rankings and system reviews with an in-depth look at the Houston Astros.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Just like last year, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking an in-depth look at each major league organization, including our top 10 fantasy prospects, an overview of the organization's minor league system as a whole and potential opportunities for playing time in 2015. Our goal is to provide you with more information as you prepare for minor league drafts for dynasty and keeper leagues, as well as look at players that could potentially be worth watching during the spring, as they could be in line to potentially help your fantasy team. We will be reviewing two teams per week until we are through all 30 teams, and you can see the schedule of when your favorite team will be reviewed below. if we have already reviewed the team, a link to the post, along with the team's top prospect is noted.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore
(3/11)

Chicago
(2/11)

Houston
(1/14)

Atlanta
(Sims)

Chicago
(Bryant)

Arizona
(Bradley)

Boston
(3/14)

Cleveland
(2/14)

Los Angeles
(1/17)

Miami
(Kolek)

Cincinnati
(Stephenson)

Colorado
(Gray)

New York
(3/18)

Detroit
(2/18)

Oakland
(1/21)

New York
(Syndergaard)

Milwaukee
(Taylor)

Los Angeles
(Pederson)

Tampa Bay
(3/21)

Kansas City
(2/21)

Seattle
(1/24)

Philadelphia
(Crawford)

Pittsburgh
(Glasnow)

San Diego
(Renfroe)

Toronto
(3/25)

Minnesota
(2/25)

Texas
(1/28)

Washington
(Giolito)

St. Louis
(Piscotty)

San Francisco
(Crick)

Organizational Overview
by Jason Hunt

Go big or go home isn't usually a strategy you see too often from a major league franchise, but general manager Jeff Luhnow has definitely taken that to heart at this point. He went with a sort of scorched-earth approach after arriving in Houston, trading away any player with any trade value for future assets and prospects. This strategy led to three straight 100+ loss seasons from 2011-2013, including receiving the top draft pick after each of those seasons. That said, Astros fans may finally be seeing a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, as the major league team improved to a 70 win clip in 2014, and saw a number of top prospects graduate to the major league team.

The farm has begun to produce some key major league contributors, with George Springer, and Jon Singleton expected to play key roles in 2015 and moving forward. This is on top of All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, and starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh who were both key contributors in 2014. The organization has gone out this offseason to help supplement their young core, signing shortstop Jed Lowrie as the bridge to either Carlos Correa or Colin Moran, depending on which one arrives first, and solidified the back end of their bullpen with Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson behind closer Chad Qualls.

2014 wasn't entirely good news though, as the team became the first in 31 years to fail to agree to a contract with the top overall pick in the draft, Brady Aiken. Their concerns over his medical records led them to reduce their contract offer, and his decision not to accept the reduced amount cost the team a chance to sign fifth-round pick Jacob Nix as well. The whole chain of events ended up costing the team the agreed-upon bonus with Nix ($1.5 million in a settlement), and neither player ending up with the organization. The Astros will receive the #2 overall pick in the 2015 draft as compensation for not signing Aiken, but the whole thing left a bit of a black eye on the organization and its' processes.

Overall, the organization is in great shape to make a move to compete in the AL West. The farm system is producing a ton of quality prospects, all of whom will not fit long-term on the field at the same time. I would look for the team to start supplementing their young core with additional veterans over the next year or two, with 2016-2017 being a very realistic start to a long window of competitiveness.

2014 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time.

George Springer (AB), Jake Marisnick (AB), Enrique Hernandez (AB), Gregorio Petit (AB), Jon Singleton (AB), Collin McHugh (IP), Josh Fields (IP), Josh Zeid (ST), Kevin Chapman (ST), Jake Buchanan (ST)

Major League Opportunities in 2015
by Jason Hunt

While no longer a prospect, Jake Marisnick would likely be the beneficiary of a trade which frees up time in the outfield. Marisnick can play center field, and with Dexter Fowler a free agent at the end of the season, moving Marisnick in would not likely see a particularly large dropoff.

