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Friday, February 10, 2006

[Baseball America] Astros Top 10 Prospects

For real baseball junkies, this is old news since Jim Callis first posted the Astros Top 10 (subscription required) back on December 2, 2005. The top-half of the list is stocked with serious young pitching talent, which is nice, but it certainly provides further illustration that Astros must look outside the organization in their quest to improve their offense.

1. Jason Hirsh - RHP: Hirsh is a big'un (6'8", 245) who was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Year in Double-A last season. Callis mentions that Hirsh's breaking ball was named the best in the League in 2005. His fastball typically runs 91-93. Callis forsees Hirsh as a #2 or #3 starter, possibly even making a run at the rotation out of spring training.

2. Troy Patton - LHP: Patton has battled a little bit of shoulder trouble, but his stuff is apparently nastier than Hirsh's, and he's younger. Seems like Hirsh is closer to the bigs, but Patton's ceiling is higher. Patton posted a 2.63 ERA in 9 starts at High-A Salem and should open 2006 in Corpus Christi.

3. Fernando Nieve - RHP: Nieve has two solid pitches and may have made the big club in September had he not had a bout with appendicitis. From what I have read, Nieve seems destined to be a back-of-the-bullpen power arm, which would fit nicely for the Astros.

4. Jimmy Barthmeier - RHP: Solidly built RHP that Callis pegs as an innings-eater. Probably will not be a factor in Houston until late 2007 or 2008.

5. Eli Iorg - OF: It's a position player! Iorg just played rookie ball in 2005, so he's still miles away from the big leagues, but he's got the pedigree to be an impact player in the bigs.

6. Hunter Pence - OF: This guy has become a legend in Astros fan circles, and typically, the Astros have moved him along sloooooooooowly. He'll start the season in Double-A, and Callis talks of a hitch in Pence's swing that has not affected his success thus far, but sure sounds like it has the potential to be problematic as he moves up the ladder.

7. Felipe Paulino Del Guidice - RHP: FPDG, as I like to call him, is a hoss. He's got a 100+ mph fastball that apparently rides up on right-handed hitters. Callis mentions that FPDG has been reluctant to develop his changeup, furthering the notion that his future may be a late-innings bullpen guy.

8. Juan Guiterrez - RHP: Starting pitcher who, according to Callis, needs to "improve his conditioning" and "tone down his antics". Code for "Flame-Out".

9. Brian Bogusevic - LHP: Bogie's 2005 pro debut in short-season A was a waste, blamed by all interested parties on fatigue. 2006 will prove whether or not that was the truth.

10. Josh Flores - OF: This is my favorite farmhand. He's a "tools" guy who Callis dubs the fastest in the organization. He destroyed pitching in rookie-ball in 2005 and will start 2006 in CF for the Legends.

Interesting tidbits from Callis's Q&A session:

- Koby Clemens is considered a "top-30" prospect by BA.
- Callis considers the Astros in the "bottom third" of farm systems in terms of talent.
- Callis calls Justin Towles "the best all-around catcher in the system".
- Charlton Jimerson has the best all-around tools in the system, but his inability to make consistent contact seems to be a hurdle that he is never going to overcome.
- Jason Hirsh made the leap from #25 in 2005 to #1 in 2006.
- Callis says that Taylor Buchholz would be his pick to fill the #5 starter role at the start of 2006.


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