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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 drug suspension. 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 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. 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 he significantly improve his belowaverage control and command. THE FUTURE: Whitley's 2019 season can only be described as disastrous. 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.
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 a ball better. But his consistent ability to locate with plus control and command makes him quite effective. Urquidy has touched as high as 96-97 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 as he believes in its deception and late-drop. He also has an average slider and a fringe-average curve. His slider plays up because it lives on the glove-side low-and-away corner. 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.
TRACK RECORD: The son of Geronimo Peña, Jeremy was a defensive whiz at Maine. Since signing with the Astros, Pena 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, actions to make all the plays at shortstop. He has the reactions to slide to third if needed as well and his plus arm plays well at either spot. Multiple scouts gave him plus-plus defensive grades. He's also an above-average runner. Scouts have much more trouble getting excited about his below-average hit tool. Pena 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 pulling balls. He does have 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: Pena'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.
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, as he showed flashes of his talent but struggled 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 defensively 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 big trouble. In 2019, his success depended on whether he got ahead of behind in the count. If he fell behind, pitchers knew he'd 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.
TRACK RECORD: The Astros added Abreu to the 40-man roster after the 2018 season even though he had just 38 innings above short-season ball. A year later, he left from high Class A to the big leagues, making eight relief appearances as a September callup. SCOUTING REPORT: Abreu's high rpm breaking ball is a work of art. It morphs between a hard, mid-80s curve 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 has also ensured he's always had below-average control as he struggles to sync his arm and his lower half. His release point is inconsistent. His 93-97 mph plus fastball is relatively true, but has enough velocity to be effective when he spots it well. He has thrown a below-average change, 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, but his poor control could hold him back.
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 the sporadic above-average time. Defensively, he has worked hard to get himself to being a below-average third baseman who can generally make the routine play He's fringe-average defensively at first. He 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 MLB home runs came on 96 and 97 mph fastballs. He generally lines balls to the gaps but has the power to hit 15-18 home runs. 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.
TRACK RECORD: Lee was the second best hitter for California in 2019, which was understandable when you consider he was teammates with the White Sox's Andrew Vaughn, the No. 3 pick in the draft. Lee was not seen as a first-round pick by most teams, but the Astros really 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 very 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 and he has a 70 arm on the 20-to-80 scale, although he needs to improve his accuracy. He is a 40 runner—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 significant to-do list, but he also has the tools to be an everyday catcher.
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 93-94 mph with his fastball, but he varies his fastball velocity by up to 5-6 mph to mess with hitter's timing. Javier's delivery 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 aboveaverage 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.
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 (Mich.). 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 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 only 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 middle-of-the-rotation starter. His fastball and curveball gives him several fallback options if his control doesn't improve as much as the Astros hope.
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.
TRACK RECORD: Ivey has been effective in two seasons with the Astros, but he needs to stay on the mound more regularly. He missed half of May and all of June with elbow soreness and returned to the injured list for the final two weeks of the season. In addition to missing time with a sore elbow, Ivey was ejected from his second start of the season when umpires found a foreign substance on his glove. SCOUTING REPORT: Ivey's funky delivery seems like something out of the 1940s. It's somewhat segmented, but he's steadily refined it, eliminating the head whack and some effort. His arm is generally on time and he has shown he can locate with above-average control and average command. In a system that has a lot of fireballing starters who haven't shown they have the control and feel to start, Ivey is an exception. He has three above-average pitches. His 90-95 mph fastball is effective up in the zone and he used both a big, slower curve and a hard cutter-ish slider. THE FUTURE: Ivey is a potential No. 4 starter with a chance to be a No. 3, He's ready for Triple-A and could fill-in in Houston in the second half of the season.
TRACK RECORD: Brewer was a football/baseball star in high school who went to Lincoln Trail (Ill.) JC. After two years there, he transferred to Michigan, reworked his swing and blossomed as the Big 10 Player of the Year, helping lead the Wolverines to the College World Series finals. His pro debut was interrupted by a toe injury that cost him almost the entire Tri-City season. SCOUTING REPORT: Astros draftees generally are picked for their bats and not their athleticism, so Brewer's well-rounded toolset stands out. He has plus speed, plus power and a chance to stick in center field, even though he generally played in the corners with Michigan. He is even an adept first baseman— he throws lefty even though he hits righty. At the plate, Brewer's swing is a work in progress, but it's one that has come a long away already. He learned to use his lower half in his year at Michigan, but his swing is still a little grooved at times. The Astros are counting on his ability to continue to make adjustments. THE FUTURE: There are some questions over how well Brewer can tweak his swing to be selective while still getting to his significant power potential, but the aptitude he displayed at Michigan is a positive sign.
