With less than a full week left on the Minor League regular season calendar, it's time again to look towards October, when Winter Baseball will begin.
Tuesday, October 11 will be the Glendale Desert Dogs' first game, with prospects from Houston, Washington, St. Louis, Los Angeles (Dodgers), and Chicago (White Sox) will join forces for six weeks, looking to win some games and show their clubs that they're Major League-ready. Let's highlight the seven prospects Houston will be sending to The Grand Canyon State.
Jacob Dorris, RHP
Combined 2016 Stats: 3.49 ERA - 59.1 IP - 27 BB - 87 K
TCB Mid-Season Top 30 rank: N/A
Uh...who? The Arizona Fall League is called "The Finishing League" because top prospects are sent to compete against one another, and success in this environment often means the Majors is near on the horizon.
Dorris is a sorta-semi-local product, from Weatherford, Texas, just west of, and entirely-to-close-to, the Dallas-Fort Worth
cesspool den of iniquity sprawling field of blight uh, area. After being cleansed and renewed in the Gulf waters as he attended Texas A&M - Corpus Christi, the Astros gave him a shot as an un-drafted free agent following the 2015 draft. He broke out this season by establishing himself as Lancaster's closer, finding success in the toughest of environments (3.43 ERA, 10-for-10 in save opportunities). He owns a 2.35 ERA and glittering peripherals in a small sample for Corpus Christi, where he will finish out the season. The Astros may have found a true diamond in the rough.
Francis Martes, RHP
Combined 2016 Stats: 3.32 ERA - 122.0 IP - 44 BB - 126 K
TCB Mid-Season Top 30 rank: 6th
Much less of a surprise than Dorris, Martes is clearly the top pitching prospect in the system now that Musgrove has graduated, and Martes might not be too far behind.
Things looked bad early in the year, as Martes posted a 9.00 ERA in April. The minors are for learning and wearing horrifically-awesome uniforms, though, and Martes did the former, soon righting the ship and posting a 2.64 ERA from May through August. He'll headline Corpus' rotation heading into the Texas League playoffs, before taking his spot as arguably the best pitcher on the Glendale club. The latter will have to wait until Triple-A Fresno next season.
David Paulino, RHP
Combined 2016 Stats: 2.12 ERA - 85.0 IP - 17 BB - 101 K
TCB Mid-Season Top 30 rank: 8th
What the heck happened to Paulino this year? We may never know. He spent virtually all of July in a disciplinary time out of some sort for some reason. I mean, they didn't do much to Jon Singleton for pot. What did Paulino have to do for what happened to him to happen? Did he go full-Danny Valencia on a teammate or something? It was a weird situation, made stranger by the fact that Paulino was performing so well at the time.
Paulino further refined his nasty raw stuff and smacked Texas League hitters around like Bruce Lee smacked extras with bad haircuts around, posting a 1.83 ERA and a 6.6 K/BB in 14 games for the Corpus Christi Hooks. He's currently bypassed Martes and has a pair of games in Triple-A under his belt already. Depending on who you talk to, Paulino might actually be the better of the two, and a 1-2 punch with Martes will make the Glendale rotation something to fear (and, hopefully, the Houston rotation in, oh, say six-to-eight months later).
Garrett Stubbs, C
Combined 2016 Stats: .300/.388/.464 - 317 AB - 10 HR - 15 SB
TCB Mid-Season Top 30 rank: 18th
Here's the guy I really wanted to see go to the AFL. Stubbs is the newest Catcher of the Future; let's hope that title lasts longer than it has over the past few years, ranging from like 10 minutes to maybe six months on various players.
Stubbs' numbers just make you want to believe, Scully. He's hitting for average, hitting for (some) power, drawing walks, limiting strike outs, heck he's stealing bases, all while reportedly catching a good game. His OPS actually increased after being promoted out of Lancaster. He last struck out on August 5. That's almost four weeks ago. He's real, right? Right, he's real. He has to be. Please be real, Garrett. We need you to be real. None of this falling apart in Triple-A stuff, okay? We've already got your nickname all picked out and everything; Garrett The Great. Or maybe StuBBs for all those walks. GPS (your initials) for your precise throwing arm? Okay, look, we'll work on it some more, plenty of time until Spring Training. Just...please be awesome. Do you, Garrett.
Nick Tanielu, INF
Combined 2016 Stats: .287/.326/.409 - 491 AB - 10 HR - 5 SB
TCB Mid-Season Top 30 rank: 28th
Tanielu was the Astros; 14th-round pick in in 2014 and has showed his stuff quite well in the proceeding seasons. As a result, he's managed to sneak into the bottom of the Top 30 rankings, no small feat in such a deep system.
What separates Tanielu from all the other utility dudes on the planet? It's hard to answer. It's the classic package; a little bit of everything but not a ton of any one thing. He plays first, second, and third bases, has a little pop, runs well enough, and doesn't strike out to much. He's a grinder, you might say. You need a guy like that some times. Whether he's the next Marwin Gonzalez or just the next Joe Sclafani (sorry, Anthony, too soon?) remains to be seen. Success outside of the lower minors and Lancaster has eluded him to this point, so the AFL could be Tanielu's big chance, if he can grab hold of it.
Ramon Laureano, OF
Combined 2016 Stats: .318/.424/.533 - 400 AB - 15 HR - 39 SB
TCB Mid-Season Top 30 rank: N/A
A 16th-round pick who has exploded as much as anyone this year. He could have easily made our mid-season list if not for the crazy depth. Of course, there's that strike out rate, too.
It's amazing how one stat can make you doubt all the others. Look at that average. Look at the OBP! A walk machine with pop who burns up the bases and can play center field. Are we nuts for not loving him more yet? Maybe. He'll have the chance to endear himself to everyone even more in the AFL. I mean, even if he's George Springer-lite, that's a pretty good bench dude (okay, I'll stop) at least. Prove our skepticism wrong, Ramon! Preferably by not striking out as much, but hey, whatever works.
Jason Martin, OF
Combined 2016 Stats: .265/.353/.531 - 388 AB - 23 HR - 19 SB
TCB Mid-Season Top 30 rank: 9th
There's something a little odd about ranking Martin as high as we did with him hitting below .270 in the California League, right? That's where you're supposed to rake as a hitter.
But Martin's talent is undeniable and he's shown so much of it this year. No, those homers aren't real, but he does have pop (well, heck, if you had told me five years ago that Jose Altuve was going to hit like 25 bombs in The Show one year, I'd have laughed). He could easily be in short-season ball, but he's a step from Double-A. He's 20-years-old and heading for the AFL. He's legit, and the Astros are showing you they know it and believe it. Whether they actually expect him to perform well there or just learn via failure is unknowable, but Martin is the type who can do either and be unfazed by it all. I don't want to make it sound like he's Carlos Correa; he's not. But he's also not a .265 hitter in A-ball once it's all said and done. Book it.