The Houston Astros have been the worst team in Major League Baseball the past three seasons. Their minor league system, though, is stocked with elite talent.
The Astros are ranked as the top minor league system in baseball and have six players listed among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects, including three RedHawks.
“This is real exciting time, not only for these kids but instructors in the system,” said RedHawks interim manager Tom Lawless. “We have kids who probably will be major leaguers whether it’s with us or someone else. We have a basket full of talented players. It’s a great time to be part of this organization.”
The top prospect with the RedHawks is outfielder George Springer, who was a finalist for 2013 Minor League Player of the Year. While splitting time between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City, Springer hit .303 with 37 homers and 45 stolen bases last season.
Springer is the Astros’ No. 2 prospect. Additional top 20 prospects on OKC’s roster include: flame-throwing right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (No. 4), first baseman Jon Singleton (No. 7), outfielder Domingo Santana (No. 8), catcher Max Stassi (No. 12) and pitchers Nick Tropeano (No. 18) and Jake Buchanan (No. 20).
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Springer said. “The goal for all of us is to get better every day and at some point hopefully we’re fortunate to go up (to the majors).”
The Astros have lost 111, 107 and 106 games the past three seasons, but their minor league affiliates have owned the best win-loss record the past two seasons.
“It’s unbelievable how much talent we have in the system,” said Stassi, who slammed 32 homers with a .333 on-base percentage the past two seasons. “We have talent at nearly every position and some great front-line starting pitching. It should help when we hopefully get to the big leagues together.”
Springer, Singleton and Foltynewicz are projected to join the Astros this season, possibly as early as May.
“They just have to continue to develop their skills,” Lawless said. “The big thing is to go out and compete day in and day out and refine things so that when they get to the big leagues they’re ready to contribute right away.”
Stassi got a brief taste of the majors last season.
“It was a dream I’ve had my entire life,” Stassi said. “It was an awesome experience. Unfortunately I got hit in the head my second game but I got to come back for the past two series. I’m excited to be here this season, striving to get back.”
Additional highly touted prospects will be coming through Oklahoma City the next two years.
Pitcher Mark Appel and shortstop Carlos Correa were No. 1 overall picks. They’re starting the season at Class A Lancaster but both could earn promotions, especially Appel, the former Stanford star.
Houston general manger Jeff Luhnow, hired from the Cardinals’ organization two years ago, understands the excitement. Fans are hoping for a revival similar to when the Astros had the Killer B’s (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman).
“Between Carlos and George and Mark we feel we’ve got three guys hopefully they all make it and fulfill their potential,” Luhnow said. “You hope all three will be the next version of Biggio, Bagwell and Berkman.
“But there are a lot of players who should help us. (Delino) DeShields doesn’t get mentioned with the others but he has all the potential in the world. The next phase for all these players will be a lot of fun. Some of them should help us this year.”
The top two prospects at Double-A Corpus Christi are DeShields and outfielder Preston Tucker. DeShields compiled 101 stolen bases two years ago and 51 last season. Tucker batted .297 with 25 homers and 103 RBIs.
“We’re talking about a lot of five-tool players,” Lawless said. “We have a lot of pitchers that can throw it 97 miles per hour and throw strikes.
“They all just need game experience. The more games they play the better they’re going to get. It will be a lot of fun to watch them develop.”
Astros’ top prospects
Players on the RedHawks’ roster ranked among the Astros’ top 20 prospects, and six players in Houston’s organization ranked among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects.
Astros top 20 prospects
(on RedHawks roster)
Rank, Pos., Player
2. OF George Springer
4. P Mike Foltynewicz
7. 1B Jon Singleton
8. OF Domingo Santana
12. C Max Stassi
18. P Nick Tropeano
20. P Jake Buchanan
Baseball America Top 100
Rank, pos. player (class)
7. SS Carlos Correa (Class A)
18. OF George Springer (Triple-A)
39. P Mark Appel (Class A)
59. P Mike Foltynewicz (Triple-A)
77. P Lance McCullers Jr. (Class A)
82. 1B Jon Singleton (Triple-A)