As the long offseason goes on, several baseball publications will be reviewing and posting their 2014 top prospects list. Earlier this offseason, Baseball Prospectus came out with their top-10 list. Let’s take a look Marc Hulet’s top 10 Astros prospects coming into the 2014 season.
You can read Hulet’s whole article by clicking here. There’s tons more to read including “the year in review,” “the look ahead,” and the “career outlook,” plus much more on the next five prospects.
1. Carlos Correa | 65/A- (SS)
The Scouting Report: With a strong frame, Correa showcases existing gap power but possesses above-average raw power that could eventually lead to more than 20 home runs in a full season. He’s also more advanced with his approach than a lot of hitters his age and he should continue to produce strong batting averages and on-base percentages as he ascends through the pro ranks. Defensively, he’s a solid fielder with a strong arm and good actions but could eventually slow down and lose range, forcing a move to third base.
2. George Springer | 65/AAA (OF)
The Scouting Report: Springer has an impressive power-speed combination and is a four-tool threat. The swing-and-miss tendencies will mitigate some of his effectiveness at the plate but he also does a nice job of coaxing free passes. Springer has a strong arm that will make him well-suited to right field. His speed, range and instincts would make him a solid center-fielder or a well-above-average corner outfielder.
3. Mark Appel | 60/A- (P)
The Scouting Report: The right-hander features a mid-90s fastball that he can bump up into the high 90s when necessary. Appel backs up the heater with a potentially-plus slider and a developing changeup that could eventually be an average offering. Standing 6’5”, the Texas native has the height to create a strong downward plane on his heater, which results in a plethora of ground-ball outs with his two-seam fastball. Appel needs to work on effectively utilizing both his two-seamer (for ground balls) and his four-seamer (for strikeouts). The organization is enthralled with the young pitcher’s makeup and work ethic — both of which help already-impressive talent ability play up.
4. Jonathan Singleton | 60/AAA (1B)
The Scouting Report: Singleton has a chance to develop into an average hitter with plus power from the left side. Two big issues are holding Singleton back from further success: his struggles against left-handed pitching and his overall swing-and-miss tendencies. He didn’t win over any fans by returning to the game out of shape after his suspension, and needs to prove he’s 100% committed to being a professional. Defensively, he could be an average fielding first baseman. He’s see some time in the outfield but has modest range and a below-average arm.
5. Mike Foltynewicz | 60/AA (P)
The Scouting Report: A native of Illinois, Foltynewciz can hit triple digits with his fastball and it sits in the mid-to-upper 90s with explosive life — but he struggles with both his command and control. Where he lacks — in comparison to other top pitching prospects — though, is in the secondary pitches. He utilizes both a slider and a curveball with the former having the current edge. One contact even suggested the slider could be a plus offering for him. Foltynewicz’s changeup, which doesn’t get much use, has fringe-average potential. The right-hander can overpower left-handed hitters but he needs to do a better job of commanding the inner half against them.
6. Vincent Velasquez | 60/A+ (P)
The Scouting Report: Like Foltynewicz, Velasquez in another well-kept secret from the rest of baseball. He does a little bit of everything with solid a solid fastball (90-94 mph), above-average control, the ability to induce ground-ball outs and a strong frame that should be able to provide lots of innings if his elbow is sound. His changeup is a plus offering but his curveball needs a lot of refinement and the lost development time didn’t do Velasquez any favors.
7. Lance McCullers Jr. | 60/A- (P)
The Scouting Report: The Florida native has a strong profile as pitcher capable of recording the majority of his outs via the strikeout or the ground ball. His velocity sits in the mid 90s and his curveball also has plus potential. His changeup, though, is currently below average and his delivery creates poor command/control. Those issues could eventually lead to a role change from starter to high-leverage reliever.
8. Domingo Santana | 55/AA (OF)
The Scouting Report: The Dominican native generates impressive right-handed power due to his massive size, strong forearms and solid bat speed. However, he has an aggressive approach and struggles with pitch recognition at times, which leads to his high strikeout rates and will likely result in a low batting average in the big leagues. Defensively, he plays a respectable right field and possesses a strong arm.
9. Rio Ruiz | 55/A- (3B)
The Scouting Report: Selected in the same draft (2012) as Carlos Correa, Ruiz gives the Astros a second potential above-average contributor for the left side of the Astros infield, perhaps starting in 2016. The third baseman has a chance to develop two plus tools: hit and power. The left-handed hitter handles southpaws quite well, utilizing a shorter, more compact stroke. Ruiz also has to improve defensively if he’s going to stick at the hot corner long term, but the strong arm helps him compensate for some of his mistakes.
10. Josh Hader | 55/A- (P)
The Scouting Report: Hader has a four-pitch repertoire with both his breaking balls needing the most work. His fastball works in the 89-95 mph range and his changeup has a lot of potential. The southpaw struggles with his command and control because he gets out of whack with his delivery. If he can become more efficient with throwing strikes, which will come with improved fastball command, it could help him log more innings per start. The young hurler has a fluid arm motion, which gives hope for more strikes down the road and it also makes his heater appear faster than it is.
Hulet’s Next Five
Michael Feliz, RHP
Max Stassi, C
Delino DeShields Jr., OF
Andrew Thurman, RHP
Kyle Smith, RHP
I have no problems with the top nine. Hulet seems to believe in Singleton a bit more than others but that’s obviously with reason. Number 10 is what shocked me on this list. No disrespect to Josh Hader but I don’t think he’s a top 10 prospect in this stacked system. I would have put Michael Feliz or Delino DeShields at 10 or even considered Stassi, Asher Wojciechowski, or Nolan Fontana for that spot. However, a prospect “expert” being high on another Astros prospect is never a bad thing.
It’s safe to say the Astros system is packed. When looking at Hulet’s “Next Five,” you could pretty much make an argument for at least another 5-10 prospects to be in the 10-15 range. As mentioned, both Wojciechowski or Fontana could both be in the that range, as well as Preston Tucker, Teoscar Hernandez, Danry Vasquez, or Nick Tropeano.
Stay tuned for more Astros top 10 lists and MLB top 100 lists as the offseason moves forward.