The Houston Astros are firing on all cylinders at the Major League level. They’re currently 76-47 and sitting on a comfortable 13-game lead in the American League West. Being loaded with young talent and competing at the Major League level is one thing. Having a farm system stacked with young talent as well is another.
The Astros’ Minor League affiliates have all been performing well this year. They have the depth to make them not only a scary team this year but in the foreseeable future as well. Here’s how their top 10 prospects have been doing in 2017.
10. Cionel Perez, LHP
Perez defected from Cuba in May of 2015, and the Astros took a flyer on him the next year. Before that, he was one of the best pitchers in Cuba as a 17-year-old. His best pitch is his fastball, which sits in the low 90s with great movement. His breaking pitch and changeup both are already average with plenty of potential to improve. Perez has great instinct and pitchability on the mound, which should help his ascent to the Majors.
2017 stats: (Single-A Quad Cities): 55.1 IP, 4-3, 4.39 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 55 K, 17 BB. (High-A Buies Creek): 25.1 IP, 2-1, 2.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 18 K, 5 BB. (Double-A Corpus Christi): 3.2 IP, 7.36 ERA, 2.46 WHIP, 2 K, 3 BB.
Perez has bumped up two levels this season and is currently pitching at Double-A Corpus Christi. He impressed at High-A Buies Creek, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in four starts. Aside from one start in which he gave up four runs, Perez kept his opposition to just one earned run a game. His first start with Corpus Christi didn’t go as planned, as he gave up a run and walked three in just two-thirds of an inning.
9. Daz Cameron, OF
There’s a lot to like about Daz Cameron, but there’s an equal amount of work that he needs to do to reach his potential. He was a candidate to be taken first overall in 2015 but ultimately settled as a supplemental first-round pick by the Astros. While he’s not flashy, Cameron is a well-balanced and can make an impact at any part of the game.
2017 stats: (Single-A Quad Cities): 114 games, .267/.345/.468, 14 HR, 72 RBI, 75 R, 28 SB, 42 BB, 105 K.
Cameron has shown off all parts of his game throughout the 2017 season. In 114 games, he maintained a solid slash line, has homered 14 times and has swiped 28 bases for Quad Cities. The month of August has been without a doubt the high point of Cameron’s seasons. In 22 games, he’s batting .386 with three homers, 18 RBI, and six stolen bases. His hot month has boosted all of his stats after a slow start and should set the tone heading into next spring.
8. David Paulino, RHP
Innings and experience were the only things keeping Paulino from the Majors after a solid couple of seasons since returning from Tommy John surgery. His fastball reaches 98 mph, while his curveball and changeup are both above average. He’s missed time with injuries but worked his way to the Majors this May before being hit with an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
2017 stats: (Triple-A Fresno):14 IP, 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 13 K, 9 BB. (MLB Houston): 29 IP, 2-0, 6.52 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 34 K, 7 BB.
[the_ad id=”384″]Paulino was sent to the Majors to make his debut on May 31 and made six starts before the suspension. In those six starts, he was equally as impressive in half the starts as he was disappointing in the other half. His strikeout numbers were up and walks were down, but he gave up far too many home runs, including four in his last outing.
7. Colin Moran, 3B/1B
Moran was a potential first overall pick in the 2013 Draft but ultimately went with the No. 6 pick by the Marlins. He was traded to Houston in 2014 and has since been one of the best overall hitters in an already stacked system. The 24-year-old has always made great contact but has also come a long way with his approach by making adjustments and adding strength.
2017 stats: (Triple-A Fresno): 79 games, .308/.373/.543, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 53 R, 31 BB, 55 K. (MLB Houston): 2 games, .500/.500/1.33, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.
After half a season in Fresno, Moran played his way onto the big league club. He hit over .300, hit 18 homers and drove in 63 runs before making his debut in early July. Unfortunately, he played only two games before fouling a ball off his face and landing on the DL. He collected three hits, including a homer and triple before the injury.
