The Astros acquired three players in this year's First-Year Player Draft they believed were first-round talent, including No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa, and they added more than 12 prospects into their system in July by trading away veteran players.
It was all done with the goal of improving the Minor League system, and the influx of talent and the continued growth of players who were already in the organization have the Astros' farm system knocking on the door of having one of the Top 10 pools of elite prospects in baseball, according to MLB.com's latest rankings.
Houston's system features five players ranked in MLB's Top 100 Prospect list -- first baseman Jonathan Singleton (No. 11), shortstop Correa (38), center fielder George Springer (55), right-hander Jarred Cosart (84) and second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. (85). Using a scoring system that awards 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and so on, the Astros were ranked 22nd to begin the season. That ranking has jumped to No. 12.
"We've significantly improved the system by three events that have occurred this year," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "One is the Draft, and we were able to acquire a lot of premium talent. The second is through all the trades, and the third, quite frankly, has been the emergence of some of our existing players that took a step forward this year like DeShields, [Mike] Foltynewicz, Vincent Velasquez and Springer, and guys that really proved to us they belong in that elite prospects group."
Seven of the Astros' top 10 prospects -- top-ranked Singleton, No. 3 Springer, No. 4 Cosart, No. 5 DeShields and No. 7 Foltynewicz, a right-handed pitcher, were already in the Astros' system and enjoyed solid seasons. Singleton remained the club's top prospect after hitting .284 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs at Double-A Corpus Christi.
"Delino DeShields and Mike Foltynewicz had much-improved years," Astros director of scouting Mike Elias said.
Correa, the first Puerto Rican player taken with the No. 1 overall pick, got off to a slow start in the Gulf Coast League before settling in and finishing the season nicely at Rookie League Greeneville. He debuted as the Astros' No. 2-ranked prospect.
"The reviews about his makeup and his work ethic and the way he's transitioned to pro ball, especially with the amount of pressure and attention on him, have been tremendous," Elias said.
astros' top prospects
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
Springer, last year's first-round pick, remained at No. 3 on the Astros' list, and Cosart dropped two spots to No. 4, though he made his debut at Double-A Corpus Christi. DeShields moved up three spots after stealing a franchise-record 101 bases combined at Class A Lexington and Lancaster.
Pitcher Lance McCullers, who the Astros lured away from the University of Florida after drafting him No. 41 overall, debuted at No. 6 on the Houston list. And Rio Ruiz, a third baseman from California the Astros took in the fourth round, debuted at No. 8. On-base machine Nolan Fontana, a second-round pick from the University of Florida, is No. 14.
Six players the Astros acquired in trades this year were on the list -- No. 9 Kevin Comer (right-hander), No. 10 Joe Musgrove (right-hander), No. 12 Asher Wojciechowski (right-hander), No. 13 Matt Dominguez (third baseman), No. 18 Rob Rasmussen (pitcher) and No. 19 Carlos Perez (catcher).
The biggest drop in the Top 20 belonged to pitcher Paul Clemens, who was sixth in the preseason and fell to 20 after struggling most of the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Pitcher Nick Tropeano had the biggest jump from among players in the preseason Top 20, moving up five spots to No. 11.
Of course, with all the talent the Astros added to the system, 11 players who were ranked in the preseason Top 20 fell out of the rankings, with Brett Oberholtzer (seventh in preseason) making the biggest drop among pitchers, and slugger Telvin Nash (10th in preseason) taking the biggest plunge among position players. Also dropping out were outfielder Jordan Scott, right-hander Tanner Bushue, outfielder Austin Wates, left-hander Kevin Chapman, right-hander Jake Buchanan, right-hander Juan Abreu, right-hander Kyle Weiland, right-hander Josh Zeid and catcher Mike Kvasnicka.
The Astros won't have as many veteran players at their disposal to swap for prospects in the near future, but they will have the No. 1 pick in the Draft again and should be able to add more talent.
"What I've learned in my time in the game is you can't take one year off," Luhnow said. "One bad year in terms of drafting, developing and signing can really hurt your organization. This upcoming year, not only do we have the first pick again, but we'll have the largest international pool, and we have a lot of opportunities to get a jump on our competition by uses those resources as effectively as we possibly can. That's exciting."