Playoffs in the minors are still progressing, but the season itself is essentially over, so I figured I'd do a post-season top 20 list, John Sickels style (not going to include any players currently in the majors).
1) Carlos Correa, SS, Grade A: This is nothing new for Astros fans. Correa is one of the top minor leaguers in all of baseball. Projects to hit for a good average while walking at a good clip, and the power should come as he fills out his frame. Defense has been terrific this season, and at this point it looks like he'll stay at SS. Could be a Troy Tulowitzki-type if it all comes together.
2) Mark Appel, RHP, Grade A-: Borderline A. 1st overall pick could be our ace for years to come. Has an easy delivery and a fastball that sits in the 94-95 range. Both his slider and his change-up should be above-average pitches, and the command should be a strength as well. Has the frame of a workhorse, which is what I'm hoping he turns into.
3) George Springer, OF, Grade A-: I went back and forth between an A- and a Borderline A, settled with an A- to be safe. Springer's tools are well-documented, but the main thing that holds me back from giving him a Borderline A or even a straight A is the downright terrible 2-strike approach Springer has. He does walk at a good rate, but the strikeout rate is still too high for my liking. Concerned that pitchers will eventually catch on and throw nothing but junk once they get ahead in the count. HRs, stolen bases & a good OBP are what he potentially brings to the table, along with above-average D in center. High reward player, obviously, but there's a little too much risk for my liking. Taking a conservative position for now.
4) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Grade B+: I'm still quite high on Singleton, despite his blah performance in Triple-A this year. I think missing 50 games does have more of an effect than people realize, and I expect him to be his old self next year. The strikeouts have become a bit of a problem but I'm not too concerned, yet. Should still hit for a decent average and be a 20+ HR guy, while having an OBP in the high .300s and providing solid defense at first.
5) Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Grade B+: I'm all-in on Vince. Fastball sits in the mid 90s and will touch 97 & 98. Change-up projects to be a plus pitch, and his command is a tick above-average. Will generate some groundballs here & there. Is a terrific athlete on the mound. Breaking ball isn't a bad pitch by any means, but he'll need to develop it further in order to take the next step up and become a truly elite pitching prospect.
6) Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Grade B+: I think that this will be too light of a grade to most of you, as Folty has been excellent this year, but the awful command and the lack of a true out-pitch are quite concerning to me. The curve and change-up both look like solid offerings, each looks ahead of the other at times, though I'd have to say that he goes back to his curve more often. The command really needs to improve, because one of the biggest steps from the minors to the majors is that major leaguers are significantly more patient at the plate. The fastball is one of the best in the minors, as it regularly sits in the 97-98 range, and will touch triple digits. Needs to sort out his command in Triple-A next year in order for me to buy in on him.
7) Lance McCullers, Jr., RHP, Grade B+: Again, I think this will be a little light to most of you, but McCullers is far from the majors, and I think this grade is accurate, for now. The fastball-breaking ball combo he possesses is a deadly one, and the command isn't as bad as it was expected to be. The full-effort delivery concerns me. He's strong and is a good athlete, but he doesn't exactly have the frame of an ideal SP. The change-up will need to develop eventually but if it comes together for him, he could be a #2 starter, or at worse, an ace closer.
8) Delino DeShields, Jr., 2B, Grade B+: DDJ has had an interesting year. His stolen base numbers are down significantly, and his power has also taken a dip, despite playing in the notoriously hitter-friendly California League. The good news, however, is that he's really improved his hit tool. Not only that, but his knowledge of the strike zone has also taken a step forward. The defense is still a bit iffy but he should be solid there, assuming he stays there in the long-term. High ceiling guy with some risk, will be interesting to see how he fits into the future plans. Could be a premium top of the order talent.
9) Rio Ruiz, 3B, Grade B+: I didn't want to be this aggressive with Rio but he's been so good in the 2nd half and I think he's turned a corner. The swing is what gets him the most press, but I've been impressed with his approach this year, as few players his age are that polished at the plate. He still has a ways to go with the glove, but he could be an impact bat while playing potentially above-average defense at 3B.
