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[Jonah Keri] Astros pitching prospects

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by white lightning, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. white lightning

    white lightning Contributing Member

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    In today's Power rankings:

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9653446/jonah-keri-ranks-mlb-teams

    30. HOUSTON ASTROS

    The Astros don't have to worry much about starting pitching for the rest of this year, not in the last lap of a season in which they'll lose 100-plus games. What matters here is the future. And while pitching is a ludicrously volatile commodity, Houston has quietly built the foundation for a potentially intriguing rotation.

    The best of the bunch is Mark Appel. The first overall pick of this year's amateur draft, Appel became an Astro only after the Stanford right-hander declined to sign with the Pirates a year earlier. Pittsburgh's loss was Houston's gain, and it might mean a legitimate ace for the Astros staff by 2016, with his debut likely sooner than that. Appel offers the rare combination of knockout stuff and polish for a pitching prospect, wielding a mid-90s fastball that touches 98, a plus slider, a plus changeup, and excellent command. Scouts tab his delivery as loose, athletic, and repeatable. He maintains his stuff deep into games. This is what no. 1 starters look like.

    Another high-ceiling righty is 19-year-old Lance McCullers. Taken with the 41st overall pick in the 2012 draft, McCullers has a strong baseball pedigree, with his father spending seven years pitching in the big leagues. Lance Jr. is a flamethrower like Appel, dialing his fastball into the mid-90s. He owns a hammer of a curveball that he can and does use as a put-away pitch. Unless we're talking about Randy Johnson, starting pitchers require a third pitch to have success at the big league level, and McCullers's changeup is a work in progress. Still, when the lesser possibility (barring injury — it's always barring injury for pitching prospects) is a potentially dominant big league reliever, that's not bad at all.

    The Astros system is stuffed with athletic, high-upside pitchers who could be special if they can harness their stuff and/or add a third workable pitch.

    Mike Foltynewicz, a first-round pick three years ago, breathes absolute fire, averaging 97 mph on his fastball and routinely touching triple digits. He throws a sinker at 93-94 mph and can flash a better-than-average curve and changeup when he's on. He's 6-foot-4 and strong, with a football player's build. What awaits is the proverbial conversion from thrower to pitcher. But he is already regarded as one of the more underrated pitching prospects in the game, having made it to Double-A (striking out nearly a batter an inning) at age 21.

    Dominican-born Michael Feliz obliterated hitters as a 19-year-old in the New York–Penn League this season, striking out 78 batters against just 13 walks and two homers, with a 1.96 ERA. He's another 98-mph fastball wielder with a nasty slider, a sleeper prospect who could pop up on top prospect lists with a big year at high Single-A ball. Vincent Velasquez was a second-round pick in the 2010 draft who finished the season as a 21-year-old in the California League. His path has been a little bumpy, with just 29⅓ innings pitched in rookie ball three years ago before going under the knife with Tommy John surgery. But the results have been there this year, with 142 strikeouts in 124⅔ innings across two levels. Velasquez owns a fastball that peaks in the mid-90s, with a changeup that is advanced for his level. Given that Velasquez mostly played shortstop in high school, the Astros believe he might have a lot of room for growth as he gains experience and hones his curveball.

    The two picks immediately following Appel in this year's draft also bring promise. Andrew Thurman is a big right-hander out of UC Irvine with a low-90s fastball, curve, and change whose greatest strength is having no obvious weaknesses. Kent Emanuel is a lefty who was the ace of a strong University of North Carolina team with excellent command and control, someone who lacks a high ceiling but also has a high floor and could slot in as a back-end starter in the big leagues.

