Houston Astros 2019 Top 30 MLB Prospects Midseason Update
UPDATE: The Astros Top 30 now includes moves made prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
The Astros are in a relatively enviable position. Even with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa missing significant time, Houston sits in a commanding lead in the American League West thanks to one of the best 1-2 starting pitching combinations in baseball in Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole and an excellent bullpen led by Ryan Pressley, Roberto Osuna and Will Harris.
Rookie designated hitter/first baseman Yordan Alvarez has given the lineup a major boost, and Myles Straw has given the team speed in a utilityman role, but the Astros’ prospects have failed to produce as much this year as initially expected. Coming into the year, there appeared to be one starting rotation spot to hand to Corbin Martin, Forrest Whitley or J.B. Bukauskas, but none have been able to fill that role, which means last offseason’s trade of righthander Trent Thornton to the Blue Jays might have been a little hasty.
Houston has a slew of pitchers with power arms and high strikeout rates in the minors, but so far, they have struggled to get those pitchers over the hump to have major league success. Houston’s rotation is thin, but the team has the pitching and position player prospect depth—most notably outfielder Kyle Tucker—to be busy before the trade deadline.
1. Forrest Whitley, RHP
It’s been an awful 2019 for one of baseball’s best pitching prospects. He was repeatedly shelled in Triple-A, sent to the injured list and now has been hit around by Rookie-ball hitters in his first Gulf Coast League rehab start.
2. Kyle Tucker, OF
Tucker seems further from Houston than he was 15 months ago in spring training. Michael Brantley’s arrival and Alvarez’s emergence leaves him plugging away in Triple-A, but he’s still only 22 years old with plus power potential.
3. Bryan Abreu, RHP
Abreu’s breaking ball is an absolute weapon, and his 92-95 mph fastball is quite firm as well. He dominated Class A, but he has struggled after a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi.
4. Freudis Nova, SS
The Astros have worked on getting Nova comfortable all around the infield this year, but he’s still a true shortstop with plenty of athleticism and offensive potential. However, he has to tone down his extreme aggressiveness at the plate.
5. Jairo Solis, RHP
It’s easy to forget about Solis since he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, but Solis remains one of the better pitching prospects in the Astros’ organization.
6. Abraham Toro, 3B
Yet another bat-first position prospect among several in the upper levels of the Astros’ organization, Toro has improved to be a potentially fringe-average defender at third base, and he’s trying to prove he can fill in at second base, as well. While he’s fringy defensively, he makes tons of hard, solid contact at the plate.
7. Garrett Stubbs, C
8. Jose Urquidy, RHP
9. Jeremy Pena, SS
10. Myles Straw, SS/OF
11. Cristian Javier, RHP
12. Ronnie Dawson, OF
13. Korey Lee, C
14. Jonathan Arauz, SS
15. Grae Kessinger, SS
16. Cal Stevenson, OF
17. Brandon Bielak, RHP
18. Tyler Ivey, RHP
19. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP
20. Jordan Brewer, OF
21. Enoli Paredes, RHP
22. Shawn Dubin, RHP
23. Luis Santana, 2B
24. Manny Ramirez, RHP
25. Peter Solomon, RHP
26. Jojanse Torres, RHP
27. Andre Scrubb, RHP
28. Jose A. Rivera, RHP
29. Luis Garcia, RHP
30. Taylor Jones, 1B
Blake Taylor Emerges As High-Leverage Option
The veteran lefthander changed his approach to become a valuable weapon out of the bullpen.
RHP Jose Urquidy found an extra 2-4 mph when he returned from Tommy John surgery this year, but it’s his plus command that has helped him move up the ranks extremely quickly. He’s even made a pair of spot starts for the big league club, filling the void left by Whitley, Martin and Bukauskas’ inability to fill that role. His fastball is plenty firm and his changeup has improved.
SS Jeremy Pena is bigger and stronger this year and he’s simplified his swing. It’s paid off as the glove-first college shortstop is now an above-average defender who is showing signs he can also hit.
RHP Jose Alberto Rivera is yet another potential success story among the Astros’ predilection for signing older international amateur pitchers and helping them add velocity. Rivera is now getting into the mid- and upper 90s and could end up developing into a useful bullpen arm.
RHP Jojanse Torres has well-below-average control, but he can regularly touch 100 mph or better, and when everything clicks, his slider is a wipeout pitch as well.
RHP Forrest Whitley has spent a month and a half on the injured list with what was described as shoulder fatigue, but it’s hard to find a scout or front office official with other organizations who views it as anything other than a mental reset after he was repeatedly rocked in his first eight appearances. After not making the Astros’ Opening Day rotation, scouts who saw Whitley’s outings with Triple-A Round Rock said they didn’t see his usual focus and competitiveness.
Overall, Whitley’s stuff has ranged from every bit of what teams saw last year to 92-93 mph with less arm speed and a much less impressive breaking ball than normal. His 2019 season is an enigma so far, but it’s easy to find plenty of scouts who expect that this is just a blip for a pitcher with some of the best pure stuff in the minors.
RHP Jayson Schroeder’s control has completely deserted him.
1B/LF J.J. Matijevic hasn’t produced to the expectations of a defensively limited bat-first corner bat.
RHP Peter Solomon is also sidelined with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
RHP Jairo Solis continues to recover from last year’s Tommy John surgery.
RHP Josh James’ wildness has somewhat negated his ability to consistently miss bats, but he has been a durable member of the Astros’ bullpen.
LHP Framber Valdez has filled a variety of roles for the Astros, switching between working as a low-leverage reliever, a higher-leverage reliever and a fill-in starter.
LHP Reymin Guduan has been ineffective in the Astros’ bullpen, but he’s made enough appearances to graduate from prospect eligibility.