2014 Houston Astros

C – Roberto Pena –  HiA Lancaster – 22 yo;  – (2010 – 7th round)  –
  • .249 – 13 HR – 54RBi – 48R – .306/.414/.720 slash   –   PAG: 2.94
  • BA-NR  –   MLB Pipeline-NR   –   BP-NR
  • The Astros have to be thrilled to finally see a healthy and productive Jason Castro  behind the plate. Over the last two seasons, the now 27 year old Castro has averaged 123 games and logged in a 2013 PAG of 3.18, but crashed to a 1.97 PAG in 2014. This seems to be the norm for Houston catching prospects; and even though my Astros catching depth chart is nine players deep, 22 year-old Roberto Pena found himself on top of my list.  The 6’0 – 220 lb. righty has methodically climbed his way through the system topping out with a 2.94 PAG for the JetHawks. I’ll temper my excitement over Pena’s bat. He can get by with the stick, but defensively, I’m all in.  He brings a superior glove, excellent foot work and an eye-popping 57% caught stealing percentage to the table. 
1B – A.J. Reed – Short Season Tri-City/LoA Quad Cities  – 21 yo;  – (2014 – 2nd round) –
  •  .289 – 12 HR – 54RBi – 43R –  .375/.522/.898 slash  –  – csPAG: 3.81
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline(mid-season)/#14  –  BP-NR
  • What’s not to like about the monstrous Reed? He’s 6’4 – 240 lbs., is a supreme athlete,  a sweet swinging lefty which produces as much power as it does average and served as a pitching ace for the University of Kentucky; which the combination of the two helped him bring home the 2014 Golden Spikes Award.  He made his pro debut with Short Season Tri-City and posted a 34 game PAG of 4.12. Even though the Indiana native played exactly half of his 2014 games in the New York-Penn League, he still ranked 3rd in the league in On-base percentage (.420), was 4th in slugging % (.516) and 2nd in OPS (.936). Reeds 3.50 PAG for LoA Quad Cities pretty much secures that Reed will either begin 2015 back in the Midwest League or with an aggressive promotion to HiA Lancaster, which would be extremely fun to watch.

2B – Frankeny Fernandez  –  DSL Astros Orange/GCL Astros  –  17 yo;  – (2013 – International FA signee/DR)

  • .320 –  1HR – 32RBi –  45R – 30SB  –   .435/.440/.875 slash   – –  csPAG: 4.36
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • I really went out on an extended UTR limb with my choice of Fernandez.  Maybe it’s because Houston is such a loaded system that taking a chance on a 17 year-old kid with only 19 games of experience past the Dominican Summer League would be a low risk.  I mean, the 6’1 – 170 lb. fresh off his 18th birthday (Dec. 7th) posted a 4.36 PAG for DSL Orange, but as I’ve said with several prospects since our Organizational All-Star postings began, I’ll temper my enthusiasm until I see the young Dominican face the state side challenge of the Gulf Coast League. He did play 19 games in the GCL to conclude his season posting a 2.53 PAG, but it was his 17 doubles in those 19 games that has me intrigued.  A fun prospect to watch develop.  Now, I’m not leaving my Astros 2B O.A.S. posting without adding a few comments about fellow 2B Tony Kemp.  He’s drawn Jose Altuve comps for his size and  posted a 2013 csPAG of 2.99 between Short Season Tri-City and LoA Quad Cities. His 2014 promotion to HiA produced whopping 4.54 for the JetHawks. Soon, he found himself in Double-A Corpus Christi and by seasons end posted a 3.44 PAG.  I took the extreme UTR route in choosing Fernandez, but Kemp is equally on my radar and it wouldn’t be shocking if Kemp made an “Altuve-like” impact of his own soon. 
 3B – J.D. Davis   – Short Season Tri-City/LoA Quad Cities  – 21 yo;  – (2014 – 3rd round) –
  • .293 – 13HR –  52RBi – 38R –  5SB –   .371/.508/.878  slash   –  csPAG: 3.53
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline(mid-season)/#20  –  BP-NR
  • Let’s keep the two-way player theme going with the 6’3 – 215 lb. Davis. The Cal State Fullerton alum not only belted 14 home runs and bat .307 in his collegiate career, he also compiled a 5-5 record along with 13 saves for the Titans. So, it’s obvious the Elk Grove, CA native has supreme baseball acumen and it showed even in pro ball as he posted a debut PAG of 3.63 for Short Season Tri-City.  Davis saw a mid-July promotion to LoA Quad Cities where his PAG score of 3.47 is exactly the consistency I like to see between levels.  I’m really anxious to see where Houston assigns Davis to start next season. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Davis excels and sees Double-A Corpus Christi by the end of 2015. If he can maintain the mid-3 PAG level throughout 2015, Davis could easily crack every Houston top-10 heading into 2016. 
