Big deals reveal depth of Astros' farm system

GM Luhnow still confident in talent at Minor League level after trading prospects

Big deals reveal depth of Astros' farm system

HOUSTON -- The Astros' deal to acquire Ken Giles from the Phillies in a trade that sent five players to Philadelphia, including former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, demonstrates just how deep Houston's farm system has become.

The cupboard was pretty bare when Jim Crane bought the club four years ago and hired general manager Jeff Luhnow, but Luhnow went on a trading frenzy. Any player with value not bolted to the floor was shipped out in exchange for prospects, and the Astros' three consecutive 100-loss seasons meant more high Draft picks as well. Luhnow was quickly amassing young talent.

With its Minor League system among the deepest in the game in 2014, Houston switched course and started trading away prospects in exchange for help at the Major League level. That was especially true when it came to pitching. In the past two years, the team has traded young arms such as Jarred Cosart, Mike Foltynewicz, Josh Hader, Nick Tropeano, Adrian Houser, Andrew Thurman, Thomas Eshelman, Vincent Velasquez and Appel in deals to acquire big leaguers.

Hot Stove Tracker

It's hard to argue with the results. The Astros, featuring some of the players they acquired in those trades (outfielder Carlos Gomez, designated hitter Evan Gattis, outfielder Jake Marisnick and catcher Hank Conger), reached the postseason in 2015 while continuing to boast deep Minor League talent.

"You look at the trades we made last summer when we acquired Gomez and [Brewers starter Mike] Fiers," Luhnow said. "We were doing that to improve the team, not only today but the future. We were giving up players we might regret giving up three years from now. We can't keep all our players in the Minor Leagues, and we know that. We've got to figure out which opportunities we take to trade prospects to get better now."

One of the opportunities Luhnow took was dealing Appel, Eshelman, Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer and Minor League pitcher Harold Arauz for Giles -- a young, controllable hard-thrower who's expected to close next year -- and 17-year-old shortstop Jonathan Arauz. It was a high price to pay.

Justice: Giles the ideal acquisition for Houston

In July, the Astros dealt away their 2014 Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year to the Brewers, sending Hader, outfielder Brett Phillips, Houser and outfielder Domingo Santana to Milwaukee for Gomez and Fiers -- two players who paid dividends immediately.

Luhnow has had to swallow hard trading away so many young arms, but there's more coming through the system. Michael Feliz, Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove, Reymin Guduan, Chris Devenski and David Paulino represent the next wave of young arms in the Minors. Asher Wojciechowski, who began the 2015 season in the rotation, and Brady Rodgers will compete in camp for Major League jobs.

Astros' Top 30 Prospects

"It's tough to give guys away because pitching is hard to find," Luhnow said. "But right now, we feel our system is still stocked with good pitching that's going to be able to help us out over the next five years."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.