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Track Record: After being one of the fastest-moving prep pitchers in recent history in his first full pro season in 2017, Whitley's climb to the majors slowed to a crawl in 2018. A 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug held him out until June. Upon returning to Double-A Corpus Christi, he was pulled from an early July start with an oblique injury that forced him to miss the Futures Game. He missed more than a month and then was shut down again in late August with a lat muscle injury. He made an impressive return in the Arizona Fall League (in one outing, he struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced) but his injuries meant he threw fewer than 60 innings all year. Scouting Report: It's hard to remember that Whitley once raised concerns from scouts because of his poor conditioning. He slimmed down as a high school senior and continues to be long, lean, athletic and limber. Whitley gets plenty of angle on his fastball thanks to his height and an over-the-top release point. His delivery is relatively clean, but his arm is so fast that his delivery has recoil even though he has a long deceleration into his finish. Whitley's stuff is as good or better than any other minor league pitcher because he has so many quality offerings. He has a chance to be the ultimate rarity--a pitcher with five plus-or-better offerings. It all begins with a 93-97 mph fastball he can run and cut. It has touched 100 mph in shorter outings, but the movement he gets on it makes it a plus-plus pitch. He also throws a plus, 90-92 mph cutter that is a distinctly separate pitch, with enough late movement to shatter bats and sometimes miss them. Whitley uses both a high-spin curveball and high-spin slider, both of which are plus pitches with power and depth, but his best secondary pitch is a plus-plus, 83-85 mph changeup with separation and outstanding late drop. He can throw it either for strikes or as a chase pitch and should be equally effective against righties and lefties. The Future: Like any young pitcher, Whitley has to stay healthy, but if he does, he has No. 1 starter potential. He's the best pitching prospect in the minors and some scouts say he is the most promising pitching prospect they have seen.
Track Record: Nicknamed "Ted"for his resemblance to a young Ted Williams, Tucker even took swings as Williams for a PBS documentary on the Splendid Splinter. With a need in left field, the Astros called Tucker up in early July. But when he went 7-for-55 (.141/.203/.236), the Astros ended the experiment and demoted him at the end of July. He was brought back twice more to play off the bench. Scouting Report: Tucker finally found a level that he wasn't ready for when he reached Houston. He had dominated every level of the minors with plus, all-fields power and excellent hand-eye coordination that allows his swing to work. In the big leagues, he proved an easier-than-expected mark for quality breaking balls. Despite his big league hiccup, Tucker projects as a middle-of-the-order bat who can be a plus hitter with plus power. He has already started to slow down, and opposing coaches and scouts were not always impressed with Tucker's effort level, noting that he often jogged down the line. His once-average speed slid to below-average in 2018, though he did steal 20 bases. That limits him in the outfield, but he should be average in either corner. His average arm is playable in right field. The Future: Tucker should get another shot to be the Astros' everyday left fielder as a 22-year-old in 2019. He has very little left to prove in Triple-A.
Track Record: The Astros excel at finding low-cost pitchers on the international market. Abreu is another prime example. He sat 84-86 mph before he signed, but he showed an ability to spin a breaking ball. The Astros have watched him fill out and blossom. He jumped to the Midwest League in 2018 and finished with 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Scouting Report: Abreu is now a broad-shouldered, athletic righthander. He can run his plus, four-seam fastball up to 96 mph and he sits 93-94 mph. He is generally around the zone with his fastball, but his command needs refinement. He falls off the mound to the first base side, which affects his fringe-average control. Abreu's curveball is already the best in the organization. It has 12-to-6 shape, excellent depth and elite rotation at more than 3,000 revolutions per minute. He throws his curve for strikes, and it eludes bats even in the strike zone. Abreu also mixes in a slider and changeup, but both are below-average pitches. The Future: Abreu's two-pitch combo would move quickly as a reliever, but he has the frame, intelligence and aptitude to start. Added to the 40-man roster, he's ready for high Class A Fayetteville.
Track Record: Nova was supposed to be the Marlins' big splash on the international market in 2016, but a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug quashed that deal and led to the Astros signing him for less than half of Miami's offer. Nova made his U.S. debut in 2018 as one of the more productive hitters in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast league. Scouting Report: Nova showed bat speed, above-average bat-to-ball skills and above-average raw power in the GCL, but he needs plenty of refinement. Right now he has just enough power to get himself into poor habits, and he spent too many at-bats looking for a pitch he could yank down the line, rarely working advantageous counts. He had as many home runs (six) as walks (six). Nova's hand-eye coordination made it work, but he's going to have to improve his selectivity and patience. Defensively, Nova has all the tools to be an above-average shortstop. He's athletic with soft hands and an improved first step, though he's working on his reliability. His plus arm helps him make plays to his back hand, the play that many shortstops struggle to make. The Future: Nova has the tools to be a shortstop who can hit enough to be an everyday regular, but he has years of work ahead of him to put it all together. A jump to low Class A Quad Cities would be a big step up in competition level, and it's more likely that Nova will spend one more year in short-season ball.
Track Record: Solis got a velocity bump almost immediately after he signed and developed into one of the most refined young arms in Houston's system. Solis was rolling until he left an early August start with an elbow injury, and he ended up needing Tommy John surgery. Scouting Report: Solis walked 12 in his first 12 innings, but then settled down to show the polish, stuff and strike-throwing that encourages scouts. Solis sits 93-95 mph and has touched 98 mph with a plus fastball. His above-average, 82-85 mph changeup has developed into a weapon, and he mixes in both a curveball and slider, both of which have at least average potential. Solis' delivery finishes into a somewhat stiff front side, and he did have some outings where he struggled to throw strikes, but scouts believe Solis will be develop at least average control. The Future: Solis will spend all of 2019 rehabbing and will not get back into an official game until 2020. If he can make a full recovery, he's one of the highest-ceiling arms in Houston's system.
Track Record: The Astros have long had success finding gems from junior colleges. Toro appears next in line. He earned a bump to Double-A Corpus Christi in early July after emerging as the top hitter at high Class A Buies Creek, and he followed up with a loud performance in the Arizona Fall League. Scouting Report: Toro is only a .248 career hitter, but scouts consistently cite him as one of the best hitters in Houston's system. Toro has short legs and his movements and mannerisms appear choppy and unathletic. But watch him over the course of a series or longer and it becomes apparent that he's a better athlete than he looks. Toro has some length to his swing, but he has the bat speed and whip to make it work. He projects to hit 15-20 home runs over a full season and has an average bat as well. There are many more questions defensively. He makes the routine play at third base and has an above-average arm, but his range is limited and he doesn't run well. Houston tried him at catcher in 2017, but that didn't stick. The Future: Toro's bat will determine if he becomes an everyday player or an up-and-down player. His defense likely won't cut it as a full-time bench option. He'll start 2019 back at Double-A.
Track Record: Stubbs is one of the smallest and skinniest catchers in the game, but he brings a rare athleticism for the position. Stubbs led all Pacific Coast League catchers by throwing out 45 percent of basestealers, and the Astros added him to their 40-man roster after the season. Scouting Report: Stubbs is a better hitter than slugger, and he's athletic enough to play a little bit of everywhere if needed. He runs better than most catchers and has successfully swiped 22 bases since his last caught stealing. Stubbs' low target and athleticism help his ability to block pitches in the dirt, and his receiving is viewed as average. He has an above-average arm and it's accurate. Stubbs uses the entire field when he's locked in at the plate. He's an above-average hitter who could post .300 averages in his best years, although his power is limited to lining balls to the gaps and the sporadic yanked home run. The Future: Stubbs' biggest remaining focus area to be big league ready is to get stronger, which probably relies on him getting a little bigger. His defense and bat are ready if the Astros need a backup.
Track Record: Pena grew up around the game as the son of longtime Cardinals second baseman Geronimo Pena. He has a chance to be an even better defender than his father. At Maine, Pena was the team's shortstop from the day he arrived to the day he was drafted in the third round by the Astros. His bat steadily improved in his time with the Black Bears, but even as a junior he was primarily a singles hitter, something that was also true in his pro debut. He walked nearly as much as he struck out but posted an .059 isolated power mark before going down with a leg injury at short-season Tri-City. Scouting Report: Pena immediately became one of the best defensive shortstops in Houston's organization. He made 10 errors in 36 games at Tri-City, but he has good hands, smooth actions and an above-average arm. He projects as an above-average defender at shortstop. Pena is also an above-average runner and an adept basestealer. As a hitter, Pena doesn't try to do too much, as he looks to spray hits and work counts. He understands a walk is a useful part of his offensive game, but he's a bottom-of-the-order hitter who doesn't make pitchers sweat because of well below-average power. The Future: Pena will jump to low Class A. His glove is an asset, but he'll work to improve at the plate.
Track Record: Straw and Rays prospect Nate Lowe formed an exceptional combination at St. John's River (Fla.) JC. As a pro, Straw has stood out for his blazing speed and ability to hit for average. He led the minors in batting in 2016, when he hit .358, and led the minors in 2018 with 70 steals. He earned his first big league promotion in September and a spot on the Astros' Division Series roster as a pinch-runner. Scouting Report: Straw's opposite-field approach rarely makes him a threat to hit the ball over an outfielder's head. That approach has worked so far, and he's steadily drawn walks despite lacking the power to frighten pitchers who are behind in counts. Straw handles velocity and doesn't get the bat knocked out of his hands despite his bottom-of-the-scale power, projecting as an above-average hitter. His 70-grade speed helps him beat out infield hits and makes him a threat to steal anytime a base is open. He can play all three outfield spots in part thanks to a plus-plus arm. In center field, he's an above-average defender excellent coming in on balls, but he needs his speed to make up for slower reads on balls over his head. The Future: Straw's lack of power limits him, but his speed, arm, defense and bat control give him a shot to be a useful big leaguer. He'll head to spring training with a shot to make the Astros' roster.
Track Record: Dawson was both a football and baseball star in high school. He could have played either in college, but he chose baseball and quickly proved it was a wise choice as he became an immediate contributor and eventually the star of the Ohio State lineup. Scouting Report: At Ohio State, Dawson was a left fielder. But given a chance to play center field, Dawson has blossomed. He's only an average runner, but his reads and routes are excellent, allowing him to be an above-average center fielder who earns some plus grades. His arm is fringy. Dawson's swing and approach have changed, and scouts are less enamored. His swing has gotten steeper and more pull-oriented. Dawson has above-average power to do damage, but evaluators are concerned that his current swing will limit his hard contact rate and fringe-average hitting ability unless he tones it down. The Future: Dawson is an interesting collection of tools and skills. As a lefthanded-hitting center fielder with power potential he could develop into an everyday regular, but he still has plenty of offensive refinement ahead. He'll return to Double-A Corpus Christi to start 2019.
A 6-foot-1, 205-pound backstop for California, Lee raised his stock this spring with a career-best offensive campaign hitting behind standout first baseman Andrew Vaughn. After spending time at catcher, first base, third base and designated hitter as a sophomore, Lee has been the team’s primary catcher his junior season, and he hit .339/.415/.613 with 13 home runs and a team-best 52 RBIs through his first 47 games. Lee brings above-average power to the table from the right side, but until this spring scouts had questioned how much his bat would play. Lee is a good receiver behind the plate who has continued to improve his defensive ability with above-average arm strength.
Track Record: Arauz's career has already been quite eventful. He was traded from the Phillies to the Astros in the Ken Giles trade and introduced himself to his new club inauspiciously by being suspended 50 games after testing positive for methamphetamine. After an excellent first half at low Class A Midwest League, he was the worst hitter in the high Class A Carolina League in the second half of the season. Scouting Report: Arauz was viewed as more of a bat-first middle infielder who might be stretched at shortstop when he signed. Now, he's improved his glove but faces questions about how much he'll hit. At his best, Arauz shows fringe-average power to go with solid ability to manipulate the barrel. Arauz showed little ability to make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat, and when he did make contact, they were defensive swings that did no damage. Defensively, he has improved, showing a better first step and soft hands to go with excellent timing and an average arm. He is an average runner. The Future: The Astros opted not to add Arauz to the 40-man roster, taking the risk that Arauz's not-nearly-ready bat would keep teams from picking him in the Rule 5 draft. He needs to return to high Class A to work on putting together better at-bats.
If Kessinger ends up being the best shortstop in his family, whichever team drafts him would be thrilled. After all, Grae’s grandfather, Don, played over 2,000 games for the Cubs, Cardinals and White Sox, earning six All-Star appearances and two Gold Gloves. Kessinger has been Ole Miss’ starting shortstop for three seasons. He’s sure-handed and has an above-average arm, although, like many college shortstops, his range is fringe-average, which raises concerns about whether he can play there long term. At the plate, Kessinger was significantly overmatched as a freshman, but he’s gotten stronger and has been especially effective in conference play this year, hitting .398 in SEC games, which ranks second in the league. He doesn’t really have a plus tool, and he projects to be a .250-.260 hitter in pro ball with modest power. However, Kessinger’s well-rounded skillset, solid numbers in a tough conference and his ability to play up the middle will likely push him into the late second or early third round on draft week.
Track Record: After winning 2015 Mountain West Conference co-freshman of the year at Nevada, Stevenson moved to Chabot (Calif.) JC in 2016 and then Arizona in 2017. He showed strong on-base skills but hit just one home run as a senior, then signed with the Blue Jays for $5,000 as a 10th-rounder. Scouting Report: While old for the level, Stevenson had an outstanding pro debut in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, where he led the league in on-base percentage and drew more than twice as many walks (53) as strikeouts (21). He has terrific plate discipline, patiently working the count and rarely expanding the strike zone. He keeps his hands inside the ball with a knack for the barrel, striking out in just eight percent of his Appy League plate appearances. Stevenson is also an above-average runner. While his contact skills and plate discipline are excellent, his power falls on the other end of the scale. He has well below-average power, so he will have to develop more impact for his on-base skills to transfer at higher levels. Stevenson isn't a true burner, but he has the speed and overall baseball savvy to handle center field. Future: Stevenson should start 2019 at one of the team's Class A affiliates and could move quickly.
Track Record: After two successful seasons at Notre Dame, Bielak more than doubled his ERA as a junior, posting a 5.55 ERA. He slid to the 11th round because of that, but quickly proved as a pro that he's better than those numbers suggest. His 2.23 ERA was the best in Houston's system in 2018. Scouting Report: It's hard for hitters to get comfortable against Bielak because he throws four pitches for strikes and has the confidence to use them in almost any count. His delivery is simple, efficient and repeatable. He challenges hitters down in the zone with a heavy, 91-94 mph fastball. Bielak works comfortably to both sides of the plate. His fastball, curveball, slider and changeup are all potentially average. The Future: Bielak has a career 1.91 ERA, but his approach is one that eats up less-experienced hitters The challenge will get tougher as he heads to Double-A Corpus Christi for an extended look.
Track Record: Ivey was a part of Texas A&M's weekend rotation as a freshman and held that role into the conference schedule. But he eventually moved to the bullpen and opted afterwards to transfer to Grayson (Texas) JC. After a rough debut, Ivey pitched to a 2.97 ERA at the Class A levels in 2018. Scouting Report: Ivey is a lanky righthander. His gangliness is magnified by his effortful delivery, which begins with an exaggerated gather. He uses a big leg kick and a high hand break and often finishes with a modest head whack. There's also some length in his takeaway, but his arm is on time and he is consistently around the zone with above-average control. Ivey is always working to get to his breaking balls. His downward-breaking curveball is a plus pitch, and his slider will flash above-average as well. Ivey relies on the breaking balls, but his 89-93 mph fastball could develop into an average pitch as well. It shows some finish when he elevates it. His low-80s changeup is a distant fourth pitch he rarely throws. The Future: Ivey has the building blocks to be a back-of-the-rotation starter, especially if he fills out and adds a tick or two to his fastball. He'll compete for a spot in Double-A Corpus Christi's rotation.
Track Record: Signed for a modest $40,000 out of Cuba in 2014, Armenteros has proven to be a reliable and durable starter. He handled the picher-destroying Pacific Coast League in 2018, going 8-1, 3.74 for Triple-A Fresno. The Astros rewarded him with a 40-man roster spot after the season. Scouting Report: Armenteros carried a little more weight in 2018 and coincidentally or not, he didn't throw as hard as he did in 2017. His fastball, which got to 93-95 mph pretty regularly last year more generally sat 90-92 mph in 2018. It played more as a fringe-average pitch as well, but what Armenteros does is use his fastball to set up an outstanding plus changeup that draws comparisons to Chris Devenski's. The pitch is Armenteros' bread-and-butter in part because his curveball and slider are below-average. The two blend together at times, but neither is sharp enough to be a weapon. The Future: Armenteros went to the Dominican Winter League and pitched well. He's ready to be a fill-in starter/long-reliever for the Astros in 2019.
Brewer has proven to be a revelation for Michigan as the JuCo transfer from Lincoln Trail (Ill.) JC quickly turned into the Wolverines’ best hitter. A rare righthanded hitter who throws lefthanded, Brewer has primarily played first base and right field because Jesse Franklin was already established in center field for Michigan, but Brewer projects as a potential center fielder in pro ball thanks to his athleticism and 70-grade speed. He’s a surprisingly adept first baseman as well, but that position fails to fully take advantage of his speed. He can play all three outfield spots, and his plus arm fits in right field. Brewer’s swing can get too long and he swings and misses too much because he occasionally expands his strike zone, but he stings the ball when he connects and he has some pull-side power to left and left-center field. He also is one of the best basestealers in the Big Ten with 19 steals in 23 attempts. Brewer is one of the more athletic college hitters in the Midwest and led the conference in hitting.
Track Record: The Mets' international scouting department took the unusual step of signing Santana for $200,000 based on only one look. His bat looked that convincing. Signed just shy of his 17th birthday, Santana spent two years in the Dominican Summer League before embarking on an assignment to Rookie-level Kingsport in 2018. He hit .348 to rank fifth in the Appalachian League while placing third with a .446 on-base percentage. The Mets traded Santana, Ross Adolph and Scott Manea to the Astros for J.D. Davis and Cody Bohanek in January. Scouting Report: Santana may be 5-foot-8, but he trained in both baseball and boxing in the Dominican Republic and plays with his hair on fire. His bat-to-balls skills, fearlessness and hitting rhythm give him a ceiling of a plus hitter. Scouts marvel at his ability to be in good hitting position and on time to rifle the ball to all fields. He won't reach big home run totals, but his gap power and high contract rate will keep defenses honest. Santana is an average runner who doesn't steal many bases. He is a reliable defender at second base with average range and an average arm. The Future: Santana plays with flair and if anything will need to keep his energy focused to reach his ceiling. After an eye-opening U.S. debut, he is firmly on the organization's prospect radar as he eyes an assignment to low Class A in 2019.
Track Record: Signed for a modest $50,000, Ramirez has quickly proven to be an astute signing. Pitching in Houston's tandem-starter system, he allowed zero or one run in eight of his 12 outings, but when he struggled, he really struggled, leading to an inflated 4.76 ERA in the Gulf Coast League. Scouting Report: Ramirez is undersized without much room to fill out further, but his arm strength is big league-caliber. He already has a plus, 95-97 mph fastball that can blow hitters away. He generates velocity from a compact, fluid motion. His inexperience is much more apparent when he breaks off his curveball. He flashes an ability to spin it, but his control of the breaking ball wavers and he mixes loopy, slow curves with harder, tighter, power breakers. Ramirez's control also has a ways to go, but with his delivery, he has the building blocks to develop at least average control. The Future: Ramirez is far from Houston, but he has the foundation and arm of a future power reliever. He'll likely begin the 2019 season in extended spring training.
Track Record: Solomon was expected to be the Irish ace for his junior year, but instead he was moved to the bullpen after just four starts. Much like his Notre Dame and Astros teammate Brandon Bielak, the Astros were confident Solomon could be an effective starter, and so far he's rewarded that faith. Scouting Report: While he had his biggest success in college as a reliever, Solomon's well-rounded arsenal and approach works well as a starter. He doesn't have a plus pitch yet, but he has an above-average, 92-94 mph fastball that will touch higher in short stints and a 12-to-6 curveball he has a lot of trust in that will flash above-average. He's added a promising cutter as well. His changeup is a below-average pitch that he's yet to show much confidence in. Solomon's delivery is clean and he projects to have average control. The Future: The Astros have moved Solomon slower than Bielak, but he has a pretty similar profile with a little firmer stuff. Solomon has a realistic shot of reaching Double-A in 2019.
Track Record: The Braves found the late-blooming de la Cruz as an 18-year-old in 2015. He's developed into one of the best arms the Braves have in the low minors. Scouting Report: All too often when the going gets tough, de la Cruz rears back and hopes for the best. His 90-96 mph fastball is hard enough to blow hitters away, but it's much more effective when hitters aren't waiting for it. Too often in 2018, de la Cruz fell behind in counts and then got away from mixing pitches, become too predictably fastball-reliant. He also would get into habits of overthrowing. But when he's cruising, he has an above-average fastball and a slider that flashes plus. His control is below-average. His delivery is long in the back, but he uses his legs well in his delivery. The Future: Understandably de la Cruz is developmentally behind many of his peers because he got a late start to pitching in pro ball. But he has the pieces of a future power reliever thanks to two pitches with plus potential.
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