Catching can dominate talk about the Astros’ farm system.
Houston drafted Korey Lee out of California in the first round in 2019. He now ranks among the organization’s top prospects.
Nine rounds later, the Astros selected Southern California catcher CJ Stubbs, who is the younger brother of Garrett Stubbs, who was drafted by Houston in 2015 and made his big league debut in 2019. Both brothers attended USC.
Now, the younger Stubbs’ stock is rising in the system.
He began the 2021 season at Double-A Corpus Christi, a level ahead of Lee. After assimilating well during his first minor league season in 2019, the 24-year-old Stubbs shined in both instructional league and minor league spring training, giving the Astros optimism at a position they’ve had questions about.
“He’s somebody who could make some noise when you look up at the performance and the fact that he’s a catcher,” Astros assistant general manager Pete Putila said.
The Astros drafted Stubbs in the 10th round in 2019, betting on the projectability of a player who endured a circuitous college career. He started out as a two-way player, pitching on Tuesday nights and catching on Fridays and Saturdays. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound backstop had Tommy John surgery in 2018, ending his pitching days in favor of a career behind the plate.
Though older brother Garrett bats lefthanded and CJ from the right side, Putila notices a resemblance in the brothers’ swings. Both have a very simple setup with little movement, allowing them to be direct to the ball.
CJ hit .249/.340/.459 in 55 games across short-season Tri-City and Low-A Quad Cities in 2019. He struck out 50 times and worked 22 walks. Twenty of his 46 hits went for extra bases.
Putila called CJ Stubbs’ defense “sold-average, at least” and lauded the quickness he displays behind the plate. He caught 25% of basestealers in 2019 with what Putila called a “solid arm.”
— Kenedy Corona, a 21-year-old center fielder acquired from the Mets as part of the Jake Marisnick trade in 2019, showed “legit” defensive ability and good in-game power during minor league spring training, Putila said. Corona slugged .470 and posted an .868 OPS in 263 plate appearances during his only minor league season in 2019.
— Touted center field prospect Pedro Leon will begin the season at Double-A Corpus Christi and receive ample playing time at shortstop.