Back in February we mentioned a handful of minor leaguers that, for one reason or another, we thought fans should keep an eye on. Let's go back and see how they did.
Consensus: Chris Wallace - Chris spent most of the season in Corpus and battled injuries as his bat took a step back this year. In 236 at bats he hit .254/.335/.390 with just five home runs after knocking 20 in 365 at bats last year. Defensively he caught just 12% of base stealers. Injured or not, this was a big step back for Wallace. He can't afford another season like this.
Under the Radar: Ernesto Genoves - Genoves repeated this season at Greeneville but failed to show improvement. His hitting fell off to .232/.306/.402 but he maintained his decent walk and strikeout rates. His caught stealing percentage dropped slightly to 25%, though he did a better job with passed balls by allowing just three after having nine last season. Had his bat continued to improve he would have started getting a little attention, but at this point he's heading for the dreaded "organizational depth" label.
Make or Break: Rene Garcia - Garcia repeated at Lancaster most of the season, along with nine games at Corpus. While his batting average improved to .285 it was very empty, as he had no home runs and took just eight walks on the season. His rate catching base stealers declined for the third straight season while he showed little if any improvement preventing passed balls. A defense first minor leaguer with declining defensive performance won't last long.
Consensus: Jonathan Singleton - Singleton was everything we were hoping, and maybe more. He spent the year as a 20 year old at Corpus where he hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 home runs. He'll probably start the season in OKC, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Houston sometime in 2013.
Under the Radar: Mario Gonzalez - Mario flew so far under the radar in 2012 he ended up getting released in June just as the short-season leagues got started.
Make or Break: Kody Hinze - Kody's Corpus drop off continued in 2012 as he struggled to hit just .212/.299/.365 with 11 home runs. Hinze's age and struggles this season combined with the emergence of Jon Singleton led to Kody being released in August.
Consensus: Delino DeShields - DDJ firmly re-established himself as a top prospect in 2012. Splitting the season between Lexington and Lancaster, DeShields destroyed the Astros organization stolen base record, swiping 101 bags, while hitting .287/.389/.428 with 12 home runs. While the stats don't necessarily reflect it, his defense at second base was noticeably improved as well.
Under the Radar: Brandon Wikoff - Brandon appeared in just 22 games for Corpus before being shut down in July due to a wrist injury. Not that it tells us much given the circumstances, but he hit .190/.297/.222. He'll be 25 next season and is now behind Jose Altuve, Jose Martinez, and, likely, DeShields on the depth chart.
Make or Break: Andrew Simunic - Simunic ended up spending most of his time at third base for Corpus this year along with a few games at short. Offensively, his results were decent if not predictable as he hit .290/.343/.338. He's 27 and he is who he is; a decent utility player who may be able to hold his own at the plate if pressed into emergency service.
Consensus: Jonathan Villar - Villar started slowly while repeating at Corpus, but started coming on strong midway through the season before breaking his hand throwing a tantrum. He finished the season hitting .261/.336/.396 while stealing 39 bases, increasing his walk rate, and decreasing his strikeout rate. His defense is still raw but, like the rest of his game, flashes high potential. He'll turn 22 next year and, while I don't think he's ready yet, will probably spend most of next season in AAA.
Under the Radar: Juan Santana - Juan made the jump stateside, playing in the Gulf Coast League this year. He split his time between 2B and SS and his defensive numbers at 2B were much stronger. His offensive numbers were very similar to what he posted last season in the Dominican except for his walk rate, which dropped dramatically. He was still just 17 last year, so we'll see what the next few years bring. He'll probably spend the 2013 season in short-season ball again.
Make or Break: Jiovanni Mier - Jio repeated at Lancaster as a 21 year old and looked like he was putting it together before suffering a hamstring injury that limited him to just 46 games in 2012. He hit a strong .292/.396/.409 while continuing to play solid defense. He'll slot in one level below Villar next season to start the year but if he can continue outperforming Villar by an appreciable margin he could leap frog him at some point next year.