TRACK RECORD: Luis Garcia is a rather common name around baseball with six players with that moniker playing in the affiliated minors in 2019. Any evaluator who saw Luis H. Garcia pitch for the Astros in 2018 and 2019 may wonder if they were confusing him with another Lus Garcia. In 2018, he was just a run-of-the-mill righthander with an 89-92 mph fastball and a promising changeup. By the end of the 2019 season, he was showing flashes of three plus pitches with a dominating fastball. SCOUTING REPORT: Garcia was the most well-rounded of Fayetteville's wave of hard-throwing starters. He figured out how to pitch with average stuff before he developed velocity. Garcia was sitting 92-97 mph in the second half of the season with a plus changeup and an average curve and slider. Garcia isn't just a thrower—there's some feel for setting up hitters. He has fringe-average control. THE FUTURE: Garcia has more starter traits than most of the hard-throwing young Astros arms. Thanks to his fastball/changeup combo and his chance of developing average control, he has mid-rotation potential.
TRACK RECORD: Solis understandably has become a somewhat forgotten prospect for the Astros because he missed the end of 2018 and all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Before his injury, he was seen as one of the Astros' most promising pitching prospects thanks to steadily improving velocity. SCOUTING REPORT: Solis will begin 2020 having not pitched in an official game in 19 months. Before the injury, he was attacking hitters with a 93-95 mph plus fastball that can touch 98. He also was featuring an above-average 82-85 mph changeup. Solis' curveball and slider should reach average at least. Solis' control wavered between below-average and above-average pre-injury. THE FUTURE: Solis should get a chance to pick up where he left off in 2018. If he can quickly shake off the rust he could quickly once again be one of the best pitching prospects in the Astros' system.
TRACK RECORD: After a dominating sophomore season as a reliever at Notre Dame, Bielak's junior year was one struggle after another as a starter. The Astros were still intrigued and saw him post a 2.23 ERA that was best in the system in 2018. In 2019, he made it to Triple-A, but struggled with the livelier ball and pitched to a 8-4, 4.41 record. SCOUTING REPORT: Bielak does everything he can to avoid being predictable. There's no plus pitch, but hitters never really know what they are going to get as Bielak throws six pitches (he added a screwball in 2019). Bielak's 91-94 mph fastball is average, as is his mid-80s changeup, curve and cutter. His slider is below-average and he added the screwball to give hitters something else to worry about. His command is above-average, but his control is fringe-average because he has to nibble around the edges of the zone. THE FUTURE: Bielak is a back-of-the-rotation starter. Being regularly around the zone, he suffered adjusting to the Triple-A ball, as being in the zone often led to long home runs. The Astros will not be likely to count on Bielak in 2020, but he can fill in as needed. Mastering Triple-A in the meantime is a solid goal for Bielak.
TRACK RECORD: Barber is the highest-drafted player ever picked out of Chico, Calif.'s Pleasant Valley High (and only the third player ever drafted from that high school). He had impressed at the Area Code Games, which was very useful for him as he didn't face much competition during the high school season. The Astros spent $1 million (far above slot for a fourth-round pick). After a slow start as a pro, Barber hit .306/.433/.429 in August. SCOUTING REPORT: Barber has a chance to be a special hitter. He has excellent bat speed and advanced bat-to-ball skills. He has above-average raw power right now, largely to the pull side, but he right now focuses on putting together quality at-bats. He has enough of a batting eye to let a wild pitcher walk him, although he still has work to do on his two-strike approach. Defensively, Barber played all three outfield spots in his debut and is currently a plus runner. But there is some belief that he will eventually slow down and fit better in a corner outfield spot. THE FUTURE: The Astros do not have many position players who project as MLB regulars, but Barber does and could quickly become one of the team's best prospects. He should be ready for low Class A Quad Cities in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Even in an organization that has no problem signing international arms who are considered quite old by normal standards, Torres is remarkable. He was already 22 when he signed and turned 23 at the end of his first season in the Dominican Summer League. He's made up for lost time by making it to high Class A just 13 months after he signed. SCOUTING REPORT: Torres simply rears back and fires. There's little sublety or nuance to his approach on the mound. He peppers the strike zone and a foot around the edge of the zone with 95-100 mph fastballs, using a simple, aggressive delivery. His changeup is effective because it has 10 mph separation off his fastball—which hitters have to respect. Every now and then Torres will sync up and spin a plus slider, but he'll also throw a cement mixer that is a slider in name only. The same can be said for his curveball. THE FUTURE: Arm strength like Torres cannot be ignored. He seems eventually ticketed to be a lowleverage reliever unless his well-below-average control and inconsistent breaking balls improve. But it's worth remembering he has just 135 pro innings under his belt so far.
