added 8/4/2013 by Anton Joe
The Houston Astros have one of the best farm systems in the majors and own a very bright future. Prospects such as OF George Springer, 1B Jonathan Singleton, SS Carlos Correa and SP Mark Appel, among others, are players that the Astros hope to build their team around in the near future and propel them to the postseason. But at the same time, the Houston farm system is filled with many under-the-radar prospects, especially pitching prospects. Here are five under-the-radar pitching prospects in the Astros' farm system that I believe will one day have an impact in the big-leagues:
5. RHP Kyle Westwood
After being drafted in the 44th round (1316th overall) by the Baltimore Orioles in 2009, righthanded pitcher Kyle Westwood, decided to attend college at the University of North Florida instead of going pro. In 2013, his senior season, Westwood battled a hamstring injury, as he went 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA while striking out 71 batters and walking twelve. His K/9 ratio was an impressive 10.75 for his senior year. The 22-year-old was then drafted in the 13th round (377th overall) by the Astros this past June and has played in Class-A Short-Season for the Tri-City Valley Cats, going 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA while striking out 18 and walking just three batters in 24 innings so far this season.
Westwood doesn't have "blow-it-by-ya" stuff, as his fastball will generally sit in the 88-92 mph range, but his command and consistency is something that can move him up through the minors with ease. He would fit in well in the back of the Houston rotation, but will probably be used as a long reliever out of the bullpen in the future.
4. RHP Jordan Jankowski
Drafted by the Astros as a catcher in the 34th round in 2008 out of Catawba College, 24-year-old righthanded pitcher Jordan Jankowski was drafted in the 34th round again in 2012, but as a pitcher this time. He has been fairly consistent while pitching in the minor leagues, as this season while pitching for the Class-A Quad Cities River Bandits can attest. Jankowski had gone 3-1 while posting a 2.64 ERA with 81 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 88-2/3 innings so far this season.
I think his consistency is something that will move him up through the minor leagues and he should have success in majors when he arrives in Houston.
3. RHP Mike Hauschild
Drafted in the 33rd round by Houston in 2012, out of the University of Dayton, Hauschild has been an interesting pitcher to watch in his brief time in the minors. Last season, while playing for the Gulf Coast League Astros, Hauschild went 2-2, posted a 1.78 ERA, struck out 39 batters and walked nine in 30-1/3 innings, and had a ground ball-to-fly ball ratio of a whopping 5.25! He has been solid so far this season, going 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA, 71 strikeouts, 18 walks, and a ground ball-to-fly ball ratio of 2.47 in 97-1/3 innings pitched between Low-A Quad Cities and High-A Lancaster.
If he could duplicate his 2012 performance, he will certainly be a front-runner to get a big-league call-up in a few years. His ability to get hitters to hit the ball on the ground will be very useful in his path to the majors, particularly if converted to relief.
2. RHP Andrew Thurman
Drafted in the 2nd round (40th overall) in 2013, the 21-year-old righthander out of UC Irvine is certainly a guy to keep an eye on in the Astros farm system. He can pump his fastball up to 94 mph, as it sits comfortably between 89-92 mph, but his velocity should improve in the coming years. His 6'3" 205 pound frame gives him the potential to be an innings eater in the back of the Houston rotation in the future.
So far this year, while playing in Class-A Short-Season, Thurman has gone 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA with 27 strikeouts and just six walks in 25-1/3 innings of work. Being drafted so high this year, the Astros will certainly have high expectations for him, and I think he will live up to all of them.
1. LHP David Rollins
Born in Galveston, Texas, southpaw David Rollins was drafted out of high school in the 19th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, but decided to go to junior college. He was drafted out of junior college twice, both by the Seattle Mariners, before finally going pro after being drafted in the 24th round (1392nd overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays out of San Jacinto CC North in 2011.
Acquired last July in the trade that sent pitchers J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter to Toronto, the 23-year-old lefthanded pitcher has had a solid season in the minor leagues so far. While playing for High-A Lancaster, the 6-foot-1, 195-lb southpaw has gone 8-5 while posting a 3.98 ERA, along with 96 strikeouts and 32 walks in 97-1/3 innings pitched. He was recently called up to AA Corpus Christi.
Rollins may not be a top prospect, but in my opinion, I feel like he can be a future big leaguer. He can throw his sinker in the 89-92 mph range and mixes his pitches well. His off-speed command will be something he will have to improve on if he wants to play in AA or AAA on a daily basis, let alone the majors. If he can improve on his off-speed pitch command, expect him to be part of Houston's future plans.
Anton Joe writes at his own blog, Houston Astros Blog