The old adage is that a good farm system is the life blood to a major league roster. Establishing depth to the system was one of the goals of GM Jeff Luhnow when he first came into the organization. That has been achieved, but it's been achieved with high end talent as well. The infield that returning manager Tony DeFrancesco represents that talented depth well.
The 2016 Fresno Grizzlies infield will be stacked with the top first base prospect in baseball in A.J. Reed and semi-top 100 prospect in Colin Moran (named in some lists, not all). But, that isn't all as Jon Singleton is also there as a first base option. Singleton has lost a lot of luster but is still technically of prospect age and possesses the same talent yet the same limitations.
The middle infield isn't as high end but has the ability to provide plenty of runners for the previously mentioned big hitters to drive in. Tony Kemp wasn't wasn't the on-base machine of previous seasons in Triple-A last year but was still able to provide a good OBP despite learning to play the outfield. This season he'll have a chance to build on his past experience and force his hand into a ML utility role. Nolan Fontana will likely get the majority of the time at short this season and we all know how he is elite at drawing walks but not so much at limiting strikeouts and driving the ball. The last member of the infield is Danny Worth who has bounced around quite a bit but can also draw more than his fair share of walks.
The outfield is not going to draw crowds but has intrigue. The highlight has to be Jon Kemmer who truly forced his name into conversations with his consistent over-performing in Corpus last season. He provided a well-rounded approach with a combination of plate discipline and power that makes him a threat in many ways at the plate. He's not an elite type with any particular tool, but will likely help create runs in many ways. Andrew Aplin is the defensive wizard of the group but he's not just a defensive guy. He draws more walks than he strikeouts and finds a way to get on-base. Eury Perez and Leo Heras round out the rest of the outfield. Perez has an arm and has played in the majors for three different teams. While Heras has only shown good plate discipline in Double-A and has struggled to stand out with other aspects of his game.
The Astros have made a point to emphasize defensive skills with their catchers and the pair of Roberto Pena and Tyler Heinemann are good examples. Pena's OPS was less than .600 last season in Corpus while Heinemann didn't reach .700 in Fresno. However, they both have good reputations regarding their defense and will handle the staff well.
I'll be curious to see how the pitching staff is handled this season. Will they be tandem again? Will there be a six-man rotation like much of last season? Or will it be a traditional set up?
Asher Wojciechowski, Brad Peacock, and Brady Rodgers are certainly starters. Cesar Valdez, Tommy Shirley, Chris Devenski, and Mike Hauschild have started the majority of their careers but have also seen some time out of the pen. Wandy Rodriguez has not ruled out the possibility of being in the Astros system and could start as well.
The pen is really where this pitching staff gets interesting. Wherever Devenski is at, he'll likely have some eyes on him as he's shown some better velocity as of late. But, guys like James Hoyt and Jandel Gustave can light up radar guns. Jordan Jankowski might have one of the better sliders in the system. If the starts are able to keep games close and get to the bullpen, there's a lot of talent in the pen that will help win games.
This roster overall is likely to produce similar results in the field as last season as they had talent from the infield corners with Tyler White and Matt Duffy and good on-base types in the middle. The outfield last season was probably a little stronger with Domingo Santana. But, the pitching staff didn't have many guys that stood out just like this season. Although, you could make an argument that the bullpen is better this season.