Consensus: Mike Kvasnicka - During Spring Training it was announced that Mike would move back behind the plate. That only lasted 26 games before splitting the rest of the season between RF and DH. He struggled through a brutal April, hitting .118/.167/.191. Moving out from behind the dish helped out as he posted OPS's of .820 and .819 in June and July before ending up on the DL for the rest of the season. He ended up with a line of .232/.275/.412 with 15 home runs. While it was nice to see his power start to show, he'll be 24 next season, he doesn't seem to have a position, and his bat hasn't shown the polish normally seen from player taken out of college.
Under the Radar: Jonathan Meyer - Jonathan repeated at Lancaster and took a step back performance-wise. His walk rate was nearly cut in half and his power dropped off as well. He finished the year hitting .272/.315/.375 with eight home runs. A third base prospect that has a tough time producing in Lancaster likely doesn't have a long shelf life.
Make or Break: David Flores - David was released around the time this list was originally put together.
Consensus: Ariel Ovando - Ovando spent another season in Greeneville and made positive strides on offense and defense. He hit .287/.350/.444 with six home runs while improving his walk rate and reducing the number of fielding errors he committed. Next year will be a real test as he's expected to play full-season ball for the first time at Quad Cities.
George Springer - George had the breakout year everyone was hoping for. He started the season in Lancaster where he put up a .955 OPS with 22 home runs and 28 steals before being promoted to Corpus for the final month of the season. His strikeout rate was a little concerning, as he whiffed 156 times in 506 at bats, but he also showed a good eye at the plate. His swing is described being all or nothing, so improving his two-strike approach should help. He'll likely start the season back at Corpus, but another strong showing like he had this season will get him promoted quickly.
Domingo Santana - Santana is another guy who made big strides in 2012. As a 19 year old in the California League, he hit an impressive .302/.385/.536 with 23 home runs. His strikeout rate remained high but his walk rate improved to over 10%. He also continued showing his strong arm, notching 12 outfield assists. If he continues to develop at this rate, he and Springer have the potential to be 2/3 of an All-Star outfield.
Under the Radar: Brandon Meredith - Brandon made good strides playing all season in Lexington. He hit .278/.377/.506 in 316 at bats with a strong walk rate, 15 home runs, and 12 steals. Don't be surprised if he has huge numbers in Lancaster, but Corpus will be the real test for him.
Teoscar Hernandez - At 19 years old, Teoscar made the jump stateside from the Dominican League. His numbers dipped a bit, but that's not unusual for players in their first year playing in the U.S. He hit .243/.323/.401 while stealing 10 bases in 11 tries. He made sure he brought his arm with him as he racked up 11 outfield assists.
Adam Bailey - Bailey battled injury as he split time between Lancaster and Corpus with a cameo in OKC. He hit .264/.309/.440 with 10 home runs in 318 at bats. He's another outfielder who put up double digit assists as he gunned down 10 runners.
Make or Break: Grant Hogue - Grant had a late start to the season after recovering from a broken hamate bone but did his best to make up for lost time. In 43 games with Lancaster he hit .361/.421/.458 while stealing 27 bases. His small sample size strong showing likely bought him a little more time to prove himself.
T.J. Steele - Steele "hit" just .141/.184/.268 in 26 games for Corpus before getting released. He was later signed by San Diego where he played a month in AA before getting released again.
Jon Gaston - Gaston was released prior to the season.
Consensus: Jarred Cosart - Cosart was limited to just 114.2 innings due to lingering blister issues, but pitched well between Corpus and OKC. He finished the year with a 3.30 ERA and saw his K/9 tick back up over seven, something that had been a bit of a concern given his stuff. Don't be surprised to see him in Houston some time next year.
Brett Oberholtzer - Brett struggled badly at the beginning of the season but got stronger as the season progressed to post a 4.37 ERA with a 3.4 K/BB rate in 166.2 innings split between OKC and Corpus. His final month, at AAA, he put up a 2.45 ERA in 40.1 innings. If he can avoid another slow start he, too, could see time in Houston in 2013.
Paul Clemens - Clemens started the season in OKC but performed very poorly before getting sent back to Corpus for the final month of the season. In 143.1 total innings he had a 5.78 ERA and his K/9 slipped to 6.6. There have been suggestions that he may be better suited to the bullpen.
Mike Foltynewicz - Repeating in Lexington worked out well for Folty as he went 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA in 152 innings. His peripherals snapped back to where they were expected to be, but a walk rate that has creeped up each year should be watched closely. He still seems to struggle a bit with composure but did make strides in his mound presence as well.
