Thursday, February 13, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Shortstops

In an ongoing series on the minor league depth in the Astros system, this week we're looking at the middle infield. On Monday, I posted this piece on the Second Basemen in the system. Today, we look at the Shortstops. Once again, I am separating them into two groups -- those who finished the season at Advanced A or above and those who finished the season at Low A and below. And once again, I am sorting them from high to low in terms of on-base percentage. As a reminder, there are a few players who were used more as utility infielders than shortstops in the past season and I will be addressing them in a later post.


It is no surprise that Nolan Fontana leads this list in that his OBP led the Astros minor league system for all full season teams in 2013. The second round 2012 draft pick got on base at a .415 clip in 2013 which was actually a decline from the .464 rate he put up in 2012, and he translated those on-base skills into a healthy number of runs scored. Fontana did not, however, fare well in the Arizona Fall League, collecting only six hits in 18 games, walking 13 times and striking out 16 times. And, although he has played exclusively at shortstop since coming in to the Astros system, look for him to spend time at second base in 2014. The reason for this is two-fold. He is not the strongest defender at short, and there is a dearth of second basemen at the upper levels.

At the upper levels of the organization, Jiovanni Mier and Ronald Torreyes both excel defensively. Mier, the Astros 2009 first round draft pick, took a big step backwards with his bat, though, as he struggled in his first season in the Texas League. Torreyes, acquired from the Cubs in exchange for two international bonus pool slots, has shown himself to be much more adept with the bat. The 21 year-old Venezuelan (he turned 21 in September) hit well at the AA level both before and after his acquisition, putting up a .269/.329/.368 batting line and striking out only 29 times in 103 games. In his final 10 games, Torreyes was on a tear, hitting .487/.512/.641. [Note: Torreyes was used both at short and at second base by the Astros, but was used in more games at short.]

Ronnie Torreyes - August 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

At the lower levels (but not for long), Carlos Correa is a standout both defensively and at the plate. What the first overall 2012 draft pick accomplished as an 18-year old against competition averaging three years older than him was outstanding. Correa just turned 19 in September and will likely start the season in Lancaster, but is not likely to stay there for very long.

Carlos Correa - April 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Aside from Correa, the best overall defense in this group (based on fielding percentage and range factor per game) comes from Thomas Lindauer and Kristian Trompiz. Lindauer, drafted in the 23rd round in 2013, struggled offensively with Tri-City in his first 22 games and was sent to Greeneville where he hit .247/.306/.320 in his final 29 games. Trompiz, who just turned 18 in December, was in his first professional season with the Dominican Summer League Astros team in 2013. He topped this list of players with his 5.25 range factor per game.

Chan Moon spent his fourth professional season with Tri-City despite having spent the prior season in Lexington and Lancaster. Moon had a solid season both offensively and defensively. His otherwise good offensive numbers were brought down by a subpar August. He will be 23 next month.

Jack Mayfield started his season at Greeneville, but finished it with Tri-City. Signed by the Astros as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oklahoma, Mayfield spent almost as much time at second base as he did at short and actually had better defensive numbers at second. It would not surprise me to see Mayfield moved to second or used as a utility infielder in the upcoming season.

Luis Reynoso, who just turned 19 in September, was in his first season in the U.S. in 2013, playing all but one game with the GCL Astros before a late promotion to Greeneville for his final game. Reynoso, a right-handed hitter, hit well against righty pitchers in 2013, putting up a .271/.365/.364 batting line, but struggled against lefties. Yoel Silfa, a 20-year old from the Dominican Republic, only appeared in 24 games for the GCL team and ended his season on a high note, hitting .276/.323/.379 in his final 10 games.

Jose Fernandez also spent most of his season with the GCL after starting his season with Tri-City and struggling at the plate. He was one of three Astros minor league players suspended at the end of the season for testing positive for an amphetamine.

Dariel Aquino, who just turned 18 last month, barely got his feet wet for the Dominican Summer League Astros. Aquino spent as much time as a DH as he did in the field, giving way to Trompiz at short.

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