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Astros Top 100 Prospects: Industry Consensus

A look at the various Top 100 prospects lists, and at the Astros system's place within them.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

It's prospect season once again, everybody.  And isn't it nice that the success of the parent club has finally returned us to the ranks of fandoms who can say that?

As opposed to, you know, 365 days a year of prospect we endured as Astros fans for years, when we had nothing but prospects and prospect lists to look forward to?

The turnover of the calendar to a new year brings us updated top prospects lists from around the sport.  Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and the folks at MLBPipeline just released their Top 100 list this past Friday, and Baseball Prospectus published theirs the same day.  Baseball America has not yet released their 2016 top 100 list, but they have ranked the top ten prospects in each system, which I covered recently.  Additionally, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America held a chat with Astros fans and answered some of their questions.  I'll hit a few high points from his observations and some select quotes from and Baseball Prospectus as they pertain to the young Astros players and their presumed positions of prominence on the national stage.  I will give healthy samples of the blurbs from the sites, but you should really go read them ('s list is here, just scroll down to each guy and click, and Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 is here, you can also scroll down in that piece and click on each each player's name to view their profile) in their entirety.  They're summarized here for comparison's sake, but the summaries don't do the excellent pieces full justice.

Also, before we dive in, we here at TCB have been putting the finishing touches on our own annual Top Astros Prospects list, and it has already begun rolling out for your consumption. Don't miss it!

All that said, let's first examine the five players who are essentially each consensus top 100 players for all three publications.

Alex Bregman

Photo from player profile

Position: SS
Drafted: Round 1, 2nd Overall Pick (Astros) 2015 Top 100 Ranking:  22      ETA:  2017
Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Ranking:  39               Baseball Prospectus ETA: 2017
Baseball Prospectus Scouting Report

What says:

"Though Bregman's right-handed swing is unorthodox, he has outstanding bat speed and control of the strike zone, allowing him to barrel balls consistently."

What Baseball Prospectus says:

"Bregman is a polished, confident player with solid across-the-board skills highlighted by a premium bat-to-ball ability and projection for a plus hit tool...I've seen a true shortstop in my looks thus far in his pro career.

What J.J. Cooper from Baseball America says:

The question Mr. Cooper fielded was "Where do you see Bregman moving to position wise?"

His reponse:

"I think for now he’s the Astros’ best backup plan in case Correa missed significant time with an injury. Long-term, the Astros likely will have to trade someone."

What I say:

His arrival time seems to present a logjam issue in the major leagues, based on the seemingly-prevalent wisdom scattered amongst those industry sources.  This might indicate a forthcoming trade.  However, I'm going to stick with my gut on this one and still say that either he or Carlos Correa are manning third base in 2017, with the other manning shortstop.

Bregman's bat profiles to be a pretty significant major league tool, and it's hard to see the Astros walking away from an impact bat if there's anywhere to play him. Can Duffy or Moran outperform him and win the third base job, relegating Bregman to AAA starter or trade bait?  It's clearly possible, but my money is on Bregman.

I generally agree with Baseball America on his ranking - unlike and Baseball Prospectus, I do not feel that Alex Bregman is the best prospect in our system.  That does not, however, mean that I don't think he's going to be an impact Major League player whom we're going to have to find a position for.  Certainly Alex Bregman should be a top 50 prospect in all of baseball in just about everyone's book, I think.

A.J. Reed

Photo from player profile

Position: 1B
Drafted: Round 2, 42nd Overall Pick  (Astros) 2014 Top 100 Ranking:  40        ETA:  2016 
Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Ranking:  55                 Baseball Prospectus ETA: 2017
Baseball Prospectus Scouting Report
(from June 9th of last season)

What says:

"Reed has an admirable combination of power and patience. Reed makes consistent hard contact and could hit for a solid average if he proves he can handle advanced left-handed pitching."

What Baseball Prospectus says:

"[Reed's] approach is as good as any prospect in the game, and his ability to recognize pitches he can drive while not swinging at pitches outside the zone make him an on-base machine...If Reed hits in Triple-A the way he did in 2015, this [the second overall spot in their Top Ten ranking for the Astros system, behind Bregman] will be a spot too low...He can really hit."

What J.J. Cooper from Baseball America says:

The question posed to Mr. Cooper was "I take it you're pretty sold on him as a hitter, rather than just a guy with big power. Just how big of an offensive threat do you see him as at the ML level?"