Kyle Weiland - Weiland had a strong Spring Training and started the season in Houston's rotation but made just three starts before going down for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. He is expected to be ready in time for the 2013 season.
Under the Radar: Luis Ordosgoitti - Ordosgoitti got hit hard and often this season in Lexington, appearing to get weaker as his first year in full-season ball went on. In 103 innings he posted a 5.42 ERA. He's still just 20 and should be able to better handle a full schedule next year. I expect him to bounce back.
Nick Tropeano - Tropeano started popping up on prospect lists after a strong season split between Lexington and Lancaster. In 158 innings he pitched to a 3.02 ERA while striking out more than a batter an inning. I'd like to see how he handles Corpus next season. A strong showing there will get a lot of prospect watchers excited.
Carlos Quevedo - Quevedo switched almost exclusively to the bullpen in 2012, and it suited him well. While keeping his BB/9 low at 1.7, his K/9 soared to 10.0 as he posted a 3.22 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 86.2 innings between Lexington and Lancaster. Expect to see his stock rise quickly if he can keep up this type of performance out of the pen.
Kyle Hallock - Kyle suffered through injury in 2012, putting up an 8.22 ERA in 30.2 innings between Lexington and a rehab stint with the Gulf Coast team. Hopefully he can make a full recovery and get back on track next year.
Jake Buchanan - Buchanan spent most of the season in Corpus with a cup of coffee in OKC and pitched to a 5.25 ERA in 142.1 innings. His strikeout and walk rates were in line with his career numbers, but he gave up nearly 12 hits per nine innings. Another year in Corpus will tell us whether or not he can make it.
Make or Break: Jonnathan Aristil - Aristil moved to the bullpen this season and must have racked up a ton of frequent flyer miles as he was repeatedly shifted back and forth from Corpus to OKC. The shuffling didn't suit him as his ERA was 5.87 in 46 innings. Given his performance and the way the organization used him as bullpen filler it's likely that Aristil's days are numbered.
Robert Donovan - Donovan was released before the season started.
Sergio Perez - Sergio moved to the bullpen for OKC in 2013 but the move didn't help his results much. In 75.1 innings he pitched to a 4.54 ERA with just 1.6 K/BB. I'll be surprised if he's back next season.
Consensus: Jack Armstrong - Armstrong underwent Tommy John surgery before the season started. He'll be back on the mound next season.
Adrian Houser - Houser's peripherals in Greeneville were much better than his results would indicate. In 58 innings his ERA was 4.19, along with a K/9 of 8.4, BB/9 of 3.6, and H/9 of 8.2. He's still highly thought of among prospect followers.
Under the Radar: Alex Sogard - Sogard pitched exclusively out of the bullpen, starting the season in Lancaster before spending most of the year in Corpus. In 69.2 innings he posted a 3.62 ERA and earned a spot as one of the Astros delegates to the Arizona Fall League.
Mitchell Lambson - Lambson continued dominating the hitters in the lower minors while he spend most of the season in Lexington after starting the year in Greeneville. In 46 innings he put up a 2.15 ERA and an outstanding 10.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.
Ryan Cole - Ryan was released before the season.
Evan Grills - Grills had a rough time in Lexington this year. In 71.1 innings he had a 4.92 ERA with a K/BB of 1.8 while giving up 11 home runs. I had a chance to see him pitch this season and his stuff seems to match these results; nothing particularly overpowering or deceptive.
Matison Smith - Matison was released before the season.
Make or Break: Pat Urckfitz - Pat had a bounce back season in Lancaster. In 66.1 innings he had a 3.66 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Next season should see him get a second shot at Corpus.
If there's one thing we learned this year, it's that minor league relief pitchers, particularly ones below the AA level can disappear with no warning and no apparent reason. We also saw the minor league system make outstanding strides as their U.S. located teams posted the best total winning percentage of all 30 organizations. The bulk of the talent seems to be concentrated in Lancaster and Corpus, though the lower levels show a lot of promise as well. Once these kids start hitting Houston in another couple seasons we should see the Astros begin to reap the fruits of their rebuild.