Spring is approaching, and with it comes the Major League Baseball season.
For the last several years, that statement has not brought very much excitement to fans of the Houston Astros.
The Astros, or “Lastros” as many Houston fans have come to know them, have posted at least 100 losses and finished in the division cellar each of the last three seasons.
This year, the Astros and their fan base have plenty of reason to be excited. The organization has slowly assembled the top ranked farm system in all of baseball.
When Jim Crane took over the organization in late 2011, the game plan was to cut payroll by trading big names like Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, and Carlos Lee for young prospects – rebuilding from the ground up.
Unloading the team’s best talent certainly did the job. The Astros plummeted in the standings, earning high first round picks in the MLB Draft over the last few seasons.
Now, Houston is beginning to realize the fruits of its labor. Outfielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa are widely regarded among the top prospects in all of major league baseball.
Springer has noticeable power and won’t stay in the minor leagues for too much longer. He posted a .303 average with a staggering 37 homeruns in 2013 for the Corpus Christi Hooks and Oklahoma City Redhawks, the Astros’ AA and AAA affiliates.
Springer will make Astros fans forget all about the loss of Hunter Pence in 2011. He’s the same type of player – tons of power when he makes contact with the ball, and plenty of speed around the bases to go along with it.
That said, few people are talking about starting pitcher Michael Foltynewicz of the Corpus Christi Hooks. Foltynewicz posted a sub three ERA in over one hundred innings last season in Corpus.
That seems typical for minor league players with decent talent, but what makes Foltynewicz so special is his fastball, which tops out at over 100 mph.
It’s clear that the Astros have talent everywhere, exceptional talent. To put the impact of it’s rebuilding process in perspective, here is a look at what Houston’s roster could look like within the next three years:
1. 2B Jose Altuve – Current Astros second baseman
2. SS Carlos Correa – 2012 first overall selection
3. OF George Springer – 2011 11th overall selection
4. 1B Jonathan Singleton – Acquired from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade
5. C Jason Castro – 2008 10th overall selection
6. 3B Matt Dominguez – 2007 12th overall selection
7. OF Delino DeShields – 2010 eighth overall selection
8. OF Domingo Santana – Acquired in the Hunter Pence trade
Mark Appel – 2013 first overall selection
Carlos Rondon – 2014 projected first overall selection
Michael Foltynewicz – 2010 19th overall selection
Jarred Cosart – 1.95 ERA in 10 games in 2013
Brett Oberholtzer – Acquired in Michael Bourn trade
If all of these players took the field today, the average age of the Houston Astros would be 23.
Jim Crane and his front office have done an excellent job of keeping all of the young stars under contract with big signing bonuses and lucrative minor league deals.
General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Crane are waiting to bring all of the key players up together. Once that happens, Crane is expected to fork out a little more money for a few key free agents to put his club back into contention.