This is what you call a sexy farm system. Okay, maybe I’ll leave the term sexy for the Braves and Padres of the world and simply call Houston’s system a damn fine system. Maybe it just looks better after going over Milwaukee’s lackluster farm system last Friday. When you look at the top Houston Astros prospects, you see a solid mix of talent. Their top-10 consists of a few power-hitting outfielders, the 2018 minor league stolen base king, and four pitchers with No. 2 starter upside of better. It’s a good time to be a Houston Astros fan.
Overall System Grade: B+
All other team top-25 prospect rankings can be found here.
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: Round Rock – Pacific Coast League
Double-A: Corpus Christi – Texas League
Single-A (Advanced): Buies Creek – Carolina League
Single-A (Full): Quad Cities – Midwest League
Short-season Single-A: Tri-City – New York-Penn League
Rookie: Teams in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League
New Top-25 Houston Astros Prospects
1. Kyle Tucker, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 1/17/97, ETA Debuted 2018
2018 Stats (AAA): .332/.400/.590/.990, 27 2B, 24 HR, 20 SB, 10.3 BB%, 18.1 K%, 407 AB
2018 Stats (MLB): .141/.236/.203/.439, 2 2B, 0 HR, 1 SB, 8.2 BB%, 18.1 K%, 64 AB
Well, his first taste of the Majors didn’t quite go according to plan, but hey, neither did Mike Trout’s. Expectations might have been a tad high after Tucker destroyed PCL pitching en route to his second straight 20/20 campaign. The power and speed upside have always been there, and slowly but surely, Tucker has developed into a damn fine hitter as well. Tucker improved both his strikeout and walk rates from 2017 and began using the whole field more often. Tucker’s exceptional bat speed, raw power, and plate coverage make him one of the top-5 prospects in the minor leagues with enormous offensive upside.
— AT&T SportsNet SW (@ATTSportsNetSW) July 11, 2018
2. Forrest Whitley, RHP, DOB: 9/15/97, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AA): 26.1 IP, 3.76 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, 11.6 K/9, .160 AVG
If it wasn’t for a 50-game suspension and an injury here and there, Whitley likely would’ve made his Major League debut late in the 2018 season. Whitley is barely old enough to legally drink alcohol, but has the poise of a veteran on the hill. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s with run and sink due to his height and projects for more once he adds strength to his slender frame. All three of his secondary pitches are above-average or better with his hammer curve being the best of the trio. With the potential for four plus or better pitches and solid control, both the ceiling and floor here are incredibly high. Whitley is the top pitching prospect in all the land.
3. Yordan Alvarez, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 6/27/97, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .293/.369/.534/.903, 21 2B, 20 HR, 6 SB, 11.1 BB%, 24.3 K%, 335 AB
Alvarez has made a name for himself over the last couple of years but still seems to fly a tad under the radar when it comes to elite position prospects. Alvarez has the profile of your prototypical slugging corner outfielder. It starts with his easy plus raw power. Alvarez has a clean left-handed swing with plenty of bat speed and loft which translates into impressive raw power. His ability to barrel up balls anywhere in the strike zone and generate hard contact to all fields is impressive and should lead to plenty of high batting averages. Defensively, Alvarez is nothing special but should be adequate in a corner outfield spot. Expect him to make his Major League debut next summer.
4. Josh James, RHP, DOB: 3/18/93, ETA: Debuted 2018
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 114.1 IP, 3.23 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 13.5 K/9, .191 AVG
2018 Stats (MLB): 23.0 IP, 2.35 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 11.3 K/9, .191 AVG
These next two pitchers could be flip-flopped and I wouldn’t bat an eye. His fastball velocity continues to creep up and even touched triple-digits at times in 2018. On top of the added velocity, James’ command of his heater has also improved which was a big hindrance to him in the lower levels of the minors. I’m not saying he’s turning into a control artist out there, but the control is no longer a death sentence for him remaining a starter long term. To back up that cheese, James throws a slider and a change-up, both of which have flashed plus potential. Developing more consistency with those two offerings is key for James over the next year or two if he wants to fulfill his upside as a No. 2 starter.