SS – Carlos Correa  – HiA Lancaster – 19 yo; – (2012 – 1st Round) –
  • .325 – 6HR – 57RBi – 50R – 20SB  –   .416/.510/.926  slash   – PAG: 4.68
  • BA/#1  –  MLB Pipeline (mid-season)/#1  –  BP/#1 
  •  What more needs to be said. Pound for pound, the best shortstop prospect in the game today. The End. 
LF – Terrell Joyce  – Short Season Tri-City –  22 yo; –  (2012 – 12th round)
  • .231 – 11HR – 32RBi – 24R –    –  .309/.495/.803 slash  –   PAG: 3.13
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • Joyce is another prospect where I took the “Frankeny Fernandez” route. (see above)  When Baseball America released their 2014 Prospect Handbook, of the top-30 Astros listed, 27% of them were outfielders. So, much of the widespread prospect love is roaming their organizations outfields. Therefore this allows me to be a bit more bold with my pick without the pressure of hitting a home run (no pun intended). Joyce gives me a lot to chew on. At 6’3 – 235 lb., he’s a physical beast with power to all fields, good speed and average defense. Yet hasn’t quite put it all together with the bat inside of games yet. The Florida College alum debuted with an even 3.00 PAG for Rookie Greenville, but took a sophomore season nose dive scoring a 2.06 after an aggressive leap frog of Short Season Tri-City right to the LoA Quad Cities Bandits lineup. Joyce righted the ship this season and I’d really like to see Houston test him again in Quad Cities. He’s got lots of tools and this coming season I’d like to see Joyce dump all of them out of the bag. 
CF – Teoscar Hernandez – HiA Lancaster/AA Corpus Christi  –  21 yo; –  (2011 – International FA/DR) –
  • .292 – 21HR – 37 doubles – 9 triples – 85RBi – 84R – 33 SB  –  .335/.400/.735  slash  – –  csPAG: 4.31
  • BA/#16  –  MLB Pipeline(mid-season)/#11  –  BP-NR
  • Well, where do I begin with my man Teoscar? Even though I didn’t have an official Hitter of the Day tally for the 2014 regular season, I could tell you with 99.9% certainty that the 6’2 – 180 lb. Dominican led all player daily mentions during the season. Teoscar made us here at UTRMinors proud in 2014 after we named him our pre-season Under The Radar Breakout Prospect of the Year over at MLBDepthCharts.com in early April.  Hernandez posted a killer 4.60 PAG for HiA Lancaster and was among the Cal League leaders in triples (8) and stolen bases (31). He earned an early August promotion to AA Corpus Christi and even though his PAG dropped to 3.06 in 23 games, Hernandez proved he’s well worth top prospect mention within one of, if not the, best systems in all of baseball. I expect a full season in AA in 2015 and even though it’s aggressive, if he continues to produce as he did this season, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Hernandez sipping a major league cup of coffee in September. 
RF – Brett Phillips  – LoA Quad Cities/HiA Lancaster – 20 yo; – (2012 – 6th round) –
  • .310 – 17 HR – 14 triples – 68 RBi –  87 R – 23 SB –  .375/.529/.905  slash  –  csPAG: 3.76
  • BA/#30  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • Heading into 2014, it was felt within the system that even though the 6’0 – 175 lb. Phillips was a solid defender, he had some work to do on the offensive side of the ball. Based on the stat sheets, I think Phillips proved he put in plenty of work.  He began 2014 for LoA Quad Cities leading the Bandits roster in nearly all offensive categories. Phillips was also one of only six true UTR-criteria qualifiers to score double digits in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases this season.  One could definitely consider 2014 a true breakout performance. Prior to this season, the 6’0 – 175lb. Florida native posted a csPAG score of 2.40 in 96 games between the start of 2012 with the GCL Astros all the way through 2013 with Rookie Greeneville and LoA Quad Cities. So, it’s difficult to imagine Phillips doing much better than his 2014 performance. However, with the Cal League on the not-so-distant horizon, Phillips could equal or surpass this years numbers.  
