|Jonathan Singleton could be a factor for the Astros in the second half. (USATSI)|
Prior to the start of the season, we'll highlight a few players in each team's minor-league system to let you know which players you should be paying attention to throughout the year. These aren't meant to be comprehensive top-prospect lists, but should provide a look at some key players within each team's organization.
The Astros are a team deep into rebuilding mode, putting together a major-league roster absent of big contracts. While the major-league product may not be very good for at least a few years, it does mean the Astros should continue to earn premium picks in the draft. They used last year's first overall pick on Carlos Correa, who already appears in Baseball America's top prospect list at baseball's 13th best prospect. They'll pick first again this year. While Astros fans eagerly await the next top amateur to join the fold, several interesting pieces already reside in the system.
2013 Impact Player
One of the best first-base prospects in baseball, Singleton exhibited no issue with Double-A in his first exposure to the high minors, hitting .284/.396/.497 with 21 home runs in 555 plate appearances last season as a 20-year-old. He's a patient hitter, as is exhibited by his 88 walks at Double-A, and should be able to hit both for average and power while playing good defense at first.
Unfortunately for his 2013 outlook, Singleton will miss the first 50 games of the season after being suspended this offseason for marijuana use. However, if last year's performance is any indication, he should be able to join the major-league team in the second half if the team decides it wants to see him face major-league pitchers. If the guy below is the Astros' top prospect (and analysts generally agree he is), Singleton is No. 1A.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2012, Correa is already considered one of baseball's best prospects. Only 18 years old, Correa is, at this point, all projection, but that projection includes both batting average and power upside as well as the ability to handle the shortstop position early in his career. A high-school player in Puerto Rico at the beginning of the 2012 season, Correa is nowhere near the major leagues, and his development may be the most interesting facet of the Astros until he arrives.
RHP Jarred Cosart
Cosart came to the Astros in 2011 along with Singleton as part of the trade that shipped Hunter Pence out of Houston. Singleton may be well on his way to making that deal a win for the Astros, but Cosart could be the piece that makes it an overwhelmingly good trade for the organization. A top-50 prospect before the 2012 season, Cosart posted a 3.30 ERA in 114 2/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A, inducing plenty of grounders but still dealing with an elevated walk rate. This season will likely be critical to keeping Cosart's status as a quality prospect -- he's already been dropped from the Baseball America Top 100 -- and if he excels in Triple-A, he could be in the Astros rotation before too long.
The theme in Houston is rebuilding, and along with the three prospects above, Astros fans can expect to see talented players like George Springer, Delino Deshields Jr. and Lance McCullers Jr. in the big leagues within the next few years. If a few of the current major-leaguers work out as long-term starters for the organization, this could be an exciting team, though it'll take time for all the talent to come to fruition.