Welcome UTRMinors readers to 2017…..Happy New Year to all. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season swept up Marc and I, and we apologize for going off the rails with our posting schedule. We are back on track and before you know it….Spring Training will be upon us. So, to bring things back to ground, we finish-up the UTR-OAS rosters for the American League with the A.L. West. If you missed our previous postings, you will notice that they have been included on our Archive page in the title header above. Again, this is the 3rd season for the post-season UTR-Organizational All-Stars, and with the pitchers, I have been including a recap of pitchers of UTR prominence from those previous lists.
A look back to the Houston Astro 2014 UTR Organizational All-Stars brought a smile to Astro fans with Josh Hader and Vince Velasquez heading the list. Hader was a hot commodity after the trade with Baltimore and the Astros sold high by trading him to the Milwaukee Brewers during the 2015 season. The deal also included Adrian Houser, another 2014 UTR-OAS. Velasquez was also dealt in 2015 to the Phillies for Ken Giles. This basically stripped the Astros UTR cupboard bare, but Troy Scribner and Michael Feliz begun to shine. Scribner repeated on the 2015 OAS roster and earned the “Legit UTR” tag. He then was sold to the Houston Astros and worked the 2016 season with Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Salt Lake and posted respectable numbers. Feliz, on the other hand, made 47 relief appearances with the Astros last season, going 8-1 with a 4.43 ERA. I predicted that Feliz would be a gem for the Stro’s, regardless if he was a starter or from the bullpen. It looks to be the latter, as the 23 year-old racked up 95 strikeouts (22 BB) over 65 innings. The “One to Watch” from 2014 was Brian Holmes, who backed up the label with a top UTR-OAS ranking in 2015. His development took a hit in 2016, with the 25 year old missing a month due to an injury. The Astros had to cringe in losing Holmes at Double-A Arkansas mid-season, as they need left-handed help in Houston.
In the 2015 edition, top prospect Francis Martes was the top ranked UTR-OAS. His performance that season vaulted him as the Astros top pitching prospect according to Baseball America. He repeated Double-A and went 9-6 with 3.30 ERA and struck out 131 over 125.1 innings. As a 20 year-old righthander, Hector Perez just made the 2015 OAS roster and with his performance last season, could be a leading “One to Watch” candidate going into the 2017 season. Brook Dykxhoorn was just off the scope last year and it was the case again this season, in just missing the cut. The 6th round pick in 2014 didn’t light up the stat sheet, but considering he survived the riggers of the California League, continue to keep an eye on him. On the international front, another Perez could make some noise in 2017. Franklin Perez made his full season debut in 2016 with Lo-A Quad Cities as an 18 year-old. He posted a 3-3 record along with a 2.84 ERA and a 3.95 K/BB ratio over 66.2 innings. My watch list from last season included Cristian Javier, who made his U.S. debut pushing through the GCL and Appy Leagues.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score/TPS
1. RHP Jose Hernandez – 18 / .094
21 years old – (LoA Quad Cities / HiA Lancaster)
International Free Agent – 2015
Look for Hernandez to begin his ascent up the prospect ladder this Spring. The 21 year old breezed through two levels this past season, but more impressively, excelled in the tough environs of the California League. Kid has produced since coming out of Mexico and look for him to repeat with Lancaster to start 2017.
Another Hernandez that will be trailing Jose up through the organization. The Astros had both at Hi-A Lancaster in 2016, but Elieser was over matched and should have seasoned at Quad Cities. Let’s see how he fares back in Lancaster in 2017.
Fantasy players are always looking for that prospect that could fast-track to the Majors. Those in deeper leagues have no issue on taking fliers to stash in their roster. Bower could be that pitcher for the Astros, who desperately need left-handed depth. He’s another young arm who displayed success at Lancaster with a 10.6 K9 rate in a short stint. Overall, he allowed a 3.6 BB9 rate in 110.1 innings, but is wholly capable of missing bats (136 K’s).
22 years old – (LoA Quad Cities / HiA Lancaster / Double-A Corpus Christi)
International Free Agent – 2014
The Astros system has some intriguing talented under the radar kids, as my list indicates. Armenteros quickly found himself at HiA Lancaster and proved his stuff with a late season stint at AA-Corpus Christi. Only 22 years-old, the Cuban native has already displayed consistent mechanics and the ability to vary his tempo. He throws a mid 90’s fastball and an advanced slider that could be termed as a cutter. More success at Double-A in 2017 could have Armenteros in Houston toward the end of next season.
22 years old – (HiA Lancaster / Double-A Corpus Christi)
5th round – 2015
Thornton made his way to Corpus Christi in only his second season as a pro. His full season assignment began at Hi-A Lancaster, a tall order, but his peripherals were outstanding despite allowing 14 home runs over 89.2 innings. Thornton displays the attitude and pitchability to get him to Houston very quickly. He already has a 4-pitch mix of a 4-seamer, cutter with lateral movement (tough on lefties, over-the-top curveball, and a slider with good movement. He also throws a work-in-progress changeup. Thornton rounds out my top 5 which is possibly the most solid among the American League.
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Factor Score/TPS1. RHP Ryan Deemes – 7 / .104
23 years old – (LoA Quad Cities / HiA Lancaster / Double-A Corpus Christi)