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The Crawfish Boxes' 2016 Top 30 Astros prospect list

A closer look at the Top 30 Astros prospects.

Our Top 30 prospect week is coming to a close. We had some fantastic content this week and we finish with a closer look at the top 30 prospects by the entire TCB Staff:

The Crawfish Boxes' 2016 Top 30 Astros prospect list

1. A.J. Reed, 1B -- B+ (7.800)

Reed's top rank among Astros' prospects is well deserved. The minor league's' hitter of the year posted seasonal hitting stats reminiscent of the Cubs' Kris Bryant. Still, it's unusual for a first baseman to rank this high, because his hitting has to be so special. Between High A and AA, at age 22, Reed put up a .340/.432/.612 slash line. Displaying massive brute strength, Reed hit 34 HRs, as well good patience and OBP skill. Early on, some scouts questioned his bat speed. However, bat speed is sometimes overrated; and Reed has shown a combination of patience, power, pitch recognition, and intelligence, which enabled him to hit for both power and average. Like most power hitters, Reed will have some swing and miss in his game, but his K rate so far has been in the 20% range, which is not extreme. Given his 240 lb. size, Reed has limited speed and dexterity as a defensive player. He is a work in progress fielding first base, but he has sneaky athleticism which may enable him to develop into an average defender. The ZIPS projection system likes Reed and projects a ML line of .261, .338, .456 (wOBA .342).with a 2.6 WAR. Reed may well crash the major league party sometime this season. The likelihood of that happening probably factored into the Astros' thinking when they didn't upgrade first base during the off-season. Reed seemed to run out of steam in the Arizona Fall League, reportedly due to nagging injuries--and that's something to watch during the spring.--Clack

2. Alex Bregman, SS -- B+ (7.350)

Upside is nice, but prospects bust at such a high rate that you can't build a team or a system without some safe guys, too. Bregman is as safe as any prospect in the system, with a valuable utility man as his absolute downside (realistically, though, he's almost guaranteed to start at some position), but he doesn't sacrifice much in the way of upside for that high floor. A plus hit tool forms the gravitational center of his tool box, around which orbits every other tool, all of them average or better. He won't light the bases on fire, but he'll nab 15-25 bags a year in his prime. Though not a masher, expect similar power numbers as well. The Dustin Pedroia comp is well-earned, and Bregman has the ability to stick at short. -Brian

3. Francis Martes, RHP -- B+ (7.150)

Martes pitched brilliantly in 2015, posting a gaudy 1.04 ERA/2.78 FIP in Quad Cities with a 3.46 K/BB ratio and 7.79 K/9 ratio, before moving up to Lancaster and destroying the absurdly offensive-friendly environment to the tune of a 2.31 ERA/2.81 FIP with a 2.06 BB/9 ratio, a rich 9.51 K/9 ratio, and an excellent 4.63 K/BB ratio. He struggled some (in just three games at the end of the season) at Double-A Corpus Christi, partially due to a higher walk rate - again, over three games - and perhaps largely due to a ridiculously high .386 BABIP against. J.J. Cooper of Baseball America has compared him to Lance McCullers, but with better control at this stage. He sports a live, tailing fastball that sits in the 93-95 mile per hour range and touches 98, along with a hard and tight 11-5 curveball that flashes devastating potential and a changeup that is a work in progress but which shows the the promise of at least a decent secondary offering. It has also been reported recently that the system's best pitching prospect is working this spring on adding a cut fastball to his already-filthy 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. - Jason

4. Joe Musgrove, RHP -- B (6.850)

The odds have been stacked against Musgrove ever since draft day back in 2011. Injuries derailed him almost immediately, and it took him a while after that and his being traded to Houston to get his velocity back on track. It all came together at last in 2015, with the threat of being unprotected from the Rule 5 draft at season's end if he didn't show something special. Special his season was, with a stunning 12.4 K/BB ratio across the three levels he flew through. Musgrove's bread and butter is a 91-94 MPH heater with excellent sinker-like movement that he can spot at will. That alone likely ensures a solid middle-relief future at worst, but with his control and and a pair of decent secondary pitches, there's very real middle rotation upside here, and he could be ready for MLB action as soon as this season. -Brian

