Three promising young players infused into the Astros' system last summer find themselves on an impressive list this winter.
First baseman Jonathan Singleton, right-hander Jarred Cosart and outfielder George Springer are all included on MLB.com's annual Top Prospects list for 2012. Singleton ranks 44th, Cosart is 61st and Springer is 84th on the list. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2012.
This year's edition of MLB.com's Top Prospects list has expanded from 50 to 100 players. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams.
A year ago, Singleton and Cosart were the Phillies' property and Springer was in his junior year at the University of Connecticut.
Now, with Singleton and Cosart aboard as acquisitions in the Hunter Pence trade, and Springer having been taken with the 11th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, they are considered key pieces in the farm system of a club rebuilding from the ground up.
Singleton, 20, spent all of '11 at the advanced Class A level, first with Clearwater in the Phillies' system, then with the Astros' affiliate in Lancaster. He hit a combined .298 with a .392 on-base percentage and .441 slugging percentage.
Astros scouting director Bobby Heck said the left-handed-hitting Singleton profiles as a middle-of-the-order bat.
"Jonathan has not only shown the ability to hit for power but has proven to be a quality hitter, as well," Heck said. "He's expected to start the season at Double-A Corpus Christi."
Cosart, 21, moved up from Class A to Double-A when he joined the Astros. With Clearwater, he was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 20 appearances, including 19 starts. With Corpus Christi, he was 1-2 with a 4.71 ERA in seven starts.
Some have expressed concern over his delivery and susceptibility to injury, but the major appeal of Cosart is his pure stuff and his ability to put opposing batters away. Thus far in his professional career, he's struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings.
"My looks have been limited," Heck said, "but what comes out of his hand is electric. Lots of fast things going on with this quality athlete -- fast arm, fast body and big fastball. Jarred's ability to repeat quality secondary pitches will very likely determine how fast he makes it to Minute Maid Park."
At 22, Springer is actually the oldest member of this trio, but his pro experience is obviously limited, given that he didn't sign with the Astros until August of last year. He played eight games in the New York-Penn League and is ticketed for Class A ball this year.
"George is a very exciting player and can wear the label of a true five-tool player," Heck said. "I know we're looking forward to seeing George in an Astros uniform for a full [professional] season and to the development strides he will make during this time."