1. juan gutierrez, RHSP *TRADED TO AZ*
2. brad james, RHSP - august 2008 *SLEEPER*
3. polin trinidad, LHSP - 2010
4. sam gervacio, RHRP - july 2008
5. bud norris, RHSP september 2009 *SLEEPER*
6. matt albers, RHSP *TRADED TO BAL*
7. felipe paulino, RHSP
8. paul estrada, RHRP - 2008
9. raymar diaz, RHSP - 2009
10.david qualben, LHSP - 2010
i like brad james alot. his control isn't the best, he doesn't K very many batters, and he isn't very young, but he gets a shitload of groundballs, and he prevents solid contact better than any pitcher in the astro system.
gutierrez and paulino combine to provide the kind of high upside arms that are present in any legitimate system. they are a little old, though, and the organization doesn't appear to have any plan for restocking the system with these types of arms once gutierrez and paulino graduate, but these two should start to pay dividends to the astros this season.
bud norris didn't take the workload that a college pitcher usually takes in his first full professional season, which is a plus, from my point of view. he pitched very lightly his first 3 months, but when he hit his stride in july, he was dominating, albeit as a 22 year old in low A. he backed this up with an impressive performance in the hawaii winter league, but again, he wasn't facing the highest level of competition. i see a lot of good markers in his performance though, from his K rate, to the spike in his GB rate in HWL, to the favorable splits versus LHB, which indicates a quality changeup.
Spotlight: Matt Albers
albers throws a hard 2 seam fastball that sits in the low 90s and generates a good percentage of groundballs. albers also throws a curve that sits around 79 MPH, and a changeup that sits in the low 80s. his pitches work well together, and his curveball is especially effective.
i've seen reports that have albers fastball as hitting 97 MPH, but i don't think it needs to hit that high note to be effective, nor do i think he'll be able to fall back on that whenever he gets in trouble. as it was in 2007, his fastball had plenty of movement which generated plenty of swinging strikes, and looks to have the potential to keep albers in the middle of a good rotation for the next 6 years.
when pitching in houston, albers had a 4.35 ERA with a 2:1 K:BB ratio and mediocre HR and H rates. when pitching on the road, albers' ERA ballooned to 7, he had more BBs than Ks, his HR rate jumped to more than twice league average, and he allowed 1.66 baserunners per inning.
having previously looked at the uniqueness of 2 astro starters, i'm close to throwing my hands up in the air and proclaiming that there's just something in the water, but as i'm not there yet, i'll just say that this is one more thing i need to keep my eye on.