    We haven't even covered the young Astros pitchers already in the big leagues. Brett Oberholtzer doesn't have killer stuff nor big-time strikeout rates on his ledger. But he pounds the strike zone, doesn't walk anyone, and keeps the ball down to limit damage. There are a million lefties who've succeeded with similar or inferior arsenals; given that Ryan Dempster's making $13 million this year, having someone who could hold down a back-end starter's job for the league minimum holds plenty of value. Brad Peacock scuffled last year after getting traded to the A's, posting a heinous 6.01 ERA in Triple-A Sacramento. But he fared much better this year in Triple-A Oklahoma City (2.73 ERA). Moreover, he's a former top-100 prospect with the Nationals, and has shown flashes of excellence along the way. On Thursday night he pitched a gem against the A's, striking out nine and allowing just two runs on five hits over seven innings. He's the kind of pitcher you take a chance on when you're trying to pull your franchise off the deck.

    Which brings us to Jarred Cosart. A 38th-round pick by the Phillies five years ago, Cosart overcame the long odds against low draft picks and excelled in the minors. When Houston shopped Hunter Pence around at the 2011 trade deadline, they asked Philly for both slugging first-base prospect Jonathan Singleton and Cosart in return. Rated Baseball America's no. 27 prospect coming into this season, Cosart has posted a 2.13 ERA in his first nine major league starts. His peripherals haven't supported that number, with Cosart striking out just 30 batters and walking 29 over 55 innings. The Astros are optimistic that he'll regain the swing-and-miss results he showed in the minors, given his mid-90s fastball, a 93-mph cutter that's devastating when he can locate it, and a curveball and changeup that can look pedestrian once, then unhittable the next time. The biggest challenge will be refining his stuff and improving his command, given he struggled to throw strikes in Triple-A too. Still, the building blocks are there for a breakout, once he gets some more innings under his belt.

    Here's the kicker: Carlos Rodon is a 20-year-old lefty pitching for NC State who's projected by many to go no. 1 overall in next year's draft, with an arsenal that might top Appel's. Barring an act of Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Astros will own the top pick in the draft next summer, making it three years in a row for them and setting up a possible love connection with Rodon.

    Every team has its share of promising arms that don't pan out; we have example after example of exciting careers getting derailed, or at the very least sidetracked for a while. But the Astros have more and better young pitchers than most. Adding Rodon could make the team's stable of pitching prospects downright scary. Any rebuilding team with that many dynamic, up-and-coming pitchers has a great chance to turn its fortunes around.
     
  2. bigboymumu

    bigboymumu Member

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    Luwnow is a stud. Rondon will be our pick next year. In 2017 our rotation will be scar:
    1)Appel
    2)Rondon
    3)Velasquez
    4)Cosart
    5)Feliz

    Closer: McCullers
    RF: s
    Just nasty! Just thinking about the arms that are here and ones we haven't even mentioned.

    Our hitters:
    CF:Deshields
    LF:Grossman
    SS:Corea
    RF:Springer
    1st:Singleton
    3rd:Rios
    DH:Santana
    2nd:Fontana- probably will bat 1st or 2nd
    C:Rene Garcia

    Jeez we don't even have room for Altuve or Castro!
     
  3. bigboymumu

    bigboymumu Member

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    Scar=scary
     
  4. bigboymumu

    bigboymumu Member

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    I forgot about Foltynewicz
     
  5. Rockets12

    Rockets12 Member

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    Just curious but why do you have Garcia as the starter instead of guys like Castro, Stassi, and Perez?
     
  6. bigboymumu

    bigboymumu Member

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    I am not an expert. Just had an opportunity to listen in on a few conversations. Rene handles the pitchers very well...Natural leader. Coaches are very high on him, his pitchers trust him.
     
  7. bigtexxx

    bigtexxx Contributing Member

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    If you consistently misspell his name as "Rondon", then you need to stop posting.
     
  8. tomato

    tomato Member

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    Just what do you have against Ronaldmick Donald, anyway?
     
  9. Progs

    Progs Member

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    I project for Rodon to have a monster junior season. I bet Luhnow drafts a hitter with 2nd 1st rd pick. Pontential of having 4 picks in top 75 in 2014 has be stoked. Astros should start winning more games in 2014.
     
  10. juicystream

    juicystream Contributing Member

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    He's a backup catcher in the majors.
     
  11. bigboymumu

    bigboymumu Member

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    Might be the case. Just my opinion.
     

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