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Josh James Completes Climb To Houston

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BEST PLAYER

Outfielder Kyle Tucker’s introduction to the major leagues was unflattering, because he was unable to approach the lavish success he enjoyed at Triple-A Fresno.

Though he hit .154  by going 8-for-52 in the major leagues, Tucker struck 24 home runs and 27 doubles in the Pacific Coast League.

After he was optioned back to Triple-A a second time on Aug. 21, Tucker went 17 for his next 32 with seven home runs. He hit a walk-off home run to give Fresno a division title, too.

General manager Jeff Luhnow acknowledged Tucker will be part of September roster expansion, but it will be difficult for Tucker to crack the playoff roster. Still, his .989 OPS at Fresno, in his first full season there, was a continuation of the 21-year-old’s ascent.

BEST PITCHER

A strikeout-filled season for Fresno righthander Josh James propelled the 34th-round pick in 2014 to Houston as a September callup.

The 25-year-old product of Western Oklahoma State JC is a candidate for spot starts with expanded September rosters, especially after Lance McCullers Jr.’s trip to the disabled list.

James' ERA hovered near 5.00 through his first four pro seasons, but he credits offseason surgery to correct sleep apnea for an uptick in his velocity in 2018. James now throws in the high 90s, and Luhnow said that James has touched 100 mph.

Promoted to Triple-A in May, James recorded six double-digit strikeout games, the first Fresno pitcher to notch five or more since 2005. In 23 combined appearances (21 starts) at Double-A and Triple-A, James struck out 171 in 114.1 innings to go along with a 3.23 ERA.

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Pacific Coast League Top 20 Prospects For 2019

Considering the state of offense in the PCL, it's no surprise 15 of the 20 best prospects are bats.

KEEP AN EYE ON

The Astros made Dominican shortstop Freudis Nova a priority during the 2016 international signing period. He fetched $1.2 million and has started to fulfill the hype associated with that bonus.

Now 18 and in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Nova hit .308/.331/.466 with six home runs and nine stolen bases in 41 games. Farm director Pete Putila lauded his compact swing which has "burgeoning power.” His relay throws from shortstop have been clocked at 95 mph, too.

"His biggest flaw is that he’s a little more aggressive at the plate than we’d like,” Putila said. "But he‘s shown an adjustment and, quite frankly, makes contact with most everything he swings at.”

This season, Nova struck out just 21 times in 147 at-bats, while drawing six walks, highlighting his over-aggressive hitting approach.

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