A look back at Astros Top Prospects from 1994-2003

Baseball America recently updated their Top Prospects archives, dating back to 1983. Since Astros fans are primarily focused on the state of the team’s farm system, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to look back at an entire decade’s worth of former Astros Top Prospects and apply what we may earn to this year’s Top 10, and the current re-building phase.

With that said, I’ve taken every Astros top 10 prospect from the years 1994-2003, and assembled a few basic numbers, like cumulative WAR, how many made the Majors, etc. Accounting for repeat offenders (Richard Hidalgo was a top 10 prospect for like 12 years) the Astros had a total of 53 different players show up in their top 10, from 1994-2003.

  • 44 of the 53 (83 percent) made it to the Major Leagues.
  • 14 if the 53 (26 percent) had a career WAR over 10.
  • The combined WAR of the 53 prospects was 438.3 (an average of 8.3).
  • The five highest WARs were as follows: 1) Bobby Abreu: 63.0, 2) Lance Berkman: 60.1, 3) Roy Oswalt: 51.0, 4) Freddy Garcia: 34.4, 5) Carlos Guillen: 26.7

If we take these percentages (still a relatively small sample size) and apply them to the 2013 Top 10, we can predict:

  • Approximately eight of them will make the Major Leagues.
  • Two or three of them will have careers with WARs of 10 or more.
  • There’s a 50 percent chance that one (only one) will develop into a player who has a career WAR above 50 (borderline HOF).

Now, those numbers might not sound encouraging for a franchise whose hopes and dreams lie in their vastly improving farm system, but keep in mind, re-building is a process.

Assume the Astros current re-building process lasts five years, dating back to 2012, Luhnow’s first year with the team, and consider applying the percentages from 94-03 to the five years of Luhnow’s re-building phase.

From 2012-16, the Astros will probably have approximately 25 different players show up on their yearly lists of Top 10 Prospects. Based on the returns from 94-03, we can predict that 20 of those 25 players will at least make it to the Majors. We can also predict around six of those 25 will become 10+ WAR players for their career, meaning they’ll have a few 2+ WAR seasons during their primes. And one of the 25 will become a perennial All-Star.

If the Top 10 Prospects from Luhnow’s five-year re-building plan net the Astros a group of 20 Major Leaguers, six guys who produce a 2+ WAR during their prime, and one legitimate superstar, the franchise will be in pretty good shape, especially considering Luhnow has a good chance to exceed expectations, and these numbers don’t account for prospects 11-30 (Altuve), sneaky FA pick-ups (Maxwell, Harrell), or savvy trades (Lowrie).

I know none of this is exact science, and prospects lists are highly volatile from year-to-year, but it still provides a good snapshot of what to expect, moving forward, and places proper perspective on the 2013 Top Prospects.

Speaking of the 2013 Top 10, I predicted eight to make the Majors, two or three to be above average Major Leaguers, and gave a 50 percent shot of one becoming a superstar. Here’s the top 10, via Baseball America:

1) Correa

2) Singleton

3) Springer

4)McCullers

5)Folty

6) DeShields

7) Cosart

8) Ruiz

9) Tropeano

10) Fontana

Which category would you put each of these guys in? Superstar potential? Above average Major Leaguer? Barely make the Majors? Or never see the Majors?

For all you optimists out there, maybe the 2013 list will be similar to the highly productive 1998 class …

1) Hidalgo (23.7 WAR)

2) Elarton (4.9 WAR)

3) Wade Miller (13.8 WAR)

4) Berkman (60.1 WAR)

5) Daryle Ward (0.0 WAR)

6) Freddy Garcia (34.4 WAR)

7) Carlos Guillen (26.7 WAR)

8) John Halama (8.2 WAR)

9) Ramon Castro (6.3 WAR)

10) Mark Johnson (-0.1 WAR)

All 10 made the Majors, Berkman turned out to be a superstar, and seven of the 10 had at least one season with a WAR of 2+.