It's possible that we see a change at third base at some point during the season, as Colin Moran, Rio Ruiz, and Carlos Correa could all force Matt Dominguez from the lineup in some way if he continues to struggle. Dominguez has been an excellent defender at third in the past, but it may not be enough to keep him there if he doesn't improve on his .215/.256/.330 slash line from a season ago.

In the rotation, the fifth spot is open as of right now, but it would not be surprising for the team to go out and sign a veteran late in the offseason to compete with Foltynewicz, Buchanan, and others.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
by Brian Creagh

Our top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are based upon standard 5x5 fantasy baseball leagues, with a balancing of ceiling and present value. While we are having discussions regarding these lists as a collective group, the top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are finalized by the writer listed above. Players are no longer considered prospects once they exceed either 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days of service time in the Majors.

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1. Carlos Correa (SS)

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.325 50 6 57 20
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
293 0.416 0.510 12.29% 15.36%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
19 R R A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: Late 2016

A fractured fibula cut Carlos Correa's season short, and it's a real shame considering Correa was on pace to possibly break into the Houston lineup sometime in 2015. The injury pushes the timetable back a little bit, but it does nothing to diminish Correa's stock as one of the premiere prospects in the sport. A shortstop prospect, with the glove to stick at the position, there is no aspect of Correa's game that could be considered a flaw or weakness. His approach, ability to barrel the ball, developing power, slingshot arm, slick glove, outstanding work ethic, and developing power are all assets that put Correa in my Top 3 of fantasy prospects.

At 6'4" 205 lbs. Correa is almost too big to handle SS, but thanks to great agility and instincts there is little doubt that he'll remain at the position long term. He has the ability to impact the game in all facets, but his fantasy value is going to be made from a high AVG and big power numbers. Correa has some speed and should chip in stolen bases early on in his career. There is very little risk in Correa's profile and that is incredibly rare for a player who has yet to see time at AA. The sky is the limit in terms of fantasy, and Correa could end up being a perennial 1st Round draft pick.

2015 should see Carlos Correa spend the majority of his time in AA. There are some rumblings from scouts that Correa could be ready for a big league promotion by the end of 2015. With the Astros not quite ready to compete I would be surprised if Jeff Luhnow decides to start Correa's service clock with a September promotion. If I'm in a brand new prospect draft, I have no problem popping Correa #1 overall.

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2. Mark Appel (RHP)

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
3 0 6.91 1.60 78
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
83.1 1.20 1.22 6.28% 20.42%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R A+-AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

The opinions on Mark Appel from scouts and internet prognosticators are as polarizing as any top prospect in the minors. Drafted first overall by the Houston Astros ahead of now Chicago deity, Kris Bryant, Mark Appel has had a roller coaster career in the minor leagues. The results started positive in a brief 38 inning appearance after being drafted in 2013. Appel looked well on his way to fulfilling the ace role the Astros had drafted him to fill. Then an appendectomy cut into the beginning of his Spring Training in 2014, and Appel never seemed to get used to the tandem rotation implemented by Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow. A midseason promotion to AA saw Appel's number improve to finish out the year. So depending on when a scout caught Appel, their report can range from "future #2 starter", to "backend rotation piece".

I don't buy much into Appel's struggles due to the tandem rotation setup, I think it was more of a BABIP-driven, offense-friendly environment that saw Appel's numbers balloon. Scouting reports were equally down on Appel during that time, citing his fastball at only 92-93 mph as opposed to the 95-97 mph others have witnessed. The changeup seems to always garner praise, and opinions vary on the slider. Even when at his worse in Hi-A, Appel's underlying statistics demonstrated promise - an 8.1 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 during 44.1 innings in Lancaster show he was able to miss bats and throw the ball for strikes. In AA the entire state line ended up looking a lot cleaner with a 3.69 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 in 39 innings pitched. He didn't set the world on fire, but to handle the AA promotion as well as he did after struggling in Hi-A shows me this kid has got some fight in him.

Appel should return to AA to start to 2015, and if he can sustain success may be able to reach Houston in September. The Astros aren't primed to compete next year so the more likely scenario is a split season between AA and AAA. It definitely feels like I'll be higher on Appel than most headed into 2015. His poor numbers will scare some people off, and with negative reports to match, it's easy to label him as a bust. I think his experience in Lancaster will only help his development, and I'm hanging on to the thought that Appel can be a #2 starter at peak. It might not be the ace Houston was hoping for, but he's a must-own commodity for fantasy owners.