Josh James' 88 mph Changeup induces a big 360 swing and miss from Yangervis Solarte. pic.twitter.com/p32MpniOlU
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) September 26, 2018
5. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, DOB: 10/11/96, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (RK/A-/A/A+/AA): 59.0 IP, 2.14 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, 10.8 K/9, .199 AVG
Just because I gave the nod to James above doesn’t mean I don’t envision a very good career for Mr. Bukauskas. Josh James is the hot name right now, and deservedly so. But if you forced me to take one of them for the next 5-10 years, give me Bukauskas, it’s basically a coin flip. At the very least, Bukauskas has the makings of an elite closer with his mid to upper-90’s heater and sharp slider with two-plane tilt. His change-up has lagged behind but has shown promise of becoming an above-average pitch with solid fade. Developing consistency with his change-up and keeping his control in check will be huge for Bukauskas who has SP2 upside.
6. Seth Beer, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 9/18/96, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (RK/A-/A): .304/.389/.496/.885, 14 2B, 12 HR, 1 SB, 8.4 BB%, 16.5 K%, 260 AB
If Seth Beer was an actual beer, I’d like to believe he’d be a stout beer, likely a Guinness. Beer is strong with an above-average hit tool but his lack of speed and defensive liabilities will turn some people off. I don’t blame them either. But even with those shortcomings, the special, advanced bat is going to make Beer a good hitter in this league in the near future. His plate coverage, raw strength, and ability to barrel up the ball with regularity should lead to both a strong batting average and 25-plus HR pop. Thankfully he plays in the American League so he can hide at DH. I’d hate to see a bat like this lose playing time due to poor defense.
7. Corbin Martin, RHP, DOB: 12/28/95, ETA 2019
2018 Stats (A+/AA): 122.0 IP, 2.51 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9, .199 AVG
While the upside might not be quite as high as the previous three arms, Martin arguably has a higher floor than James and Bukauskas due to his clean delivery and above-average control and command. Martin features a low to mid-90’s fastball with armside run, two above-average or better breaking balls, and a developing changeup with decent fade. Look for him to settle in as a solid mid-rotation starter with a potential Major League debut next summer.
8. Freudis Nova, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 1/12/00, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (RK): .308/.331/.466/.797, 3 2B, 6 HR, 9 SB, 3.8 BB%, 13.4 K%, 146 AB
If you’re looking for the toolsy raw prospect with high upside in this system, you’ve found him. Nova was one of the top international free agents back in 2016 and it’s quite easy to see why. If his power continues to develop, we’d be looking at a five-tool shortstop prospect with .300/20/25 upside and strong defense at shortstop. That’s a ways off though as Nova is still 18-years-old with only 312 professiional at-bats under his belt. Look for him to get the bump up to Single-A in 2019.
9. Luis Santana, 2B, Bats: R, DOB: 7/20/99, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (RK): .348/.446/.471/.917, 13 2B, 4 HR, 8 SB, 11.2 BB%, 9.5 K%, 204 AB
Sticking with this theme of high upside bats in rookie ball, Luis Santana certainly fits the bill. Santana makes a ton of contact from the right side with plus bat speed and plate coverage. Don’t let that 5’8 frame fool you about his power potential either. While he’ll never be a masher, Santana’s bat speed and strength should translate to 15-20 HR pop with some added loft to his swing. While not a speedster, Santana has some decent wheels and reads pitchers movements fairly well. The tools are here for Santana to become an above-average offensive second baseman. Look for him to progress to Single-A next season.
10. Bryan Abreu, RHP, DOB: 4/22/97, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A-/A): 54.1 IP, 1.49 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, 14.9 K/9, .175 AVG
There’s a lot to like about Bryan Abreu with one caveat: his below-average command. The arsenal contains three above-average to plus pitches in his low-90’s fastball, curveball, and slider, and Abreu will also mix in a changeup every now and then which is a fringe offering at best right now. The delivery is clean and repeatable from a 3/4 arm slot, but he can’t seem to develop consistent command. We’re likely either looking at a high-strikeout #2/#3 starter or a solid back-end bullpen arm. The development of his command will determine which one.
