When I wrote the system up in the winter, it felt like it was starting to thin out after last year’s trades and recent MLB promotions. That’s not the case, though. The Astros have some of the best pitching depth in baseball, with a few potential everyday hitters sprinkled in.
1. Kyle Tucker | RF | AAA —> The Astros have recently promoted this 21-year-old outfielder after he produced excellent triple-A numbers. With Marwin Gonzalez under-producing in his walk year, this move will give the Astros a spark while also auditioning Tucker for a full-time gig in 2019. There will be some growing pains in ’18 if he sticks around but he has 20-20 (HR-SB) upside.
2. Forrest Whitley | RHP | AA —> Between a suspension and injuries, 2018 has mostly been a lost year for the Astros’ top pitching prospect. When he’s pitched, though, he’s continued to look like a potential top-of-the-rotation arm.
3. Yordan Alvarez | 1B | AA —> This slugging first baseman recently earned a promotion to triple-A. While he’s spent some time in the outfield, his lack of mobility should keep him to a 1B/DH role in the Majors — likely as Evan Gattis’ eventual replacement. He’s hit for both power and average in the minors but he’ll likely see his batting average dip in The Show as his BABIP normalizes from the extreme highs he’s shown in the minors.
4. Corbin Martin | RHP | AA —> Martin was selected 56th overall in the 2017 draft but has passed first round selection J.B. Bukaukas (who was taken 15th overall). The former should eventually showcase four average-or-better offerings but it’s his fastball-slider combo that should find him the most success. I see a No. 2-3 starter here if he continues to miss bats and induce ground-balls at a high rate.
5. Jorge Alcala | RHP | AA —> I haven’t been a huge fan of the Astros’ drafting over the past few years but the organization has been consistently strong in its efforts on the international market. Alcala is overpowering with his heater but the secondary stuff needs work. My gut says he’s going to end up in the bullpen, perhaps as a multi-inning reliever with high-leverage abilities.
6. Seth Beer | 1B | SS —> The Astros don’t shy away from drafting one-dimensional sluggers in the top rounds (see A.J. Reed) and Beer is latest addition. He’s put up some impressive numbers early on in his career but he’s also been beating up on mostly younger competition. There is upside here but I’m remaining a little skeptical until I see his AA/AAA performances.
7. Cionel Perez | LHP | AA —> Perez, 22, isn’t overpowering but he has an advanced feel for pitching and does a nice job of commanding his four-pitch mix. He can reach back with his heater to hit the mid-90s, which is nice to see from the left side, but he’ll need to mix in all his offerings to continue to be successful. He’s likely has No. 3-4 starter upside.
8. Hector Perez | RHP | A+ —> Inconsistent control continues to keep Perez from jumping on the fast track. He has an outstanding fastball and two promising breaking balls so the stuff is there to be a No. 2-3 starter. Like Jorge Alcala above, though, his future may be in the bullpen as a high-leverage arm.
9. Josh James | RHP | AAA —> A former 34th round pick, James’ value has skyrocketed and he’s showing consistent success at the triple-A level. His lack of a reliable third pitch tempers his ceiling a bit but the changeup should be good enough to keep him in the starting rotation as a No. 4 guy. He misses bats with his heater and slider, while inducing a strong number of ground balls.
10. J.B. Bukauskas | RHP | SS —> In an organization filled with hard-throwers, Bukaukas stands out as one of the best. Paired with his plus slider, he can be overpowering at times. Unfortunately, he struggles with his command/control, lacks size and has a violent delivery. Combined, those question marks are enough to project a future bullpen role.
Cristian Javier | RHP | A+ —> The Astros tend to sign and develop a lot of really hard throwing pitchers but Javier has had immense success while working in the low-90s. He also spins two impressive breaking balls.
Jairo Solis | RHP | A —> A raw project, Solis has the potential to be a stud if he continues to get stronger and polish his secondary offerings. Just 18, he’s already succeeding at the low-A ball but he needs to find more consistency with his delivery and throw more strikes.
Freudis Nova | IF | R —> Signed for more than a $1 million on the open market, Nova has shown natural hitting ability and could eventually add above-average pop. He’s also a good runner and a strong fielder. His free-swinging ways threaten to temper his bat as he moves up.