The usual names that are being tossed around when you hear fans and analysts bring up the Houston Astros’ minor league system include the likes of Carlos Correa, Domingo Santana, Mark Appel and Michael Foltynewicz. They are at the forefront of many discussions involving the future of the Astros and rightfully so.
Besides the obvious players, there also lies a hidden truth of the Astros’ minors — other quality players are waiting to show they belong in the Major Leagues. One such player is Nolan Fontana, who could very well be the forgotten prospect of the Astros’ 2012 draft class.
Fontana, a second-round pick, happened to be the same draft when Correa was taken first overall.
There were many players selected that could make their own mark one day for the Astros, but I think that Fontana could be the first one.
Fontana attended the University of Florida, where he was regarded as a reliable, yet unspectacular player for the Gators. Not exactly the same type of hype followed him like it did with Correa, McCullers, and Ruiz. This, however, does not discount what he did at Florida.
- University of Florida Career Stats, 2010-12: .287 BA, 715 PA, 172 R, 205 H, 37 2B, 17 HR, 102 RBI, 153 BB, 86 SO
Now, what leaps out from the above statistics is Nolan’s walk-to-strikeout numbers. It is no secret that the Astros with their current front office tend to gravitate toward players who have favorable statistics beyond batting average, home runs, and RBI’s. Walks, strikeouts, on-base percentage, along with sabermetrics are all used to value player’s potential more than ever.
So far in 2014, it has looked like Fontana is playing at a high level with the Hooks as he he did at Florida. The stats below should give further indication about what type of player he could possibly be for the Astros.
- 2014 stat line through 66 games with the Hooks, .262 BA, 1 HR, 26 RBI, 61 BB, 76 SO, .418 OBP, and a .376 SLG
The area that sticks out the most this season is his on-base percentage, which leads the Texas League. For the Hooks, Nolan has the highest OBP compared to others with comparable playing time by at least .043. That is quite the jump from second place on the team to first in that particular stat, which indicates he takes advantage of all his opportunities to get on-base.
But, unfortunately, injuries are part of the game.
According to George Vondracek of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Nolan Fontana just recently broke his right pinky finger:
.#cchooks IF Nolan Fontana will be out an undetermined amt of time after breaking Rt pinky during 5th-inn warmups. (1/2)
— George Vondracek (@Caller_GeorgeV) June 20, 2014
He was accordingly placed on the disabled list and should be out for the foreseeable future.
Yet, even with the latest injury setback, the big question is: Will he ever make it to the majors and be a quality player?
While he won’t hit for a lot of power and may not have the best glove, his solid play with a knack for getting on-base should help establish Fontana on a major league roster in some capacity.
In short, he won’t waste at-bats and finds a way to get on-base in an assortment of ways while being solid in most other facets of the game.
Call-up Projection: With the latest injury now hampering him, Fontana may not be promoted to Triple-A after all this season. The front office of the Astros may want to let him re-establish himself with the Hooks while getting a shot at the beginning of next season with the Oklahoma City RedHawks.
All factors aside, the earliest I can possibly see Fontana being promoted to the majors is the summer of 2015, barring an unforeseen issue.
What you think Astros Nation? Fontana may not be flashy, but every team needs guys that are solid all-around players to fill out a roster.
The future is bright and should only continue to become even more brighter with more prospects making themselves known.
Sound off below!