"It’s hard to find a minor league hitter with a better track record than Reed right now. He hits wherever he goes. The combination of power, understanding of the strike zone and ability to make contact is pretty special."

What I say:

Reed has bootstrapped his own stock in the eyes of Baseball Prospectus evaluators enough to be considered the number 55 prospect in all of baseball now on their 2016 Top 101 prospects list.   I think the Physical/Health section of Will Kamaran's scouting report from all the way back on June 9th says quite a lot:

"Behemoth; physically maxed-out 6'4", 240 pounds; big boy strength, barrel-chested with broad, thick shoulders, wide base; Ruthian gait; sneaky coordination and athleticism despite limited mobility and dexterity."

I've been banging the A.J. Reed drum for months now (see this piece from August 12th of last season in which I debated against Anthony Boyer in favor of the merits of A.J. Reed, long term, versus Jon Singleton) so it's probably no surprise that I believe very strongly that A.J. Reed is going to be a very good contributor for the Astros.

There's some debate as to whether he's a legitimate Joey Votto-esque ceiling or more of a prime-Ryan Howard, three true outcomes ceiling, but either way, there is no one else I want manning first base for the next six or seven years for the Astros...unless Jon Singleton finally realizes all of his full potential.  At this point, though, my money is on Reed.  So, too, is Brett Sayre's money, who brought us this gem of a quote regarding Reed's fantasy baseball viability in dynasty leagues as part of Baseball Prospectus' write up:

"This is not a drill. Slowly reach for the oxygen mask, and place yours around your head before helping anyone else. Take deep breaths. Have a sip of water. Now that you’re calm, imagine standing in the middle of a field, imagine being tackled by Brian Cox. Or cross checked by Chris Chelios. (Yes, both my football and hockey references are out of date.) This is what it’s like to be a baseball being thrown to Reed. The potential is there for a 30-plus home run hitter with a .270-.280 average and even better on-base skills. Invest."

Francis Martes

Photo from player profile

Position: RHP
Signed As International Free Agent November 2nd, 2012, Florida Marlins
Acquired July 31st, 2014, in Jarred Cosart Trade Top 100 Ranking:  41        ETA:  2017
Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Ranking:  63                 Baseball Prospectus ETA: 2017
Baseball Prospectus Scouting Report

What says:

"[Martes'] sudden emergence as a potential frontline starter made it easier for the Astros to part with Vincent Velazquez and former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel in the Ken Giles trade with the Phillies in December."

What Baseball Prospectus says:

"Martes has the potential to develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter, with a high floor at the back end of a Major League bullpen on the strength of a dynamic fastball-curve combination that could devastate in short bursts."

What J.J. Cooper from Baseball America says:

Question: "Would you consider Frances (sic.) Martes a Top 50 prospect in the game at this point?"


"To me? Absolutely. His stuff is very reminiscent of Lance McCullers, but Martes has much better control at the same point in his development. There is a whole lot to like."

Question: "When do you think we'll see Martes? Next year?"


"Martes will likely start in Double-A and could help the big league club in 2016 if they needed a reliever..."

What I say:

If you don't work in the Astros front office and claim that you expected the "throw in" piece of the Jarred Cosart deal to catapult his way up prospect lists like a trout up a waterfall, I'd be inclined to call you a liar.  More prescient Astros fans pointed to Martes as an intriguing throw in most often immediately following the trade - when he was mentioned at all.  So what a thrilling, pleasant surprise it's been to most Astros fans to watch this young man blossom in 2015 into a true, legitimate ace prospect candidate.

The quotes above about him really do paint the picture well - particularly the bit from Mr. Cooper about him being comparable to Lance McCullers, but with better control at this stage.  However, it was reported in this piece by the Chronicle (alongside bits about how he's working hard to earn his place with the team) that the system's best pitching prospect is working this spring on adding a cut fastball to his repertoire - a significant development if he can master it, obviously.  So he might get even better.  Definitely a young man to keep an eye on this season.

Kyle Tucker

Photo from player profile

Position: OF
Drafted: Round 1, 5th Overall Pick  (Astros) 2015 Top 100 Ranking:  74        ETA:  2019 
Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Ranking:  93                 Baseball Prospectus ETA:  2019
Baseball Prospectus Scouting Report (scroll down to read about Tucker)

What says:

"Arguably the best pure hitter among last year's high school prospects, Tucker makes consistent hard contact thanks to fast hands, a balanced left-handed swing and a mature approach."