TRACK RECORD: The Astros love to sign older (18/19-year-old) international amateurs with a chance to add velocity. Much like Jorge Guzman, Rivera was an old signee who quickly found a way to reach triple-digits with his fastball. SCOUTING REPORT: In a system filled with fast arms, Rivera has the quickest. There's very little subtlety to Rivera—he just rears back and asks hitters to try to catch up to a 97-102 mph fastball that has plenty of arm-side run. Rivera throws a mid-80s split-change that got better and better, flashing plus as the season wore on. He also throws a mid-80s slider that is often a 58 footer. His secondaries need to improve, but the trends are in the right direction. THE FUTURE: For a flamethrower, Rivera has a chance to throw strikes. His delivery is high-energy but he's around the zone. For now, there's every reason to keep letting him be a tandem starter, but long-term, he's likely a power reliever.
TRACK RECORD: Dubin had to transfer from Buffalo to Georgetown (Ky.) for his senior season when Buffalo shut down its program. A $1,000 senior sign, when the Astros drafted him he pitched with a fringe-average straight fastball. In the second half of the 2019 season, he was throwing five-to-seven mph harder than he was just a year before. SCOUTING REPORT: Dubin's newfound velocity has come even though he still has the frame of a telephone pole. Dubin barely weighs 160 pounds, but he has an extremely fast arm and he gets all of his momentum directed to the plate. Dubin's 93-98 mph plus-plus fastball now has solid carry up in the strike zone. It sets up an erratic slider. At its best, it's a plus pitch with depth and bite, but too often it's short and more cutter-ish than his best ones. He also needs to show he can land it, as too often it's a pure chase pitch that worked against Class A hitters, but won't be as effective against more advanced batters. His change is unremarkable with modest deception, but it plays average because hitters are gearing up for the fastball. THE FUTURE: Dubin's slim frame, all-out delivery and hit-or-miss slider all seem to indicate he'll end up in the bullpen, but considering he's gone from being an org arm to a solid prospect in one year, there's no reason to limit his opportunities to improve. He could start for Double-A Corpus Christi in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: The Astros love fast arms, and they do not really matter what size or shape is attached to that arm. Lopez is yet another of the Astros' pack of short righthanders with big fastballs. SCOUTING REPORT: Lopez has the foundations teams look for in a starting pitching prospect with three pitches and a delivery that allows him to get to above-average velocity with modest effort. He has an above-average 92-95 mph fastball and a plus curveball. His changeup shows signs of eventually being an average pitch as well. THE FUTURE: Lopez's arm works well enough for fit as either a starter or reliever, and he shows enough feel that there's a solid chance to develop him as a starter. Low Class A Quad Cities shoud be a solid challenge, but the Astros don't have any hesitation to move pitchers quickly if they show they have handled a level, so he could reach Fayetteville in 2020 if he has a strong first half.
TRACK RECORD: Cal State Fullerton's closer for two seasons, the Astros quickly moved Conine back into the rotation while working to get him more consistently to the upper ends of his velocity range. It's worked so far—he's been effective at four levels. SCOUTING REPORT: In an organization where seemingly everyone has added three-to-six mph to pitch with a plus fastball, Conine is the crafty pitcher who succeeds based on plus control with average stuff. Conine sits 90-94 mph (which is actually a 2 mph bump from what he was as a reliever at Fullerton), setting up an average changeup and an above-average power curve—it's short and tight and sometimes gets described as a slider. His above-average command is key to his success. THE FUTURE: There are evaluators who see Conine as an up-and-down arm who has feasted on lessadvanced hitters, but he has the stuff to play his way to the majors. He'll return to Double-A Corpus Christi.