10) Domingo Santana, OF, Grade B: I'm very high on Santana, but couldn't bring myself to give him a higher grade, as he's still one of the more risky prospects in our system. The power is immense, to start, as not many 20 year olds can hit 25 bombs in Double-A. I love the arm out in RF, though the glove isn't as good. The strikeouts are holding him back, but he was one of the youngest players in Double-A this year, so I'm willing to cut him a little slack. He will take a walk, and he's got deceptive speed on the basepaths despite being 6'5" 230. Could be a .250/.330/500 guy if it all comes together. Going to be very interesting to see how he does in Triple-A.
11) Nick Tropeano, SP, Grade B-: Borderline B. I've always been a Trope fan ever since we drafted him, but he's taken a bit of step back this year. The K/IP and the K/BB ratios are still great, but he's been too hittable. The breaking ball looks better, and he still has an above-average fastball & a plus change-up, so he's got the stuff, but he's been too prone to getting knocked around. A decent #3 is his ceiling, though I think it's more likely that he winds up as a good #4 with good strikeout numbers.
12) Danry Vasquez, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Has been around for awhile, but people forget that he was born in 94. Has a good overall feel for hitting and his approach is solid, but the power will eventually need to come. Defense is okay, but the bat is what will make him or break him.
13) Josh Hader, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. This is another aggressive grade to me, but I really like Hader's potential. His fastball sits in the mid 90s, and the velocity might spike even more as he fills out his frame. The change-up looks like it could become an above-average offering, but his breaking ball needs more refinement. Command needs work, but that's to be expected of someone so young & raw. Has received comparisons to Chris Sale due to his delivery, projection, and to an extent, his stuff. I think his ceiling is a good #3 right now, but that might be light. Going to keep a sharp eye on him next year.
14) Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Grade B-: Hernandez was one of a few guys that I was planning on keeping a close eye on prior to the season, and he hasn't disappointed. His tools are loud and his skills are coming along. Has underrated power and more speed than his stolen base total would suggest. Strikeouts need to come down eventually but the approach at the plate overall isn't too bad, and his defense out in CF has been getting good reviews. Like him a lot.
15) Nolan Fontana, SS, Grade B-: He draws walks at an absurd rate, and he can swipe a bag, too, all while playing solid D at short. I don't think we know much more about him than we did last year, to be honest, but if he continues to produce like he has been the past two years in Double-A, he could jump up the board a bit.
16) Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Grade B-: I'm admittedly not that high on Wojo. His fastball sits in the low 90s and his breaking ball looks to be a good offering, but I'm not convinced that his numbers at Triple-A are for real. If anything, they probably should be, as the PCL is hitter-friendly, but he's getting up there in age, and the stuff is too average for my liking. Could be a good #4 or an above-average set-up man.
17) Kyle Smith, RHP, Grade B-: Has had an up & down year. Stuff is still respectable and he knows how to pitch. Small in stature, but is a good athlete. Could make a lot of noise once he gets out of the California League. Have a good feeling about him.
18) Michael Feliz, RHP, Grade B-: You can make a case for Feliz being a straight B, but I'd prefer to be a bit more cautious with him, as he is still in rookie ball. The K/IP & K/BB ratios are just terrific, and the stuff is legitimate, as he possesses a big fastball. A bit hard to project his ceiling, at this point, but he could shoot up boards next year if he continues to pitch well in Low-A.
19) Andrew Thurman, RHP, Grade B-: 2nd round draft pick has solid stuff and solid command to go along with a clean delivery. Has had good moments in rookie ball but has also been lit up more than once. He's a polished pitcher, looks to be a solid #4, maybe better if his stuff progresses.
20) Adrian Houser, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Has been moved very slowly, but he's still quite raw, so it shouldn't be that much of a surprise. Big frame, big fastball, secondaries still coming along. Command has made some strides as well. Another one of those guys who could shoot up the board if he does well in Low-A.
21) Jacob Nottingham, C, Grade C+: Nottingham might be my favorite Houston draft pick from 2013's class. He's got impressive tools and his approach at the plate isn't as raw as it should be for someone his age. He'll likely stay in rookie ball next year, either in Greeneville or Tri-City, but I really like him. Has power potential and a good arm, and overall is a fine athlete.
Anyway you look at it, we have a ton of talent in the minors.
All comments are welcome, positive or negative.