What Baseball Prospectus says:

"The swing puts a lot of pressure on his bat speed, but Tucker has plenty of it, and his ability to stay in the zone gives him a chance for above-average hit and power tools...if he is the 60 hit, 60 power hitter that so many scouts believe he is, it doesn’t really matter where he plays."

What J.J. Cooper from Baseball America says:

The question: "The Long awaited BA Top 10 for the Houston Astros!! Can it be said that #4,5,6 could easily be #1,2,3 on a 1/3rd of the teams in the league, or is that a major over statement?"

The answer:

"Yes. A lot of teams would be thrilled to have Bregman, Tucker, Cameron as their top 3."

Unfortunately, not much else substantive was discussed with regards to Tucker.

What I say:

Raise your hand if you expected Kyle Tucker to have more stolen bases (18) than Daz Cameron, who had thirteen.

The Ted Williams comparisons (which are "stupid", to quote Chris Perry directly...haha) have abounded for Tucker since before the draft.  I think many Astros fans might have misunderstood the comparison, based on their reactions to it.  I don't think many evaluators feel that Tucker has that kind of upside, because who does have that kind of upside, honestly?  I think the majority of the comparisons (including my own, which predate even my joining the staff here at TCB) stem more from how similar their swings are.  Outside of follow through (two handed for The Splendid Splinter, and a one handed follow through for young Mr. Tucker) there is quite a lot to support comparisons between their swings.

However, the excitement about Tucker should (and does, in the case of evaluators) stem more from how loud his tools play.  As is discussed in the bits from above, he has explosive bat speed and good control of the zone.  His long, lanky frame projects to add a considerable amount of bulk as he matures, helping project legitimate middle of the order power as a ceiling for his pop.  In short, as long as he can even defend in the corner outfield a little bit, he's certainly as talented a prospect as our very, very deep system has.  He's my favorite Astros prospect - even more so than Bregman, Reed, and Martes.  I do rate him lower, for now, due to his proximity to the majors, but that doesn't change the fact that this is the guy I'm most excited about in our entire system.

Daz Cameron

Photo from player profile

Position: OF
Drafted: Round 1b, 37th Overall Pick  (Astros) 2015 Top 100 Ranking:  75        ETA:  2019 
Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Ranking:  85                 Baseball Prospectus ETA:  2018
Baseball Prospectus Scouting Report
(scroll down to read about Cameron)

What says:

"Cameron has a quick, compact right-handed stroke and an all-fields, line-drive approach. He should develop average power once he adds strength and turns on pitches more frequently. His speed earns solid to plus grades and he has the instincts to steal bases."

What Baseball Prospectus says:

"Cameron is a smart hitter who seems to make hard contact every time he swings. His plus speed and ability to work counts make him an excellent candidate to hit at the top of a lineup...could become a 30-plus stolen base guy at the next level."

What J.J. Cooper from Baseball America says:

Very little, about Cameron.  The above quote featured in Tucker's section was one mention, and the other is in response to a fan who takes issue with Derek Fisher being rated at ten while Cameron is rated at five, believing that the two should be swapped.  Cooper's response to this:

"Very different prospects. One is a CF, one is a LF as you mentioned. That’s a big difference. And Fisher carries as many, if not more, concerns about his hit tool as Cameron does."

What I say:

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement there from Mr. Cooper.

It's important for me to point out that I was excited to get Cameron at 37 overall on draft day simply because he was perceived as a top ten draft pick coming into the draft - perhaps even a first overall draft pick by some of his more optimistic prognosticators.  The financial concerns with his signability made him a perfect fit for us in round 1b, and his signing - which was made possible by acquiring the pick used to draft him as yet another part of the ridiculously lopsided Jarred Cosart trade - boosted our draft report card from "excellent" to arguably the best of all 30 Major League teams in 2015.

All that said, even coming into the draft I viewed Cameron as more hype than ultimate production.  Don't get me wrong, I think he'll be a major league player, and he might even be a major league star, but in a system which (at the time) featured Brett Phillips, I considered Cameron to be trade fodder, ultimately, more than an impact player for the Astros.

