I am not an Astros fan. I'm actually a Phillies fan, but I decided that to improve my knowlede of the minor leagues, I would make a top 10 list for each team. My Oakland and Arizona lists are done, and I moved on to the 'Stros. Since I am not a fan of the team, you may sit there at some point and say, "How do you not have ______ on the list?" If that's the case, tell me PLEASE. If I neglected to mention something about a certain prospect, please let me know. I now present to you the 2010 Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects (from a Phillies fan point of view).
I) Jason Castro-C (Will turn 23 in June)
The former 10th overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft has certainly lived up to the high draft pick. He started out the season in High Single A Lancaster as the team's starting catcher, and he was quickly shuttled to AA Corpus Christi.
Most scouts will tell you that the test to see if a prospect has what it takes is to watch how he makes the transition from Single A to AA. Castro passed the test with flying colors. First I’ll give you his Single A stats: .309/7/44 with 20 doubles and an OPS of .916.
But those are just his Single A numbers. His AA numbers are just as impressive. With the Hooks, he had a stat line of .293/3/29 with 11 doubles. Castro finished the 2009 campaign hitting an impressive .300 BA, 10 HR, and 73 RBI. The 31 triples he added only help his case as the No. 1 prospect.
Castro should start the season in AA again, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Wade pushes him through to Round Rock. It’s only a matter of time before he’s calling games for the Astros.
II) Jonathan Gaston-LF (Will be 23 at the start of the season)
Played the whole season at High Single A Lancaster at the age of 22. He certainly had a breakout year. In 2008, Gaston was a rookie with the Tri-City of the NYP. He hit an awful .193 with only two HRs. Somehow the former seventh round pick in the '08 draft got promoted to Lancaster, skipping Low A Lexington to start the '09 season out, but he quickly proved that '08 was a fluke.
Gaston crushed Carolina League pitching: .278/35/100, along with 14 SBs. The 35 HRs he hit were best among Astros minor-leaguers, and his 100 RBI were third best among Astros prospects as well. While his power numbers are great, he did strike out 164 times, so he might want to work on his plate discipline. But 35 HRs is nothing to shake a stick at. He definitely deserves a look at AA Corpus Christi next season.
III) Joivanni Mier-SS (Will turn 20 in August)
Drafted 28th overall in the first round of last year's MLB draft, Mier had some scouts calling him the next Nomar Garciaparra. Now of course we won’t know if that projection turns out to be true or not for about another seven years, but what we do know is that he is one solid prospect. GM Ed Wade sent Mier to the Short Season Greeneville, having him bypass the GCL altogether, and upon his signing he immediately took over the duty of starting SS for the team.
Most high school kids struggle in rookie ball, so I’m usually pleasantly surprised when a kid bats .250, but Mier did a little bit better then that, having a stat line that reads as follows: .276/7/32. He also showed speed that scouts said wasn’t there, adding in 10 SBs and six triples. He should start out next season as Tri-City's starting SS.
IV) Jordan Lyles-RHP (Will be 19 when the season starts)
The compensation pick (38th overall) in the 2008 draft, Lyles showed off the talent this past season that made him such a high pick. In Class A Lexington, Lyles had a 3.24 ERA, which was second best among regular Lexington starters. He also pitched in 144.2 IP, which was good for best on the team. Impressive numbers for a then 18-year-old.
But what really jumped off at the page for me was his 167 SOs, which were good for No. 1 among all of the Astros farm hands. His 1.19 WHIP was good for third best among Astros minor league pitchers. He should be in Lancaster’s rotation next season, which would be an impressive feet for a 19-year-old.
V) Koby Clemens-C (will be 23 at the start of the season)
Clemens finally showed great strides last season with High Single A Lancaster. He had a BA of .345, 22 HRs, and 121 RBI with High A Lancaster. Got a brief call up to AA Corpus Christi and didn’t fare as well, hitting just .235 with only two RBI, but it was only in five games. Final season stat line looked as such: .341/22/123 and an OPS of 1.036.
Clemens was at the top of most offensive leader boards when it came to Astros minor-leaguers. His .341 BA was second best. His 22 HRs he hit were third best. His 123 RBI were No. 1 among the Astros' products. His .415 OBP and .620 SLG were also No. 1. He may be better known for his father, but Koby is slowly making a name for himself as a very solid prospect.
He will probably have to change positions if he wants to make it on the Astros, as No. 1 prospect Jason Castro plays the same position. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Clemens get traded possibly around the trade deadline. If Castro starts out the season in AAA Round Rock, then Clemens will most likely get a look at AA Corpus.
VI) Ross Seaton-RHP (Will turn 21 in September)
Lyles's teammate from the 2009 season joins the list, as right-hander Ross Seaton makes an appearance. He was on most people’s lists last season, as he was a compensation pick from the 2008 draft (109th overall). His talent didn’t show in the '08 season, as he and his stellar curveball got rocked in the Appalachian League, but that was then and this is now.
In 2009, he and Lyles were a powerful one-two combination. Seaton finished the season behind Lyles on most pitching categories in Lexington (which is nothing to be ashamed of). He had a 3.29 ERA and a 8-10 record. He had 88 Ks in 136.2 IP and was a South Atlantic League All Star. Should get a promotion with Lyles to Lancaster.
VII) Tanner Bushue-RHP (Will turn 19 in June)
A second round pick in the '09 draft, Bushue was one of the better pitchers for the GCL Astros last season. In his first season as a pro, Bushue pitched in five games (starting all five of them) and went 1-0 with a 2.42 ERA. He will probably get a promotion next season to Short Season Tri-City. He projects well with his 6'4" frame, and his fastball tops out at 93.
VIII) Polin Trinidad-LHP (Will be 25 at the start of the season)
I actually had the privilege of watching him and Royals' prospect Blake Wood battle it out back in '08 in the Carolina League, and that is where he really caught my eye. A participant in the 2008 Futures game, Trinidad is a bit old to be on the list, but the kid could be a late bloomer, as the organization has handled him somewhat with kid gloves.
He has amazing control. I can tell you that from experience. He uses that to make up for his sometimes average stuff. He started out the season in AA Corpus, where he went 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA. That control I talked about earlier was on display in Corpus, as he had 53 SOs but only 10 BBs in 82.2 IP.
He received a call up to AAA Round Rock, where he struggled a bit, finishing the season there with an ERA of 4.53 and a 6-5 record. He pitched 82.2 innings in AA and 87.1 innings in AAA but gave up 18 HRs in AAA compared to the seven he gave up in AA. He should start the season out in Round Rocks rotation. Good news is his winter league numbers were good, as he had a 2.45 ERA with seven SOs but zero starts.
IX) Jay Austin-CF (Will turn 20 in August)
He is probably one of the best athletes, if not the best, in the Astros system. Played all of last season in Lexington and played respectably, having a stat line of .267/1/33 with 23 SBs. He also ended the season well. In his last six games he had 10 hits. Possibly destined for Lancaster, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if he returns to Lexington for another season of polishing
X) Jonathan Meyer-3B/C (Will be 19 at the beginning of the season)
A compensation pick in the 2009 draft (111th overall), Meyer didn’t show much in his first professional season. He started out the season in Rookie ball playing for the Greeneville Astros.....if you want to call it that. He had a .190 BA with just three HRs and 27 RBI.
So why is he on the list you ask? Because if Jonathan Gaston has shown me anything, it’s that you can’t get too worried if a kid struggles his first pro season. Meyer is a switch hitting third baseman who has raw power and will be a project but could also end up paying dividends in a few years. I think he will start out in Tri-City next season, but Ed Wade has yet to call me up and ask my opinion on the matter.