Here it is. This is the list we teased in the podcast earlier today. Below is the grading scale for those of you not wanting to partake in our audio-fest. I also added some quick notes on the top 30 guys in the system. We ended up ranking 63 players, but I felt this list should have a cutoff somewhere, and 30 seemed a good, round number.
It's also important to note this is a bit different than just arbitrarily making up a list of the best players. We each graded every prospect, averaged those grades and then sorted based on highest to lowest average grade. So, it's basically a hybrid of what John Sickels and Baseball America try to do.
|Letter Grade||Number Grade||Description|
A rare, mythical beast
|A||9||Top 5 In Nation|
The List (compiled as a group effort by OremLK, clack, Subber10, timmy and me)
1) Jordan Lyles, RHP, Round Rock: Grade - 7.60; Notes - You know him, I know him, we all are aware of Lyles. The question is, will the Astros save his arm next season or will he be pitching before dozens at MMP by June?
2) Ariel Ovando, OF, Dominican Academy: Grade - 6.63; Notes - Him, you may not know. In fact, none of us know a whole lot about Ovando. We've seen about 30 seconds of video on him showing off an impressive array of tools, but none of it was in a game environment. Still, Ovando has the tools to be one of the few superstars in the system.
3) JD Martinez, LF, Corpus Christi: Grade - 6.50; Notes - As Tim put it in the podcast, JD just rakes. That's why he's this high on the list, despite not really having a great power ceiling. For reference, his "disappointing" CC numbers include a .350 wOBA...
4) Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Greeneville: Grade - 6.00; Notes - The big, projectible righty actually beats out the draft pick taken 11 picks before him. Not sure if that'll prove a good choice at the end of next season, but it's a start.
5) Delino DeShields, Jr, 2B, Greeneville: Grade - 5.50; Notes - Not much time in the minors for DDJ, but he did get to show flashes of his elite speed and hit for a pretty high average. Lots to like heading into 2010.
6) Jay Austin, CF, Lancaster: Grade - 5.40; Notes - While he did not light up Lancaster like Jon Gaston before him, Austin put together a mighty fine season for one so young. His speed has never been more in evidence than this one and he's shown promising power numbers to boot.
7) Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Greeneville: Grade - 5.40; Notes - V-Dub has outperformed Folty on raw numbers, but some concerns about his arm injury history keep him lower on this list. A raw guy who just began pitching full-time recently, Velasquez will need some time to develop.
8) Ben Heath, C, Corpus Christi: Grade - 5.10; Notes - You read that right. A fifth-round pick who set Penn State's single-season home run record in 2010 made it all the way up to Double-A in the same year he was drafted. That's faster than Jason Castro. That's faster than Dallas Keuchel. That's faster than any player in the 2009 or 2008 drafts. I don't think this is a "Brandon Wikoff gets promoted because Round Rock needed an emergency infielder." Heath was getting at-bats after his promotion. And he was hitting. That's legitimate, boys and girls.
9) Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Corpus Christi: Grade - 4.90; Notes - The soft tossing lefty from Arkansas out-performed expectations in his first full season of professional baseball in one of the most difficult parks for pitchers. Solid strikeout rates, walk rates, and especially groundball rates make him a very solid prospect. His numbers aren't as great in Corpus but he'll likely get the call to go AAA next season.
10) Jio Mier, SS, Lexington: Grade - 4.90; Notes - Last year's top pick failed to live up to expecations he set last year. But, he managed to pull his numbers close to respectability with a solid second half of the season. Bobby Heck isn't worried since he's hitting doubles and drawing walks. He has the tools he just has to put it together mentally. He very well could do that next season in Lancaster after an off-season in which he knows exactly what to expect from a full-season of ball.
11) Austin Wates, OF, Tri-City: Grade - 4.88; Notes - The rare five-tool college player, Wates had some doubts about his abilities, which dropped him to the third round in the draft. He hasn't missed a beat since joining Tri-City, though, providing a heck of a spark for the ValleyCats recent playoff run.
12) Jonathan Villar, SS, Lancaster Grade - 4.80; Notes - The only minor leaguers the Astros got for Roy Oswalt, Villar was recently named a post-season All-Star in the South Atlantic League for his time with the Phillies affiliate. He's a toolsy shortstop who put up decent numbers in limited time at Lancaster. Will probably start 2011 in Corpus.
13) Jose Altuve, 2B, Lancaster: Grade - 4.80; Notes - Who doesn't love Altuve? The diminutive second sacker hits as soon as he rolls out of bed. In his first real challenge in full-season ball, Altuve got promoted from Lexington to Lancaster and still did well. He's probably above DDJ on the second base depth chart right now, only because he's more advanced.
14) Tanner Bushue, RHP, Lexington: Grade - 4.70; Notes - Fell a bit this season, not due to his lack of good performance, but due to an infusion of talent into the system. Bushue's only concerning characteristic is a lack of fastball velocity. His curve is really good, though, and there is talk of him learning a plus-changeup as well. Could break out in 2011.
