2023 Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects Chat

Geoff Pontes hosted a chat to discuss the Astros system. You can read the transcript here.


     Hey Geoff! I’m sure I’m not the only one asking about this player, but how close was Colin Barber to making the top 10? When healthy (and it’s not often) he seems to show solid tools. Are consistent injury concerns keeping him from the top? Thank you!

Geoff Pontes: The shoulder issues are concerning, and he struggles to hit the ball in the air with impact to his pull-side. Due to the nature of Barber’s swing there’s a lot of hard hit line drives the other way. He does have above-average bat-to-ball and approach, with supporting skills. He was in iterations of the Top 10, but settled at 11.

Jake (Hou):

     What’s the best one can reasonably hope for out of Forrest Whitley at this point?

Geoff Pontes: I think a major leaguer. No matter what the role is, you’d be happy with any outcome that sees him rack up 200+ career innings. There’s still things to like but the hop on the fastball looks like it’s gone.

Bob (Tex):

     Should the Astros have Leon repeat AAA and see if he has some upside as a regular or just embrace his utility player future and see if his speed and versatility helps the big club off the bench?

Geoff Pontes: I do think Leon begins the season back in Triple-A. A big reason is he’s not on the 40 man roster and no decision is needed until after the 2024 season. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if he debuts fairly early this season. He’s most likely a bench outfielder as the infield defense is likely too poor to be useable outside of the most extreme situations. He gets on-base, has power and plus-plus speed, seems like a perfect player off the bench. The profile reminds me a little of Drew Stubbs.

Trey (New Braunfels):

     Will Joe Perez remain a 3B and will Luke Berryhill remain a Catcher? Can either one hit their way into the majors?

Geoff Pontes: The answer is likely no for both, Perez has the arm but I think there’s some questions around his ability to handle third outside of throwing. Berryhill’s best fit is likely as a utility player that can catch. I think Perez can hit his way back to the majors, it was a weird year. He was good after missing two months with an oblique. He hit .282/.348/.427 with 15 doubles and 5 home runs upon returning. Dating back to high school Perez has dealt with so many injuries. Many view that as his biggest risk factor.

Toy (New York):

     Given his numerous setbacks, where do the Astros see Forrest Whitley now? He is 25 now and is several years removed from being atop the prospect lists. Does he still have the quality to perhaps be a late blooming MLB starter? It seemed like he got hit hard at AAA last season after returning from a long injury layoff.

Geoff Pontes: He’s still on the 40 man roster and is running short on options. I think 2023 is a make or break year for Whitley. There’s still a deep pitch mix but the quality has disappeared in recent years. I think you would be happy with a one inning reliever at this point. The Astros seem to be preaching consistency with Whitley’s training and diet. There seems to be some disconnect there.

Scott (Boston):

     What are scouts saying about Jaime Melendez? And is he really only 5’ 8”?

Geoff Pontes: Scouts love the fastball quality, it’s a good pitch and they like the changeup, but neither of his breaking balls are very good. His command is poor and there’s some concerns around his mechanics. If he can find even below-average command Melendez can likely be a potential weapon out of the bullpen. He’s still very young and some of these concerns could work themselves out, but it was a sizable step backwards in 2022. Yes, he’s 5-foot-8, which actually helps his fastball shape play up.

John (NJ):

     How close was Zach Daniels to the top 10? Injuries have been a concern, but he bounced back nicely last year. Is it due to playing the entire year in a sandbox where his production is devalued?

Geoff Pontes: Hi John and thanks for the question. His injuries are a concern but more so the well below-average contact skills. He does a decent job of getting on-base and hitting for power but will he be able to consistently do that against quality pitching as he moves up? Evaluators I spoke with said no. That said it’s the Astros and they have transformed lesser talents.

Warren (New London):

     David Hensley went from off the list to 5, which is quite a feat at his age, and Justin Dirden also made a big jump. Can you think of anyone who might make a similar leap this year—perhaps someone you liked but couldn’t put as high as you wanted to based on the feedback you were getting?

Geoff Pontes: Hi Warren – Personally I believe that Hensley should have been on the list a year ago. Early in the season when I made contact with sources within the Astros – and opposing scouts that covered the Astros – they felt our two most glaring omissions were Hensley and Dirden. Hensley is being undervalued still which is remarkable. He can hit, get on-base and handle a variety of positions. Classic Astros breakout type. Dirden is fun, they signed him as an NDFA and he has grown by leaps and bounds as a player. The most common refrain from those within the organization on Dirden is “Even he didn’t know how good he was.” He’s a better athlete than people realize and he has a good balance of skills at the plate. I’d place my bets on Kenedy Corona, probably their best defensive outfielder and he made a swing change in 2022 that unlocked a new level of game power. The other is Quincy Hamilton. Both of them are inside the Top 30.

MLBFan (Texas):

     Feels like Astros prospects tend to outperform expectations more than most teams once they become big leaguers (including many they trade). Agree? What other organizations would you say this about? What organizations prospects tend to underperform?

Geoff Pontes: I absolutely agree, one of the best parts of covering this system is realizing there are players who aren’t as highly regarded on the public side as they should be. ‘ I don’t think anyone is on the Astros level, but maybe the Dodgers and Cleveland are? The Blue Jays? Did anyone think Manoah or Kirk would be this good? I would probably have to dig a little deeper. Great question.

Kyle (Las Vegas):

     Can Justin Dirden etch out a similar career path as Evan Gattis? Just like Gattis, he’s a big power bat tearing throught the minors who’s due to come up in his mid 20’s.

Geoff Pontes: I think he’s probably more like Adam Duvall. He has the ability to play in the outfield everyday and provide some value in the field. He has power but there’s some bat-to-ball skills too and approach.

Oscar G (Austin):

     Joe Perez and Colin Barber are two guys who’ve missed considerable time with injuries in their careers. Are both healthy entering 2023?

Geoff Pontes: Hey Oscar! I wish I knew. It’s hard to bet on either seeing 130+ games, that said if they do find health all year they could see their stock rise.

Kenny (Marble Falls):

     After a successful Arizona Fall League season, a bit surprised not to see Will Wagner in the top 10. What does he need to show in 2023 to advance his prospect status?

Geoff Pontes: Wagner needs to show that the power he flashed inn the AFL was real. The organization made a point to communicate he was a Top 30 prospect early last season but with a full and talented draft class he moved down a little. There’s some concern that what you see is what you get with Wagner. He’s an advanced hitter who knows the strike zone, it’s just a matter of getting to average game power to make the profile work. He’s limited somewhat defensively so he must hit to earn everyday consideration in the big leagues. He’s inside the Top 20.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Of the pitchers moving up to full season ball from the Latin leagues or the FCL, who are your favorites?

Geoff Pontes: Jose Fleury. I love the operation and the four-pitch mix, he’s only low-90s now but it’s good shape and based on his operation and age I think he could take a step forward in terms of velocity in the coming years. His changeup is also a legit plus pitch, it dominated in 2022. More on him in the Top 30!

James (NC):

     What do you make of Joey Loperfido? Another site put him in their top 10 and I’m wondering if he was close on yours? His BABIP was really high, so I’m wondering how much the hit tool actually improved. Love what you are doing at BA! I’ve been following your work for a long time.

Geoff Pontes: I like Loperfido’s bat, he gets on base, has bat speed as his hands fire quick and has shown the ability to turn on a pitch and drive it to his pull-side. The questions I have come defensively. He’s played all over and many in the organization think he ends up at first base long term. He’s well inside the top 20, but wasn’t in the conversation for the Top 10. Good year, let’s see where it goes in 2023 and see what the feedback is then is where I am at.

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