Best Player: OF Kyle Tucker
The Astros’ top prospect tapped into the power the organization felt he exhibited when it drafted him fifth overall in 2015, and the 20-year-old finished his season with 25 home runs across two levels, shattering the total of nine he hit in all of 2016.
Tucker played his final 72 games at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he figures to also begin next year. The lefthanded hitter endured a slump that he broke out of late in the season and finished with a .265/.325/.512 batting line with 16 home runs in 287 Texas League at-bats.
It wasn’t long after his arrival in Double-A before Corpus Christi manager Rodney Linares moved him to the No.3 spot in the Hooks’ lineup. “I think Kyle’s going to be an elite hitter,” Linares said.
Best Pitcher: RHP Forrest Whitley
In his first full professional season and only a year removed from pitching in high school, Whitley shot through the farm system and finished at least a level higher than expected.
After beginning the season in low Class A Quad Cities, Whitley pitched just seven times in high Class Class A Buies Creek before he was promoted to Corpus Christi. Once in the Texas League, last year’s 17th overall draft pick continued to show why he’s the Astros’ best pitching prospect.
Whitley, who complements a mid-90s fastball with a curveball, slider and changeup, had a 1.84 ERA in four outings spanning 14.2 innings in Double-A to cap his season. The 6-foot-7 righthander struck out 26 batters in his short time in the Texas League, a continuation of the eye-popping strikeout numbers he posted in the Midwest League (13.0 per nine) and the Carolina League (14.4 per nine).
“He’s got a world of talent,” Linares said. “I think what makes him so effective is not only does he have the overpowering fastball but the secondary pitches.”
Whitley should begin next season back in Double-A. Considering how this season went, it seems foolish to put any limitation on where he will finish it.
Keep An Eye On: RHP Hector Perez
Perez spent most of this season at Buies Creek, where he had a 3.63 ERA and struck out 104 batters in 89.1 innings. The 21-year-old runs his fastball up to 97 mph and complements it with a slider, curveball and splitter.
How well he learns to control those pitches will be pivotal to his development. Perez is one of nearly 50 players on the roster for the Astros’ instructional league at their spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.