This series is designed to evaluate the role prospects play in each Major League organization, looking at the short- and long-term needs of each club and illustrating how prospects fit in both scenarios.
Here's my look at the Astros:
Following one of the most comprehensive and successful roster transformations in baseball, the Astros should enter 2014 a more stable franchise.
Last year saw the introduction of several young players to inject talent and excitement to the team. Shortstop Jonathan Villar and outfielders L.J. Hoes are but two of the younger faces. Outfielder Marc Krauss was impressive in his ability to hit right-handed pitching. Outfielder Robbie Grossman has the drive and energy to make things happen.
While much of the team that finished the 2013 season may begin this year, it is likely we will see an injection of even more youth as the year progresses.
First baseman Jonathan Singleton is on everyone's lips and lists as a potential impact hitter. While Chris Carter has a powerful bat, Singleton could take over defensively at first base and relegate Carter to designated-hitting duties.
PROJECTED 2016 ASTROS LINEUPProjecting the Astros' 2016 lineup based on players in their system.
|CF||DeLino DeShields Jr.|
Singleton is an imposing force at the plate, standing 6-foot-2 with 235 solid pounds behind his thick trunk and well-developed upper body. He has game-breaking 30-home-run potential from the left side of the plate, and he recognizes pitches well. At only 22 years old, he could add even more strength to his frame.
While Singleton might appear a bit awkward or clumsy at times on defense, he'll get the job done, though he likely won't win a Gold Glove.
Singleton played at three levels last year. He hit 11 home runs and knocked in 44 runs for the season. He can do more. Singleton was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball after violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a positive test for marijuana.
Rarely is Singleton's name mentioned without discussion of outfield prospect George Springer. It is likely Springer will land in Houston at some point during the season.
Springer hit 37 home runs this past season. He hit 19 at Double-A and another 18 at Triple-A. He struck out 161 times in 589 plate appearances. To his credit, he also walked 83 times, a very respectable number.
Complementing Springer's power game: He stole 45 bases while being caught only eight times.
Springer is an aggressive hitter, to put it mildly. He has a long swing that results in some enormous home runs.
Mark Appel, the first overall pick in the 2013 Draft, could force himself onto the Major League club with a solid spring and good initial outings.
In his first season with Houston, Appel pitched at three classifications, ending the year at Class A Quad Cities in the Midwest League. He threw to a 3.82 ERA in his 33 innings there, giving up 30 hits in 33 innings. He walked an average of 2.5 batters per nine innings and struck out 7.4.
Appel throws his fastball anywhere from the mid-to-higher 90s. But more than most people realized, he pitches to contact as opposed to looking to strike out the opposition.
One of the finest shortstop prospects in baseball plays in the Astros' system. Carlos Correa is a five-tool player with size, speed and power. Only 19, he is already 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, and he may outgrow shortstop at some point in the future. But his hands are quick and sure, and his infield footwork and arm strength are at the top of the charts.
This past season at Class A Quad Cities, Correa hit .320 with nine home runs and 86 RBIs. He stole 10 bases.
Correa has natural, fluid motions and outstanding range at shortstop. He flows to the ball and makes every play look like he was floating on air.
Domingo Santana may be getting closer to making his debut in the outfield. A huge right-handed hitter, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound, 21-year-old Dominican may find the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park inviting. He hit 25 homers last season at Double-A.
Japhet Amador is a even bigger -- a huge, 6-foot-4, 305-pound first baseman from the Mexican League. I saw him play in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit four homers and drove in 12, while compiling a very nice .284 average.
There are other pitchers, beyond Appel, in the Astros organization who could make an impact in the coming years. Some include righties Mike Foltynewicz, Lance McCullers and Vince Valesquez. Each may be able to work out of the rotation or the bullpen.
I was impressed by the transition being made by Delino DeShields Jr. from the infield to the outfield. He has speed, is a good contact hitter and can run down fly balls in the outfield. DeShields also boasts some surprising power.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.