2008 Top 5 Prospects: Houston Astros

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we continue on with the NL Central with the almost bare Houston Astros system. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) J.R. Towles, C: After flying through the Minors in 2007 and joining the Astros by year’s end, it gives you a good idea of how good of a young catcher this kid is. Towles is a very good hitter who can hit for average and has above average power (for a catcher) thanks to his very good eye at the plate. He’s a dead pull hitter (which is fine in Houston’s ballpark) but he does need to learn to hit to other fields to be successful in the big leagues. Defensively he is rather quick behind the plate and calls a good game but he could use some work in a few areas such as throwing out base runners. Otherwise projects to be an above average everyday catcher in the Majors.

2.) Felipe Paulino, RHP: Paulino had a brief stint in the Majors at the end of last season and had some good and bad experiences on the mound. The young right hander has a hard fastball in the upper-90’s (at times hitting triple digits) along with a low 90’s slider and developing change. He can have bouts of control problems as well as delivery troubles (which leads to him leaving pitches up and giving up home runs), but with a little work he can minimize these issues. The Astros are gearing him towards starting as of now but he may be better suited to be a closer with his blazing fastball and hard slider.

3.) Michael Bourn, OF: Despite playing in more than 120 games in 2006 and 2007 for the Phillies, Bourn is still considered a rookie since he is under the 130 career at bat maximum. Bourn’s greatest asset is his plus speed which translates well both to base running and his defense. While he holds some of the key characteristics for an ideal lead off hitter with his speed and offensive approach, he will need to work a little on his plate discipline and ability to get on base. If he can improve in that area it shouldn’t be long until he’s in center field for the Astros.

4.) Mitch Einertson, OF: With little competition in the Astros organization when it comes to outfield prospects (or prospects in general), Mitch Einertson should continue to shoot up this top prospects list if he continues his improved play. He continues to show more power potential and is a very good fastball hitter who can spray the ball to all fields. He showed that he is a consistent hitter and looks to have good gap power which will equate to a lot of doubles for the corner outfielder. If he continues his improved play he may be at the top of this list going into 2009.

5.) Bud Norris, RHP: Right now the Astros are using Bud Norris as a starting pitcher in the system but it looks to me as if he is more built to be a reliever. Norris has a mid-90’s fastball and a nice low to mid-80’s curveball. He has some issues such as fatigue, command problems and the inability to find a groove in his delivery that, while they can be worked out, lead me to believe that he may be better built to be a middle or late innings reliever if he reaches the big leagues. As of right now nothing spectacular jumps out at me about him other than his curve.

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