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Whitley’s 2018 season has been notable more for all the time he’s missed than for the six brief appearances he’s made. He was suspended 50 games for a positive drug test (MLB never specified the drug) at the beginning of the season. Then, when his suspension ended, Whitley missed further time with a lat injury. He finally made his 2018 debut on June 6 and was named to the Futures Game, but he left his July 6 start with an oblique injury that will cost him further time. He’s been just as dominant when he’s been on the mound as he was in years past, but the suspensions and injuries make it less likely he can help the big league club in any way this year, something that seemed a possibility coming out of the 2017 season.
Kyle "Ted” Tucker isn’t going to be Ted Williams (even if he mimics the Splendid Splinter’s swing in a new PBS documentary), but the sweet-swinging outfielder is being asked to play a large role in the Astros’ second half. The club’s left field job is his if he can hit well enough to hold onto it. Tucker has plus power potential, but it’s not clear yet if he wants to be a .300 hitter with modest power or if he’s willing to sacrifice 40-50 points off his average to get to that power more consistently. After a slow start in his first two weeks in Houston, he needs to hit for average first to show he’s ready to hold onto the job.
Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez are free agents at the end of this season while Brian McCann has one club option remaining on his contract. So the Astros may have an opening for a first base/DH/left fielder in the near future and Alvarez looks ready to fill the job. Alvarez has battled minor wrist and hand injuries that have kept him off the field, but when he’s on the field and healthy he’s posted .600-plus slugging percentages at two different levels. He uses the whole field with a high-average approach, but his plus-plus raw power means that sometimes those line drives clear the fence.
After just four appearances, Martin pitched his way out of high Class A Buies Creek as his combination of solid stuff and advanced feel and control allowed the Astros to aggressively push him to Double-A Corpus Christi in his first full pro season. Martin doesn’t have any one pitch that he can simply blow away hitters with, but his fastball and secondary offerings work well enough because he commands all of them. He’s a future No. 4/5 starter who isn’t far away from being ready to help.
In his 2018 debut, Solis faced seven batters and recorded only one out. It was a reminder that the young Venezuelan pitcher is far from a finished product. He’s been very wild at times and he’s rarely been pitch efficient this year, which explains why he has made it out of the fifth inning only once in eight starts. But Solis’ clean delivery, athleticism and impressive physicality should allow him to have above-average control one day. His stuff is already some of the best in the system, which is why scouts preach patience.
Nova has made it to the States this year as he continues to show the hands, bat speed and potential power to be an above-average offensive contributor at an up-the-middle position. His ETA is likely not until after Carlos Correa is eligible for free agency in 2022, but Nova has more than handled his own in the Gulf Coast League so far and he continues to improve defensively. His hands and athleticism give him a solid shot of sticking at the position.
Perez was spraying the ball all around (but rarely in) the strike zone early in the season, but after some work to simplify and clean up his delivery, he’s throwing many more strikes and seeing the results that come with improved control. With a mid-90s fastball, an improving splitter and a hard 88-91 mph slider, Perez has the stuff to dominate if he can get ahead in counts.
It’s been a lost season for Bukauskas, as a spring training car accident led to an eventual diagnosis of a back injury, which led to a three-month stint on the disabled list. He’s back on the mound now and has slowly rounded into form with rehab appearances in the Gulf Coast League and the New York-Penn League. He’s now back in Quad Cities where he began the season.
When he was in college, Beer struggled when he was asked to hit with wood in the Cape Cod League and with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. Now, he’s proving he doesn’t need a metal bat in his hands, as he has had no problems so far as a pro. He hit four home runs in 11 games to play his way out of Tri-City and he’s immediately become Quad Cities’ best hitter upon his promotion. Beer is too advanced a hitter for the lower rungs of the minors, but his defense has plenty of work to do as he splits his time between first base and the corner outfield spots.
The first time Perez was promoted to Houston this year, he was sent back to Double-A Corpus Christi without ever throwing a pitch. He’s been brought back up for a second stint in the Astros bullpen and now has a chance to play a useful role in helping the Astros try to repeat as world champions. Perez has the stuff to be a big league starter one day, as his changeup has improved to the point where it is a viable fringe-average third pitch. His 93-97 mph fastball and hard-slider combo can eat up lefties, as Double-A lefties managed just one extra-base hit against him in 44 at-bats.
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