One of the ways you’ll hear pitching prospects described is that each and every one is a lottery ticket. A general managers job is to acquire as many high quality lottery tickets as possible then warm up a Hungry Man meal, unfold their table for one, sit down on the Lazy Boy with the fewest amount of exposed springs, and hope that those tickets hit. Or I guess pitch, in this instance.
Projecting how a pitcher will develop his secondary pitches, or if they will add velocity is something that continues to be a very inexact science. So having a tremendous amount of pitching depth in your minor league system is crucial to maximizing the amount of major league talent that could one day emerge.
Jeff Luhnow has done a masterful job of acquiring the aforementioned depth. At the beginning of the 2013 season he had enough starting pitchers at three different minor league levels to execute a tandem pitching staff. A tandem system means that Luhnow would have two pitchers pegged for a start; the first would go 4-5 innings and the second would finish the game. This system is designed to allow the Astros to better distribute innings amongst their high priority pitching prospects. The system fell apart half way through because of freak injuries at the top levels but nonetheless, the depth clearly exists.
Luhnow acquired a lot of this depth through trades executed during the first two years of his tenure. HOWEVER, the cream of the Astros crop, the creme de la creme if you will (and you should), has come from high draft picks not only from Luhnow but also Ed Wade’s time with the club. The top 5 pitching prospects that I will talk about today are players that were drafted in the first five rounds of the draft and have been highly touted for most of their careers.
Something that I inherently don’t like about ranking pitching prospects is how a completely unproven prospect fresh out of college or high school, that “projects to be a number 1 or 2 starter if everything works out” can out rank a guy in triple A that projects as a back of the rotation starter. Doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of justice in that, plus we continually set ourselves up for failure since the drop out rate for pitchers is so insanely high. So what you’ll see is a bias towards pitchers that have proven themselves on a high level already as opposed to a pitcher who has all the “makings”, but hasn’t had a chance to prove it yet.
Anyways, with all that in mind, here are your top 5 starting pitching prospects for the 2014 Houston Astros.
Other Top 3/5 Prospect Lists