5. Kyle Tucker, OF -- B (6.600)

The excitement about Tucker should (and does, in the case of evaluators) stem from how loud his tools play. 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 2015, Tucker struggled some with the transition to pro ball before rebounding a bit upon a promotion to Greeneville, where he slashed .286/.322/.393 with two home runs and a very efficient fourteen stolen bases in sixteen attempts. He went on to finish even more strongly, going 6-12 in the final playoff series of the season with two home runs to lead Greeneville to the Appalachian League championship. I do rate him lower than Reed and Bregman and Martes (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. - Jason

6. Michael Feliz, RHP -- B (6.300)

He honestly has one of the best fastball/slider combinations in the system. And I actually like his mechanics. Sure, he has his flaws but they all do. He was given the opportunity to pitch in the majors this season and displayed his talent. It was probably a bit premature and it showed with his struggles in the control department. It's always been something that's plagued him but he did show well in the minors this season. The strikeout rate dipped to the lowest since his second season as a pro. That is cause for concern moving forward but his stuff is certainly giving to the idea of improvement. If it doesn't work out as a starter, he still has potential to be a late inning reliever. -Subber10

7. Colin Moran, 3B -- B (6.250)

2015 was a breakout season for Moran, though it wasn't quite as loud as some guys' like Francis Martes or A.J. Reed. Moran initially got out of the gate slowly, but not long after returning from an early-season concussion, he began showing notable, if unspectacular, growth in virtually every area of his game. He hit .349/.407/.538 in July and .299/.405/.514 in August. He hit six bombs in August alone, after hitting just seven in the entire 2014 season. His strike out rate didn't increase while his walk rate spiked a full three percent. He's still not a sexy prospect, but the last two months of the season really showed his upside for the first time. If it all works, he'll hit for average, get on base at a nice clip, and have just enough pop and just enough of a glove to be solid at the hot corner. -Brian

8. Daz Cameron, OF -- B (6.250)

Full disclosure - coming into the 2015 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. He has solid - if not quite universally spectacular - tools across the board, including a short, quick line drive stroke that plays foul line to foul line, potential for 30 stolen bases at the highest level, and excellent defense. 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. - Jason

9. Tyler White, 3B -- B- (5.850)

White's 2015 campaign was a breakout, which is odd to say since his numbers didn't see much of a spike. Hit hit well, hit for decent power, drew a truck load of walks, and limited strike outs. The difference this time was that he did it in Double-A and then in Triple-A. It was easy to write him off before; a polished college hitter beating up on inferior competition, benefitting from the Lancaster hitting environment. But no more. Now he's the guy who drew 84 walks against 73 strikeouts in the upper levels, while spraying line drives all over the place. Now he's the guy that looks like he could be a solid DH without ever hitting 25 home runs. Now he's a prospect worth watching. Assuming he doesn't win a spot at first or DH out of spring camp, he'll head to Triple-A to start the year, and could be one of the first guys called upon if Evan Gattis and Jon Singleton can't get their acts together. -Brian

10. Derek Fisher, OF -- B- (5.600)

Fisher was the 37th pick (out of the University of Virginia) in the 2014 draft. The Astros liked the toolsy outfielder who impressed at the college level, but didn't put it all together--partly due to injuries. Fisher has shown the combination of power and speed in the minors so far. In his first three at bats in High A, Fisher launched three home runs, including two grand slams. He combined for a 154 and 124 wRC+ in A and High A last year. He followed up with a 131 wRC+ against good competition in the Arizona Fall League. As always, the Lancaster numbers raise questions as to whether he can continue to mash outside of the offensive oriented Cal League. Fisher's performance at the higher minor league levels will be watched closely. Although Fisher is fast, his outfield defense is still rough around the edges. It remains to be seen whether he can improve his route running, which could be difference between a CF or LF prospect. --Clack

11. David Paulino, RHP -- B- (5.500)

The Astros have found ways to get value where there's little value to be expected. Francis Martes embodies that and David Paulino is a step behind him in that regard. Paulino is cranking up a big fastball and is following it up with a very good curve. He may not have the control that some of the pitchers ranked higher than him do, but he knows how to strike guys out. His strikeout percentage ranged from 25%-30% across three levels of challenges. He took every step needed and succeeded. His walk rate grew at every level but considering it was his first taste of full-season hitters and made it up to Lancaster is quite impressive coming from a 21 year old. -Subber10

