This is a new series that will show up from time to time to highlight three under the radar Astros prospects that don't show up on the a couple of the well known prospect lists. This is inspired by a Fangraphs series, that I enjoy, entitled "The Fringe Five." They have a little more rigorous and specific criteria that attempts to use stats and scouting also as a way of identifying "fringe" prospects that seem to outperform their recognition. Thomas Shirley, Josh Hader, and Andrew Aplin all finished in their final season "Fringe Five Scoreboard." I will not lean as heavily on the scouting side of things. I will attempt to dig a little deeper into the numbers and see who has really performed at a high level.
When I was setting up my guidelines for who will be ineligible, I turned to two "Top 20" lists: MLB.com and John Sickel's list at Minor League Ball. Here are the lists to save you some time and clicking.
|1||Carlos Correa||Carlos Correa|
|2||Mark Appel||Mark Appel|
|3||Domingo Santana||Michael Feliz|
|4||Vincent Velasquez||Vincent Velasquez|
|5||Michael Feliz||Domingo Santana|
|6||Colin Moran||Brett Phillips|
|7||Brett Phillips||Josh Hader|
|8||Teoscar Hernandez||Lance McCullers|
|9||Josh Hader||Derek Fisher|
|10||Lance McCullers||Teoscar Hernandez|
|11||Derek Fisher||Colin Moran|
|12||AJ Reed||Tony Kemp|
|13||JD Davis||JD Davis|
|14||Tony Kemp||AJ Reed|
|15||Preston Tucker||Conrad Gregor|
|16||Joe Musgrove||Nolan Fontana|
|17||Nolan Fontana||Max Stassi|
|18||Max Stassi||Danry Vasquez|
|19||Kyle Smith||Preston Tucker|
|20||Danry Vasquez||Kyle Smith|
The players in red are the only players that do not overlap onto both lists. These 21 players will not be eligible to make it into a "Forgotten Few" post.
Let's get started.
1. Leo Heras, OF, Corpus Christi Hooks
Heras is off to a scalding start to the 2015 season. For those that do not know, Heras was signed out of the Mexican leagues along side Japhet Amador. This makes him a bit of an unusual prospect, since he was already in professional baseball when he was signed by the Astros. He also just turned 25, which makes him a tad old for AA ball.
The outfield in Corpus is a little bit crowded, so Leo has only played in 7 games so far. He has made the most of it slashing .304/.360/.565. His BABIP is slightly up there at .368, but his career BABIP is .334 (this does include his stats compiled in Mexico which tends to have higher BABIPs). On the early season, 4 of his 7 hits have gone for extra bases.
I do not know if Leo will ever contribute to the Astros at the big league level. He has taken an unusual path so far, and you can imagine the amount of adjusting he's had to do in the last couple of seasons. Check out the video below to see for yourself the things Heras has gone through acclimating to professional baseball in the USA.
2. Jamie Ritchie, C/1B/DH, Quad Cities RiverBandits
Ritchie was taken with the 1st pick of the 13th round (376th overall) in the 2014 draft out of Belmont University. He debuted last year in the New York-Penn League for the Tri-City ValleyCats. He was just silly in his time there. He slashed .331/.455/.465 in 179 plate appearances. This came with a very high .393 BABIP that is not sustainable, but he did walk more than he struck out.
His start to 2015 is right where he left off last year. Ritchie is slashing .382/.523/.500 in 44 plate appearances so far this year. His BABIP of .500 will come down, but he's continuing to walk more than strikes out . He's been affectionately labeled the next Johnny Bench by some Astros Prospect Report commenters. Will these numbers stay this high? Absolutely not. However, he can regress plenty and still be a very productive hitter. Of course, it would be best if he could stick at catcher. We shall see how the Astros handle him the rest of the year defensively.
3. Daniel Mengden, RHP, Quad Cities RiverBandits
Mengden was drafted out of Texas A&M (WHOOP!) in last year's draft. He was taken with the 1st pick of the 4th round (106th overall). He had a minor stress fracture in his lower back that he rehabilitated before pitching late in 2014. He's shown why he was A&M's Friday night starter. It's early and he's only thrown 8.2 innings, but in that time he's struck out 14 and walked 0. Don't let the 4.15 ERA fool you. He has been a bit unlucky with a .440 BABIP against him. If he can continue to pile up the Ks and be allergic to walks, his BABIP will normalize and his ERA will shrink in a hurry.
Along with all of that, he has an 80 grade mustache.
Ron Johnson (@RojoPix) April 12, 2015