15) Koby Clemens, 1B, Corpus Christi: Grade - 4.50; Notes - The Little Rocket hit more home runs for Corpus this season than anyone but Hunter Pence. Clemens' 26 bombs were second only to Pence's 28 in 2006. Think about what Pence did in 2007 for the big league club. No one thinks Clemens has a shot at the majors next season, but given a major injury, he's positioned himself in line for consideration.
16) Mike Kvasnicka, 3B, Tri-City: Grade - 4.50; Notes - An early hand injury really derailed the start to his pro career. I didn't love this pick when the Astros made it and I'm not sure I like it better now. Still, Kvasnicka is a professional hitter who could get better with time.
17) Telvin Nash, OF, Tri-City: Grade - 4.20; Notes - Another guy who was much higher last year, but is probably rightly ranked on this list. Nash finally got around to showing off the prodigious power he has, as one of three Greeneville Astros to post a slugging percentage over .500. Power is there, but he strikes out way too much. Is raw in much the same way Jay Austin was in 2009. Could see a jump in his performance at Lexington next season.
18) Tom Shirley, LHP, Tri-City: Grade - 4.10; Notes - His season was cut short by injury but he impressed while it lasted. This years ninth round pick posted stellar strikeout numbers as a starter but his reliance on his great fastball will likely relegate him to the pen in the future.
19) Ross Seaton, RHP, Lancaster: Grade - 3.90; Notes - It's been a rough season for Seaton, but that's what happens with any pitcher in Lancaster. His strikeout rate improved but it's still a concern. He also improved on his groundball rate and ground outs, which is very difficult to do in his home park.
20) Brian Bogusevic, OF, Round Rock: Grade - 3.80; Notes - Now on the big league roster, Bogey threatens to move off this list altogether. May make the 2011 squad as a reserve outfielder.
21) David Berner, RHP, Lancaster: Grade - 3.75; Notes - BernNotice is one of my favorite Astros farmhands. He did what few pitchers have been able to do: thrive in Lancaster. He's got a great mentality and is the highest-ranked reliever on this list. He's advanced enough that he could contend for a bullpen spot by the end of next season.
22) Albert Cartwright, 2B, Corpus Christi: Grade - 3.70; Notes - While his Lancaster numbers were great, his Hooks' tenure was short of disastrous. Cartwright may just need time to adjust to the level of play. It'll be interesting to see where he goes in 2011.
23) Jonathan Gaston, RF, Corpus Christi: Grade - 3.70; Notes - Last years phenomenal home run threat proved the effect Lancaster has on hitters as he struggled early in Corpus. Although, the very athletic outfielder put up very solid numbers in the second half of the season. He should start off next year in Round Rock where he'll have to prove if he is capable of being an every day player.
24) JB Shuck, OF, Round Rock: Grade - 3.70; Notes - Can a slap hitter thrive in the majors? Shuck joins Ichiro and Juan Pierre in testing that theory. Certainly, Scotty Pods gives him hope. Shuck should vie with Bogey and Bourgeois for a backup outfield spot next spring.
25) Tyler Burnett, 3B, Tri-City: Grade - 3.63; Notes - His plate discipline is outstanding as well as he is pretty solid defensively. He'll be able to continue to post solid on-base numbers because he draws walks but he's going to have to post better power numbers in order to move up this list. He's still young enough to develop more power.
26) Michael Feliz, RHP, DSL Astros: Grade - 3.50; Notes - Feliz had to serve a 50 game suspension for PED's so he only pitched in three games but still managed to post a great strikeout rate. But, he has an electric fastball with solid secondary stuff. Look for him to post great numbers next year in a stateside league.
27) Chris Wallace, C, Tri-City: Grade - 3.50; Notes - Yeah, he's a U of H alum. Yeah, he's a catcher showing off power. But, is Wallace for real? That's the question we need to answer before he moves up on this list.
28) Evan Grills, LHP, GCL Astros: Grade - 3.50; Notes - He's Canadian, eh? Not much to look at with his stats. Looking forward to seeing him in the system next year.
29) Jose Cisnero, RHP, Lexington: Grade - 3.50; Notes - Little has been written about Cisnero this season, but the right-hander had a very good season for Lexington. He led the team in strikeouts with 126 and tied for the lead in wins with eight. I hope they send him to Corpus next season, as he's got a good shot of doing well there as a 22-year old next season.
30) Danny Meszaros, RHP, Round Rock: Grade - 3.50; Notes - A surprising coda to this list, Meszaros was recently suspended for taking a banned substance. Subber did some excellent research to pin down why Meszaros got popped (upshot: it wasn't for anabolic steroids). He made it all the way to Round Rock this season and seemed poised to make a September callup before the test. There were rumors that he had hit high 90's with his fastball this season. I saw no evidence either for or against that, but I will say Meszaros could come back next season to give the Astros another viable relief candidate should someone get hurt.