What a wild year for the Astros. They made the playoffs, called up their star shortstop Carlos Correa, and made some big trades that have changed the look of this farm heading into 2016. It’s still very strong and full of great fantasy options, but just look at the list of players who left this system – Brett Phillips, Mark Appel, Vincent Velasquez, Domingo Santana, Rio Ruiz, Mike Foltynewicz, Nick Tropeano. Not to mention losing Delino DeShields in the rule five draft and the quality graduations. That kind of hit would cripple most systems, and yet here we are with still one of the best farms in the game right now. Last year’s draft netted the Astros two top bats in Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker, and they saw a big breakout in A.J. Reed, who could be in line to play first base for Houston early in the 2016 season. It’s a good time to be an Astros fan.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
A.J. Reed, 1B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 622 PA, .340/.432/.612, 34 HR, 0 SB, 14% BB, 20% K
With a big Cal League performance, Reed had already cracked the Top 50 prospects by midsummer in 2015, but he kept on chooglin’ after his promotion to Double-A. That’ll cause him to rise even higher on preseason lists and with graduations and trades he now sits atop a really strong Astros farm. There’s .280/30/100 in his bat, and with no real force currently manning first base for the Astros, Reed could get a shot this spring or at the very least make quick work of a start in Triple-A. He’s a solid target even in redrafts at this point.
Alex Bregman, SS | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 311 PA, .294/.366/.415, 4 HR, 13 SB, 9% BB, 10% K
Early in his pro career, scouts are already raving about Bregman. His makeup and tools should allow the 2015 2nd overall pick to move quickly, however he’s most valuable in the middle infield, and the Astros have both middle infield positions locked down. There are possibilities of either Bregman or Correa shifting on the left side, but it appears as though the Astros went with the best player and will figure out positions later. Bregman’s upside isn’t huge, but it’s a safe/all-around above-average profile that you can feel confident taking in the top five of dynasty drafts.
Derek Fisher, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 569 PA, .275/.364/.483, 22 HR, 31 SB, 12% BB, 23% K
For a while it looked like Fisher was going to be a Phillie, and now I’ve got fifty crates of “Phisher” jerseys I’m trying unload on Craig’s List. While there are some concerns over his hit tool and defensive limitations, Fisher’s profile works well in our fantasy game. He has power and speed – enough to flirt with 20/20 seasons – and should begin to test his tools against better pitching in the upper levels this year. I remember Fisher’s first game at High-A High Desert was a laugher – he went 4-for-6 with three homers and twelve runs batted in!
Francis Martes, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+/AA
2015 Stats: 101.2 IP, 2.04 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 8.7 K/9
When you have a deep system like this, it’s easy to find breakouts. Martes turned it up a notch in 2015 with strong performances in the Midwest and Cal leagues. He’s now ready to take on the upper levels, and could move quickly on to Houston. The 20-year-old’s arsenal features a plus fastball/curveball combination that should lead to plenty of strikeouts for fantasy owners. The ceiling is a frontline starter and if he can keep the walk rate where it’s at, the floor should be relatively high as well.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Colin Moran, 3B | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 417 PA, .306/.381/.459, 9 HR, 1 SB, 10% BB, 19% K
The problem with the whole “just move Bregman to third” argument is that the Astros actually have two really solid third base prospects. Moran is the closer, safer, less power-happy version of the two hot corner specs. I say safer due to the more advanced hit tool and better strikeout rates. He’s closer because there’s a full season of Double-A under his belt. In fact, I think Moran could be a viable option at third for the Astros fairly early in the 2016 season. A year of seasoning in Triple-A won’t hurt him either, though, given he is still just 23 years old. The deeper the league, the more appealing Moran’s profile becomes.
J.D. Davis, 3B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 552 PA, .289/.370/.520, 26 HR, 5 SB, 10% BB, 28% K
Davis is a different animal than Moran in terms of his value right now. There’s no reason he couldn’t also be their third baseman of the future. But where Moran is more polished and a better hitter, Davis is more aggressive and offers better power. The strikeout rate and 26 homers tells that tale, and my only real hesitation here is that a strong season in the Cal League doesn’t tell us as much about Davis as his upcoming season in Double-A will. In a lot of other systems, Davis would stand out, but in this craziness he gets lost in the shuffle a bit.
