The six of us had fun with it. And how can you not? Some names were obvious. Not many of the names are surprises, if you've been following along with the recaps this season. But there are certainly some names that no one would have predicted at the start of the season. The strange twists, turns, and unexpected breakouts that come from watching prospects are one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby.
For the record; eligibility for voting was set based on who still had rookie eligibility at the time of voting. This excluded some players like Jon Singleton and L.J. Hoes (both of whom likely would have been voted in otherwise), while other guys like Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers still had eligibility at the time (and have since lost it, thanks to continuing to play in the Majors). So just bear that in mind.
C - Jacob Nottingham
A unanimous selection. Sure, given the other options, maybe that's not saying much, but The Sheriff deserves all the love he gets. He broke out in a big way, thrashing the Low-A Midwest League to the tune of a .326/.387/.543 batting line, belting 10 long balls and finishing his stint there with a 171 wRC+. He's currently a couple weeks into his time with Lancaster, and has so far posted a .356/.397/.695 batting line, all while nearly cutting his strike out rate in half early on. There was simply no other choice.
1B - A.J. Reed
Four of six voters selected Reed to start at first, and the other two included him elsewhere on their ballots. It's not hard to understand why; California League or no, Reed was impressive with Lancaster. While many hitters, especially lefties, have come and gone after tearing it up there, few have done it with such consistency. Reed played 60 games for the JetHawks after the end of April, and 28 of those games were multi-hit games. Of those 60 games, Reed had at least one hit in 50 of them, and reached via hit or walk in 57 of them. His OBP during those 60 games was .478. His 23 homers is the second-highest total of any player in affiliated ball.
2B - Tony Kemp
While questions abound about Kemp's future value, or even just his future with the Astros organization, no one questioned his worthiness for this group, as he was the unanimous selection for second base. Kemp made a mockery of the AA Texas League, batting .358/.457/.420 in 50 games with the Corpus Christi Hooks. During his stint there, he stole 15 bases and drew walks more often than he struck out, finishing with a career-best 155 wRC+. His strike out rate has dropped even further since his promotion to AAA, despite seeing his performance dip in the early going there.
3B - Tyler White
Five if six writers were impressed with White's season to vote him in to start. Prior to the season, that would have been a shocking revelation, as Colin Moran is certainly the bigger prospect. A 33rd round pick, White always posted solid numbers, but he was a touch old and playing in A-Ball. We always say a guy needs to show it outside of Lancaster, up in AA, and that's exactly what he did. He batted .284/.415/.426 for Corpus Christi before his promotion, and has thus far demolished AAA with an 1.137 OPS.
SS - Carlos Correa
Once his eligibility was confirmed, there was no way anyone else was going to get here. Yes, he was the unanimous selection, and for incredibly good reason. Still shy of his 21st birthday, Correa annihilated the Texas League, posting a staggering .385/.459/.726 line in 29 games, smashing seven homers and swiping 15 bases during the time. He hit well for another 24 games in AAA before the Astros called up him after the Super Two deadline had safely passed.
OF - Brett Phillips
Everyone selected this kid as one of the three starting outfielders, though position varied (three in center, two in right, one in left, for what it's worth). Which is interesting, because indeed, no one quite knows for sure where he ultimately profiles defensively. What we know is that he's hitting, and doesn't appear that he'll stop any time soon. He batted .320/.379/.588 with a stunning 41 extra-base hits in 66 games for Lancaster before being promoted to AA, where he'll face his toughest test. It hasn't seemed to phase him much, as he's hit .288/.342/.425 in 18 games with the Hooks thus far. A candidate for the system's Top Prospect title now that Correa has graduated to the Majors.
OF - Derek Fisher
All but one voter had Fisher as one of the starting outfielders, instead having him DH. Though he's struggled at the plate recently, he hit .305/.386/.510 for Quad-Cities and got off to a super-hot start with Lancaster after a relatively-early promotion this season. Despite struggles, his power and speed combo is still on display, as he's posting an .807 OPS for the JetHawks, and has nine homers and 12 stolen bases.
OF - Jon Kemmer
Four voters selected him to start in the outfield, with another voting him in to DH, and the final voter including him as a bench player. Kemmer is right up there with Tyler White for surprises in the system this year. While Nottingham's breakout might be more notable, we knew he at least had the potential as a toolsy prep pick taken in the higher rounds of the draft. Kemmer is a 21st-round pick who came out of nowhere. He's hitting .314/.401/.529 with 11 doubles and 11 homers for the AA squad.
DH - Domingo Santana
Santana was voted in to the starting outfield three times, and the DH once. He smashed in AAA, posting a .322/.438/.586 line with 13 homers in 63 games. His strike out issues persist, as he well showed when he whiffed 40.5% of the time in his cup of coffee with the Major League club, but the power is real and may allow him to provide value despite the whiffs. His performance was more than good enough to warrant a spot on the Minor League All-Star roster, though.