11. Myles Straw, OF, Bats: R. DOB: 10/17/94, ETA Debuted 2018
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .291/.381/.353/.734, 17 2B, 1 HR, 70 SB, 12.2 BB%, 17.1 K%, 516 AB
2018 Stats (MLB): .333/.400/.667/1.067, 0 2B, 1 HR, 2 SB, 10.0 BB%, 0.0 K%, 9 AB
Go ahead and have a foot race with Myles Straw. It’s a great idea if you like losing. Straw can flat out fly, both on the bases and in the outfield. His elite speed led to a minor league-leading 70 steals while only getting caught nine times. That’s a remarkable 88.6 success rate. Do you want to hear an even better stat? He finished in the top-3 in steals in TWO SEPARATE MINOR LEAGUE LEVELS. That’s right, 3rd in Double-A and 2nd in Triple-A. Simply remarkable. In addition to that speed, Straw plays a solid center field with a plus throwing arm. If he can continue to put the ball in play and get on-base at a high clip, Straw could find himself hitting atop a batting order in the future. Or, he could just be another high-speed guy hitting 8th or 9th in the batting order. Just don’t expect any power out of him.
12. Alex McKenna, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 9/6/97, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A-/A): .311/.394/.512/.906, 8 2B, 7 HR, 6 SB, 7.4 BB%, 21.3 K%, 164 AB
The Astros 4th round pick in 2018, McKenna is an advanced hitter that should move quickly. His clean swing and bat speed generate hard contact to all fields, just more of the line drive variety at the moment. He has the strength to develop 20-HR pop, but will need to add some loft to his swing for that to happen.
13. J.J. Matijevic, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 11/14/95, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A/A+): .277/.350/.538/.888, 26 2B, 22 HR, 13 SB, 10.2 BB%, 26.2 K%, 383 AB
While McKenna lacks loft in his swing, Matijevic has plenty of it. He makes plenty of hard contact in the air and is able to go the other way when he needs to. While he’s not expected to hit for an overly high average, he’s shown enough plate coverage and contact to hit in the .250-.270 range. Where he ends up defensively is still up in the air, though, it’s looking like a corner outfield spot.
14. Jayson Schroeder, RHP, DOB: 11/14/99, ETA 2022
2018 Stats (RK): 18.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 9.0 K/9, .220 AVG
A second-round pick back in June, Schroeder has already shown poise beyond his years on the mound. Armed with three potential above-average to plus pitches and decent command, there’s a strong chance he turns into a solid mid-rotation starter, but not much more than that. Still, his sinking fastball and high-70’s hook are a solid combination to work off of is he can continue to develop his slider and changeup.
15. Cionel Perez, LHP, DOB: 4/21/96, ETA Debuted 2018
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 73.2 IP, 2.08 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 10.9 K/9, .216 AVG
2018 Stats (MLB): 11.1 IP, 3.97 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 5.6 BB/9, 9.5 K/9, .158 AVG
If I was certain that Perez was going to remain a starter, he’d be a few spots higher. He’s been bothered by elbow issues lately, which while not uncommon in young pitchers, isn’t a welcomed site. Outside of his sinking mid-90’s fastball, Perez doesn’t really have a dominating arsenal. He features three secondary offerings with a low-80’s slider being the best of the bunch. Perez was used out of the bullpen in Houston late in the season, and with all the arms ahead of him on the depth chart, expect him to remain in the pen to start 2019.
16. Tyler Ivey, RHP, DOB: 5/12/96, ETA 2020
2018 Stats (A/A+): 112.0 IP, 2.97 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 10.8 K/9, .206 AVG
After a rough professional debut in the NYPL in 2017, Ivey came back with a very solid 2018 campaign, split between the Midwest League (A) and Carolina League (A+). Ivey will sit in the low-90s with strong arm side life on his fastball and mix in a curve, slider, and changeup, all of which are above-average offerings. The arsenal as a whole is strong, but there are still some questions around Ivey’s mechanics and high-effort delivery. If he can iron out the kinks, the upside here is of a mid-rotation starter.
