The plan for the season seemed clear. The Astros would continue to improve, would work in some more young talent, and would start to make up ground in the AL West. Surprise! The success this year led to the front office promoting rookies aggressively to fill roster holes. We’ve seen major league debuts from Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Preston Tucker and Vince Velasquez, and it looks like all four will lose their rookie eligibility.
Those four guys all ranked in the top 15 in TCB’s preseason prospect list, with Correa at number one. That leaves one question: with Correa now in the majors, who is the #1 prospect in the Astros system?
Mark Appel- The Astros took Appel as the number one pick in the 2013 draft. He entered the season as the consensus second prospect in the system behind Carlos Correa, but his 2015 campaign has been marred with inconsistent results.
His stuff remains some of the best in the system, with his fastball in the mid to upper 90’s in his Futures Game performance on Sunday. Despite his velocity, he’s getting hit pretty hard in the minors. It’s tough to put him in the top spot when his performance hasn’t matched up to his stuff or expectations.
Brett Phillips- Last year’s breakout prospect picked up right where he left off, raking at a .320/.379/.588 clip and earning a promotion to Double A Corpus Christi. His batting line at Lancaster included 15 home runs and eight stolen bases, an intriguing power/speed combination.
He profiles similar to George Springer if everything comes together, an outfielder with above average defense, speed and power. He started the year ranked as the #5 prospect in the system by TCB, and he’s certainly improved his stock since then.
A.J. Reed- Reed might have "Born to Hit" tattoed somewhere on his body. The Astros second round pick last season, he hit 12 home runs in only 68 games last year, and ranks second in home runs in all of the minor leagues this year with 23.
College players SHOULD hit well in the low minors, and his insane numbers this season came in the hitters paradise that is Lancaster CA. He earned promotion to Double A this week, and if the ridiculous numbers continue he’s a candidate for the number one spot at the end of the year.
Joe Musgrove- A favorite of several TCB prospect writers, Musgrove has stepped forward with dominant pitching performances this season. For the season, across three levels, he’s 10-1 with a 2.05 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.
It’s possible that he’s passed Appel as the top arm left in the system. Either way, even after the promotion of McCullers and Velasquez starting pitching depth still remains.
The Up and Comers
J.D. Davis- Davis is a similar prospect to A.J. Reed, as both were college sluggers who have adapted quickly to professional baseball. He’s crushing Lancaster as well, hitting .279/.360/.464 this year with 12 home runs.
The question for Davis is whether he can handle third base proficiently enough to stay there. With improved defense, he could be the Astros third baseman of the future.
Jacob Nottingham- Last year Brett Phillips came out of nowhere to post incredible offensive numbers. Nottingham looks like the surprise guy this season, hitting .326/.387/.543 with 10 home runs in the first half for Low A Quad Cities.
He’s already earned promotion to Lancaster, and the offense has continued in a small 11 game sample. He might already be the top catching prospect in the system, and could be a candidate for top five consideration with a solid finish to the season.
My vote for the top prospect right now? I’m going with Brett Phillips. He’s now hit like crazy for more than a full season, he plays a premium position (center field) and he’s still young for his level.