Astros Minor Leagues Season Preview

Baseball is here! We all know about the Astros season opener and all of the roster decisions surrounding them, but the major league season doesn't happen without the minor league seasons as well. Well the minor league season opens up tomorrow night with all affiliates in action and the rosters for those teams were released yesterday. These rosters are not completely set as there are a few major league roster decisions that will still affect the upper levels to an extent.

This is always an exciting time for me as it really signals how the organization is viewing certain individuals progress and their status with the organization. There are definitely some surprises as there always are, but there are always disappointments as well. But, this post doesn't necessarily outline these as it's very opinion based and what I find a surprise, many of you may not. For example, Kody Hinze being in Corpus to start out will be a disappointment to many of you, for me, not so much. I'm not surprised by this since he has things he needs to improve on and didn't spend much time there last year.

However, this post is about the highlights of the rosters and how the team projects to perform. It also goes into who is likely to be in the rotations and what some of the top prospects are likely to be working on. So, join me after the jump and see some of my thoughts regarding the rosters.

Oklahoma City RedHawks

OkC is looking at a much improved roster over last season, but the idea of this team being a winner is still far-fetched. I will say that this team will be much more interesting to follow this year as there are legitimate prospects that will require monitoring and a few guys that could return to the major league level and contribute.

Pitchers

The pitching staff has been completely over-hauled this season as opposed to the rotation that only consisted of one interesting pitcher (Jordan Lyles) at the start of last year. The rotation as of now features Lyles, the fast rising prospect Paul Clemens, last years Rule V pick Aneury Rodriguez, and the low ceiling Dallas Keuchel. If Henry Sosa doesn't make the cut for the ML roster, look for him to fill the final slot, but Sergio Perez or Xavier Cedeno will fill it if Sosa isn't sent down. The rotation could really be a strength of this team at the front end with Clemens and Lyles.

The pen features a few high velocity arms in Juan Abreu and Jose Valdez who just need to put it all together to be dependable arms but have their own struggles in majors. We all know about Enerio Del Rosario. Mickey Storey returns after his late season acquisition last year but looked promising. There is one new addition in Adalberto Flores who is a 25 year monster on the mound that signed as a minor league free agent. He's performed solidly in the minors but is too old to be a real prospect. Doesn't have great stuff and doesn't induce a lot of groundballs, but his low 90's fastball, changeup, and curveball could be useful if things come together for him.

Position Players

It's all about the catchers...yeah nothing impressive there. Brett Wallace will need a big season to re-vitalize his career both on defense and at the plate. Jimmy Paredes and Fernando Martinez will join Wallace as players under the spot light on a nightly basis as guys who could contribute at some point because of all their talent, but lack of production. Jake Goebbert will likely be a fan favorite for his hustle but likely doesn't profile as a future regular. Collin DeLome is likely on his last leg with the organization as the lone remaining 2007 draftee. Angel Sanchez will be joining this team eventually to make fans eyes bleed in the field at the shortstop position and JB Shuck will provide a great on-base percentage. Scott Moore is a new edition who could provide some offense but his power had disappeared as he moved up through the ranks. Mike Hessman returns from Japan to mash tons of homeruns from the middle of the order.

Corpus Christi Hooks

If I were told one team in the system were to post a winning record, this is it. This is likely the most exciting team the Astros organization has fielded in several years in the minor leagues. There are high profile prospects, players with good track records, and guys who could break out. What more could you ask for?

Pitchers

What a rotation! Jared Cosart is the headliner for sure as a near consensus top 100 prospect that begins to put doubts to rest over him being able to strike out hitters and remain as a starter. Ross Seaton will follow him up, and could potentially breakout as he has a good fastball and began to make strides with his off-speed pitches last season. Former Braves prospect Brett Oberholtzer is next and he brings a high floor/low ceiling type prospect to the rotation but has experience at the level and could be moving up to AAA at some point. Jake Buchanan brings his phenomenal groundball rate to CC as one of the few pitchers to make it out of Lancaster alive, but he has to improve his k-rate to stick in a rotation. The final spot is for my favorite breakout candidate, Jose Cisnero! His fastball is around low-mid 90s and has tons of movement. He has a lot of potential and get strikeouts, but has to improve command and ability to pitch deep.

Chris Hicks, Josh Zeid, Jason Stoffel, and Kevin Chapman headline a bullpen that could be dominant as they all profile to be solid relievers or even setup men/closers. There is also the terrible command of Arcenio Leon. Erik Abreu and Jonathan Aristil are joined by former major leaguer Henry Villar to finish out the pen.

Position Players

The infield features lots of power with Jonathan Singleton, Kody Hinze, and Chris Wallace. Singleton is the systems best prospect and will take his next step and try to put the plate discipline that he showed in the Phillies system with the power he showed in his brief stint after the big trade. Hinze will continue to have to show he can hit at all levels, despite being old for previous levels. Chris Wallace took a big hit in production after his big promotion and will need to start hitting like he did in Lexington, as well as increase his caught stealing rate.

There are several top of the order type hitters that should provide lots of RBI opportunities for the previous group with speedsters like Jonathan Villar and Austin Wates. Wates needs to prove his bat is capable of hitting and that he is capable of being a centerfielder. Villar needs to put his tools together and be the top 100 prospect BA had him as before last season. J.C. Thompson has talent, but lacks experience, hopefully he can build on a decent first year in professional baseball. Adam Bailey showed a nice bat last season and could turn into a really nice prospect with a big year. How is T.J. Steele still in the system?

