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The Crawfish Boxes' Midseason Top 30 Astros Prospects

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Better late than never, the staff of the Crawfish Boxes presents the Astros 2016 Midseason Top 30 Prospect Ranking

MLB: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Twice every year, the staff of the Crawfish Boxes ranks the Astros prospects. So far, 2016 has proven to be a busy year for the preseason Top 30, rife with lots of movement due to major league graduations, disappointments, unexpected successes, and more.

For this re-ranking, eleven of TCB’s writers scored an even 200 players from the Astros’ farm system from 0 to 10, and averaged the scores. A “10” is a unicorn - a prospect literally guaranteed to be Mike Trout. Not one player earned a 10 from any author.

7.5 to 10: MLB Top 25 prospect
7 to 7.5: Top 50
6.5 to 7: Top 100
6 to 6.5: Bubble Top 100
4.5 to 6: "C+" prospects
3.5 to 4.5: "C" prospects
2.5 to 3.5: "C- prospects
0 to 2.5: Non-prospects

1. Alex Bregman, SS

Average Score: 9.00
Preseason Rank: 2 (score 7.35, a change of +1.65, jump of +1 ranking spot)
MLB: .183/.244/.280 (90 PA), 39 wRC+
AAA: .333/.373/.641 (83), 164
AA: .297/.415/.559 (285), 179

The second overall pick of the 2015 draft earned a starting spot in the All Star Futures Game by making a mockery of the Texas League in his first full pro season. He rendered questions about where he would play on the big league club moot by destroying baseballs, giving him the status of, “the bat will play anywhere.” National media fell in love when he fell a homer short of a cylcle in the futures game, and he rocketed his way to #1 on most MLB Top 100 midseason prospect lists. He forced his way to the major league club, and after a slow start, hit .295/.333/.477 (114 wRC+) over his past ten games. Clearly a rookie with elite talent.

2. Joe Musgrove, RHP

Average Score: 8.02
Preseason Rank: 4 (6.85, +1.17, +2)
MLB: 1.47 ERA, 1.88 FIP, 28.4% K-BB% (18.1 IP)
AAA: 3.81, 3.99, 21.1% (59)
AA: 0.34, 1.70, 26.5% (26.1)

The pitching equivalent of Bregman, questions about Musgrove have always revolved around his ability to stay on the field. Until 2015. Once healthy, Musgrove made a name for himself by being among the stingiest pitchers in baseball over giving free passes. He coupled that with a top-shelf strikeout rate. With ridiculous pitch movement, results, and a dynamic burst onto the MLB scene, he prompted noted prospect evaluator John Sickles to write, “He hasn't received as much attention as he deserves, but in my view he is an elite prospect.”

3. A.J. Reed, 1B

Average Score: 7.91
Preseason Rank: 1 (7.80, +0.11, -2)
MLB: .160/.256/.267 (86 PA), 42 wRC+
AAA: .291/.368/.556 (296), 141

Reed was graded the best prospect pre-season, but after starting out slow in AAA (he recovered) and a lackluster beginning to his ML career, he was surpassed due to Bregman and Musgrove’s impressive breakouts. But TCB’s graders see no loss in his prospect status, which is reflected in his unchanged scoring. Reed has managed to maintain his plus plate discipline in the majors, but has struggled to make contact. He is still counted among the very best first base prospects in the game, with the profile to be a dangerous hitter in the middle of the Astros’ future lineups.

4. Kyle Tucker, OF

Average Score: 7.60
Preseason Rank: 5 (6.60, +1.00, +1)
A: .276/.348/.402, 118 wRC+, 31 SB

The first of our list to not reach the majors, 2015’s 5th overall draft pick was placed directly in full-season ball as a nineteen-year-old and did not disappoint. He showed good pop for his age against older competition, and stole a shocking number of bases, a skill not projected by scouts prior to the draft. He was promoted this week to High A Lancaster, a full five months before his 20th birthday party, and appears on a fast track to reach the majors at an absurdly young age.