SP Lance McCullers
He was voted either the #1 or #2 starter by everyone. McCullers just obliterated the AA Texas League, posting a Nintendoish 0.62 ERA, 13.34 K/9 and 3.41 BB/9 in six games with the Hooks. He was so good that he was called up to the Majors before throwing a single pitch for the AAA club, and he's shown no signs of slowing down in the Majors, putting himself strongly in the AL Rookie of the Year conversation halfway through the season.
SP Joe Musgrove
Everyone voted for McCullers and Musgrove with their top two starting pitcher picks. Musgrove posted walk rates with Quad Cities and Lancaster that Cliff Lee might be jealous of. When he was promoted to AA after 55.2 combined innings with the A-ball clubs, he had walked two batters to that point. Just two. His K/BB ratio was an unfathomable 33-to-1. He's struggled a bit in AA so far, having some trouble missing bats at the same rate, but his stuff is excellent, and he's still posting a BB/9 below 1.00 against better competition after shooting through the ranks this year.
SP Vincent Velasquez
Another unsurprising pick, who made it onto all six voters' ballots. Though not quite as dominant as McCullers, Velasquez also slapped around the AA Texas League, posting a 1.37 ERA, 12.65 K/9 and 3.08 BB/9 during his time there, being called up directly to the Majors without spending any time with AAA Fresno. Though he hasn't been as successful post-callup as McCullers, he too has shown some flashes of brilliance against the world's best hitters at a young age. A clear choice.
SP Akeem Bostick
This kid wasn't as much of an unknown as guys like Kemmer and White, but he wasn't far off. A prep lottery ticket that the Astros somehow convinced the Rangers to give them for backup catcher Carlos Corporan, Bostick boasts a legit plus fastball and the makings of a solid secondary arsenal to back it up. He exploded on the scene this year, posting a 1.50 ERA and an 11.0 K/BB ratio for Quad-Cities before being promoted to Lancaster, where he has continued to impress.
SP Chris Devenski
He was the PTBNL in the Brett Myers trade with the White Sox, for those that have forgotten (can't blame you). Devenski has some velocity and pretty solid mechanics, but he's only just now starting to show something at the AA level. His FIP and BAbip indicates that luck has been on his side, but he's still been good, lowering his walk rate significantly compared to his first stint in AA last season.
SP Francis Martes
The Astros got Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, a draft pick that turned into Daz Cameron, and this kid from the Marlins (not to mention that Jarred Cosart, currently posting a 4.80 ERA in AAA, is no longer their problem). It seems downright unfair that the most unheralded part of that package is 19-year-old with lightning in his arm who is currently posting a 1.14 ERA in the Midwest League. Even with a FIP that's about a run-and-a-half higher, Martes has had a great first crack at full-season ball, has a good frame that could fill out well, shows control uncharacteristic for a teenager, and can always fall back to a bullpen role if starting doesn't work out in the future, thanks to the electric arm.
SP Aaron West
After becoming a fan (and writer) favorite through tearing up the A-ball levels in 2012 and 2013, injuries bit West in 2014, causing him to accumulate just 34.1 innings all year. He's back and healthy in 2015, and though they're limiting his innings, he's showing similar good signs with AA this year, inducing weak contact and being stingy with walks. In fact, he's walked just six batters all season, one of which was an intentional free pass. He owns a 2.60 ERA for the Hooks.
SP Josh Hader
After a breakout with High-A Lancaster last season, Hader was promoted to AA for the end of the season, where his control fell apart in a small sample size, and so followed his ERA. In 2015, he's looked much more like what we saw in Lancaster; he's missing bats, keeping the walks in check, and has a 3.23 ERA to show for it in over 60 innings of work. He remains a bit polarizing as a prospect thanks to his mechanics and questions about his future role and effectiveness, but the performance in 2015 hasn't left much to be desired.
RP Chris Cotton
The LSU Tiger sank his fangs into the A-ball hitters in the California League, posting a 1.40 ERA and striking out 12.97 batters per nine innings, convincing the Astros' brass to send him up to AA. He's been less dominant there, but still quite effective, with a 2.41 ERA in 18.2 innings of work.
RP Travis Ballew
Ballew, after a rough transition to AA in 2014 (6.14 ERA), has been much better this year, posting a 2.41 ERA in 41 innings out of the Hooks' bullpen.
RP Reymin Guduan
A 2.15 ERA and 12.27 K/9 combined between the two A-ball levels was enough to stick in the voters' minds. Guadan is a southpaw with closer stuff, and could develop into a very useful late-inning reliever in the future.
C Tyler Heineman
INF Jack Mayfield
INF Mott Hyde
OF Andrew Aplin
OF Jason Martin