12. Tony Kemp, OF -- C+ (4.950)

Tony Kemp is a 2013 fifth round draft pick who is now very close to major league ready. When Kemp was drafted, the Astros touted him as a lead off hitter who can foul off pitch after to pitch, frustrating opposing pitchers. The diminutive but athletic player is best suited for 2d base, but could see time in LF or CF, given the skills of the second baseman (Altuve) ahead of him. Kemp's downside as a hitter is a lack of power; but he may compensate with good contact and on-base skills, as well as speed and savvy on the base paths. The 5-7, 165 lb. Kemp tore up AA in Corpus Christi with a .353 BA, .457 OBP, and 155 wRC+. Kemp faced tougher going in AAA with a 88 wRC+. That marked his first minor league stint in which he was not well above league average as a hitter. 2016 may tell us whether Tony can adapt to AAA, and if he does, don't rule out the possibility that Kemp could see time as a utility player for the Astros in 2016. Steamer projects a .275, .335, .365 slash line if he played in the majors next year.--Clack

13. Jason Martin, CF -- C+ (4.850)

Very few have captured fandom from the TCB community like Jason Martin has. He's up there with the likes of Aaron West and it's all due to how humble he is despite his opportunities to his point. He's a very hard worker and has a drive to succeed that was very evident in his interview with Anthony awhile back. But, his ranking has more to do with him than an interview. He has speed, some power, and skills to be a very good player. His power wasn't as evident this year but he is just tapping into it. He struggled on the basepaths and will have to improve there in order to be a larger threat. -Subber10

14. J.D. Davis, 3B -- C+ (4.850)

I'm personally really high on Davis, and probably too high. He has his flaws, mostly with how much he strikes out and that's a big flaw. But, he has a lot to like. He has above average power which is something the Astros lack at third base. He has a very strong arm and was even a pitcher in college. He actually draws walks as well, 10% this season. And, even though he doesn't have great range at third base, he's very balanced and can do a lot within his range. Plus that arm is an asset from third. -Subber10

15. Brendan McCurry, RHP -- C+ (4.850)

People love their relievers with "stuff." Heck, Jeff Luhnow just swapped several good prospects for one reliever with "stuff." But you don't need "stuff" to be an effective reliever; just ask Trevor Hoffman. That isn't to say that McCurry, who generally maxes out around 92 MPH on a good night, will be that good, but with a plus curve and a solid change, not to mention plus command of all three pitches, he should be just fine without "stuff." His career 11.7 K/9 in the minors speaks to him having plenty of the right stuff. -Brian

16. Jon Kemmer, OF -- C+ (4.800)

Who? The 21st-round pick back in 2013 wasn't on anyone's list last year, but my goodness, what a year he had in 2015. He spent the entire season with the Double-A Hooks and was arguably their team MVP, hitting .327/.414/.574 and swatting 18 long balls in 104 games. Everything under the hood looks correct, too; a solid 10.6% walk rate, a reasonable 20.9% strike out rate, and though his BAbip will likely drop significantly, there's plenty of room for his average to fall before you start being concerned. He's not a .327 hitter, but he doesn't need to be. In trying to find some fault, I looked up his splits against southpaws and...nope; he still hit better than .300 against them, while walking more and maintaining a respectable .188 ISO. Is he the next J.D. Martinez? Maybe not. But maybe so. Sweet dreams. -Brian

17. Tyler Heineman, C -- C+ (4.750)

As probably the next catcher up after Stassi on the depth chart behind Castro, Heineman doesn't get a ton of love. He is one of my favorite catchers in the system and has been since he was drafted in 2012 out of UCLA. He defense and catching skills I hear are great so that's what will get him to the bigs but his bat is what I am most excited about with Tyler. The switch hitter is especially good and minimizing strikeouts and walks at a good clip. His hit tool is what I like the most. While he lacks POWER EXTREME, he makes up for it with his ability to get on base at a good clip. Something that the Astros lack is people to get on base late in the lineup to set up the top guys to drive him in. I think Heineman will be an excellent backstop for the Astros in the near future. - Blake

