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Dan McLaughlin broke the news that pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel would retire from baseball on the St. Louis Cardinals broadcast, and would like to join the front office.
Ankiel pitched in the majors from 1999-2004, taking 2002 and 2003 off due to arm injuries. He attempted to resume his pitching career once more in 2004, but was unsuccessful with recurring injuries.
In 2005, Ankiel returned to the majors for the St. Louis Cardinals as an outfielder, for whom he had played with from 1999-2004. Ankiel spent his outfield years with the Cardinals, Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros, and Mets, before finally calling it quits.
Ankiel had made a name for himself with a cannon of an arm from the outfielder, and finished his career with a fielding percentage of 97.9%.
As a pitcher, Ankiel had a career 3.90 ERA in 242 innings. He had a decent 8.1 K/9 and 0.9 BB/9.
In his 11 year career, Ankiel had a .240/.302/.422 slash line with 76 hom runs in 2115 plate appearances spread out over 653 total games.
The Houston Astros have struggled lately. But with that, they have gotten many top picks in the MLB Draft. Here are the top 10 projected prospects (no particular order) in the Astros’ farm system.
First on the list is first baseman Jonathan Singleton. Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. He played a couple of seasons in the Phillies farm system before he was traded mid-season in 2011 to the Houston Astros for Hunter Pence and other Minor League prospects. Singleton is a big guy, he is 6’2″, 235 pounds. He ended last season in Triple-A. In 4 1/2 seasons in the minors, he has played in 484 games. He has 61 home runs, 275 RBIs, and he posted a .280 batting average. He could compete for the first base spot this season. He will most likely make the majors sometime this year, possibly even as early as Opening Day 2014.
Next on the list is third baseman Rio Ruiz. Ruiz was drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He is 6’2″, 215 pounds. Ruiz finished the 2013 campaign in Single-A Ball. He has played roughly 2 seasons in the minors. In 152 games, almost a full MLB season, he has hit 13 Home runs, Driven in 81 runs, and posted a .258 batting average. Ruiz will be a high risk high reward type of player. It will most likely be 2-3 seasons until he sees any Major League action.
Next up, right-handed pitcher Vincent Velasquez. The Houston Astros drafted Vincent Velasquez in the 2nd round in the 2010 MLB Draft. He is a long and lanky type, coming in at 6’3″, 203 pounds. Velasquez has only played 3 seasons in the minors after being injured the entire 2011 season. He has primarily been a starter but he has also done some relief work. In 45 games he has gone 15-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 200 innings pitched. His injury will delay his time to the majors. It will be 1-2 more years before he sees action.
Fourth on the list is another right-handed pitcher Mark Appel. He was the 1st overall pick out of Stanford University in the 2013 MLB Draft. He stands tall at 6’5″ and weighs in at 190 pounds. He only saw 10 games of action in 2013. He started all 10 of those games and went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 38 innings of work. He looks to be a great pitcher and could be the future ace of the Astros. He could be in action as early as 2015 or, if all goes well this season, he could be a September call-up.
Next on the list, center fielder George Springer. Springer was drafted 11th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros out of UConn. Springer is 6’3″, 200 pounds. He’s played roughly 3 seasons in the minors (271 games). In those 271 games he has hit 62 homeruns, 198 RBIs, and has a .291 batting average. He has also stolen 81 bases. He also has a solid glove out in center field. Springer could compete a starting outfield spot this spring and will look to take the field this year.
Next is right-handed pitcher Mike Foltynewicz. Mike is 6’4″, 200 pounds. He was taken 19th overall by the Astros in the 2010 MLB Draft. He has spent 4 seasons in the Minor Leagues, primarily as a starter, but has done some relief work as well. In 95 games (86 starts), he has a record of 25-21, an ERA of 3.74 in exactly 460 innings of work. Foltynewicz has great arm strength and could be in the bullpen or possibly the starting rotation this season.
Now to another right-handed pitcher, Lance McCullers. McCullers was drafted 41st overall in the 2012 MLB Draft. He is 6’2″, 205 pounds. He has spent 2 seasons in the minor leagues. In 33 games (27 starts), he has posted a record of 6-9, 130 1/3 innings pitched, and a 3.24 ERA. McCullers is a power pitcher, he will look to strike batters out. It will most likely be another year or two before he his promoted to the show.