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Mention Points/TPS
1. LHP Josh Hader – (12) cSR/TPS .077
  • 20 years old – (HiA Lancaster / Double-A Corpus Christi)
  • 19th round – 2012
  • 4-Time UTR Mention (April 13thApril 22ndApril 26thMay 30th)
  • Ranked 14th by Baseball America / 10th by MLBPipeline
  • Probably no UTR Pitcher starting the 2014 season as hot as Josh Hader with 3 mentions in April.
  • Since being acquired from Baltimore in the Bud Norris deal, Hader had some skeptics in Houston saying that he couldn’t produce; and they didn’t see much upside in the young left-hander. He seemed to quiet them, as you can’t find much negative press about his performance in 2014. It started with an assignment to the hitting confines of the California League (HiA Lancaster) where he went 9-2 and a 2.70 ERA. He also pounded the strike zone for 112 K’s in 103.2 innings of work. All of this while he shared the rotation with three of the top 6 prospects in the Astros system (Appel,McCullers,Velasquez). He was named the Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year and the first Lancaster pitcher ever to garner Cal League Pitcher of the Year…..take that nay-sayers. Turning only 21 when the 2015 season gets under way, Hader is the true definition of an under the radar player.
2. RHP Troy Scribner – (9) cSR/TPS .064
  • 23 years old – (Double-A / Short-Season Tri-City / LoA Quad Cities)
  • Undrafted – 2013
  • 3-Time UTR Mention (July 1stJuly 18thJuly 28th)
  • OK, maybe being undrafted and capturing the #2 spot might be defining the true UTR player. Scribner saw action at 3 levels in 2014 where he went 10-3 and a 2.09 ERA in 18 appearances (14 starts). Scribner didn’t pop-up on my daily tracking list until June when he was demoted from Double-A Corpus Christi after only three appearances. That assignment proved too aggressive for the right-hander and he settled-in with Short-Season Tri-City (7-1, 1.38 ERA, 60 K, 14 BB). His development got back on track with a promotion to LoA Quad Cities, where he did well.
3. RHP Michael Feliz – (9) cSR/TPS .084
  • 21 years old – (LoA Quad Cities)
  • Undrafted – 2010
  • Ranked 9th by Baseball America / 7th by MLBPipeline / 10th by Baseball Prospectus
  • A raw talent taken from the Dominican Republic, Feliz could be a gem for the Astros either in the rotation or the bullpen. To become a starter, Feliz needs to clean-up some issues with his command and delivery, especially his arm action. In the bullpen, the Astros could have a future closer with the right-hander’s fastball which already touches 99 mph.
4. RHP Adrian Houser – (7) cSR/TPS .105
  • 21 years old – (LoA Quad Cities)
  • 2nd round – 2011
  • It just hasn’t clicked for Houser in his fourth year since being drafted, but patience must be exhibited when dealing with high school arms; even those taken in the 2nd round. The Astros are bringing Houser along slowly and he has shown steady production, plus I like where his TPS numbers are holding over the last two years. I’ll be very curious to see where they place him for 2015.
5. RHP Edison Frias – (7) cSR/TPS .122
  • 23 years old – (LoA Quad Cities)
  • Undrafted – 2011
  • UTR Mention (June 27th)
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – Mention Points/TPS
1. RHP Tyler Brunnemann – RP/TPS .071
  • 22 years old – (LoA Quad Cities / HiA Lancaster)
  • 40th round – 2013
  • As a low rounder, Brunnemann has been making people take stand and notice. Not by the stats he has complied, but with his work ethic and determination to make it to the major leagues, a tall task for a 40th round pick. Looking at his stats, the right-hander has posted a K/9 ratio north of 10.0 in both years as a pro. Whats more impressive is the 12.2 K/9 rate that he tacked during his time in the California League over 8 appearances. He works from his low 90’s fastball and a delivery off the mound that has been described at distracting.
2. RHP Juan Minaya – cSR/TPS .075
  • 23 years old – (HiA Lancaster / Double-A Corpus Christie)
  • Undrafted – 2008
  • UTR Mention (May 5th)
  • Minaya came up through the Astros system flashing a slurvy fastball with a lot of potential. It hasn’t panned out yet and the clock is ticking for the Dominican native. The TPS system sees something in Minaya as he advanced up to Double-A. He improved his rate by .018 points from 2013
3. RHP Andrew Walter – RP/TPS .088
  • 23 years old – (LoA Quad Cities / HiA Lancaster)
  • 31st round – 2009
 Top 5 TPS – Starting Pitchers
1. RHP Vincent Velasquez – cSR/TPS .060
  • 22 years old – (HiA Lancaster/GCL Astros/HiA Lancaster)
  • 2nd round – 2010
  • Ranked #6 by Baseball America / #6 by Baseball Prospectus / #8 by MLBPipeline
  • Top prospect who appeared to be back on track from Tommy John surgery in 2011, but ended on the DL at the end of July for an undisclosed injury. The report on Velasquez states that he will be a solid #2 starter if his curveball becomes a plus pitch.