Tony Kemp, 2B/OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 541 PA, .308/.388/.386, 3 HR, 35 SB, 10% BB, 12% K
It’s hard for me to look at Kemp and not see shades of another Astros second base prospect turned outfielder – Delino DeShields Jr. While Kemp’s speed isn’t as…speedy, there’s a plus tool there that could yield 30 bags. There’s also solid plate discipline and hitting ability along with some position versatility now that he’s learning the outfield. He’s an injury/trade away from getting everyday chances in the majors, and at the very least he’s going to be a valuable utility guy for a big league club.
Teoscar Hernandez, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 514 PA, .219/.275/.362, 17 HR, 33 SB, 6% BB, 25% K
At this point in the list we’re seeing some players with more warts. And yet there is still plenty to like with the power/speed profile Hernandez brings to the table. The huge flaw here is the abysmal average, and if he’s going to be more than a reserve outfielder that will obviously have to change. But like Moran, Hernandez is still young and could stand to make some improvements with time to adjust in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
Michael Feliz, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 111.1 IP, 2.83 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
Feliz got a big league look in 2015 as a reliever. That could be where he winds up long term, but Feliz’s power fastball/slider combination has also worked in a starting role. 12 of his 17 games started in 2015 came in Double-A, where he put up a 2.17 ERA and 2.3 BB/9 while striking out 70 batters in 78 innings. That’s quality, and I’d think the Astros will give him every opportunity to start before permanently turning him into a bullpen piece.
Joe Musgrove, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A/A+/AA
2015 Stats: 100.2 IP, 1.88 ERA, 0.7 BB/9, 8.9 K/9
Musgrove was another big riser in this system, although he had already put together a solid season in the New York-Penn League in 2014. It’s pretty tough to improve on a 1.2 walk rate, but that’s exactly what Musgrove did (that 0.7 isn’t a typo). He also upped his strikeouts and lowered his ERA despite facing better competition and started seven games in Double-A by the end of the year. So what lies ahead? He’s probably a legit #3 starter at this point, and the control is so good that you can look at him as a safe investment to start, even if he doesn’t maintain enough strikeouts to be a fantasy stud.
Jon Kemmer, OF | Age: 25 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 425 PA, .327/.414/.574, 18 HR, 9 SB, 11% BB, 21% K
Kemmer is the reason we have a floorboreds tier. At first glance, he looks kinda lame as a 25-year-old with no at bats above Double-A, but the reality is that despite the level Kemmer just hits. When that happens they eventually find you a gig on the roster, even if it’s in a part time role. He’s certainly not going to make or break your fantasy team, but it’s a name that should be on the radar. We see players come “out of nowhere” too frequently to ignore the Kemmers of the world.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs.
Kyle Tucker, OF | Age: 18 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 254 PA, .246/.294/.353, 3 HR, 18 SB, 6% BB, 11% K
Tucker was selected fifth overall in the 2015 draft, and while Bregman is the safer, all-around college profile, Tucker is the risky high school upside play. He’s already showing plus power and above-average hitting ability, and that’s what will carry his fantasy value. He probably won’t last outside the top ten in this year’s first-year player drafts, but if other owners go after the recent international imports, you might be able to steal him in picks 11-20. His older brother is Preston (also an Astro).
Daz Cameron, OF | Age: 18 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 211 PA, .251/.353/.309, 0 HR, 24 SB, 12% BB, 23% K
Cameron was taken much later than his tools suggest he’s worth, so don’t be afraid to take him in the first two rounds of dynasty drafts. It’s a long wait and there’s obviously some risk here, but there’s also the potential for a power/speed profile that has a lot of value in fantasy. Mixed reviews on his hit tool make it hard to pin down just how much risk we’re actually talking about. Along with Rodgers, Clark, Randolph, and of course Tucker, Cameron is firmly in the first tier of high school bats from the draft.
Jonathan Arauz, SS | Age: 17 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 188 PA, .254/.309/.370, 2 HR, 2 SB, 7% BB, 15% K
Arauz was a minor piece in the big Giles trade with the Phillies, and even though he’s super young, it was kind of a bummer to see him leave for Houston. With so long an ETA, you’re only looking at Arauz in deep dynasties. You could also go the Miguelangel Sierra route, but from what I’ve gathered Arauz has more potential pop in his bat with just as good a chance to stick at short.
David Paulino, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: A(ss)/A/A+
2015 Stats: 67.1 IP, 2.81 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 9.6 K/9
With proven health, Paulino should see a big bump in value. He’s already rocking two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball, so now it’s just a matter of showing us he can handle a full season of innings after Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2014 campaign. He could see High-A early in the year, which is a tough assignment, so I’m more interested in what he does once he gets to Corpus Christi – possibly by the end of this summer.