5. Forrest Whitley, RHP

Average Score: 7.45
Preseason Rank: N/A
GCL R: 7.36 ERA, 1.03 FIP, 30.3% K-BB% (7.1 IP)
Appy R: 0.00, 1.48, 21.4% (2.2 IP)

Widely considered the best prep right-hander in the 2016 draft, the Astros selected Whitley with their 17th-overall pick. At a listed 6’-7” tall and 240 lbs, he projects as a workhorse starting pitcher with top-of-rotation stuff.

6. Francis Martes, RHP

Average Score: 7.35
Preseason Rank: 3 (7.15, +0.20, -3)
AA: 3.50, 2.77, 16.2% (108 IP)

Like Reed, Martes slipped in the rankings due to impressive performances by those who leapfrogged him, but actually added to his prospect score. He started slowly in AA as a 20-year-old, playing against competition that averaged four years older, but caught his stride during the summer, pitching a 2.58 ERA with a 22.4 K-BB% from June 3rd onward. He remains one of the top right-handed pitching prospects in baseball.

7. Yulieski Gurriel, 3B

Average Score: 7.30
Preseason Rank: N/A
AAA: .750/.800/1.750 (5 PA), 523 wRC+ (not sustainable...)
AA: .118/.158/.118 (19 PA), -25 (also not...)
A+: .429/.375/.786 (16 PA), 181
GCL R: .286/.286/.429 (7 PA), 110

The Astros shocked the baseball world by signing the best player in the Cuban National Series, 32 year-old Gurriel, to a 4-1/2 year contract. Scouts have described his expected ML performance as “somewhere between Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes.” The Astros would love that from their third baseman over the next few seasons.

8. David Paulino, RHP

Average Score: 6.70
Preseason Rank: 11 (5.50, +1.20, +3)
AA: 1.83 ERA, 2.16 FIP, 24.8% (64 IP)
GCL R: 0.75, 1.51, 25.0% (12)

Paulino lost some time due to suspension for breaking unspecified team rules, but when on the field, he befuddled batters with a McCullers-like strikeout rate and Musgrovian walk rate. He looks like the real deal, and should make a rapid climb to high in 2017 Top 100 lists. Few Astros top prospects boosted their stock through performance the way Paulino has....

9. Jason Martin, CF

Average Score: 6.70
Preseason Rank: 13 (4.85, +1.85, +5)
A+: .267/.353/.523 (405 PA), 132 wRC+, 15 SB

...nobody, that is, except the Jethawks’ 20-year-old center fielder. Anthony Boyer does a great job explaining why Martin is a very good prospect. In a nutshell, posting a 132 wRC+ in Advanced A at such a young age is rare. Recently, Carlos Correa has performed similar feats. Martin’s power in Lancaster is likely inflated, and it is fair to question what kind of contact he will make at the higher levels of the minors, but he has double-digit home run and stolen base upside, at a premium defensive position.

10. Derek Fisher, OF

Average Score: 6.40
Preseason Rank: 10 (5.60, +0.80, —)
AAA: .152/.222/.333 (36 PA), 43 wRC+
AA: .245/.373/.431 (448), 132, 23 SB

Fisher is just a little bit more than Martin in every way: a little more pop, a little more speed, a little more plate discipline, a little more strikeouts, a little more problems making contact, a little older, and a little higher regarded on national lists. Fisher has the makings of a star outfielder, but strikeout concerns and ability to make contact with quality advanced pitching make him a player with a high risk of bust.

11. Teoscar Hernandez, OF

Average Score: 6.10
Preseason Rank: 20 (4.60, +1.50, +10)
MLB: .200/.250/.400 (16 PA), 70 wRC+
AAA: .313/.365/.500 (160), 127
AA: .305/.384/.437 (321), 139

Preseason, Hernandez looked like no more than a Lancaster mirage, slated to start his third season in Double A after a disastrous 2015. He then made mincemeat of the league, earning a promotion to Triple A, which he also punished. This earned him an unexpected call-up to the majors last week and his first major league hit — a home run. His ultimate ceiling and spot on the future Astros remain in some question, but he should have every chance to prove that 2015 was just one of those weird baseball things.