17. Jairo Solis, RHP, DOB: 12/22/99, ETA 2021
2018 Stats (A): 50.2 IP, 3.55 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 5.7 BB/9, 9.1 K/9, .259
Solis features three average or better offerings but doesn’t command them well and becomes too hittable at times. He’s looking more like a back-end starter at this point, though, there’s still mid-rotation upside if he can reign in that arsenal.
18. Abraham Toro-Hernandez, 3B, Bats: S, 12/20/96, ETA 2020
If you only watched the Arizona Fall League, you’d think Toro-Hernandez was destined for greatness. Through the first three games, ATH has six hits in 11 at-bats, including two doubles and a home run. On top of that, he’s walked four times to just one strikeout. That plate discipline isn’t surprising, but there’s not a ton of offensive upside here. Maybe he can develop into a .250/15/10 third baseman, but that’s best case scenario.
19. Framber Valdez, LHP, DOB: 11/19/93, ETA 2019
A southpaw with a plus fastball/curveball combination, Valdez needs to develop his changeup more to stay in the rotation moving forward. Subpar command doesn’t help either.
20. Garrett Stubbs, C, Bats: L, DOB: 5/26/93, ETA 2019
If you ignore Stubbs’ lackluster power, there’s a lot to like here. Solid hit tool with good speed for a catcher and above-average behind the plate with a strong throwing arm. Stubbs looks like a backup Major League catcher at the very least.
21. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP, DOB: 6/30/94, ETA 2019
Unlike a lot of the other Houston farm arms in this range, Armenteros doesn’t overpower hitters with his fastball. He sits in the low 90’s with a couple ordinary breaking balls and a plus change-up. Above-average command helps him get the most out of his arsenal.
22. Joe Perez, 3B, Bats: R, DOB: 8/12/99, ETA 2021
Tommy John surgery has limited this 2017 second round pick to only 11 professional at-bats in the last year and a half. A former high school pitcher, Perez has a rocket arm from the hot corner and enough raw power to fit in at the position. His hit tool still needs some work and will determine how high he can shoot up these ranks at the next update.
23. Cristian Javier, RHP, DOB: 3/26/97, ETA 2020
While he’s enjoyed success thus far, there’s not a whole lot to like about Javier’s future potential. His fastball sits in the 89-92 range and none of his secondary pitches are anything special. What he does have working is good command of his fastball that plays up and has been hard for hitters in the lower levels to figure out. It will be interesting to see how he handles more advanced competition.
24. Jonathan Arauz, SS/2B, Bats: S, DOB: 8/3/98, ETA 2020
After a strong showing for Quad Cities (A), Arauz struggled mightily in Class-A Advanced ball. I guess the one positive is that he cut his strikeout rate a tad, but Arauz struggled to make much contact, hitting .167 in 233 at-bats. Arauz is an adequate defender at either shortstop or second base and has enough offensive upside to develop into a solid back-up or a low-end Major League starter at best.
25. Brandon Bielak, RHP, DOB: 4/2/96, ETA 2020
Bielak is your standard back of the rotation starter. His low-90’s fastball with armside run is an effective pitch for him, but Bielak hasn’t been able to develop any plus secondary pitches and lacks consistent command of his arsenal.
Up – Seth Beer (OF), Josh James (RHP)
Down – Cionel Perez (LHP), Framber Valdez (LHP)
Keep An Eye On – Jeremy Pena, SS
Pena is miles away from being a Major League caliber shortstop offensively, but defensively, he could likely hold his own now. Pena’s footwork, range, and throwing arm all pass with flying colors. Now he just needs to develop his offensive game. One thing he has going for him is that he puts the ball in play a lot, striking out in only 12.2% of his plate appearances in the NY Penn League after being drafted. That’s a start. However, not a lot of hard contact is made when he makes contact. That’s the problem. He’ll put the bat on the ball, but without much carry. Power? Non-existent. I’d love to see Pena make some strides offensively during his first full minor league campaign in 2019. It’d be a shame to let this defense go to waste because he can’t hit a lick.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.