18. Miguelangel Sierra, SS -- C+ (4.700)

One of the Astros two big J2 signings in 2014 with the cool one million dollar bonus tag, Sierra has proved to be a good prospect. He played professionally for the first time and he played very well. He did everything well. Walk over 10% of the time. Knock three home runs despite being only 175 pounds and just seventeen at the time. Not many kids his age and size hit that many home runs in the DSL. Not many have OBP over .400 down there either. He's just very talented and not just a workout warrior that many of the IFA have become. -Subber10

19. Akeem Bostick, RHP -- C+ (4.650)

There's more than one way to skin a cat and Bostick learned a new way this season. Despite being highly drafted for his athletic frame and able to throw the ball up into the mid-90's, he found his success in a very different way this year. He made Jeff Luhnow look smart again for picking him up for a spare catcher of sorts. He suddenly had a big drop in his walk-rate and a spike in groundball rate which lead to 42 standout innings in Quad Cities. But, his numbers regressed back to his career numbers in Lancaster which leads to some question marks about how much he really has developed. -Subber10

20. Aaron West, RHP -- C+ (4.600)

How the mighty have fallen...and perhaps unfairly. It was easy to forget about West, a guy many here at TCB have loved since draft day, but it's time to jog your memory if you're one of those. After his 2014 season was dashed by injuries, the Astros brought West back slowly in 2015, allowing him to rack up just 84.1 innings of work over the year. But they were good innings, evidenced by his 2.88 FIP and 6.2 K/BB ratio for the Corpus Christi Hooks. His stuff still looks good, and he continued to use it effectively. There's a bit of mid-rotation upside remaining, but a back-end starter is more likely. That's not bad for the back-end of your top 20 prospects. -Brian

21. Teoscar Hernandez, OF -- C+ (4.600)

Man what a difference a year makes, he went from being a top OF prospect in our system to being passed up by at least Fisher, Kemmer, and possibly Kemp on the depth chart. He had big years in ‘13 and ‘14 but a down year in ‘15. The stats look similar with some deviations, ‘15, even though it was a down year is not far off from the "good" years for him. His awful late April and his power numbers in ‘15 are what really hurt him, especially doubles and triples. His homers were about par for the course and his walk to strikeout ratio is never going to be more than average at best. He is a Chris Carter/Domingo Santana type at the plate; low to average BA, less power, with good OF defense and someone who can steal bases. Unless he goes bananas, I don't think he is anything more than a fourth or fifth OF at best. - Blake

22. Max Stassi, C -- C+ (4.450)

This is the guy who's likely to be the MLB club's backup catcher all season and he can't even crack the top 20. Depth is fun. Dreams of a 25-30 home run catcher have all but vanished here as Stassi's strikeout rate has spiked each of the last two seasons, but that's not what matters. What matters his his elite receiving skills and good throwing arm. He'll spend the year learning from Jason Castro and the coaching staff while catching once or twice a week, and he may just take the full time job in 2017 once Castro hits free agency. And he will still run into the occasional mistake pitch and knock it over the wall. -Brian

23. Jamie Ritchie, C -- C+ (4.400)

Jamie Ritchie is one of the under-the-radar prospects in Houston's system...for now. It may be that Ritchie's defensive profile doesn't quite have the luster that Roberto Pena or Alfredo Gonzalez or Jason Castro's does, but he's still a pretty well respected defender, and his offense is really turning some heads here at TCB. Drafted in the 13th round of the 2014 draft (376th overall), Ritchie has increased his caught stealing percentage in Lancaster - it ranged from 17% to 24% before jumping to 28% in the last stop of the 2015 season for him - while never once, at any point or at any level, posting an on base percentage lower than his stellar .422 mark in Lancaster. He posted a 21% walk ratio at Quad Cities to begin the season in 2015 in 334 plate appearances - good for 70 walks in just that short time, or a pace of over 125 walks in a 600 plate appearance season. He's posted wRC+ numbers of 173 (Tri-Cities, 2014), 143 (Quad Cities, 2015), and 142 (Lancaster, 2015). He has walked 124 times (versus 107 strikeouts) in 677 career plate appearances, giving him an 18.3% career walk rate and a 15.8% career strikeout rate. He hasn't tapped into much power yet (only six professional home runs and ISO marks of .134, .100, and .135) but he's posted healthy BABIP numbers (.393, .322, and .377) in his career. All signs point to a catcher who could potentially be a sneaky-good major league contributor, possibly as soon as September 2017. - Jason

