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Houston Astros Top 20 prospects for 2018: mid-season review

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Let’s check up on the Astros

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Houston Astros
Kyle Tucker
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing with our mid-season organization reviews, we turn our attention to Houston Astros farm system.

This list was originally published November 27th, 2017 and revised on January 31st, 2018

*****THIS IS NOT A NEW LIST******

THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE PRE-SEASON LIST

THESE ARE NOT NEW GRADES

1) Forrest Whitley, RHP, Grade A/A-: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Texas, pitching time limited this year by a drug-of-abuse suspension then a strained quad; 26 innings so far in Double-A with 3.76 ERA, 34/11 K/BB, 15 hits; he’ll lose about 100 innings of development time this year which isn’t good but scouts still love him and his performance so far has been solid. Stock holding.

2) Kyle Tucker, OF, Grade A-/A: Age 21, first round pick in 2015; mashing Triple-A at .316/.379/.550 with 19 homers, 18 steals, 39 walks, 80 strikeouts in 367 at-bats; hitting .154/.252/.212 in 52 major league at-bats; I don’t think he has much left to learn in the PCL, he just needs at-bats to settle into the Show; stock holding, still elite.

3) J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick in 2017 from University of North Carolina; back injury from an auto crash cost him much of the 2018 season but he’s been excellent when on the mound, 2.06 ERA in 48 innings, 55/18 K/BB between rehab work and A-ball; as with Whitley the lost development time is an annoyance but he’s looked great when healthy, his arm wasn’t the health issue, and his stock is holding.

4) Yordan Alvarez, OF-1B, Grade B+: Age 21, signed by Los Angeles Dodgers out of Cuba in 2015, then traded to Astros; crushed Double-A at .325/.389/.615 in 169 at-bats, more human but still productive in Triple-A at .244/.342/.449; missed some time with a hand injury; tapping his raw power more consistently this year, stock still strong.

5) David Paulino, RHP, Grade B: Age 24; lost most of 2017 season due to elbow problems and PED suspension; has missed most of 2018 rehabbing the elbow, 4.67 ERA in 27 innings between Triple-A and rookie ball, 33/6 K/BB; traded to Toronto Blue Jays in Roberto Osuna/Ken Giles deal; Jays assigned him to rookie ball this week for more injury rehab work. Health is obviously the key issue here.

6) Cionel Perez, LHP, Grade B: Age 22, signed out of Cuba in 2016, rapid rise with 2.03 ERA, 84/25 K/BB in 71 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, just 57 hits allowed; threw seven innings in the majors with seven strikeouts, five walks, four hits, three runs; enormously talented, stock was already strong and he’s kicked it up a notch to at least a B+.

7) Rogelio Armenteros, RHP, Grade B: Age 24, signed out of Cuba in 2014; 3.65 ERA in 113 innings in Triple-A, 127/45 K/BB, 102 hits; has pitched better as season has progressed, has 2.87 ERA in last six starts with 35/17 K/BB in 37 innings, 29 hits allowed; no big change in reports, solid stuff that plays up because he keeps hitters confused; I like him more than many observers do, stock holding at least for me.

8) J.D. Davis, 3B, Grade B: Age 25, third round pick in 2014 from Cal State Fullerton; blasting Triple-A at .352/.416/.608 in 293 at-bats, hit just .176/.247/.235 in 85 major league at-bats; now has 147 at-bats in MLB so he will drop off prospect lists; another guy with nothing left to prove in the minors but no obvious place to work out kinks against Show pitchers.

9) Hector Perez, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014; 3.52 ERA in 107 innings between High-A and Double-A, 124/60 K/BB, traded to Blue Jays in the Osuna deal; command remains a concern but stuff is first class.

10) Gilberto Celestino, OF, Grade B-: Age 19, signed for $2,500,000 out of Dominican Republic in 2015; hitting .295/.353/.410 with 22 steals in 23 attempts between Appalachian and New York-Penn Leagues, traded to Minnesota Twins for Ryan Pressly; I love his offensive potential, uses speed brilliantly and more power will come.

11) Corbin Martin, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, second round pick in 2017 from Texas A&M; successful campaign, 2.37 ERA in 110 innings between High-A and Double-A, 108/31 K/BB, just 74 hits, change-up improving, already has strong fastball and slider, good command, everything looks good right now, stock up a notch.

12) Brett Adcock, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2016 from the University of Michigan; 2.97 ERA in 97 innings between High-A and Double-A, 91/51 K/BB, just 59 hits; breaking stuff plus on the right day, fastball command inconsistent, needs to cut walks down but lefties with live arms get plenty of development slack.

13) Garrett Stubbs, C, Grade C+/B-: Age 25, eighth round pick in 2015 from USC; older prospect but interesting, hitting .314/.380/.464 in 280 at-bats in Triple-A; above-average defender; offensive track record is inconsistent but he’s handling the PCL well and can command the zone; ready for a trial.

14) Cristian Javier, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, signed out of Dominican in 2015; 2.79 ERA with 135/45 K/BB in 103 innings in Low-A/High-A, 135/45 K/BB, only 67 hits; low-90s fastball according to Midwest League observers but with advanced secondary breaking stuff, command not always consistent but hitters seem to have a hard time picking him up; stock moving up.