12. Miguelangel Sierra, SS

Average Score: 6.06
Preseason Rank: 18 (4.70, +1.36,+6)
A-: .154/.233/.179 (43 PA), 32 wRC+
Appy R: .289/.386/.620, (144 PA) 166

An 18 year old international free agent previously known for defense, Sierra shocked Astros fans by clocking eleven home runs in 31 games in the Appalachian League. Strikeouts are a big part of his game, and will need to be curbed for him to reach the majors, but his absolute ceiling is sky-high.

13. James Hoyt, RHP

Average Score: 5.86
Preseason Rank: 34 (3.90, +1.96, +21)
MLB: 2.70 ERA, 5.84 FIP, 18.5 K-BB% (6.2 IP)
AAA: 1.62, 1.93, 34.9%, (50 IP)

Regarded as a 29 year old curiosity who might be a decent relief pitcher before the season started, Hoyt made a laughingstock out of PCL hitters during 2016, striking out nearly half of the batters he faced. He now looks like a major piece of the Astros’ bullpen in 2017 and beyond, with the upside of a first-division closer.

14. Brady Rodgers, RHP

Average Score: 5.73
Preseason Rank: 49 (3.40, +2.33, +35)
AAA: 2.76 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 17.6% K-BB% (120.2 IP)

Boy, did TCB whiff on Rodgers’ preseason ranking. He’s a soft-tosser who refuses to allow walks, but sometimes it’s just hard to argue with results. It’s fair to question if his results are partially due to familiarity with the PCL during his second full season there. He profiles more as a good #5 starter due to limiting walks, but with the Astros may find himself in a swing man / emergency starter role.

15. Ronnie Dawson, OF

Average Score: 5.60
Preseason Rank: N/A
A-: .217/.360/.360 (214 PA), 125 wRC+, 10 SB

Dawson was the Astros’ 2nd round draft pick in 2016, a highly-regarded college outfielder. In his young career, his batting average hasn’t shown up, but he has displayed patience, power, and speed, attributes that recall Derek Fisher at similar ages and level.

16. Albert Abreu, RHP

Average Score: 5.50
Preseason Rank: 112 (2.60, +2.90, +96)
A: 3.50 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 14.3% K-BB%

A complete miss on the part of TCB’s graders during the pre-season earned us the chastisement from readers that we deserved. Abreu throws in the high 90’s and has as much upside as any pitcher in the system. However, he’s a long way away developmentally, and will need to improve his command to not move into a major league bullpen role.

17. Franklin Perez, RHP

Average Score: 5.50
Preseason Rank: 36 (3.88, +1.63, +20)
A: 2.83 ERA, 2.27 FIP, 21.7% K-BB%

Perez does not yet throw as hard as his rotation mate Abreu, but he has outperformed him slightly and is two full years younger. He throws in the mid-90’s, and has managed to limit walks while striking out almost 30% of the batters he has faced. He could make a leap in rankings in 2017 similar to Martes’ did during 2015.

18. Garrett Stubbs, C

Average Score: 5.10
Preseason Rank: 35 (3.89, +1.21, +17)
AA: .289/.392/.458 (97 PA), 149 wRC+, 2 SB
A+: .291/.385/.442 (244), 127, 10

Every season there is an Advanced A catcher who captures TCB’s attention. Last year it was Tyler Heineman. Before that, Jacob Nottingham, and in 2013, Max Stassi. This year, it’s Stubbs. He drew rave reviews for his defense from Adam Everett during a recent Astros broadcast, being called “Ausmus-like.” He draws plenty of walks and has respectable power for the position, even outside of Lancaster. Maybe this time we’ll have found a future ML starting catcher?

19. Riley Ferrell, RHP

Average Score: 5.07
Preseason Rank: 41 (3.72, +1.35, +22)
A+: 1.80 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 30% K-BB%

It’s tough to grade a guy who has only pitched 27 innings in two seasons, and Ferrell has not pitched since undergoing shoulder surgery in April. But his ceiling remains that of an elite closer, enough to boost him into the Top 30.

