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Five "Prospects" I'll Follow for 2012

I was bored after last night's game with the Rockies, so I went sorting through minor league stats and box scores...I would have watched the Lancaster game but MiLB.tv messed up my subscription, and their attempt to help me led to the cancellation of my MLB.tv subscription. I told myself, "It's the thought that counts," and avoided using words like "twit" "jackass" and "peon". Anyway, I found myself drawn to several Astros' farmhands, and I am curious to see what unfolds for these guys over the summer.

Jose Carlos Thompson 2B: This fascination is really left over from last season. One day out of no where there was a headline stating that the Astros had signed a Cuban undrafted free agent infielder. I followed him when he first started at AA but when he faltered and got demoted I paid less attention to him. Also since he appeared in the box score as "Thompson" I completely forgot that he was the mysterious Cuban. After his demotion he had a pretty good 2011 season. He managed to hit .303/.340/.468 with 10 home runs in 286 PA. He walked about as much as the prototype-minor-league Altuve did last year (4.9% of the time), so he's not perfect. I am excited to see him up in AA this season. He played mostly 2B in 2011, but he may be able to play 3rd too.

Ruben Alaniz P: Alaniz got my attention this spring when he had a good outing. I learned from the posters here...probably clack...that Alaniz missed getting drafted because Swine Flu wiped out his senior season of high school. He seems to throw pretty hard (I read he hits 94 or did a few years ago) and we didn't even have to spend a draft pick to get him because other clubs forgot about him. His minor league numbers have been decent. Last year he struck out more batters than the year before but also walked more. Hopefully he keeps increasing his strike outs and starts to decrease his walks. Maybe this season, Alaniz will make Rusty Pendergrass and Bobby Heck look like geniuses.

Jordan Scott OF: While I had heard of Scott before, I never paid much attention to him. Then last night while sorting through minor league leader boards on fangraphs, I noticed that his name kept popping up. Scott, like many Astro prospects, has no power and seems like a contact speed guy. The thing I like about him is that he didn't strike out very much last season. In rookie-ball he only struck out 13.6% of the time. He only walked 7% percent of the time and had a sexy OBP of .388. His BABIP was a high .392 but I don't know what that means in rookie-ball. I'll assume he still has a lot of work to do before he's on any top ten prospect list, but his low strike out rate and crazy OBP caught my eye.

Drew Muren OF: Popped up on fangraphs when I sorted by walk percentage. Drew walked 13.4% of the time. In some ways he's the opposite of Scott. He draws walks at a good pace but strikes out 20% of the time. He managed to have OBP of .376 despite only hitting .257 of the season. Also like Scott he doesn't seem to have much power and only stole 8 bases while getting caught 8 times. I have no idea what his defense is supposed to be like, I'm curious to see if he increase his hitting or his base-running enough to go along with his walk rate to become an asset.

Neiko Johnson OF: He's my favorite of all these guys. Probably due to the fact that his name is Neiko. Nieko was signed as an undrafted free agent. He was 23 last year in the New York Penn League which I think is a little old, but not unheard of. Nieko seems like he's a combination between Scott and Muren. He walked 17% of the time and struck out 15.5% of the time. He doesn't have any power, but then again there are only 4 or 5 Astro prospects with power. Unlike Muren he's a good base stealer and went 21 for 24 in steals. Neiko managed an OBP of .397 despite only hitting .236. His BABIP was .288. I would think that a guy with his speed could probably raise that number, but I suppose it's possible that he only makes weak, Willy-T like contact. There was one last thing that interested me, Nieko spent time last year playing the OF, 2B, SS, and 3B...maybe he's just not good at any of them but I prefer to think he's so good that they use him every where. I really want to see how far a good eye and good base-running can take him.

I don't claim that any of these guys are going to be future studs or that they have a better chance of progressing than other guys in our system. These five just have something either, in their stats or in the histories, that will keep me scanning box scores for their names.

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