15) Abraham Toro-Hernandez, 3B, Grade C+: Age, 21, born in Canada, fifth round pick in 2015 from Seminole State Junior College in Oklahoma; hit .257/.361/.473 in 296 at-bats in High-A, .232/.318/.377 in 138 at-bats in Double-A; same pattern as last year with a slump after moving up a level but has shown ability to make adjustments; very good defender at third base, switch-hitting power is attractive, needs more attention as a prospect, 80-grade name tool.

16) Framber Valdez, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, signed out of Dominican in 2015 at the old age of 21; 4.11 ERA in 103 innings in Double-A/Triple-A, 129/32 K/BB, 100 hits; strikeouts the key indicator here with fastball up to 96 and plus breaking ball; some command inconsistency to work through but a high ceiling.

17) Joe Perez, 3B-RHP, Grade C+: Age 17, second round pick in 2017 from high school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; had Tommy John surgery and could have been a first-rounder otherwise as either a pitcher or hitter though Astros prefer his bat; went 4-for-11 in rookie ball but was placed back on disabled list in late July.

18) Brandon Bailey, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, drafted by Oakland Athletics in sixth round in 2016 from Gonzaga; traded to Astros on November 20th 2017 for Ramon Laureano; yet another intriguing arm, 2.69 ERA with 125/47 K/BB in 110 innings between High-A and Double-A with 83 hits allowed, very deceptive with command of four-pitch mix.

19) Jorge Alcala, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2014, traded to Twins in Pressly deal, 3.71 ERA in 90 innings in High-A and Double-A, 95/43 K/BB, can hit 100 but needs better command, probably winds up in bullpen.

20) Ronnie Dawson, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, second round pick in 2016 from The Ohio State University; hitting .254/.331/.428 with 15 homers, 31 steals, 41 walks, 117 strikeouts in 402 at-bats in High-A/Double-A; power/speed combo is exciting to watch but hitting approach needs more polish.

OTHER GRADE C+:

Dean Deetz, RHP; Opened season on restricted list with PED suspension; excellent on his return with 0.72 ERA, 40/13 K/BB in 25 innings in Triple-A, ready for bullpen trial.

Jacob Dorris, RHP; Submarine/sidearm guy released after posting 7.71 ERA in 16 innings in Triple-A.

Riley Ferrell, RHP; 4.47 ERA in 46 innings in Double-A/Triple-A, 58/32 K/BB; plus fastball and slider but control needs a lot of work

Carlos Machado, OF; Hitting .288/.335/.405 in the NY-P; could break out next year.

J.J. Matijevic, OF; Nice season in Low-A/High-A, .275/.351/.543 with 20 homers, 13 steals, 40 walks, 99 strikeouts in 335 at-bats.

Freudis Nova, SS; Playing well in rookie ball, .312/.336/.478, eight steals, six walks, 20 strikeouts in 138 at-bats; age 18, stock moving up.

Mike Papierski, C; Hitting just .1983/351/.293 in Low-A, draws a lot of walks but that’s not enough, glove good enough to keep him employed for a while.

Nathan Perry, C; Fine glove, hasn’t hit much yet, .225/.312/.350 in 120 at-bats in rookie ball/NY-P.

Yoanys Quiala, RHP; Suspended for PED use

Lorenzo Quintana, C; Older Cuban, age 29, hitting .247/.308/.489 with 11 homers, 14 walks, 44 strikeouts in 227 at-bats in Double-A

Chuckie Robinson, C; Sharp glove, hitting needs work at .238/.287/.374 in 235 at-bats in High-A.

Elian Rodriguez, RHP; Cuban with command trouble, 5.09 ERA with 19/26 K/BB in 23 innings in rookie ball.

Leovanny Rodriguez, RHP; Midwest League observers regard him as a significant sleeper, 4.08 ERA in 82 innings with Quad Cities, 93/22 K/BB.

Patrick Sandoval, LHP; Traded to Los Angeles Angels for Martin Maldonado, having an excellent year with 2.10 ERA in 107 innings, 124/24 K/BB, 79 hits in Low-A/High-A/Double-A; don’t overlook or forget about this guy.

Carlos Sierra, RHP; 4.23 ERA in 38 innings in High-A/Double-A, 39/16 K/BB, relief possibilities if consistency improves.

Miguelangel Sierra, SS; Hitting .232/.280/.382 with 11 homers, 24 walks, 125 whiffs in 353 at-bats in Low-A; good pop with strike zone concerns, may fit better at second with the glove.

Jairo Solis, RHP; 3.55 ERA in 51 innings in Low-A, 51/32 K/BB, needs better control, gave up just one homer, placed on disabled list August 9th.

Peter Solomon, RHP; 2.18 ERA in 91 innings in Low-A/High-A, 105/29 K/BB, 70 hits, just two homers, significant sleeper for 2019.

Myles Straw, OF: Hitting .290/.381/.349 with 68 walks, 63 steals in 479 at-bats in AA/AAA; 70 grade speed at least and draws walks, lacks power

Alex Winkelman, LHP 3.19 ERA in 73 innings in Double-A, 78/48 K/BB; bullpen option if he can lower the walks.

**************

The Astros have so much depth that the trades they made hardly cut into the farm system at all.

The 2019 list will have some new names, notably 25-year-old right-hander Josh James who turned himself from a pre-season Grade C into a legitimate B/B+ prospect with a large velocity boost and 166 strikeouts in 107 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Going from 90-94 up to 95-100 will do that.

2018 draftee Seth Beer has been excellent so far and will also rank near the top of the system. Infielder Freudis Nova, right-handers Brandon Bielak, Tyler Ivey, and Trent Thornton will also move up among the holdover prospects.