2. LHP Salvador Montano – cSR/TPS .061
  • 20 years old – (DSL Astros)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • UTR Mention (August 2nd)
  • Successful DSL debut for the young lefty. He went 7-3, 2.24 ERA, with 87 strikeouts and 23 walks over 64.1 innings.
3. RHP Troy Scribner – cSR/TPS .064
  • 23 years old – (Double-A / Short-Season Tri-City / LoA Quad Cities)
  • Undrafted – 2013
  • 3-Time UTR Mention (July 1st, July 18th, July 28th)
  • OK, maybe being undrafted and capturing the #2 spot might be the true UTR player. Scribner saw action at 3 levels in 2014 where he went 10-3 and a 2.09 ERA in 18 appearances (14 starts). Scribner didn’t pop-up on my daily tracking list until June when he was demoted from Double-A Corpus Christie after only three appearances. That assignment proved too aggressive for the right-hander and he settled-in with Short-Season Tri-City (7-1, 1.38 ERA, 60 K, 14 BB). His development got back on track with a promotion to LoA Quad Cities, where he did well.
4. RHP Harold Arauz – cSR/TPS .065
  • 19 years old – (GCL Astros / Appy League Greeneville)
  • Undrafted – 2012
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (July 23rdAugust 4th)
  • Signed as a 16 year out of Panama in 2011. At that time, Ben Badler from Baseball America noted that the 6-foot-4 Arauz sits in the high-80’s with his fastball. He’s said to have “a clean delivery and throws strikes with some feel for his secondary stuff”. That report held true in his debut in the U.S. as the big righty struck out 68 hitters in 53 innings.
5. LHP Reymin Guduan – cSR/TPS .074
  • 22 years old – (Appy League Greeneville)
  • Undrafted – 2009
  • Ranked 28th by Baseball America / “On the Rise” by Baseball Prospectus
  • The Astros gave Guduan the opportunity to start games this past season, his first since pitching in the DSL back in 2011. His ceiling though could be a future closer with his high 90’s fastball and a slider with outstanding break and bite. He’s needs to improve his control to reach that ceiling.
 Top 3 TPS – Relief Pitchers
1. RHP Eric Peterson – RP/TPS .062
  • 21 years old – (Appy League Greeneville)
  • 37th round – 2014
  • Peterson picked up where he left off after being drafted out NC State. In 19 appearances, he amassed 7 saves, 2.35 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 7 walks over 23 innings. Peterson can run his fastball up to 92 and also throws an average curveball and mixes a changeup in as well. He came on strong in August, not giving up a run in 8 appearances (8 IP) and getting 5 of those 7 saves.

2. RHP Samil De Los Santos – cSR/TPS .066

  • 20 years old – (GCL Astros / Appy League Greeneville)
  • Undrafted – 2011
  • Intriguing prospect with a high strikeout (12.8 K/9) and groundball (56%) rates in his second season stateside.
3. LHP Jordan Mills – RP/TPS .068
  • 22 years old – (Short-Season Tri-City / LoA Quad Cities)
  • 28th round – 2013
 2014 Breakout Grades
The following pitchers were chosen in early March. Their selection was based solely on their previous season’s TPS rating and using the UTRMinors.com criteria for those under the radar.
SP Brian Holmes -Holmes had a strong year pitching in the California League with the only pox mark on his stat line would be the 13 HR issued. The rest of peripherals were stabile from the 2013 season and his TPS leveled out to .096 – Grade C
RP J.D. Osborne – Going into the season I knew Osborne had some control issues (5.3 BB9) from his 21 Rookie League appearances and the risk that it could be explotied at the next level. What I didn’t account was that Osborne (36th round pick in 2013) would receive an aggressive assignment to begin the 2014 season at HiA Lancaster and got hammered. 52 walks given over 46.1 innings which parlayed into 40 earned runs and 7.77 ERA in 36 appearances.- Grade F

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