The Astros had some big league bats to trade away and the Philadelphia Phillies had two things that made for a good trade partner: the need for a right-handed hitting outfielder and highly-regarded prospects. So, off went Hunter Pence to Philly and in came a pair of Top 50 prospects: Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton.
"Any time you get traded, it's a whirlwind," Cosart said. "It didn't help [that] we were on the road. We had a 6 a.m. flight the next morning. I had a day to get out of my lease. I threw as much stuff as I could into my truck -- my buddy drove it to Corpus Christi for me -- and I got on a plane to Midland, Texas, which isn't the best stop in the country. I had to meet 25 guys and go from there."
For the most part, the Astros' new No. 1 prospect handled the transition well -- both to the new organization and the move up a level, from Class A-Advanced ball up to the Double-A Texas League.
"It was great making the jump to Double-A," Cosart said. "That's what I wanted to do, and I'm not sure what the chance of that would've been with the Phillies. It was a good group in Corpus [Christi]. I think there's some talent there."
Cosart made seven starts with Corpus Christi, and while his 4.71 ERA doesn't sound great, 16 of the 19 earned runs he allowed came in just two rough starts. In his other five, he yielded just three earned runs, for a much niftier 0.93 ERA.
"Honestly, you just have to execute pitches," said Cosart, who credits the Astros for slowing him down on the mound and allowing him to command his three pitches more consistently. "The hitters are a lot more patient. If you get behind, they like to hit mistakes. You can't just lay it in there.
"I had two awful starts there and I was pleased with the rest. My curve and change were great for me, and I was able to throw them in any count. That was my biggest concern before the trade. I feel I did that before the end of the year."
That's what the Astros stressed in his end-of-year meetings. If he can continue to throw his three pitches for strikes, he knows a trip to Houston, just a stone's throw from where he grew up, is in his future.
"I went to a lot of Astros games," said Cosart, who was very pleased to be injury-free in 2011 and, by far, set a career high for innings. "Getting traded home, not many guys have the opportunity to do that. It's pretty surreal to think about [pitching at home], to have all my friends and family there.
"I've been watching the playoffs. It's fun to watch the pitchers I like and [envision] being a part of the group to turn the Astros around back to where they were in 2005."
Top 10 review
The Astros have done well in recent years via the Draft, helping to slowly rebuild a system that was, frankly, moribund. Their activity during this year's Trade Deadline sped up that process exponentially.
Five of the organization's top 10 players at season's end joined the organization in the Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn trades. Cosart and Singleton top the list, both of whom -- along with player to be named Domingo Santana -- were Phillies when the season began.
Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer were the Minor League arms that came from Atlanta, along with Jordan Schafer. There were some who may have hoped for a more elite prospect for Bourn, but the Astros' need for quantity was an important one to address. Clemens and Oberholtzer may not be future aces -- Cosart does have that potential -- but they should be valuable big league starters in the near future. And as great as it was to add a Cosart and Singleton to the top of the list, the fact the Astros brought in eight young players (not including Schafer) was equally, if not more, important.
Astros' top 10 prospects
|1.||Jordan Lyles, RHP||Jarred Cosart, RHP|
|2.||Delino DeShields, 2B||Jonathan Singleton, 1B|
|3.||Jonathan Villar, SS||Villar|
|4.||Mike Foltynewicz, RHP||Foltynewicz|
|5.||Jio Mier, SS||Paul Clemens, RHP|
|6.||Tanner Bushue, RHP||DeShields|
|7.||Ariel Ovando, OF||Bushue|
|8.||J.D. Martinez, OF||Brett Oberholtzer, LHP|
|9.||Jimmy Paredes, 2B/3B||Wates|
|10.||Austin Wates, OF||Domingo Santana, OF|
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
J.D. Martinez, OF: It was predicted that Martinez would become a two-time winner, while leading the system in hitting once again and making his big league debut in September. That debut actually came in late July. And while he didn't top the system in hitting, his .338/.414/.546 line was nonetheless impressive.
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP: Making his full-season debut, Folty was supposed to lead the organization in ERA and strikeouts. He was not close in either, as the right-hander had an up-and-down campaign, finishing with a 4.97 ERA and 88 K's in 134 innings.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Jose Altuve, 2B: Altuve wasn't even on the Top 10 list at the start of the season, then was only on it briefly -- due to graduating off of it to the big leagues. He's hit at every stop, and 2011 was no different, with a .389/.426/.591 line between the California and Texas Leagues before jumping up to Houston.
Jake Buchanan, RHP: The 2010 eighth-round pick had the unenviable task of making his full-season debut in hitter-friendly Lancaster, but finished eighth in the league in ERA (His 3.80 ERA was second in the system) and earned a late callup to Double-A.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.