Now, with Maverick gone and uncertainty surrounding whether Jake Marisnick will ever put it all together with the bat, Cameron has certainly seen his stock increase in my mind with regard to his future actually playing in Houston at Minute Maid Park.  I'd be pretty happy with a line drive hitter starting in centerfield and batting at the top of the lineup who sprays balls to all parts of the park, draws a fair number of walks, steals thirty bases, plays good (if not superstar) defense in center, and even manages to poke a few into the Crawford boxes over the course of a season.  Pretty happy indeed.

Life On The Fringe

There are several notable exclusions among Astros prospects for the Top 100 lists, for varying reasons.  Chief among these, in my opinion, is Joe Musgrove - who has been considered the system's best or second best pitcher by many of we TCB writers for months.

Astros MiLBophiles are well aware of his staggering achievements this season (an absurd 100 strikeouts to just eight walks and a 1.88 ERA across three levels) but putting his achievements in proper context relative to other top pitching prospects makes them even more impressive.  For instance, Musgrove's 23% strikeout to walk ratio was the second best in all of minor league baseball last year - trailing only Jose De Leon (a well regarded pitching prospect currently at Double-A in the Dodgers organization) and directly ahead of top prospect list stalwarts like Alex Reyes (Cardinals), Blake Snell (Rays), and Tyler Glasnow (Pirates).

It appears that the evaluators who compile the top prospect lists feel that Musgrove has not yet faced enough minor league batters and established enough of a track record outside of a brilliant 2015 season to rank him within the top 100 prospects in baseball.  He also does not feature the overpowering arsenal - specifically, the fastball - typically associated with top prospect pitchers.  However, Musgrove does feature excellent downward life on his fastball and, most demonstrably, impeccable control of his offerings.  He certainly looks like a coming number three starter at least, if not a number two, if he can maintain or improve upon his 2015 production going forward.

Another notable name missing is Tyler White.  His absence, more than any other Astros prospect's, probably illustrates that the top prospects lists generally factor draft pedigree quite highly, as well as tools, rather than strict production.  I maintain that White compares favorably to Kevin Youkillis, and while he offers limited (if any) defense, his bat should play in a big way as soon as 2016.

Perhaps no prospect's national ranking, even Musgrove's, has caused consternation internally here at TCB quite like Colin Moran's.  Just when several of us writers were prepared to write him off, he rebounded from a couple of injuries to post a rather delicious .333/.416/.536 slash line from July through the end of last season.  He doesn't profile to have huge power in the major leagues, but he has a beautiful swing and a really advanced approach at the plate that lends itself to the idea that he can continue making plenty of contact even at the highest level in the future, yet ranked him just outside the top ten third base prospects across all of baseball.

Steamer projects him to be capable, right now, of an 86 wRC+, .116 ISO, .298 wOBA, and a sub-20% strikeout rate in the majors.  Steamer also believes he could post a .310 BABIP right now, today.  Speaking of BABIP, Moran has increased his BABIP at every stop in every year since posting a .290 BABIP with the Marlins' Rookie League affiliate in 2013, his first taste of professional ball.  He finished 2014 at Double-A with the Astros and posted a .360 BABIP before returning this season and posting a .365 BABIP in a full season with Corpus Christi.  BABIP is generally considered not sustainable in most players at the Major League level, but there are those who feel that a higher BABIP in minor league players - especially a consistently high one, like Moran has exhibited - indicates a better hit tool.  Adding to the consternation about Moran's absence from the top ten third base prospect list, to say nothing about the Top 100 prospects list, is that his draft pedigree - again, seemingly a factor in the compilation of these lists - should conceivably put him in excellent esteem, as he was drafted sixth overall by the Marlins in 2013.

In Summation

In a system as deep as the Astros, it's not terribly surprising even to see players like J.D. Davis miss top ten lists for the team.  It's not even surprising to see really, really talented players like Derek Fisher and David Paulino miss out on top 100 lists.  After all, there are an awful lot of really, really talented players across the wide world of minor league baseball.

What is surpising - delightingly so - is the Astros' continued presence as one of the deepest, most talented farm systems in the sport...despite recently graduating a deity at shortstop in Carlos Correa and several other very, very talented top prospects (Lance McCullers, Preston Tucker, George Springer, etc.) to the major leagues, as well as having made several trades of other notable prospects like Mark Appel, who still somehow places around the 75 percentile on most major top prospects lists, or Jacob Nottingham, who appears on some and doesn't at all on others, and Brett Philips, who is still considered a consensus top 40 or so prospect.

Yes indeed.  Despite those graduations and losses, prospect season is still ridiculously sweet here in Houston.