Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Preseason PreStros Top 25: Revisited

For those of you who don't remember, this preseason I attempted my first prospect rankings. Check them out here. While I cringe going back and looking at some of these now, if you don't push yourself you'll never get better. With that in mind, let's take a look at how these guys have done so far this season.

25. Jonathan Villar

If his first couple games in Houston are any indication, I severely underestimated Villar, and many of you will say "I told you so". In 91 games at OKC, Villar hit .277/.341/.442 with 32 extra base hits and 31 steals while taking positive steps forward with his defense, reducing his errors while increasing his range factor and fielding percentage. He still strikeouts out quite a bit, but his strong walk rate tempers concerns about his aggressiveness. In two games with Houston, Villar is hitting .500 with two doubles, a steal, and three runs while helping turn five double plays and sparking the Astros win over Oakland last night (7/23). And he's already .7 WAR better than Ronny Cedeno.

24. Marc Krauss

Krauss was being Krauss in OKC, hitting .277/.393/.488 with nine homers, 43 walks, and 45 strikeouts before being called up to Houston in June. With the Astros it's safe to say he's struggled, with the biggest indication being that he's drawn just one walk in 39 plate appearances while hitting .158/.179/.263. I still think he's got a shot at being a backup corner outfielder and good bench bat, but right now he looks over matched.

23. Jiovanni Mier

There's still time, but my infatuation with Mier is beginning to wane. Facing the more advanced pitching at AA, Mier has not yet been able to adjust. His strikeouts have soared while he's hit just .203/.301/.280, though his defense has remained relatively steady. He is still about two years younger than his competition, so if he has to repeat at Corpus it's not the end of the world, but it's time for him to take hold of his future.

22. Joe Musgrove

Musgrove, who is apparently still recovering from last year's injury, has made just three appearances for the GCL Astros. In nine innings, he has a 7.00 ERA with seven strikeouts and two walks.

21. Chia-Jen Lo

Lo continues his climb back from his severe arm injury, making stops this season at Tri-City and Quad Cities before arriving in Corpus. Combined, he's 13.2 innings with a 3.95 ERA with 17 strikeouts and just two walks.

20. Tyler Heineman

Heineman has continued his strong showing this season at Lancaster. He's thrown out 38% of base stealers while hitting .266/.347/.426, trading some in batting average for further development of his power, having hit nine homers after none last season. Catching depth has improved over the last couple seasons, and Heineman continues to be one of the better backstops in the system.

19. Robbie Grossman

Grossman saw some time in Houston earlier this season, and I think actually did a little better than many gave him credit for. While he struggled to make contact, he showed his ability to draw a walk as he hit .198/.310/.243 in 28 games. In OKC this year, he's hit .271/.389/.354 with 13 stolen bases. Given the lack of production from the outfield this season, I would not be surprised to see Grossman given another shot back in Houston soon.

18. Carlos Perez

Perez started the season at Corpus, but was quickly moved up to OKC. Combined, he's hit .260/.331/.351 while keeping his walk and strikeout rates relatively steady. His work behind the plate continues to show improvement, as he's allowed just six passed balls and thrown out 47% of base stealers. It would be nice to see his power come back around. When that happens, the Astros will have a very nice catcher waiting in the wings.

17. Ariel Ovando

Signing Ovando for what was, at the time, the largest international bonus in Astros history is beginning to look like a mistake. After looking over matched at Quad Cities, Ovando was sent back to Greeneville, where he's continued to look helpless at the plate. He's hitting just .176/.244/.244 with 82 strikeouts in 250 at bats.

16. Josh Fields

Fields spent some time early in the season on the DL and he's struggled mightily since returning. In 16.1 innings, he has a 6.61 ERA with 13 strikeouts. The big concern for Fields coming into the season was his control, but he's managed to keep his walks at a respectable 2.8 per nine innings. What has hurt him so far is his home run rate; he's allowed five homers so far this season, all in his last nine games. When he figures out how to keep the ball in the park, something he never really had a problem with in the minors, he should be much more productive.

15. Kevin Chapman

Chapman has been productive at OKC, but there are still a few things he needs to work on before he can be considered a reliable option for the Houston bullpen. In 43.1 innings, he has a 3.86 ERA with 51 strikeouts, but he's walked 32, good for a 6.6 BB/9 rate. Without improved control, he'll be inconsistent at best at the major league level.

