Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars which will appear every Monday. Each week, six of FanSided’s team blogs send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as these go on a five-week cycle.
Please note that any statistics used may be a day or two out of date, as we prepare our answers over the course of a week.
In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Houston Astros blog Climbing Tal’s Hill.
What are your thoughts on the prospects the Astros received in their recent trades and when might fans expect to see them at the major league level?
Nathaniel says: Just for the sake of getting readers up to speed with the prospects in question, the Astros acquired nine players (and a player to be named later) in July. They got right-handed pitchers Jason Stoffel and Henry Sosa from the Giants, righthanders Josh Zeid and Jarred Cosart and first baseman/outfielder Jonathan Singleton from the Phillies, and outfielder Jordan Schafer, lefthander Brett Oberholtzer, and righthanders Juan Abreu and Paul Clemens from the Braves.
If I had to rank the prospects by overall value, it would go like this:
1. Singleton. Position players are better bets than pitchers, and Singleton is a very polished prospect who looks like a great bet to be a good hitter in the majors. There are questions about his lack of power this year, but he was very young for his league and was playing in a pitcher-friendly environment. Singleton’s going to control the strike zone and rip some line drives, so at worst, he’s probably a better version of Lyle Overbay. If his power comes around, he could be a true star, especially if he can stay in the outfield.
Singleton’s currently in High-A, and since he’s still 19, there’s no reason to rush him. He could be up sometime in 2013 if things go well, and certainly by mid-2014.
2. Cosart. He wasn’t pitching particularly well in A-ball, but this is a pitcher with two great pitches in a 91-96 mph fastball and big curveball. He’s put up numbers before, so he hasn’t always had a disconnect between tools and performance. With some command refinements, he could become a #2 or #3 starter.
Cosart’s ETA is similar to Singleton’s, since they’re both putting up good-not-great numbers in A-ball. Cosart is 16 months older, so a hot streak could push Houston to accelerate him more than Singleton.
3. Oberholtzer. When he’s right, Oberholtzer is an excellent pitcher. His stock has fallen due to some poor outings in the last two months, but he had a 56/16 K/BB through May, so it’s not like Double-A hitters tore him apart. He’s your classic offspeed-oriented lefty with a big curve and good change, but he can get his fastball up in the low 90’s, which makes him really tough to hit when he’s throwing all three pitches for strikes. In some ways, one could say the Astros bought low on him, due to his recent struggles.
Since he’s established in Double-A, a return to his 2010/early 2011 form could have the lefty in the bigs in short order, perhaps as soon as a year from now. More likely, he’ll be a rotation contender in 2013.
4. Clemens. He actually had better numbers than Oberholtzer in Double-A, and was more consistent throughout the season. Then again, he’s 23 years old, so he needed to pitch well to remain on the prospect radar—after all, he was ranked as just the 26th best prospect in the Atlanta system by Baseball America entering the year. Like Cosart, he’s a tall righty with a big fastball and good curveball, but needs to work on a changeup and doesn’t have the greatest command in the world. Depending on how he progresses, he may ultimately move to the bullpen, and should have a decent MLB career in some role.
Clemens’ ETA depends on his role. He’s at the age where the team could basically call on him at any time if he’s needed, starting in 2012.
5. Abreu. Pretty much a standard-issue wild hard-throwing reliever. He whiffed 68 batters while walking 27 in 48 innings, and at 26, he’s probably not going to learn a whole lot of new tricks. Abreu’s a power guy who touches 96 mph, with a solid curveball as his second pitch. His command will likely keep him from ever being a real shutdown guy, but he should be a solid middle reliever.
He could be up any day now.
6. Sosa. He’s another live arm who could become a solid reliever but is too old (he just turned 26) for us to really expect any huge progress. Given his age, he could be up as soon as he performs well for a couple of months.
7. Schafer. He doesn’t count as a “prospect” per se, but I thought I’d share my thoughts here. I’m not high on Schafer at all—never have been, really. The past two years, his Triple-A OPS figures have been .509 and .633, and while he’s a decent defensive player, I just don’t like his offensive skillset at all. Other than his crazy 30-game stint in Low-A four years ago, he’s never hit .300 or really shown strong secondary skills, and it’s pointless to keep pointing to 2007 and projecting based on that.
8. Stoffel. A generic upper-minors reliever with a generic reliever’s arsenal—a low 90’s fastball and decent breaking pitch. That has him ticketed for a future as a sixth-inning type. He should be in the 2013 bullpen mix.
9. Zeid. He was awful as a starter in Double-A but had a nice run of pitching after being converted to the bullpen. Still, there’s no reason to get carried away because a guy had 16 good innings. Again, middle-innings upside; could be up in late 2012 if the bullpen surge is for real.
Taken as a whole, the Astros got a nice impact bat in Singleton and a lot of pitching. Given that Jordan Lyles is already a nice rotation piece, and Bud Norris is a good pitcher as well, the Astros could have 4/5 of a solid rotation if two of Cosart, Oberholtzer, and Clemens work out reasonably well. They could also fix a number of their bullpen holes. While minor league pitching is notoriously risky to acquire, at least all the pitchers except Cosart were in Double-A or Triple-A—these aren’t 18-year-old kids in Rookie ball with no proven track records of health or performance. Even Cosart was in High-A. And with this sort of quantity, something should work out.
Wally says: There are few players in the minors that I’m as bullish on as I am on Jonathan Singleton. I think he is a future star with enormous potential. He’s the type of guy you can build a franchise around and the Astros did very well to acquire him. Houston has already moved him back to 1B, but I don’t believe that hurts his long term value in the least.
Jarred Cosart I believe will hold down a spot in the major league rotation but I see his ceiling as more of a #3 starter than anything else. The Astros bumped him up to AA after acquiring him and he responded with 6.0 shutout innings. Maybe it’s the start of a breakout by the young righty but I want to see him dominate a level before I get overly excited or change my assessment of him.
The rest of the guys Houston acquired don’t really pique my interest all that much nor do I believe they will have much of an impact for the organization.