TCB has completed it's annual Astros Minor League rankings. We're set to unveil them Sunday November 18 at 4PM CT right here at www.crawfishboxes.com, right after the Houston Texans game. Once you're done getting your football fix come get your Astros prospect fix.
I expect the podcast to run at least three hours with a good chance that it will last four hours. Previously we've recorded these and then released the podcast. This year we'll be doing the recording live and I'm excited to have the opportunity to interact with listeners while we reveal our Top 30 prospects one by one. It should be a lot of fun and I look forward to you joining us.
As part of the podcast I've begun fleshing out the show notes for the live recording, but we've run into a bit of a snag with our rankings, we have ties. And ties when you're discussing prospects is no good, so we set out to break them. We had four ties inside the top 30 and one outside the top 30. Internally we broke all five ties; however, one tie breaker created a new tie breaker and I've decided to let the readers of TCB break that new tie.
Just inside the top 30 we had a three-way tie between Andrew Aplin, Brett Oberholtzer and Adrian Houser. Aplin won the internal tie breaker, but Oberholtzer and Houser both tied again so in this article we're going to look at the two pitchers and then let you decide which pitcher should be rated higher.
It's the lefty vs righty, results vs potential showdown.
I'm going to remain as unbiased as possible, and I've even enlisted the help of fellow writer David Coleman, but as a disclaimer I voted Oberholtzer over Houser.
Oberholtzer was acquired via the Michael Bourn trade in 2011 and here's what David had to say about him at the time of the trade:
I don't have much hope for you here. In his big test this season pitching at Double-A, Obie's strikeout rate fell under 7 and his walk rate nearly doubled. He's still maintaining a fairly good ERA, but that's because of his ridiculously low home run rate. Even with a lowered K rate, his FIP is still about half a run lower than his ERA. The consensus (and I mean everyone) thinks Obie's ceiling is as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. If you have thoughts that Obie may turn out like Jamie Moyer or Cliff Lee, don't. Both had higher K rates in the minors than Obie. To be more than a back-of-the-rotation guy, you have to miss bats. Doesn't seem like Obie can do that enough to be a star.
After the acquisition Oberholtzer strangely enough upped his strikeout rate from 6.6 to 9.2 after joining the Corpus Christi hooks, his ERA also jumped to 5.27 in 27.1 innings. This year Oberholtzer posted a 7.4 strikeout per nine rate (SO/9) and a 2.2 walks per nine rate (BB/9) between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. His ERA between the two levels was a less than ideal 4.37. At Oklahoma he posted an average Game Score of 48.47 in 15 starts. At Corpus Christi he posted a Game Score of 50.62 in 13 starts.
The thing to like about Oberholtzer is that he can get his fastball into low 90s which for a lefty is pretty good. Andy Pettitte, since 2002, has an average fastball of 88.8 miles per hour, according to FanGraphs so there's a chance Oberholtzer could be a very successful pitcher even rated as a back-end of the rotation starter. Along with a fastball that touch's the low 90s his arsenal also features a decent curveball and changeup.
As David mentioned Oberholtzer is a lot like Dallas Keuchel except with a little more fastball mmph. I think a lot of people have already given up on Keuchel so that may not bod well for Oberholtzer, but remember prospects do have a tendency to struggle in their first venture at the Major League level. I don't think either Oberholtzer or Keuchel will ever be an ace or even a front of the rotation guy, but I do think they can be a solid rotation piece that might do something special in the big spotlight.
On the other hand there's the right-handed pitcher Houser who has all the potential in the world. Here's what David had to say about him when the Astros drafted him in 2011:
On the other hand, with one or two more MPH on his average fastball, Houser could be a very good power pitching prospect. With a hard curve and a changeup as his third pitch, he'd be a little like Bud Norris. Of course, Norris had a better fastball than Houser does now, but that's his ceiling unless he develops both a change and another pitch, like a two-seam fastball or a cutter.
Houser has started 22 games in the two years since he was drafted by the Astros, in the second round. He's posted a 4.25 ERA in 106 innings with a 8.3 SO/9 and a 4.1 BB/9 for a 2.35 SO/BB. At Greeneville he posted a 50.30 Game Score in 10 starts.
During my trip to Greeneville I got to see Adrian Houser pitch. According to the box score he pitched well, but in person it was clear he was being hit hard. Balls were flying off the bats of the opposing teams, but luckily for Houser, they were landing in the gloves of his teammates. Normally you don't want to base your analysis off one start, but AppyAstros son mentioned that Houser has been hit hard like that in past starts. I was never really high on Houser to begin with, but it's hard to deny that the kid has got front of the rotation potential, but he needs to get on the mound and start developing.
Houser is still young, he'll be 20 next season, he's got the "stuff" to be a pretty good pitcher. Hopefully we'll get an opportunity to see a move to full-season ball next year so we can get a better gauge on his status of a prospect. Either way I think he's a prime candidate for a breakout season next year.
Time To Cast Your Ballot
So who do you got? Is it the 23 year old back-end of the rotation stater on the cusp of a big league call-up or the 20 year old potential front of the rotation starter still a few years away from a Major League call-up.
You decide and we'll see you back here on November 18, 2012, with the results and the rest of TCB's top 30 Astros Minor League prospects.