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Farm system gives Astros much to anticipate

Trades, Draft have increased depth of much-improved Minor League collective

Farm system gives Astros much to anticipate

Those fans frustrated by the Astros' rebuilding process and the lack of wins at the Major League level the last two years don't have to look very far to see plenty of optimism. It's in places like Oklahoma City, Corpus Christi, Quad Cities and Lancaster, and it should be invading Houston soon.

The Astros' ever-improving Minor League system, which has gone from the worst in baseball to the top 10 in the span of four or five years, should pay dividends in the Majors soon, but for now there's plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what's happening on the farm.

where to watch
Where the Astros' Top 20 prospects are starting the season:
Rank Player Team Level
1 Jonathan Singleton Suspended  
2 Carlos Correa Quad Cities A
3 George Springer Corpus Christi AA
4 Jarred Cosart Oklahoma City AAA
5 Lance McCullers Quad Cities A
6 Delino DeShields Lancaster A+
7 Mike Foltynewicz Lancaster A+
8 Rio Ruiz Quad Cities A
9 Nick Tropeano Corpus Christi AA
10 Brad Peacock Houston MLB
11 Nolan Fontana Lancaster A+
12 Jonathan Villar Oklahoma City AAA
13 Domingo Santana Corpus Christi AA
14 Vincent Velasquez Quad Cities A
15 Asher Wojciechowski Corpus Christi AA
16 Max Stassi Extended ST  
17 Kevin Comer Extended ST  
18 Robbie Grossman Oklahoma City AAA
19 Joe Musgrove Extended ST  
20 Carlos Perez Corpus Christi AA
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
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"There's a lot of depth," general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

Minor League Baseball is under way, and you can keep track of the Astros' top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of Houston's Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/astros.

The Astros organization has been bolstered by a number of trades the past few years in which the team dealt away high-priced veterans for prospects, netting players like first baseman Jonathan Singleton and pitcher Jarred Cosart. The Draft has infused life into the organization in the form of 2012 No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa, a shortstop, as well as pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, second baseman Delino DeShields Jr., pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. and outfielder George Springer.

"We don't want to push them faster than they're ready, but at the same time we want to challenge players," Luhnow said. "It's always better to have them feeling a little bit uncomfortable, feeling they need to work hard and focus to be successful. When you're playing with older players and players at a level that might be a little above your comfort level, that's when players improve the most."

Stacked squads
Some of Houston's top prospects have begun to trickle up to Triple-A Oklahoma City, led by Cosart, but the majority of the big prospects are lower in the system. Springer and Domingo Santana roam the outfield at Double-A Corpus Christi, and Lancaster has plenty of players to watch -- DeShields and pitchers Aaron West, Brady Rodgers and Foltynewicz.

Debuts and Draftees
The Astros have so much faith in Correa that they sent him to full-season Class A Quad Cities for his first full professional season, and he's only 18 years old. Pitchers Travis Ballew and West, catcher Tyler Heinemann and outfielder Preston Tucker -- all drafted last year -- are all jumping low A and going to Class A Advanced Lancaster following solid debuts.

New kids on the block
Two players Houston acquired during the offseason have found their way onto the team's Top 20 prospects list, led by right-hander Brad Peacock, who is the 10th-ranked prospect and now pitching in the Astros' rotation, and catcher Max Stassi, who was acquired along with Peacock from the A's in the Jed Lowrie trade. Stassi is ranked 16th.

Teams on TV 
The Oklahoma City RedHawks and Corpus Christi Hooks are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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