Recent draftees on path to Houston

Recent draftees on path to Houston

Recent draftees on path to Houston
HOUSTON -- With the 2012 First-Year Player Draft over, the Astros are certainly excited about the talent they can potentially sign in the next month. But assistant general manager/scouting director Bobby Heck is also excited about the players from his first four Drafts who are making their way to the Majors.

"Some of them have shown up here already," Heck said. "It takes a while to build depth, but the quality of our system has gotten better."

The jewel of the Astros' 2011 Draft class, outfielder George Springer, has impressed after only half a season at Class A Advanced Lancaster.

"He's hitting home runs, he's stealing bases, he's playing great defense," Heck said.

2012 Draft Central

Entering Wednesday, Springer was batting .288/.357/.522 with 11 homers, 41 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. He's been caught on the basepaths just twice. On Saturday, he was named Lancaster's Offensive Player of the Month for May.

But before Springer climbs up in the organization, he might need to improve his discipline at the plate. In 226 at-bats, he's struck out 71 times and walked just 23.

"He's striking out more than we thought and walking less than we thought," Heck said. "That's part [of it] for any high-profile college player who's an offensive guy. Their goal is to get here. Usually that stuff will settle down and it gets back to what you expect. Part of it is his adjustment to going around the league once, and you'll see a big second half from him as well."

Springer is still a couple years away from making it to the Major Leagues.

Asked for anybody else from the 2011 class that has stood out, Heck pointed to right-hander Nick Tropeano, who was taken in the fifth round with the 160th overall pick last year.

At Lancaster, Tropeano had a 2.94 ERA in 10 starts entering Wednesday. He's struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings and walking 1.8 batters per nine innings.

"I think what Nick Tropeano so far really has just become a quality pitcher," Heck said. "He's made a significant jump in his velocity and a lot of it is attributed to what [director of player development] Fred [Nelson] and his staff have done with him and the adjustments. Some of it's luck, and hopefully some of that luck is the product of hard work."

The Astros' top prospect might be first baseman Jonathan Singleton, currently at Double-A Corpus Christi. He came to the Astros in the Hunter Pence trade. Singleton, 20, has fared well at Corpus Christi, posting a .298/.404/.550 line in 191 at-bats heading into Wednesday.

He's hit 11 homers, tallied 38 RBIs and hasn't seemed to struggle with the adjustment from Lancaster. He could be in the Majors sometime next year.

Jarred Cosart, who also came to Houston in the Pence deal, has struggled some at Corpus Christi. Entering Wednesday, he had a 4.09 ERA in eight starts, walking 4.5 batters per nine innings. Depending on how his second half goes, Cosart could start 2013 with the Astros.

Jonathan Villar, who came to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal, made it to Corpus Christi in 2011 but has stalled a bit. So far in 2012, he's batting .260/.312/.343 with 22 stolen bases in 53 games. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.23.

The Astros' top pick in 2010, Delino DeShields Jr., has improved his plate discipline at Class A Lexington in 2012. After walking in 52 times in 119 games last season, DeShields has walked 35 times in 54 games so far. He's also stolen 37 bases, compared to 30 in 2011.

Another Astros' first rounder from 2010, right-handed pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, has improved from a shaky 2011 at Class A Lexington. In 12 starts in 2012, he's sporting a 2.14 ERA and is allowing nearly three fewer hits per nine innings than he did in 2011. At 20 years old, he's still a ways from the Majors.

Pitchers Paul Clemens and Brett Oberholtzer, both taken in the 2008 Draft, look like they might be ready for a late-2012 callup.

The Astros drafted some talented players in this year's Draft, but Heck said that most of the club's top prospects are already in the system. He doesn't think 10 of the new draftees would crack the Astros' Top 20 prospects.

"But there will be a handful that obviously put themselves in a good position and are better assets," Heck said.

Clark Goble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.