In 2013 the Astros kept the shuttle between Oklahoma City and Houston busy, bringing up a steady stream of players from their minor league system up to make their Major League debut. While the team’s situation has stabilized significantly from the start of last season there is still a strong likelihood another large contingent of prospects will make their debut with the Astros in 2014. Here's a list of prospects who could reach the majors for the first time with the Astros this year.
1B Jonathan Singleton* – Singleton’s chances to break spring training with the Astros improved greatly over the offseason with a strong showing in winter ball combined with the Astros inability to sign a significant offensive bat in free agency. He took much longer than expected to get his game back in shape after serving a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test, but seems to have gotten his game back to where the Astros want it to be.
RHP Asher Wojciechowski* – Wojo split his time last year between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City, finishing his season with the RedHawks with a 3.56 ERA in 134 innings in triple-A. Batters in the PCL hit just .229 against him while his WHIP was a respectable 1.19.
OF Domingo Santana* – The only time Astros fans had a chance to see Santana in Houston last year, they had to come away impressed. The powerful outfielder had a pair of extra-base hits in the team’s final exhibition game against the Cubs at Minute Maid Park before the start of the regular season. His regular season didn’t do much to dampen hopes that he can provide some much needed power to the Astros lineup in the near future. Santana spent the entire 2013 season in Corpus Christi, where he hit .252 with an OPS of .842. Santana also hit 25 home runs and drove in 64 runs. Given the slower pace that George Springer has taken, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the club take the same path with Santana.
OF George Springer – It doesn’t seem like there is much left for Springer to prove in the minor leagues. The Astros’ first round selection in the 2011 draft, Springer dazzled offensively, hitting a combined .303 with 37 home runs and 108 RBIs between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City in 2013. He also had an OPS of 1.010 and stole 45 bases. The only downside was his strikeout total, 161 in 492 at bats. Even with the trade for Dexter Fowler, Astros fans are hoping there will be an opening in the outfield for Springer in Houston on Opening Day.
1B Japhet Amador – Amador was signed by the Astros from the Mexico City Red Devils of the Mexican League and only got to play in 10 games at Oklahoma City last season. But Amador did make an impact in the Arizona Fall League, batting .284 and hitting four homers in 18 games against the game’s top prospects. Amador is older than your average prospect, he turns 27 in two weeks.
OF Austin Wates – Wates earned a promotion from Corpus Christi to Oklahoma City last week, but was shelved after just 15 games for the RedHawks when he was hit by a pitch and fractured his forearm. The remarkable thing about Wates has been his consistency. He’s hit between .300 and .310 in each full season in the organization and his OBP has hovered between .366 and .397. Not a power hitter, Wates has yet to hit double-digit homers in a season, he flashed an ability to steal bases in 2013, swiping 15 bases in 38 games.
RHP Mike Foltynewicz – The first round pick from 2010 has produced some eye-popping numbers on the radar gun, routinely hitting triple-digits with his fastball last year in Corpus Christi. After starting the season in Lancaster, Foltynewicz pitched in 23 games for the Hooks, striking out 95 batters in 103 1/3 innings. Texas League hitters had trouble touching his stuff, they hit just .207 against him, but often times they didn’t have to. The big right-hander walked 52 batters (4.53 per nine innings).
RHP Jake Buchanan – Once upon a time Buchanan was the minor league pitcher of the year for the organization. Then the pitching depth got much, much better. And while there have been plenty of pitchers who have grabbed headlines, Buchanan was rock-solid at Corpus Christ last year before earning a promotion to Oklahoma City. Buchanan doesn’t overpower, he has just 99 strikeouts in 158 1/3 innings last year, but opposing hitters usually have to hit their way on. He only walked 22 batters.
RHP Bobby Doran – Doran is the prototypical under the radar prospect. A 1.22 WHIP and .249 BAA last year at Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City won’t blow anyone away, but Doran had an uncanny knack for getting outs and wins (a combined 11-2 record with a pair of saves in 2013).
RHP Jason Stoffel – A reliever, Stoffel spent most of 2013 as a set-up man in Oklahoma City, going 8-1 with 3.47 ERA in 44 games. Walks can be an issue for Stoffel, he issued 30 in 62 1/3 innings, but he did strike out 50 batters.
RHP Mark Appel – Probably the lease likely prospect on this list to reach Houston in 2014, but never say never. The first overall pick in the 2013 draft spent four seasons at Stanford and is expected to make a rapid ascent through the Astros farm system. The question is how fast. Appel pitched at advanced Rookie League Tri-City and Low-A Quad Cities last year before the Astros shut him down in August, but at each level he showed why he was taken with the first pick. A 1.18 WHIP with 33 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched between the two levels, Appel’s first stint in professional baseball was definitely a success.
*On Astros 40-man roster