Astros' haul of prospects has club excited

Astros' haul of prospects has club excited

Astros' haul of prospects has club excited
HOUSTON -- Recognizing they needed to infuse their barren Minor League system with some talent, the Astros made the bold move of trading away five key players in a little more than a year's span ending with last month's Trade Deadline -- Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt in 2010, and Jeff Keppinger, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn this year.

The Astros received a total of 15 players in return in the trades, some of whom -- such as third baseman Jimmy Paredes and closer Mark Melancon (both acquired from the Yankees in the Berkman deal) -- are playing substantial roles with the Major League club. The majority of the players remain in the Minor Leagues, but they have already breathed new life into the organization.

Four of the 10 players that Houston acquired this year -- by sending Keppinger to the Giants on July 19, Pence to the Phillies on July 29 and Bourn to the Braves on July 31 -- are ranked by MLB.com among the top 10 prospects in the system, including pitcher Jarred Cosart at No. 1 and first baseman Jonathan Singleton at No. 2.

They were the biggest two prospects the Astros acquired, but pitchers Henry Sosa, Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer have Houston management brimming with excitement about the future.

"We're excited about all 10 that we got back these trades," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "As painful as the deals were to make in the short term, we think the long-term benefit could be very significant. We were excited about the first nine [players] and really excited about [Domingo] Santana coming over as the final piece in the Philly deal."

The Astros traded starting second baseman Keppinger to the Giants a month ago in exchange for a pair of right-handed pitchers, Sosa and Jason Stoffel. Sosa already has two starts under his belt with the Astros.

In the blockbuster deal that sent Pence to the Phillies, the Astros acquired pitchers Cosart and Josh Zeid and Singleton, along with a player to be named later that turned out to be outfielder Santana. Cosart and Singleton were ranked as the top two prospects in the Phillies' organization.

The Astros sent Gold Glove center fielder Bourn to the Braves and received outfielder Jordan Schafer along with three Minor League pitchers -- Oberholtzer, a left-hander, and right-handers Clemens and Juan Abreu.


"It's not beyond the realm of possibility that one or two of them get to the big leagues this year before the end of the season."
-- Astros general manager Ed Wade

"It's not beyond the realm of possibility that one or two of them get to the big leagues this year before the end of the season," Wade said. "We've clearly indicated we're prepared to be aggressive getting players to the big leagues, and there are a number of players in these deals who have a chance to get here, not only quickly, but quickly and play significant roles at the big league level."

Sosa and Schafer are on the Major League roster, though Schafer is on a Minor League rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City, which is where Abreu was assigned. Five of the 10 players the Astros got in return are at Double-A Corpus Christi, all of whom are pitchers: Clemens, Cosart, Oberholtzer, Stoffel and Zeid. Singleton is at Class A Lancaster, and Santana is at Class A Lexington.

"Organizationally, when we made the trades, to some extent, they were portrayed as we got a lot of A-ball prospects, and I remind people that Jordan Schafer and Sosa are both in the big leagues at this point in time," Wade said. "Abreu is pitching at Triple-A, and you've got three starting pitchers and two relievers at Double-A. Singleton, who sort of is the gemstone of the deals we made, is at high A, and Santana is at low A. So yes, there are two A-ball players coming out of 10, but we felt that, at the end of the day, we added depth."

Here's a recap on how each of the 10 players the Astros acquired this year have fared since being traded:

• Acquired in the July 19 trade with the Giants for Keppinger:

Jason Stoffel, RHP, 22 years old, Double-A: He has appeared in 10 games in relief, saving three games in five tries, with an 0-2 record and a 6.00 ERA. Prior to the trade, he had 45 saves in two-plus Minor League seasons, with 121 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings.

Henry Sosa, RHP, 26, Majors: After the trade, he made three starts at Double-A and one at Triple-A before joining the Astros' rotation earlier this month. He's made two starts, giving up four earned runs in six innings each time, but the Astros have been impressed with his stuff.

• Acquired in the July 29 trade with the Phillies for Pence:

Jonathan Singleton, 1B, 19, high A: One of the top-ranked players in the Phillies' system, Singleton is off to a quick start as Lancaster's first baseman. Through 17 games, he's hitting .328 with a .537 slugging percentage in 67 at-bats. He has struck out 21 times, though.

Jarred Cosart, RHP, 21, Double-A: The highest-ranked prospect in the Phillies' system prior to the trade, the Houston-area product was 0-1 with a 4.70 ERA in his first three starts at the Double-A level. He is at the top of the Astros' growing depth of young Minor League arms.

Josh Zeid, RHP, 24, Double-A: It's been an up-and-down debut for Zeid with the organization, where in only seven outings, he is yet to duplicate the success he had as a reliever at Double-A Reading in the Phillies' system. Still, he hasn't allowed a run in three of his last four outings.

Domingo Santana, OF, 19, low A: Acquired as the player to be named later from the Phillies, Santana has only two games under his belt in the Astros system, with three hits in eight at-bats. He remains in the South Atlantic League, where he played at 18 years old for much of this season.

• Acquired in the July 31 trade with the Braves for Bourn:

Jordan Schafer, CF, 24, Majors: Schafer was the lone player with Major League experience the Astros acquired in any of the three July deals, but he's been on the disabled list with a left middle finger joint injury. He's currently on Minor League rehab and could make his Astros debut on Monday in Colorado.

Brett Oberholtzer, LHP, 22, Double-A: Currently ranked by MLB.com as one of the team's top 10 prospects, Oberholtzer was 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts for Corpus Christi. In 10 innings, he's given up only seven hits and struck out 10 batters with the benefit of three solid pitches.

Paul Clemens, RHP, 23, Double-A: Clemens has had a terrific debut with his new organization, going 1-0 in three starts without allowing an earned run in 19 2/3 innings. He seems to have found his niche as a starting pitcher and could have his power stuff in the Majors before too long.

Juan Abreu, RHP, 26, Triple-A: The hardest thrower of any of the pitchers the Astros acquired, Abreu is the closest to the Major Leagues. He's appeared in six games for Oklahoma City and is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in relief. He's struck out eight and walked seven, while allowing seven hits in 8 1/3 innings.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.