14. Andrew Aplin

Aplin continues to show the polish befitting a college draftee, and his success this season has been a bit under the radar due to George Springer's great year. Aplin currently leads all Astros minor league hitters in runs scored while hitting .280/.374/.430 at Lancaster. In 465 plate appearances, he has 82 runs, 38 extra base hits, 78 RBI, 15 steals, and 63 walks against 50 strikeouts. His defense has also been solid, with six outfield assists and no errors. He should be in Corpus very soon.

13. Preston Tucker

Despite slowing down since his promotion to Corpus last month, Tucker has had a solid season. Combined, he's hitting .303/.366/.510 with 18 home runs. His walk, strikeout, and power rates have held pretty much steady since arriving in Corpus, and I imagine his production there will come around soon.

12. Austin Wates

Wates started the season in Corpus for a month, then was promoted to OKC, though he's been on the DL since early June with a broken arm suffered when he was hit by a pitch. In 38 games before his injury, Wates hit .309/.397/.412 with 15 steals.

11. Nolan Fontana

Fontana continues to be an OBP machine in Lancaster. In 75 games, he's hitting .276/.429/.412 with 73 walks and 67 runs scored. His defense has been less than desired this season, as he's committed 13 errors.

10. Nick Tropeano

Tropeano has struggled a bit recently at Corpus, though his peripheral stats look to be right in line with his numbers last season, with a small dip in strikeout rates. In 91.2 innings, he has a 4.03 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 26 walks.

9.  Jarred Cosart

After showing improvement at OKC for the first half of the season, Cosart earned his promotion to Houston just before the All-Star game and quickly made his presence known, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. At OKC, he had a 3.29 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 93 innings. In his two starts so far for Houston he's sporting a 0.60 ERA as the Astros have won both games he's pitched.

8. Nate Freiman

Freiman ended up being claimed by Oakland during spring training. In 51 games for the A's he's hitting .271/.317/.388 with two home runs...both against Houston.

7. Domingo Santana

While not the step forward I was hoping for from Santana, his performance in Corpus has not been a disaster, either. There was some concern, given Santana's propensity to strikeout, that he would be completely exposed by the more advanced pitching at AA, but that hasn't entirely been the case. In 83 games, Santana is hitting .233/.335/.437 with 14 home runs, though he's struck out 112 times in 309 at bats. He's still just 20 years old, so it may make sense for him to spend another season in Corpus.

6. Mike Foltynewicz

Folty has taken his game to a new level, especially since his promotion to Corpus. In 94 innings, combined across two levels, Folty's ERA is 3.06 and he's struck out 98. In Corpus he's pitched to a 2.78 ERA. If he keeps this up, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in OKC by the end of the year, especially if Jeff Luhnow deals some or all of Bud Norris, Erik Bedard, and Lucas Harrell.

5. George Springer

Springer is a stud. Splitting time between Corpus and OKC, he's making a bid to be the first minor leaguer with 30 home runs and 30 steals since 2009. In 97 games, Springer is hitting .307/.407/.606 with 27 homers and 32 steals. Jeff Luhnow has said Springer will be up this season, probably in September, but I wouldn't be surprised if he forces his way into the lineup sooner.

4. Lance McCullers Jr.

McCullers has done well in his first full season at Quad Cities. In 83.2 innings, he has a 3.01 ERA with 95 strikeouts. As with many of the top minor league starters, he could see a promotion soon depending on if and when Norris, Bedard, and/or Harrell are traded.

3. Delino DeShields Jr.

DDJ started out slowly at Lancaster but has improved over the course of the season. On the year, he's hitting .286/.378/.396 with 35 steals. He was also named to this years Futures game.

2. Carlos Correa

Correa also started out slowly, but has been on fire since May. Correa, who was voted by the fans to the Futures game, is hitting .318/.409/.464 with 28 extra base hits and eight steals.

1. Jon Singleton

Singleton missed the first 50 games of the season after being suspended for marijuana use. Since returning, he's struggled a bit since arriving in OKC, though with the time he missed that's not entirely unexpected. Across three levels, Singleton is hitting .224/.338/.415 with eight home runs in 219 plate appearance. With Carter and Wallace providing adequate production at first right now, there's no need to rush Singleton to Houston right now.

The biggest omission from my rankings was Asher Wojciechowski. Wojo currently has a 2.65 ERA between Corpus and OKC with 98 strikeouts in 118.2 innings. If he can keep this up, there's a good chance he'll see time in Houston soon, as early as this season.