3. Brett Phillips (OF)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.310 87 17 68 23
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
571 0.375 0.529 8.76% 16.81%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 L R A-A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017

No player has gained more steam in this system than Brett Phillips. A breakout season between A and Hi-A ball has Phillips in the conversation for Top 100 fantasy prospects. He's been described as a poor man's David Dahl due to his innate ability to barrel the baseball and his speed on the basepaths. A 6th round pick in 2012, Phillips is apart of the sneaky good 2012 draft class for Houston along with Carlos Correa, Nolan Fontana, Rio Ruiz, and Preston Tucker.

In 2014, his first full season of professional ball, Phillips slashed .310/.375/.529 with 17 HRs and 23 SBs along with plus CF defense. He's not a burner, but he's extremely athletic and should continue to steal bases at an above-average clip. He has a plus hit tool and pairs with a mature approach for a 20 year old - Phillips had a 96/50 K/BB ratio in 130 games. At only 6'0" 175 lbs, scouts are skeptical how real the power is, and unfortunately it won't be any clearer next season as he figures to spend the majority of the season in Hi-A launching pad, Lancaster. Phillips' profile is left-handed leadoff hitter, who can swipe double-digit bases and play a quality CF. If the power doesn't fully manifest, his fantasy value takes a hit, but he's worth a pick in all formats where he should be available in offseason drafts.

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4. Rio Ruiz (3B)

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.293 76 11 77 4
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
602 0.387 0.436 13.62% 15.12%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 L R A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017

When Carlos Correa was picked 1.1, immediate reactions were that it was done to save money to spend on above-slot picks later in the draft. One of those picks was Rio Ruiz who signed for $1.85 million in the 4th round after being considered one of the hardest to sign in the draft class. Ruiz is a 3B prospect who projects to be average with the glove and enough athleticism to stick at the position. He has a wide base, and broad shoulders and he has the raw power to match his frame. The power hasn't fully materialized in gameplay, but at only 20 years old and finishing a season in Hi-A, there is still room for growth.

Ruiz slashed a tasty .293/.387/.436 in Lancaster last year, with 11 HRs and a 91/82 K/BB ratio in 131 games. The HR totals are disappointing especially considering the park factors, but the slash line is still impressive and his approach at the plate is advanced for his age. The hit tool is a plus weapon, and if paired with average in-game power, we could be looking at a .270 - .280 hitter with 20 HRs at 3B. There is still plenty of risk in the profile since the power is still very much a dream based on his body and less based on actual production, plus Ruiz has not faced AA pitching yet. If we see 17+ HRs from Ruiz in AA next year and he continues to look motivated on the field, he's a Top 50 fantasy prospect heading into 2016.

5. Teoscar Hernandez (OF)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.292 84 21 85 33
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
553 0.362 0.535 9.22% 27.67%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A+-AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: Late 2016

Teoscar Hernandez is a true 5-tool talent who, when it all clicks, can have a huge impact on a game. He's a naturally aggressive with all of his actions on the baseball field and that comes with some red flags in his game, but also gives him a chance to reach his ridiculously high ceiling. Hernandez's future hit and power tools don't project to more than league average, but when paired together with a plus running ability, Hernandez could be an across-the-board contributor for dynasty owners.

Hernandez did strike out an obscene 153 times in 119 games between Hi-A and AA, and that aggressiveness will need to be honed in a touch for his hit tool to play at the highest level. The worst of it though came in the 36 K's (and only 2 BB's!) in 23 games in AA to end the season. He'll likely repeat the level in 2015 and if he can take a step forward with the approach, which I believe he can, he may put up better numbers than the .292/.362/.535, 21 HR, and 33 SB line he had in 2014. Hernandez is definitely a Top 100 dynasty prospect for me, as few can match his ceiling and proximity to the big leagues. What keeps him at the backend of the list is how far away he is from that ceiling with little development time left. Hernandez will be 22 next year in AA and the pressure will be on for him to hold his own and hopefully justify a AAA promotion in 2016.