20. Stephen Wrenn, OF

Average Score: 5.05
Preseason Rank: N/A
A: .260/.289/.438 (78 PA), 111 wRC+, 3 SB
A-: .282/.365/.544 (171 PA), 170 (!!!), 8 SB

Wrenn fell to the Astros’ 6th-round pick due to injuries that derailed his college career. While scouts lauded his speed, he shocked the world in his introduction to his pro career, belting eleven home runs in 53 games. This largely-ignored surprise tool vaulted him well into the Astros’ Top 30.

21. Brendan McCurry, RHP

Average Score: 5.00
Preseason Rank: 13 (4.85, +0.15, -8)
AAA: 3.55 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 15.2% K-BB% (33 IP)
AA: 2.27, 2.77, 27.4% (39.2 IP)

McCurry dropped in the rankings due to improvement or addition of the guys above him rather than any decline in performance on his part. His pitching is as solid as in 2015, and he remains on track as a pitcher who could fit neatly into the back end of any major league bullpen.

22. Anibal Sierra, SS

Average Score: 5.00
Preseason Rank: N/A
DSL R: .321/.472/.482 (72 PA), 183 wRC+

Why have one Sierra when you can have two? The Astros signed A. Sierra this season after he defected from Cuba. The infielder has projectable offensive skills, and proved it by lighting the Dominican League on fire. At age 22, he will need to progress quickly through the Astros’ farm system to prove he can handle advanced pitching.

23. Jandel Gustave, RHP

Average Score: 4.88
Preseason Rank: 31 (3.95, +0.93, +8)
MLB: 2.70 ERA, 1.94 FIP, 15.4% K-BB% (3.1 IP)
AAA: 3.81, 3.37, 14.0% (52 IP)

Gustave made quick visits to three other clubs after being selected in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2016 season. Command issues led to his return to the Astros, and at AAA he lowered his walk rate, increased his strikeout rate, and held opponents to a .225 batting average. His performance led to a short call up to the majors. He has yet to turn his plus-plus velocity into dominance, but his 98 average mph fastball and 88 mph slider give plenty of upside to turn into a high-leverage reliever.

24. Tony Kemp, CF/2B

Average Score: 4.77
Preseason Rank: 12 (4.95, -0.18, -12)
MLB: .246/.329/.319 (80 PA), 78 wRC+
AAA: .306/.389/.396 (301 PA), 115 wRC+

It is odd to see a player who is holding his own in the majors as a rookie fall so drastically in prospect rankings. In Kemp’s case, this is likely caused by uncertainty by graders over what position Kemp should play and worries that his lack of punch and defensive ability will hold him back. Meanwhile, He boasts an 11% walk rate in The Show, one of the lowest strikeout rates on the club, and seems to be a good fit for the clubhouse. An enigma. Kemp will probably have a nice long major league career, but it’s tough to see how his particular skills fit with the Astros. He doesn’t deserve to be ranked this low, but he’s a square peg in a round hole.

25. Colin Moran, 3B

Average Score: 4.73
Preseason Rank: 7 (6.25, -1.52, -18)
MLB: .105/.150/.105 (20 PA), -37 wRC+ (ouch...)
AAA: .261/.328/.375 (421), 88

In stark contract, the graders knew exactly what to do with a prospect who reaches the PCL, has the worst season of his career, looks bad doing it, and is a disaster during a short call-up. Coupled with Moran’s actual performance, the Astros’ acquisition of Gurriel and Bregman’s ascendance makes it fairly clear that the former 5th overall draft pick has no future with the Astros. His story is far from written - he still has a very good hit tool. But the power still hasn’t developed, and at almost 24, it’s fair to question if it will enough to suffer average defense at third and no speed. He’ll get his chance, but probably with another club.

