New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez ($29 million) will earn more this season than Houston's entire 25-man roster.
The Astros' payroll is $27.3 million but actually is closer to $20 million. Houston is still paying for a couple of former players, including $5 million to pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, now with Pittsburgh.
Second-year Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow is building around youth. Six of the Astros' top 30 prospects will begin the season with the RedHawks, who open the season Thursday night at Memphis.
“We consider the RedHawks as an extension of the Houston Astros,” Luhnow said. “We keep 25 here and we have another 25 there. Nearly every player in Oklahoma City we feel has a chance to make it here at some point the next couple of years.”
The Astros' top prospect, first baseman Jonathan Singleton, is ranked No. 27 overall in minor league baseball. Singleton, though, will start the season serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance.
Other top 20 prospects opening in OKC include pitcher Jared Cosart, shortstop Jonathan Villar, outfielder Robbie Grossman and pitcher Brett Oberholtzer.
Jordan Lyles made 25 starts last season with Houston. John Ely, the 2012 Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, was acquired in a trade with the Dodgers in the offseason.
The Astros have lost 213 games the past two seasons. Most analysts predict another 100-loss season. But Luhnow is optimistic about the long-term plan.
In 2011, the Astros had the worst winning percentage in minor league baseball. Last season the Astros rose all the way to No. 1. Oklahoma City contributed with a 78-65 record.
“To go worst to first, we have a lot of talent at the minor league level,” Luhnow said. “Eventually, they'll get to the big league level and we'll be winning with our own players. We're excited. That's how we'll ultimately win championships.”
Winning percentages of Astros' farm teams
Last season, the Houston Astros had the top winning percentage in all of baseball among its minor league teams after finishing 30th, dead last, in 2011.
Minor league affiliate (level)
OKC RedHawks (Triple-A)
Corpus Christi (Double-A)
Lancaster (Advanced A)
Quad Cities (low Class A)
Tri-City (short season A)
Greeneville (rookie league)
Gulf Coast (rookie league)
Seven levels combined