6. Vince Velasquez (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
7 0 3.52 1.17 91
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
64 0.80 1.04 9.47% 34.47%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 S R A+-Rk
Roster Status: On 40-Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2017

Another Astros prospect affected by injury was right-handed pitcher, Vincent Velasquez. Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, Velasquez has progressed slowly thanks to missing the entire 2011 season with a Tommy John recovery. Outside of 9 innings of rehab in the Gulf Coast League, Velasquez spent 2014 in Hi-A, Lancaster and pitched with solid results. The 11.7 K/9 is eye popping, but less so when considering the 3.7 BB/9 that came with it. Velasquez only threw 55.1 innings in Hi-A due to a groin injury that forced him to miss two months of the season. I wouldn't throw the "injury-prone" tag on Velasquez despite the two injuries and there's a chance he still develops into a mid-rotation workhorse.

The righty features a fastball, changeup, and curveball and the hook lags behind the other two offerings. The fastball/changeup combo is lethal and is the driving force behind the big strikeout numbers. The fastball sits 93-96 mph with life and it comes out of his hand easily. Velasquez struggles with the command of the pitch, which could end up getting him into more trouble as he faces more advanced hitting. The changeup is a plus-plus pitch thrown with feel and deception. He keeps it low in the zone and out of trouble and the speed difference between it and his fastball keeps hitters off balance. The curveball is the biggest piece left in Velasquez's development and will be the key to him developing into a mid-rotation stalwart and a fantasy relevant asset. Velasquez probably needs more seasoning at Hi-A before getting a big test at AA. A healthy season with the opportunity to work on his curveball will be huge for Velasquez and can help him regain some of the hype he saw following his monster 2013 campaign.

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7. Mike Foltynewicz (RHP)

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
7 0 5.16 1.50 116
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
121.1 0.97 1.43 / 0.54 11.09% 21.80%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R AAA-MLB
Roster Status: On 40-Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2015

Former 1st Round pick in 2010, Mike Foltynewicz earned an MLB promotion at the end of the 2014 season. It was in a bullpen role and partly to keep a limit on his season inning tally, but having reached the highest level takes some risk out of a pitching profile that leaves a lot of dynasty owners wondering what will be. Foltynewicz has a monster fastball that touches 100 and he has the 6'4" 225 lb. frame molded for a workhorse starter. The problem comes when looking at the secondary pitches, which have been inconsistent his entire career. Both the changeup and slider have teased scouts with moments of brilliance, but for the most part, Foltynewicz has had to lean on his overpowering velocity to manhandle minor league batters.

My best guess is that Foltynewicz settles in as a starter long-term. It will be tempting to let him grip it and rip it in bursts out of the pen, but his value is far superior to the Astros as a starter and as long as his body can handle it (and all signs indicate it can) he'll get every chance to make it in the rotation. My fear from a fantasy perspective is that Foltynewicz was getting by on his elite velocity and his minor league strikeout totals are inflated as a result. Major League hitters won't have a problem getting around on 100 mph fastballs if he has nothing else to chase them from the scent. This is why he falls down a few spots farther than you might see him on other prospect Top 10's.

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8. Colin Moran (3B)

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.296 46 7 55 1
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
515 0.344 0.397 7.18% 14.76%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 L R A+-AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

Acquired in a trade that sent Jarred Cosart to the Marlins, Colin Moran went from the #2 prospect in the Marlins organization to the bottom half of the Top 10 in Houston. Its a shoutout to depth of this Houston organization that a guy with a high probability of being a second-division regular at 3B is this far down the list. Drafted 6th overall by Miami in 2013 out of UNC, Moran was considered a highly polished product who could move quickly through the system. He's certainly done that by reaching AA in his first full season of professional baseball. Moran is a big kid at 6'4" 215 lbs, but lacks the power typically found in a player of that frame.