TRACK RECORD: A 22nd-round pick of the Yankees out of high school, Henley was a reliable starter for three years for Texas. But scouts weren't all that thrilled with his pedestrian velocity. Already with the Astros, he's gained a tick of velocity and he was dominating in his pro debut. SCOUTING REPORT: Keep an eye on Henley in 2020, as he seems like the perfect candidate to benefit from the Astros' program to increase velocity. He already spins a plus breaking ball with elite spin rates (3,200 rpm) and he's touching 93-94 mph. His below-average changeup needs to improve. His control needs to improve along with his stuff, but the pieces are there for him to be a mid-rotation starter. THE FUTURE: Henley was able to work three to four innings on a strict 50-60 pitch limit. The pitch efficiency combined with his strikeout stuff gives him a path to being a back-of-the-rotation MLB starter.
TRACK RECORD: A low-cost signing, Rodriguez is yet another Astros arm who has steadily gotten better. Signed as a 19-year-old, Rodriguez had to be moved quickly in 2019 to see if he was worthy of a 40-man roster spot. He responded by helping Fayetteville to the Carolina League championship series. SCOUTING REPORT: Rodriguez has some of the best control in the Astros farm system, which helps him succeed without a real plus pitch. He has above-average pitchability, spotting his 91-95 mph fastball and above-average slider. While his fastball and breaking ball are both effective, his changeup is standing between him and a future as a starter. Most of his changeups are well-below average. They are slow enough (78-80 mph) but he telegraphs them and leaves them up in the zone, making them quite hittable. THE FUTURE: The Astros added Rodriguez to the 40-man roster ahead of several harder-throwing but less-refined relievers. He should reach Double-A Corpus Christi in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Stubbs has long been one of the most athletic catchers around—he also has played in the outfield and middle infield sporadically in college and as a pro. A star at Southern Cal, he's one of the smallest catchers in pro ball, and his workload has reflected that—he's never caught 100 games in a season. SCOUTING REPORT: Most backup catchers are awful hitters, but have plus power for when they do run into a pitch. Stubbs has a chance to be an average hitter with a simple stroke that is low-maintenance—he can handle sitting on the bench for two or three days without getting rusty. It's a somewhat one-plane swing. He has very little power. Most catchers are bottom-of-the-scale runners. Stubbs is a plus runner. Defensively, he's athletic and moves well with an above-average and accurate arm (he's thrown out 43 percent of basestealers for his career). But his framing metrics are poor, which makes him much less appealing as a backup. THE FUTURE: Stubbs will likely get a much better shot to be the backup with the Astros catching situation scrambled. If given at-bats, he has a chance to hit for average and provide some versatility as he can also play in the outfield.
TRACK RECORD: After a dominating stint in the Cape Cod League as a rising junior, Solomon was seen as a potential first-round pick. All that quickly dissolved as Notre Dame moved him back to the bullpen after just four starts. With the Astros, he has shown he can start, but his 2019 season ended after just two starts when he blew out his elbow. SCOUTING REPORT: Solomon has made significant strides since his days as a Fighting Irish reliever. If he can recover from the surgery, there is nothing in his delivery or his wide array of pitches that should dissuade him starting—his delivery is fluid and clean. He now has a very varied approach. Everything starts with a low-to-mid-90s above-average fastball. His 12-to-6 curveball flashes above-average but he has a long way to go to find the command to make it more than a chase pitch. He also mixes in a fringier-slider and cutter. His below-average changeup needs further refinement. THE FUTURE: Solomon will miss most of 2020 as he continues to recover from elbow surgery. Because of the timing of his surgery, the Astros could decide to hold him out of game action until 2021.
TRACK RECORD: When Armenteros made his MLB debut on June 14, it was the capstone of an eightyear journey that began with him pitching as a 17-year-old for Industriales of Cuba's Serie Nacional. After leaving Cuba, then-Astros scout Alex Jacobs saw him pitching in a workout for Rusney Castillo and signed him for $40,000. SCOUTING REPORT: Armenteros was added to the Astros 40-man roster before the 2019 season and seemed poised to be a fill-in starter. But Jose Urquidy ended up leap-frogging him into that role. Armenteros can work as either a spot starter or a multi-inning reliever, but other than a plus changeup, nothing in Armenteros' arsenal is particularly overwhelming. He can touch 95 mph with his average fastball, but more often he sits 90-92. He throws a below-average curve and will mix in a sporadic belowaverage slider almost entirely as a chase pitch for righthanded hitters. He has above-average control, but he's forced to stay around the edges of the zone and if he falls behind in the count, he'd rather walk the batter than give in. THE FUTURE: Armenteros is unlikely to be the Astros first option for a spot in the rotation in 2020, but he should get a shot at contributing at some point during the season. He's more crafty than anything, but can be a useful swingman.