Right fielder Domingo Santana is the next prospect on the list. He came from the Phillies’ organization in 2011. Santana is 6’5″, 230 pounds. He has played 5 seasons in the minors. In 484 games he has hit 74 home runs, 278 RBIs, and a .268 batting average. Santana is a free swinger, but hitting is not his upside, defense is. You can look to see Domingo Santana in the Big Leagues in 2015 or maybe even as a September call-up.
Second baseman Delino DeSheilds Jr. is our next prospect. He was taken 8th overall by the Astros in the 2010 MLB Draft. He is the smallest on the list, measuring in at 5’9″, 205 pounds. He has played 4 seasons in the Minor Leagues. In 363 games, he has hit 26 homeruns, 171 RBIs, and a .275 batting average. DeSheilds is a tremendous athlete who has potential to have a great bat in the lineup. He also has pretty good speed. He could see some action this season.
Last but not least is the shortstop from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Carlos Correa. Correa was drafted 1st overall by the Astros in the 2012 MLB Draft. He is 6’4″, 205 pounds. He has played about a season and a half in the minors. His stats in roughly a full MLB season (167 games) are 12 Home runs, 98 RBIs, a batting average of .302, and a solid .377 oo-base percentage. He has great potential
and could eventually be the best all around hitter in baseball. He could see action in the next 1-2 years.
The Astros seem to have a good, young core players coming up in the next few years. Hopefully there are few injuries so these young players are not forces into action and they can fully develop.
“Dynasty” is not usually a word that is associated with the Astros. The word usually refers to clubs that win year in and year out, like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Cardinals. The Astros are currently not a dynasty, but soon they will be.
After so many years of misery, could the Astros return 2005 form, when they made it to the World Series? Yes, they can. They have been building for awhile now, and they have the pieces. If we take a look at the roster, we can see that they do have a few hidden gems.
Jose Altuve is probably the most talented player on the team, and he will be with the team for a while. He is signed through 2017 with team options for both 2018 and 2019. He is currently 23, has played three seasons in the Majors, and already has one All-star appearance. Altuve’s best tool is probably speed. In three seasons, he has 75 stolen bases, and he has averaged 34 the past two seasons. Altuve has a career BABIP of .314, which is just a tad above the average. His game is based off of speed, and its obvious that he can still progress, as his defensive numbers are not as good as they should be. Altuve has a shot a becoming one of the top second basemen in the league if he continues to develop.
The Astros have shown that they want to contend as soon as possible, and they have signed players who will make an impact such as Scott Feldman, Jesse Crain, and Chad Qualls. They have also acquired Dexter Fowler via trade.
Feldman is a 30 year old who has never really been impressive, but has had good seasons in the past. In 2009, Feldman went 17-8, but had a 4.08 ERA. Wins and losses should be taken with a grain of salt, because they do not fully measure how good a pitcher is. Feldman has, though, been getting better, and he posted career bests in ERA and strikeouts as well as recording his second lowest WHIP in his career. Things are looking up for Feldman, and the Astros hope that he continues this upward trend.
Dexter Fowler is a very decent center fielder from the Colorado Rockies. Fowler was acquired for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes. The Astros are trying to win, and this will definitely help their shallow major league outfield. Fowler is only 27, but he is only signed through this season. Fowler is a career .270 hitter, and averages 51 RBIs over a 162 game season.
The Astros have a gold mine of prospects. They have two top 20 prospects according to mlb.com, as well as seven players in the top 100, which is very good. Their top prospects include Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, Lance McCullers, Mike Foltynewicz, and Delino DeShields. The best prospect in that group is Correa, a shortstop that they drafted first overall in the 2012 FYPD. In 2013, the shortstop hit .320, nine home runs, 86 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases. He has five tools, and his offensive is a lot better than his defense. Springer has the best upside, and he tore it up in the minors, finishing with a 30-30, and he came three home runs short of a 40-40. He hit .303 and had 108 RBIs, and will no doubt keep up that production because he has all of the tools.
The Astros also have the first pick in the upcoming FYPD, and the consensus number one pick is left hander Carlos Rodon. Rodon is regarded as the best left hander since David Price, which is very good company. Rodon has a good fastball, he can hit 97 on the gun, but he also has a wipeout slider.
The Astros are truly building a monster, and even if they stopped adding to their farm system, they would still be a very good team in a couple of years. They will continue to grow their minor league system, and they will continue to get better. Best case scenario: they make the playoffs in 2-3 years. Worst case scenario: They they become respectable in the AL West and make at least a wild card. The front office has shown that they want to win with the trades and signings, which is a very good sign for Houston fans. So fear not, Houston, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.