Lancaster JetHawks

They have quite possibly the most exciting trio of prospects of any level with George Springer, Domingo Santana, and Jiovanni Mier. You could even include Telvin Nash into this group. Look for Lancaster to put offensive numbers that would make the combination of Kolby Clemens and Jon Gaston blush. The problem is that the Astros avoid sending big pitching prospects here so the pitching staff is lacking heavily.

Pitchers

To be honest, I can't even project the rotation because the lack of pitching prospects. I have Ruben Alaniz who impressed in a short ST appearance and could be a steal of prospect if he survives the winds of Lancaster. Andrew Robinson is repeating Lancaster but did have a decent year last year that included some positive reports. Zachary Grimmett is a talented pitcher but, needs to be consistent while he pitches in the rotation. Bobby Doran will probably join the rotation again as well despite poor results last year. David Martinez, Wes Musick, Gabriel Garcia, Jorge De Leon, Kirk Clark, Alex Sogard, Brian Streinlein, Jose Trinidad, and Pat Urckfitz finish out the staff, but they lack lots of upside despite each having put numbers that are solid at some points in their careers. De Leon probably has the best arm of the group but is old for the level and needs to start moving through the system faster.

Position Players

As mentioned before, Domingo Santana is a very high ceiling prospect that will join Springer in the outfield to create a very anticipated duo. Telvin Nash should launch plenty of home runs with the duo, but they all need to work on plate discipline. Daniel Adamson hit well in his time in Lexington last year, but struggled with an injury, it will be nice to see a full seasons worth of data on him as he plays good defense despite a less than desirable arm strength.

Jio Mier has frustrated fans since his first full season of pro ball. He will repeat a level again but has shown signs of improving. He struggled to keep weight his first year and came back last year with a new attitude and better prepared physically. He still didn't impress but did get promoted but quickly got injured and never had a chance to gain momentum. Hopefully he can as he joins draft class brother Jonathan Meyer who is also repeating. Meyer has great defense but struggles at the plate with strikeouts despite being able to draw a good bit of walks. He has also failed to show the power many expect from the hot corner, although he's just now reaching the age in which power starts to show. Can Erik Castro and Enrique Hernandez find spots in the field to get at-bats? The catchers are interesting as Ben Heath didn't live up to expectations built off his first year, Ryan McCurdy is skipping Lexington, and Rene Garcia is still young with perhaps the best defense behind the plate in the system.

Lexington Legends

This season's Legends squad might be the polar opposite of Lancaster as they field an interesting group of pitchers but lack much of an offense. Players are going to have to exceed expectations at the plate in order for this team to be a winner. It could be possible as several of these guys that made the roster did so over some of the more highly rated prospects that failed to make a full season team.

Pitchers

This rotation could exceed the production of the rotation in 2009 that had the likes of Lyles, Seaton, Brad Dydalewicz, Kyle Greenwalt, and Robert Bono. Tanner Bushue returns for a third season and will need to improve his velocity, consistency, and flyball rate to retain stock. Mike Foltynewicz returns to headline the rotation for a second year, but as a cold weather pitcher, expectations are still high. Reports on his fastball were still strong and he had flashes of great pitching ability last year so with some consistency, he could be moving up lists quickly. The trio of college draftees that pitched in Tri-City last year will likely fill out the rotation. The trio includes Jonas Dufek, Kyle Hallock, and a personal favorite Nick Tropeano. These pitchers were impressive last year and Lexington isn't much of a step up in competition. Evan Grills, Carlos Quevedo, and Luis Cruz all have experience starting and could push for starts. I expect some of the college trio to be promoted at some point if they continue to impress which could open up slots.

The pen includes one of last year's better relievers in Jason Chowning and he could easily anchor this bullpen as he has experience and a great slider. Dayan Diaz brings an impressive fastball to the pen and Scott Zuloaga and Murillo Gouvea will join them in the bullpen.

Position Players

This group lacks top prospects outside of Delino DeSheilds Jr. and to some extent Mike Kvasnicka. DDJ looks to show some improvement this season as he showed flashes of great speed on the basepaths at times and even showed power. It will be exciting to see if he can build on his excellent set of tools. Kvasnicka is returning to behind the plate where his bat plays much better and could begin to rebuild the stock that drove him up many draft boards leading up to the 2010 draft. Due to a lack of depth in the system, Matt Duffy is one of top 3B prospects and had times of excitement last year and has many of Astros fans hoping he can continue them this year. Miles Hamblin joins Kvasnicka and Roberto Pena behind the plate and could provide some offense. The rest of the infield are older prospects like Alex Todd, James Howick, Tyler Burnett, and Zach Johnson that could provide some maturity for the team and allow it to succeed.

The outfield includes the cannon arm of Emilio King but his performance last year at the plate is doubtful to be repeated. Justin Gominsky is a very athletic player and a NYPL All-Star last year so he could be a leader for this team. Drew Muren is a burner on the basepaths and in the field. Jordan Scott is a guy that could breakout since he has a very good ability to make contact and drive the ball all over the field.

Extended Spring Training

Several players failed to make full season rosters that could end up in Lexington at some point due to injuries and promotions. The most notable are Ariel Ovando, Adrian Houser, Brandon Meredith, and the return of Vincent Velasquez. There are definitely others, but these stuck out the most to me off the top of my head.

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