26. Daz Cameron, OF

Average Score: 4.70
Preseason Rank: 7 (6.25, -1.55, -19)
A: .143/.221/.221 (87 PA), 32 wRC+
A-: .278/.352/.418 (89), 135

This has been a lost season for Cameron, the Astros’ big 2015 draft steal. He started the season at Quad Cities and to say he struggled would be like saying the Titanic sprung a small leak. Unfortunately, this was compounded by the contrasting success of fellow High School outfielder from the same draft class Tucker. After a demotion to Short-Season A, Cameron looked more like the toolsy outfielder everybody expected, but then his season ended after breaking his finger. Cameron started the season at the back end of national Top 100 lists. Now he’ll be starting almost two years developmentally behind his peers. This time next season, he could be back in the Astros’ Top 10. Or not.

27. Mike Hauschild, RHP

Average Score: 4.38
Preseason Rank: 31 (3.95, +0.43, +4)
AAA: 3.22 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 14.2% K-BB% (128.2 IP)

After years of pedestrian results brought about mostly by bad luck on balls in play, Hauschild reasserted himself as a major league back-of-rotation candidate starting with his 2nd go-round at AA in 2015. His production has been consistent, and he should have a career in a 2nd-division rotation or as a swing man on a decent team. His future is hazy with the Houston Astros given the depth ahead of him on the parent club and presence of some truly elite arms above him on this list. He would perhaps be best served hoping for a trade.

28. Nick Tanielu, 3B

Average Score: 4.38
Preseason Rank: 55 (3.29, +1.09, +28)
AA: .261/.300/.369 (329 PA), 91 wRC+
A+: .372/.405/.555 (148), 158

Tanielu was a popular sleeper prospect among TCB evaluators prior to the season, and he reinforced our enthusiasm by chewing up the CAL and depositing it in the nearest spittoon. Double A proved to be more challenging though, where he shows a need to improve his plate discipline. There’s a lot more development for him ahead, but he is steadily climbing upwards.

29. Jake Rogers, C

Average Score: 4.38
Preseason Rank: N/A
A: .182/.229/.212 (35 PA), 32 wRC+
A-: .253/.369/.425 (104), 143

Rogers really doesn’t hit much, but I doubt the Astros expected him to considering how anemic his bat was in college. He was drafted not only as the best defensive catcher in the 2016 draft class, but by many reports the best defensive player. If the Astros can turn him into even a “merely” below-average major league batter, his impact as a backup catcher on the pitching staff could be significant.

30. J.D. Davis, 3B

Average Score: 4.33
Preseason Rank: 13 (4.85, -0.52, -17)
AA: .255/.318/.452 (465 PA), 120 wRC+

Davis’ shine from a big season at Lancaster in 2015 has worn off. He is still a decent major league 3B prospect, and this ranking is probably reactionary and lower than it should be. But Davis has not hit well in Double A. His power is still there, but a nearly 30% strikeout rate for his entire minor league career has now reached “alarming” status. He doesn’t walk enough to be a good Three True Outcomes hitter, and he doesn’t have enough power to do a good Chris Carter impression anyway. Overall, he has been an above-average offensive player for his professional career, but his flaws are overshadowing the bright spots. At barely 23 years old, he has plenty of time to develop, and should spend all of 2017 in Fresno making his case.

Dropped Off:

The following players dropped off of the Top 30 list entirely, either through performance or by the number of quality guys who leapfrogged them or were added to the system:

31. Akeem Bostick, RHP (Was ranked 19th)

33. Jamie Ritchie, C (23)

35. Jon Kemmer, OF (16)

38. Jonathan Arauz, SS (23)

43. Tyler Heineman, C (17)

45. Aaron West, RHP (20)

47. Trent Thornton, RHP (27)

50. Andrew Aplin, CF (26)

56. Max Stassi, C (22) - not really still a prospect

71. Nestor Muriel, OF (28)

80 (tie) Chase McDonald, 1B (25)

107 (tie) Kyle Smith, RHP (29)

Graduated/Left the org:

Matt Duffy (29)

Tyler White (9)

Michael Feliz (6)