Moran has fully matured physically, so I don't expect any late revelation that leads to him developing even an average power tool. He hit just 7 HRs in 117 Gs in 2014 across Hi-A and AA. He slashed a still impressive .294/.344/.397 but without the power, there isn't much utility from a fantasy perspective. I suppose the ceiling is something like Matt Carpenter - a useful average, high OBP, and plenty of counting stats. Moran isn't going to live up to his 6th overall pick pedigree, but if he can remain engaged (there were reports he looked disinterested) he should be able to hit enough to start at 3B.

9. Michael Feliz (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
8 0 4.03 1.37 111
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
102.2 0.50 0.96 8.39% 25.17%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A
Roster Status: On 40-Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2018

Similar to Appel, right-handed pitching prospect Michael Feliz had an up-and-down year that ended on a very high note. Feliz would struggle mightily one month (6.39 ERA and 15/11 K/BB in April) and look dominant the next (1.50 ERA and 23/4 K/BB in May) and the trend continued throughout the season. He finished with a great August and Houston finally let him go deeper into games when he was successful. Feliz misses a lot of bats and is being groomed as a starter, but I can't help but think the profile is suited better as an impact reliever.

Feliz came into professional ball throwing a curveball along with his fastball and changeup, but the Astros had him switch to a slider. He's looking more comfortable with it and is missing plenty of bats. Feliz is a hard-thrower and a big kid standing at 6'4" and 210 lbs. After a full season of A ball in 2014, Feliz will likely find himself in Hi-A to start 2015. The ceiling is a mid-rotation starter with big strikeout numbers, but the realistic outcome is a high-leverage reliever. He's not a bad piece to store in deep dynasty formats because it's not difficult to see him handling a closer's role if the starter thing doesn't work out.

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10. Preston Tucker (OF)

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.282 79 24 94 5
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
599 0.352 0.481 9.52% 20.03%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
23 L L AAA-AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: Mid 2015

It came down to Preston Tucker and A.J. Reed for the final spot, and Tucker got it by a nudge. I favored Tucker due to his proximity to the big leagues and his ability to play OF, where Reed is relegated to 1B. Tucker has raked his entire minor league career, and 2014 was another gaudy statistical output - .282/.352/.481 with 24 HRs. Scouts question whether the bat speed is quick enough to handle elite velocity. He's handled everything thrown at him to this point at AAA, so I'm inclined to give Tucker the benefit of the doubt. We should very well expect to see Preston Tucker in Houston's OF in 2015 and we'll quickly see if he can sink or swim.

Other Interesting Prospects
by Brian Creagh

Nolan Fontana - The lack of raw tools will probably catch up to him soon, but boy does Fontana have a knack for getting on base. His career .253/.427/.380 slash line is one of the most bizarre I have ever seen. Nolan Fontana will find a way to carve out a utility role in a big-league lineup, but unless you're in a super deep OBP league, there's no need to really roster him at this point.

Domingo Santana - He's just about run out of time on the development clock after a brief MLB stint in 2014. Santana's biggest hurdle is to cut down on the strikeouts, and I don't know if it will ever happen to the extent he can put up consistent fantasy numbers. The power is legit if he can barrel enough baseballs to let it show up in games. There's still a chance that coaching at the highest level can help him make the necessary changes and give him a career as a slugging OF.

Josh Hader - Opinions are split on Hader and whether he will end up as a late-innings reliever or backend rotation piece. Neither is the sexiest fantasy profile, which is why he falls just outside of the Top 10. He's had an impressive minor league career between BAL and HOU. He has a chance for three plus pitches, and a starters frame, the question will be if he can bring consistent mechanics for 6+ innings. He needs to fill out his 6'3" 160 lb frame to get there, but this groundballer could sneak his way into the backend of a Houston rotation soon.

A.J. Reed - Reed mashed in his debut after being a 2nd Round selection in 2014 draft. He wasn't challenged much being a college bat in Low-A, but the immediate success is still nice to see. Holding Reed back is his confinement to 1B/DH. The profile puts a ton of pressure on the bat, and it will be questioned his entire climb through the minor league system. There's still a good chance he makes it, but this early in his career, I'm going to sit on the sidelines and wait to see a little more before investing.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects
Follow him on Twitter 

Brian Creagh is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter 

David Spracale is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter