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Houston Astros

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Player Reports

  1. 1. Forrest Whitley | RHP
    Forrest Whitley
    Born: Sep 15, 1997
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'7" Wt.: 195
    Drafted: HS--San Antonio, 2016 (1st round).
    Signed By: Noel Gonzales-Luna.

    BA Grade: 65. Risk: Very High
    Tool Grades: Fastball: 60. Curveball: 60. Slider: 60. Changeup: 60. Control: 40.

    Track Record: Whitley was supposed to be a part of the Astros’ rotation by now. He reached Double-A in 2017 and seemed poised to help Houston’s playoff run in 2018. Instead, his season was derailed by a 50-game suspension for a violation of baseball’s drug program. Whitley’s 2019 season proved to be even rockier. He struggled with command in eight outings with Triple-A Round Rock and was eventually shut down with shoulder fatigue, though the break was a mental respite as much as anything. Sent to the Gulf Coast and Carolina leagues to rehab, he continued to struggle with big innings upon his assignment to Double-A Corpus Christi. He pitched well in a second consecutive trip to the Arizona Fall League.

    Scouting Report: Whitley’s command backed up by a grade or even two in 2019. He missed badly high and low throughout the season. He would often struggle to finish his delivery, leaving his fastball up far out of the zone, and then he would bounce the next pitch trying to adjust. When Whitley was in the zone, he often caught too much of it. He allowed too many no-doubt home runs. After Whitley’s early-season struggles, the Astros junked his windup and had him pitch exclusively from the stretch. He also moved from the third base side of the rubber to the first base side. That helped him have longer stretches of control and command, and he started to get the swings and misses in the zone that he had previously. The Astros had already worked to reduce Whitley’s shoulder tilt in his delivery, which lowered his release point. If the alteration works, it will help Whitley stay behind the ball more and get more ride at the top of the zone—though in 2019 it did not work. When he is on, Whitley still shows five plus pitches. His 92-97 mph fastball touched 99. His low-90s cutter darts away from opponents’ barrels. His 85-87 mph slider has power and depth and his 12-to-6 curveball does too, though it tends to get loopy and slow. His plus changeup wasn’t as dominating in 2019 as it was in previous years, but it still had late drop at times. Whitley’s fastball, changeup and slider all could get to plus-plus, but it will require him to significantly improve his below-average control and command.

    The Future: Whitley’s 2019 season can only be described as disastrous. He often visibly showed his frustration on the mound. His stuff is still that of a front-of-the-rotation ace, but he will need to find at least fringe control to reach his upside.
  2. 2. Jose Urquidy | RHP
    Jose Urquidy
    Born: May 1, 1995
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 180
    Drafted: Signed: Mexico, 2015.
    Signed By: Oz Ocampo/Carlos Alfonso/Raul Lopez.

    BA Grade: 45. Risk: Medium
    Tool Grades: Fastball: 50. Curveball: 60. Slider: 50. Changeup: 45. Control: 60.

    Track Record: When other Astros’ prospects proved unready to break into the rotation, Urquidy stepped in and even picked up a win in Game 4 of the World Series after throwing five scoreless innings. Urquidy, who was known as Jose Luis Hernandez until the 2019 season, had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and came into 2019 having not pitched above Class A.

    Scouting Report: The Astros have a large number of pitching prospects who can throw harder than Urquidy and several who can spin the ball better. But his consistent ability to locate with plus control and command makes him quite effective. Urquidy has touched as high as 97 mph, but his average fastball generally sits 92-94. He throws his plus 82-84 mph changeup with excellent conviction. He’s happy to double or triple up with it because he believes in its deception and late drop. He also has an average slider and a fringe-average curveball. His slider plays up because it lives on his glove side, the low-and-away corner to righthanded batters.

    The Future: Urquidy doesn’t wow and his body is already mature, but he showed he can deceive and keep hitters uncomfortable. He’s a solid back-end starter thanks to his control.
  3. 3. Jeremy Pena | SS
    Jeremy Pena
    Born: Sep 22, 1997
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'0" Wt.: 179
    Drafted: Maine, 2018 (3rd round).
    Signed By: Bobby St. Pierre.

    BA Grade: 50. Risk: High
    Tool Grades: Hit: 40. Power: 40. Run: 55. Fielding: 70. Arm: 60.

    Track Record: The son of Geronimo Peña, Jeremy was a defensive whiz at Maine. Since signing with the Astros, Peña has remade his upper body and is now more physical, but he’s done so without losing any of his athleticism.

    Scouting Report: Peña has the range, hands and actions to make all the plays at shortstop. He has the reactions to slide to third base if needed, and his plus arm plays on the left side of the infield. Multiple scouts gave him plus-plus defensive grades. He’s also an above-average runner. Scouts are less excited about his below-average hit tool. Peña has added a significant amount of muscle and good weight and developed gap power with the ability to run into 10-12 home runs a year. But his swing is now geared almost exclusively to his pull side. He has a solid understanding of the strike zone, so he can work pitchers to get to situations in his zone, and he’ll add enough walks to post solid on-base percentages.

    The Future: Peña’s defense is good enough to allow him to be a productive player even if he hits .230, and he could be a long-time regular if he can hit .250-.260. He’s ready for Double-A Corpus Christi.
  4. 4. Freudis Nova | SS
    Freudis Nova
    Born: Jan 12, 2000
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 180
    Drafted: Signed: Dominican Republic, 2016.
    Signed By: Oz Campo/Roman Ocumarez/Jose Lima.

    BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme
    Tool Grades: Hit: 40. Power: 55. Run: 55. Fielding: 55. Arm: 70.

    Track Record: Nova was supposed to be the key player in the Marlins’ 2016 international class, but a positive drug test meant he instead signed with the Astros for $1.2 million, less than half of what he was supposed to receive. After a strong 2018, Nova had a more modest season in 2019, showing flashes of his talent but struggling with consistency.

    Scouting Report: Nova has a projectable body with a plus-plus arm that plays well at any infield spot. He looked truly lost at third base in 2019 and didn’t turn double plays well at second, but there are scouts who see his upright style of play and project he will eventually fit best at third. At the plate, Nova has above-average bat speed and above-average power potential, but his aggressiveness gets him into trouble. In 2019, his success depended on whether he got ahead or behind in the count. If he fell behind, pitchers knew he would chase out of the strike zone and was an easy strikeout.

    The Future: Of all Astros’ minor league position players, Nova is the one with the biggest chance of being a star. Figuring out how to lay off pitches well off the plate will determine if he reaches his lofty ceiling.
  5. 5. Bryan Abreu | RHP
    Bryan Abreu
    Born: Apr 22, 1997
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 204
    Drafted: Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013.
    Signed By: Oz Ocampo/Marc Russo/Rafael Belen.

    BA Grade: 50. Risk: High
    Tool Grades: Fastball: 60. Curveball: 70. Slider: 60. Changeup: 30. Control: 40.

    Track Record: The Astros added Abreu to the 40-man roster after the 2018 season even though he had just 38 innings in full-season ball. A year later, he leapt from high Class A to the big leagues, making eight relief appearances as a September callup.

    Scouting Report: Abreu’s high-spin breaking ball is a work of art. It morphs between a hard, mid-80s curveball with a short 12-to-6 break and a similarly hard mid-80s slider that dives down and away from righthanded hitters. It’s a plus-plus pitch that gets swings and misses. The arm speed and effort to spin such a dominating breaker ensures that he has always had below-average control as he struggles to sync his arm and his lower half. His release point is inconsistent. His plus 93-97 mph fastball is relatively true but has enough velocity to be effective when he spots it well. He has thrown a below-average changeup but didn’t use it once he moved to the bullpen.

    The Future: Abreu has a chance to start if given time to try to fix his control issues, but the Astros have a bigger need right now for him to be a potential high-leverage reliever. He has the stuff to pitch in the eighth or the ninth inning, but his poor control could hold him back.
  6. 6. Abraham Toro | 3B
    Abraham Toro
    Born: Dec 20, 1996
    Bats: B Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 190
    Drafted: Seminole State (Okla.) JC., 2016 (5th round).
    Signed By: Jim Stevenson.

    BA Grade: 45. Risk: Medium
    Tool Grades: Hit: 50. Power: 45. Run: 50. Fielding: 45. Arm: 55.

    Track Record: If not for Yordan Alvarez’s incredible year, Toro would have had a case for having the best season by an Astros minor league hitter. He hit at Double-A Corpus Christi, was even better with Triple-A Round Rock and earned a callup to Houston a week before the September roster expansion.

    Scouting Report: Nothing Toro does looks easy. He has short legs and a long torso that, combined with an unorthodox gait, makes everything look effortful. But Toro is more athletic than he looks. He is actually an average runner who will turn in sporadic above-average times to first base. He has worked hard to get himself to below-average as a defensive third baseman. He generally makes the routine play. He’s fringe-average defensively at first base, but has an above-average arm. Toro is a pure hitter and has a knack for hitting offspeed pitches, but he has also shown that he can catch up to good fastballs—his two major league home runs came on high-90s fastballs. He generally lines balls to the gaps but has 15-18-homers power.

    The Future: Toro’s defensive limitations make it hard to find a good fit for him in Houston, but his bat and his ability to switch-hit makes him a useful pinch-hitter with modest defensive versatility.
  7. 7. Korey Lee | C
    Korey Lee
    Born: Jul 25, 1998
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 205
    Drafted: Drafted: California, 2019 (1st round).
    Signed By: Tim Costic.

    BA Grade: 50. Risk: High
    Tool Grades: Hit: 50. Power: 45. Run: 40. Fielding: 45. Arm: 70.

    Track Record: Lee was the second best hitter for California in 2019, which was understandable when you consider that he was teammates with Andrew Vaughn, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Lee was not seen as a first-round pick by most teams, but the Astros believed in his bat, which gave the Bears two first-round picks in the same year for the first time in school history.

    Scouting Report: Lee hit 15 home runs for California as a junior and posts excellent exit velocities. The Astros worked to get him to loft the ball more consistently. Those adjustments and his more pull-heavy approach resulted in a modest pro debut. If the Astros are right about Lee’s latent power potential, they could have found a late first-round steal, but area scouts and pro scouts for other teams are more skeptical, seeing modest power and a decent feel for hitting. Lee needs to work on his framing and receiving, but he has the athleticism to be at least an average receiver. He has a 70 arm on the 20-80 scale, though he needs to improve his accuracy. He is a 40 runner, which is pretty speedy for a catcher.

    The Future: Lee will move up to low Class A Quad Cities as he works on driving the ball more consistently. He has a lengthy to-do list, but he also has the tools to be an everyday catcher.
  8. 8. Cristian Javier | RHP
    Cristian Javier
    Born: Mar 26, 1997
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'1" Wt.: 204
    Drafted: Drafted: Dominican Republic, 2015.
    Signed By: Oz Ocampo/Roman Ocumarez/Leocadio Guevara.

    BA Grade: 45. Risk: Medium
    Tool Grades: Fastball: 55. Curveball: 50. Slider: 55. Changeup: 50. Control: 40.

    Track Record: Javier is a pitcher who is more impressive when watched over longer stints than in a showcase setting. He began 2019 at high Class A Fayetteville but pitched his way to Triple-A Round Rock by the end of the season and earned a spot on the Astros’ 40-man roster in the offseason.

    Scouting Report: Javier can touch 94 mph with his fastball, but he varies his fastball velocity by up to 5-6 mph to mess with hitters’ timing. Javier hides the ball behind his back for a significant portion of his delivery. His average changeup has solid deception and some fade and his slow average curveball is effective because of location and some depth. He uses an above-average slider against righthanders that sweeps across the plate. No pitch on its own is exceptional, but the fact is he was unhittable in 2019—righthanders hit .120 against him and lefties hit .144. If he falls behind, he’s not going to throw a down-the-throat fastball.

    The Future: Skeptical evaluators still see him as a No. 5 starter due to his lack of plus stuff, but Javier’s ability to thrive after being promoted to Double-A is an indicator that his stuff will play in the majors. He could help Houston as a spot starter or reliever in 2020.
  9. 9. Hunter Brown | RHP
    Hunter Brown
    Born: Aug 29, 1998
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 203
    Drafted: Drafted: Wayne State (Mich.), 2019 (5th)
    Signed By: Scott Oberhelman.

    BA Grade: 55. Risk: Extreme
    Tool Grades: Fastball: 70. Curveball: 60. Slider: 50. Changeup: 50. Control: 40.

    Track Record: Coming into 2019, Brown was a pitcher who had struggled to earn a significant role in two seasons with Division II Wayne State. But he improved his delivery, found some extra velocity and earned a spot in Wayne State’s rotation. He had a dominating year and vaulted into the fifth round.

    Scouting Report: Brown’s rise from obscurity has been tied to a fastball that has turned him into a fire-breathing monster. Brown will throw it anywhere from 92-100 mph in a normal outing, and he uses the extra gear to surprise hitters when he needs it. Brown gets good angle on his fastball, with that little hop at the top of the zone to miss bats. He has a durable frame with a thick midsection. The Astros will have to work hard to help him improve his well below-average control. He already has made some strides. He walked 16 in 14 innings over his first seven outings, but just four in 12 innings over his final six outings. Brown’s 82-84 mph curveball is also a plus pitch. His changeup and slider both have average potential.

    The Future: Brown is a high-risk, high-upside starter who has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter. His fastball and curveball gives him a fallback option in the bullpen if his control doesn’t improve as much as the Astros hope.
  10. 10. Grae Kessinger | SS
    Grae Kessinger
    Born: Aug 25, 1997
    Bats: R Throws: R
    Ht.: 6'2" Wt.: 200
    Drafted: Drafted: Mississippi, 2019 (2nd round).
    Signed By: Travis Coleman.

    BA Grade: 50. Risk: High
    Tool Grades: Hit: 55. Power: 40. Run: 50. Fielding: 45. Arm: 50.

    Track Record: Baseball is in Kessinger’s blood. His grandfather Don was a six-time all-star shortstop for the Cubs before becoming Mississippi’s baseball coach. His father was a minor leaguer for the Cubs and his uncle Keith played in the majors with the Reds. Grae was the undisputed team leader for Ole Miss for three seasons.

    Scouting Report: Kessinger has above-average barrel control, showing a knack for making solid contact no matter what the count. He’s a hitter more than a slugger, showing modest pull power that should produce below-average power. He is an average runner. Scouts do not see him having the quick reactions and smooth actions to remain at shortstop—everything he does is just a tick slower than ideal. But Kessinger is more playable at shortstop than most range-limited players because of his steady reliability. His average arm is not ideal at third base, but that spot could be a long-term fit. If not, he could be an offensive second baseman or a hit-first left fielder.

    The Future: Kessinger is the kind of well-rounded college performer who usually figures out a way to get to the majors. His bat and reliability could make him a multi-position backup, but usually teams prefer a better shortstop for that role.

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