Jose Altuve smiled approvingly when asked about Double-A Corpus Christi outfielder Drew Gilbert.
The eight-time all-star had just returned from a rehab assignment with the Hooks, and Gilbert clearly left a positive impression on Altuve.
“He’s ready, man,” Altuve said of Gilbert. “Wow, beautiful swing. He made some good plays.”
Altuve gave his scouting report on Gilbert almost 12 years after he was called up to the majors directly from Corpus.
Because of the sanctions MLB levied against the Astros for the 2017 sign-stealing scandal, Houston had no first-round pick in 2020 or 2021. Gilbert, drafted 28th overall last year out of Tennessee, was the Astros’ first first-round pick since 2019.
As the Astros’ system has been depleted by graduations and penalties, the organization desperately needed to hit on that pick. Gilbert’s early results answered in the affirmative.
“There’s a lot to like,” Astros farm director Sara Goodrum said. “First and foremost, he’s a hard worker. He’s a great player. He’s a good teammate and he’s talented all around . . .
“He brings out the best in everyone around him as well.”
The 22-year-old Gilbert hit .361 with six home runs in 21 games for High-A Asheville this year before earning a promotion to Corpus. Through 12 games in the Texas League he hit .317/.417/.463.
“I really love the way (he plays),” Altuve said. “Him and a few more guys on that team are ready to play in the big leagues. I can tell you that. If you want to see the future of the Astros, go there.”
Gilbert can play all three outfield positions but focuses his time in center field and right, where his plus arm plays. He was a two-way player in his first two collegiate seasons, making 11 relief appearances.
The Astros are in a much different position now than they were when Altuve made his big league debut as a 21-year-old in 2011. They have superstars in left and right field with Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker.
Gilbert might one day be the answer in center.