Houston Astros 2020 Midseason Top 30 Prospects Update
STATE OF THE SYSTEM
The Astros already have one World Series title and came a win away from a second last October. But with free agency looming for multiple stars and the aces of the pitching staff getting older, Houston might be entering the tail end of a title window. As such, the farm system must now help the big league roster, either directly or by providing talent for trades. There is significant skepticism in a number of opposing front offices about the value of Astros’ pitchers at the lower levels. That feeling largely arises from the fact that multiple hard-throwing, high-strikeout rate Astros’ pitchers have flamed out or disappointed after being traded. But the sheer number of flame-throwers provides plenty of trade chips if there is a trade market (in a year when 16 teams make the playoffs, it could be difficult to find a trade partner). Long term, the Astros’ loss of their first- and second-round picks in both 2020 and 2021 will significantly hurt the team’s efforts to replenish the system, though their efforts on the international market should ease the sting.
1. Forrest Whitley, RHP
This was supposed to be a pivotal year for Whitley. The cancellation of the minor league season wipes away his chance to get 20 starts to work through his control and delivery issues. Whitley has lost some weight, which seems to have helped the consistency of his delivery during his work in summer camp. The stuff is still electric. He might pitch in Houston in 2020, but he likely won’t make an impact until he improves his control and command.
2. Jose Urquidy, RHP
Urquidy has been sidelined throughout camp for undisclosed reasons. When asked, Astros’ GM James Click has said he is not allowed to comment on why Urquidy is absent. Urquidy has just resumed baseball activities and should step back into the rotation whenever he is ready.
3. Jeremy Peña, SS
Peña is one of the Astros’ minor leaguers most hurt by the cancellation of the minor league season. He would have been looking to build on a breakout 2019 season, but instead he is left to rely on training programs and workouts because he is not on the club’s 60-player pool.
4. Freudis Nova, SS
Nova has 75 games in full-season ball, but as a 2016 international signee he’ll be Rule 5 eligible if he’s not added to the 40-man roster this offseason. If Jonathan Arauz can be picked and stick in the Rule 5 draft, Nova’s high-upside ceiling will make him vital to protect.
5. Bryan Abreu, RHP
Abreu made the Astros’ bullpen for Opening Day. He already showed what he could do in seven impressive appearances for Houston last September. The Astros have groomed Abreu as a starter, but he’s trending toward potentially filling a long-term role in the pen, where his curveball plays best.
6. Abraham Toro, 3B/2B
Toro hits wherever he plays. He’s not going to push Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve or Yuli Gurriel aside, but he’s a useful bench bat. Toro seems pretty blocked in Houston because the club has long-term answers at third and second, but he provides useful depth at multiple positions.
7. Korey Lee, C
Lee, the club’s 2019 first-rounder, will be the Astros’ last first-round pick until at least 2022. The Astros really believe in Lee’s power and discernment at the plate, while other teams have been more skeptical. He won’t make his full-season debut until 2021.
8. Cristian Javier, RHP
The Astros have dozens of pitchers who throw harder than Javier, but he made the club’s Opening Day roster because his low-90s fastball plays so well thanks to its vertical movement and his deceptive delivery. The Astros’ bullpen is somewhat unsettled to start the year, so Javier will get a shot to show he belongs for more than just a brief stint.
9. Hunter Brown, RHP
Brown was one of the Astros’ bigger breakout prospects in 2019. Now, he’ll have to wait until 2021 to feature his high-90s fastball against more advanced full-season hitters.
10. Grae Kessinger, SS
Kessinger struggled at the plate in his pro debut, but that could somewhat be chalked up to the grind of playing half of a pro season after a full season at Ole Miss. Kessinger has tried to make the layoff beneficial by working to add more strength for the 2021 season.
11. Tyler Ivey, RHP
12. Alex Santos, RHP
13. Jordan Brewer, OF
14. Luis Garcia, RHP
15. Jairo Solis, RHP
16. Brandon Bielak, RHP
17. Colin Barber, OF
18. Jojanse Torres, RHP
19. Jose Alberto Rivera, RHP
20. Enoli Paredes, RHP
21. Shawn Dubin, RHP
22. Jairo Lopez, RHP
23. Tyler Brown, RHP
24. Brett Conine, RHP
25. Blair Henley, RHP
26. Nivaldo Rodriguez, RHP
27. Garrett Stubbs, C
28. Peter Solomon, RHP
29. Brandon Bailey, RHP
30. Taylor Jones, 1B
Houston’s ability to develop velocity and sharpen breaking balls ensures a seemingly never-ending wave of hard-throwing pitching prospects. Paredes is the one who stepped up this summer, but there’s another wave of arms climbing through the system. The Astros have seen RHP Forrest Whitley’s development stagnate in the past two seasons, but RHP Jose Urquidy’s development has helped fill that need.
The system is lacking in hitters who project as MLB regulars. That is not a significant issue right now because Houston’s MLB lineup remains very deep, but it could become a long-term problem. OFs Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick and George Springer are all free agents after this season. SS Carlos Correa will hit free agency after the 2021 season.
PLAYER POOL TIDBITS
RHP Enoli Paredes earned a spot on the Astros’ Opening Day roster after an impressive summer camp. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and his changeup has been very effective, giving him a fourth pitch to go with his pair of breaking balls. 3B/2B Abraham Toro might get some extra bats in the early going for Houston with Yordan Alvarez sidelined. C Garrett Stubbs earned a roster spot as the club’s third catcher. His versatility helps him in that role because he has shown he can also fill in at a variety of other positions. 1B Taylor Jones also made the roster as a pinch-hitting option and was called to the big leagues during the season’s opening weekend. RHP Brandon Bailey was lost to the Orioles in the 2019 Rule 5 draft, but Baltimore sent him back during spring training. He rebounded and ended up making Houston’s Opening Day roster. Two other players the Astros lost in the Rule 5 draft, Jonathan Arauz (Red Sox) and Yohan Ramirez (Mariners) also made Opening Day rosters.
RHPs Jose Urquidy and Shawn Dubin have been placed on the injured list for undisclosed reasons, although both were cleared to resume baseball activities on July 24. RHP Rogelio Armenteros is on the injured list as he continues to recover from March surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow.