What a difference a year makes! Since I know we have the smartest readers in the entire internet, I won't rehash just how needed this organizational overhaul was when Houston's rebuild was started a couple years ago. Not only do the Astros now have bona fide prospects knocking on the door, but quality depth on the farm as well. Sure, the last two years have been painful in The Juicebox, but the fans' patience should start paying off soon, with some of these kids making appearances as early as this coming season.
In order to add some semblance of structure to these rankings, I judged a list of about 50 players on four categories: ceiling, floor, production, and intangibles.
Because I don't feel like writing this as a novel, let's break it up a little so I can spend a couple seconds on each player.
25. Jonathan Villar
"But wait, how can you rank a guy 25th when the experts have him in their top 10?" Honestly, I'm not a Villar fan. The tools are definitely there, and I think he has one of the higher ceilings in the system, but I have doubts that he'll ever put it all together. Between his lackluster production to date, and his questionable make-up I still feel like he could flame out at any minute. But if he pulls it all together this year and proves me wrong, I'll be one of his biggest cheerleaders. This toolsy shortstop will probably spend the year in AAA, but he's still fairly raw. Villar was signed by Philadelphia out of the Dominican Republic and came to Houston in 2010 as part of the Roy Oswalt deal.
24. Marc Krauss
Marc is a power-hitting corner outfielder who is also capable of drawing a walk. After repeating at AA last year, he'll likely start the season at AAA and could show up in Houston late this season. He was a 2nd round pick for Arizona in 2009 and came to Houston in the Chris Johnson trade last year.
23. Jiovanni Mier
Yep, Mier ranked above Villar. That just happened. Prior to a pretty bad hamstring injury this season, Mier was showing us why he was a #1 pick in 2009 (Lancaster caveat). He's a more polished fielder at shortstop with a better eye at the plate and, in my opinion, a better makeup than Villar. His ceiling may not be as high, but I think he's more likely to stick around for a little while. Assuming Villar moves up to AAA, Mier will probably be in Corpus this year.
22. Joe Musgrove
Musgrove is a big right-handed starter who battled injuries in 2012. If his health comes back and, with it, his velocity as well he could start moving up the list. He was a supplemental first round pick for Toronto in 2011 and came to the Astros organization as part of the multi-player trade with the BlueJays this year. I doubt Musgrove plays full-season ball this year, so I'll say he starts the year with Tri-City.
21. Chia-Jen Lo
Lo has bounced around the prospect radar for a few years now. Remember when he was the winning pitcher in the same Futures game as Jason Castro? Well, since then he's thrown just 47 innings in the past three seasons. After injuries threatened to derail his career, he came roaring back in 2012. Lo was signed as a reliever out of Taiwan prior to the 2009 season. I'd expect him to start out at AA and could move up very quickly if his arm and production hold up. We may even see him in Houston in September.