2017 Houston Astros Midseason Top 10 Prospects
One of the Astros greatest strengths been the organization’s willingness to simply not care about narratives.
|Astros Midseason Top 10|
|1. Kyle Tucker, OF|
|2. Franklin Perez, RHP|
|3. Francis Martes, RHP|
|4. Derek Fisher, OF|
|5. Forrest Whitley, RHP|
|6. Yordan Alvarez, 1B|
|7. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP|
|8. Teoscar Hernandez, OF|
|9. J.D. Davis, 3B|
|10. Garrett Stubbs, C|
Three straight sub-60 win teams meant the Astros were the embarrassment of the league in many ways. But the front office kept its eyes on the long-term, trusting that eventually winning would rebuild the fan base.
Even after whiffing on first overall pick Mark Appel (later traded to the Phillies), the team was willing to watch Brady Aiken, the No. 1 pick in the next draft, walk away the following year. Offering him a reduced deal that Aiken turned down after an MRI found an abnormality in his elbow ligament, the Astros took public scorn in exchange for receiving the compensatory No. 2 pick in the following draft.
The Astros may have taken a public relations hit, but they landed Alex Bregman, now their everyday third baseman, with that compensatory pick as well as current top prospect Kyle Tucker in the first round of the next draft.
This year has been the big payoff for the tanking years. Houston has had the best record in baseball for most of the first half of the season (the Dodgers passed them just before the all-star break). With a massive 16.5 game lead in the American League West at the all-star break, Houston has the luxury of using the second half to prep for the playoffs rather than fight for a spot.
And the farm system’s depth means the Astros can be involved in any deadline deal they are interested in. The team is deep in upper-level athletic outfielders (Tucker, Derek Fisher, Teoscar Hernandez), has a surplus of third basemen (J.D. Davis and Colin Moran) and plenty of talented young arms (Francis Martes, Forrest Whitley and Franklin Perez most notably).
What the Astros will look for is more open to debate–what do you get the team that already has everything? They already have the best offense in the AL and one of the best pitching staffs. Acquiring a front-of-rotation ace would be the biggest potential item on the shopping list, and one they have the trade ammunition to get.
1. Kyle Tucker, OF Double-A Corpus Christi Age: 20
The Astros doubled up on $4 million high school outfielders in the 2015 draft. Daz Cameron has come along slowly, but Tucker has met every expectation and proven to be one of the best young hitters in the minors. The only question for Tucker coming into the year was his power production, and he’s responded by slugging .551 at two different stops while maintaining the high contact approach that’s been his calling card.
2. Franklin Perez, RHP High Class A Buies Creek Age: 19
A minor knee injury slowed down Perez after an outstanding start to the season. He’s back in fine form now, combining plus stuff with extremely advanced understanding of his craft for his age. Even at 19, Perez is a pitcher rather than a thrower.
3. Francis Martes, RHP Houston Age: 21
Martes waistline has gotten thicker, which has led to more and more scouts uttering concerns about how well he’ll hold up and repeat his delivery. His control has taken a big step back this year, and Martes’ response so far has been to try to throw harder, which hasn’t worked. He's had more success since being promoted to Houston in June.
4. Derek Fisher, OF Triple-A Fresno Age: 23
Fisher has shown steady improvement every year as a pro. This year, he’s traded off some patience at the plate (and on-base percentage) to do more damage earlier in counts. It’s been a good tradeoff, as his power-speed combo and athleticism play very well in an outfielder corner.
5. Forrest Whitley, RHP High Class A Buies Creek Age: 19
Of the first-round high school pitchers of last year’s draft class, none has had a more impressive first full pro season than Whitley. The 6-foot-7 behemoth, working exclusively from the stretch, has pitched his way out of the Midwest League and dominated with a 91-96 mph fastball, plus breaking ball and wicked changeup.
6. Yordan Alvarez, 1B High Class A Buies Creek Age: 20
Alvarez’s advanced hitting approach was apparent last year in the Dominican Summer League, but this spring his power has emerged. He’s rocketed balls around the Midwest and Carolina Leagues, showing the potential to be the rare plus hitter who also has plus power.
7. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP Not Yet Assigned Age: 21
Bukauskas’ slider was considered by many to be the best breaking ball in the 2017 draft. Coming off of 92.2 innings with North Carolina this spring, Bukauskas has yet to make his pro debut, but he could move quickly as a college pitcher with plenty of experience and an impressive fastball-slider combo.
8. Teoscar Hernandez, OF Triple-A Fresno Age: 24
By standing still with a solid but unspectacular first half at Triple-A Fresno, Hernandez has been passed by Fisher on the Astros’ outfield depth chart. He’s been fine this year and is a better defender than Fisher, but when left field potentially opens up next spring, Fisher’s superior offensive production gives him the edge.
9. J.D. Davis, 3B Double-A Corpus Christi Age: 24
Davis was given a tough assignment this spring. With Colin Moran headed back to Triple-A, Davis was sent back to Corpus Christi, where he’d spent all of 2016. He’s responded well, showing increased power in a repeat trip as well as one of the minors’ best infield arms.
10. Garrett Stubbs, C Double-A Corpus Christi Age: 24
The biggest question Stubbs faces is his durability. He’s a slight-bodied catcher with excellent defensive ability. So far, so good this year—Stubbs is on pace to catch more than 80 games. The down side is that Stubbs hasn't hit this season; a career .298 hitter entering the year, he's hit around .240 much of the season, with one homer since April.
• OF Myles Straw has the speed, defense and bat-on-ball skills to be a useful future big league outfielder. He’s a career .322 hitter thanks to his hand-eye coordination and his plus-plus speed.
• RHP Rogelio Armenteros’ combination of savvy and solid stuff from his five-pitch mix (he’ll touch 95) has helped him climb to Triple-A.
• 3B Colin Moran has bounced back by showing the power that has been lacking since he signed as a pro thanks to a retooled swing that allows him to lift the ball a lot more. Moran’s single-season high for home runs before this year was 10. He had 18 at the MLB all-star break this year for Triple-A Fresno. Now he’s getting a chance in Houston with Carlos Correa sidelined by a thumb injury.
• 1B A.J. Reed’s star has faded. Two years ago, he was playing well enough at Double-A to be considered a candidate to be the Astros’ first baseman for Opening Day 2016. Right now, it’s hard to see him being called up this September. Reed’s value is all tied in the bat and he's having the worst year of his career, walking less, striking out more and with a career-low batting average.
•1B Yulieski Gurriel took a while to acclimate to the big leagues, but he’s been on a roll since June 1 and is now a very productive member of the best lineup in baseball.
• RHP James Hoyt has given up too many home runs but a sparking 53-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings is a positive sign going forward.
• RHP David Paulino was suspended 80 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
• SS Jonathan Arauz was suspended 50 games after testing positive for methamphetamine.
J.B. Bukauskas Flourishes In Bullpen This Spring
Bukauskas dominated this spring, but he's new to relieving and the club wants him to continue his success in the minors after struggling in 2019.
• RHP Brady Rodgers is recovering from Tommy John surgery.