24. Jonathan Arauz, SS -- C+ (4.400)

Arauz is a relative unknown. Most hardcore astros fans recognize the name now because the Astros got him along with Ken Giles from the Phillies. But, that's pretty much all most know. The rest is that he's a very athletic short-stop that scouts really like. He was considered one of the best players to come out Panama in his IFA class. Like any other IFA he's really raw and has a lot to develop. The plate discipline is currently there, but will need improvement. The Astros recent history with lottery ticket trade returns have been really good and the minor league projection system called KATOH really likes him. It's based on a very small sample and can't really be trusted. -Subber10

25. Chase McDonald, 1B -- C+ (4.400)

Monster power plays well in Lancaster. Afterall, he hit thirty bombs. The problem is that his elite power is the only one that grades that high. He was able to get his batting average pretty high at times during the season but it was mostly BABIP inflated. He's a fair hitter but he strikes out a lot. Historically those rates climb at every level which leads to the idea of a 30% or higher strikeout rate in the majors. He has a lot of questions to answer in this area next season, but if he can, his ceiling is really high for a first baseman due to his monster power. -Subber10

26. Andrew Aplin, OF -- C+ (4.200)

Where lies the line between a starter and a very talented bench player? Wherever it is, Aplin is doing a tightrope walk across it. It was easy to lose track of him in 2015, with bigger breakouts seemingly happening left and right, but Aplin took a small, but important, step forward himself. After a mediocre debut in Triple-A in 2014, Aplin posted a .275/.392/.348 line with Fresno this year, joining Tyler White in an elite group of modern players who walk more than they strike out. He's a walk machine, he plays solid defense in center field, he'll nab 20 bases a year...these things we knew. Now we have some hope that he might hit just enough to be a decent starting player. If not, he still has that talented backup role as a floor. Aplin is a Major League player in the future; the question is how often he'll find himself in the lineup card. -Brian

27. Trent Thornton, RHP -- C+ (4.167)

Of all the guys Houston drafted in 2015, I probably enjoyed Thornton's debut half-season as much as anyone outside of the Big Three. The book on Thornton was pretty well-known; good stuff, the sexiest leg kick since Dontrelle Willis, and some command concerns. The first two were on display as a professional; his heater sits low 90's but can touch 94-95 on occasion, and he mixes in two average-at-worst secondaries. Surprising, though, was a strong 1.64 BB/9. Short-season stats for big program college arms against lesser competition aren't always telling, but it was a nice sign. He should start 2016 with the Low-A Quad Cities club and could easily see himself in Lancaster by year's end with a good performance. -Brian

28. Nestor Muriel, OF -- C+ (4.111)

Tools for days. Raw tools for years. That's all that matters here as it's all he's got. He had about as terrible of a debut you could dream of but he was also barely seventeen this season. That's the attraction. Research shows that on average, the younger you are when drafted, the better they turn out. Well Muriel was sixteen on draft day. This outfielder can do it all but has a VERY long way to go in order to develop real skills in the game of baseball. - Subber10

29. Matt Duffy, 3B -- C+ (4.100)

The Duff Man does a lot well but nothing great. He has average power. Can hit well. He has good plate discipline since he strikes out much less than most power hitters. However, he's not good defensively due to limited range and quickness. After he earned the PCL MVP, he was given a cup of coffee in the majors which included nine plate appearances. Because of his limited ability defensively, he'll have to prove his offensive performance is very real. -Subber10

30. Kyle Smith, RHP -- C+ (4.100)

There's no other way to put it than that 2015 was a completely lost season for Kyle Smith. He underwent Tommy John Surgery during Spring Training and never pitching an inning. It was supposed to be a big season for him as he silenced a lot of doubters as he pitched very well in Double A in 2014. Going into 2016 he'll have to do that but with what is likely to be in a smaller role. He'll likely spend a lot of time in the bullpen as they bring him back slowly. -Subber10