TRACK RECORD: The Astros are quite happy to pick college relievers who they see as having some starter traits—the tandem starter approach they use helps them then ease into starting. Hansen was the Sooners closer. With Houston, he transitioned to a tandem starter role in 2019 and was effective at two levels. SCOUTING REPORT: Hansen steadily gained velocity as the weather warmed up in 2019. He began the season sitting 90-94 mph, but by the end of the year he was sitting 93-96 and touching 98. That plus fastball and above-average, hard slider and 12-to-6 curveball gives him a chance for three above-average pitches. He hides the ball well in his delivery. Like many Astros prospects, he's coached to take walks rather than give in and give up hard contact and has below-average control. His command is also below average. His changeup has improved, but is still a below-average chase pitch largely just for lefties. Scouts laud his makeup and competitiveness. THE FUTURE: Hansen very well could end up back in the relief role he thrived in at Oklahoma, but he has shown enough starter traits to stay in the rotation for now.
TRACK RECORD: Paredes was another bargain signing ($10,000) who has added 5-6 mph while being nearly unhittable in the lower minors. He wants to dominate hitters and sometimes focuses on embarrassing hitters more than just getting them out. SCOUTING REPORT: Paredes has an extremely fast arm, which allows him to simply overwhelm many hitters with a 94-98 mph four-seam fastball (and a quality two-seamer too) and a plus slider. In a starter role, he throws a spike curve and below-average changeup as well. That fast arm also at times gets him into trouble, as he struggles with below-average control and even worse command—he's aiming for the strike zone more than he's trying to hit a spot. Paredes' delivery is high energy if you like it and effortful and hard to maintain if you don't. THE FUTURE: Most pitchers with frames and deliveries like Paredes end up in the bullpen, but every now and then someone like Yordano Ventura makes it work. Paredes has been extremely hard to hit everywhere he's pitched. He will likely start back in Corpus Christi but with his stuff, he could be a viable option to pitch in Houston by the end of the year.
TRACK RECORD: The Astros spent $1.8 million to land Lorenzo, a switch-hitting shortstop who stands out more for his bat than his glove. SCOUTING REPORT: Lorenzo has a chance to be an above-average or better hitter thanks to a smooth swing as a lefthanded and righthanded hitter. He has above-average barrel control, a level swing and the hand-eye to make plenty of contact and his hands work very well. Lorenzo projects as a high-average, high on-base hitter with modest gap/doubles power. Defensively, Lorenzo will have to work hard to stay at shortstop. He has shown steady improvement as an amateur but he still doesn't have the short-range quickness and actions teams often look for in a shortstop. If he does eventually have to move his athleticism, average speed and average arm should work at second or third base or even center field. THE FUTURE: Lorenzo is expected to begin his pro career in the Dominican Summer League. His advanced bat should allow him to move quicker than the average teenager.
TRACK RECORD: A 27th-round pick of the Twins as a sophomore, Taylor hit 13 home runs for the Tide as a junior, moving into ninth on the school's career home run list (38). He also ranks sixth in career walks for Alabama (110). A hamate injury barely slowed Taylor, as he hit 14 home runs in his first full pro season. SCOUTING REPORT: Taylor swings and misses baseballs at a frightening rate. In 2019, nearly 40 percent of Taylor's plate appearances ended in strikeouts. However, when he does make contact, he hits the ball in the air and he clears fences. He has the best raw power in the Astros farm system now that Yordan Alvarez has graduated. Taylor also has a plus arm and his average speed works in right field—he's a fringe-average defender. Taylor's plate demeanor doesn't help his swing-and-miss tendencies. Umpires aren't always thrilled with his demonstrative disagreements with called strikes. Very rarely do bottom-of-the-scale hitters with 70 power play in the majors—usually either the hit tool gets better or the player doesn't make it. So Taylor has to figure out how to make enough contact to be at least a .230-.240 hitter long-term. THE FUTURE: The chances of Taylor fixing his contact problems enough to be a playable big leaguer are slim. Most players with his profile (Cody Johnson and Chris Carter are examples) end up flaming out somewhere short of a lengthy MLB career. Taylor's massive power gives him that slim shot of being a future home run champ, if he can make massive adjustments.
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