6. Yordan Alvarez, OF/1B
Without a full season under his belt, Alvarez is already showing that he has one of the highest ceilings in the system. He’s an above average contact hitter who’s starting to tap into his raw power. He’s just 20 years old and is only in his first full season as a professional, but the Astros like what they see.
2017 stats: (Single-A Quad Cities): 32 games, .360/.468/.658, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 26 R, 23 BB, 36 K. (High-A Buies Creek): 48 games, .304/.357/.440, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 19 R, 5 SB, 17 BB, 34 K.
Alvarez was promoted to High-A Buies Creek much earlier than expected after a great start with Quad Cities. In 36 games he batted .360 and homered nine times. He faltered only slightly after being called up but is still hitting .298 with three homers and 34 RBI in 49 games. Alvarez has been red hot over his last 10 games, batting .390 with two homers and eight RBI.
5. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP
The Astros took Bukauskas with the No. 15 overall selection in this year’s Draft. His fastball has been his standout pitch throughout his college career. It sits in the mid-90s, topping out at 98 with great sink, and he can throw it consistently. His slider rates plus-plus as well, sitting in the mid-80s with plenty of break. He’s not a sure-starter on the mound and could very well end up as an elite reliever in the long run.
2017 stats: (RK-GCL): 4.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3 K, 1 BB. (Low-A Tri-City): 6.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6 K, 4 BB.
In three professional starts, Bukauskas has yielded seven hits, three runs, five walks and has struck out nine. The Astros are being cautious with their 20-year-old prospect as to not rush him into it. Bukauskas has plenty of upside as either a starter or reliever, and it’s unsure how the Astros will use him.
4. Derek Fisher, OF
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#54)
While Fisher has performed well this season and even made it to the Majors, there’s still some untapped potential. He has a great combination of power and speed, hitting 43 homers and stealing 59 bags in his first two seasons, but he’s struggled to do it consistently. He strikes out far too often and goes on long stretches of poor performance, but when on, Fisher can make an impact at multiple parts of the game.
2017 stats: (Triple-A Fresno): 84 games, .318/.384/.583, 21 HR, 66 RBI, 63 R, 16 SB, 35 BB, 74 K. (MLB Houston): 30 games, .224/.327/.388, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 13 R, 3 SB, 14 BB, 32 K.
After a short stint in the Major in June, Fisher was called back up on July 25 and has since been here to stay. He started off hot, reaching base safely in nine of his first 11 games since being called back up, but hasn’t done much at the plate since. He’s batting just .224 in 30 games with four homers and 11 RBI. Fisher is also averaging more than a strikeout per game and isn’t working many walks. That being said, recent trades have made Fisher’s roster spot his to lose.
3. Franklin Perez, RHP
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#46)
The Astros signed Perez out of Venezuela in 2014 when he was just 17 years old. You wouldn’t guess his age by watching him, though, as he’s incredibly advanced for his age. His fastball and curveball already project as plus pitches, and both should add more velocity as Perez grows into his body. He commands the zone well, especially the bottom of it, and can paint the corners with ease with all of his pitches.
2017 stats: (High-A Buies Creek): 54.1 IP, 4-2, 2.98 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 53 K, 16 BB. (Double-A Corpus Christi): 28 IP, 2-1, 3.21 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 21 K, 9 BB.
Age was thrown out the window when the Astros decided to promote the 19-year-old Perez. In 12 starts with Buies Creek, he posted an exceptional 2.98 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, good enough for a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi. In six starts since, he’s continued to impress. He’s pitching deeper into games and has allowed more than two runs in just one of the six starts. Perez has already made huge strides in his development and could be in the Majors before reaching the legal drinking age.
2. Forrest Whitley, RHP
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#40), Top 10 RHP Prospects (#10)
The Astros made Whitley a first-round Draft pick in last year’s Draft. The 19-year-old was dominant in high school and has been more of the same since going pro. His fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup all project as above-average pitches. Whitley is already well advanced for his age and has only continued to get better in the two seasons since becoming a professional.
2017 stats: (Single-A Quad Cities): 46.1 IP, 2-3, 2.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 67 K, 21 BB. (High-A Buies Creek): 31.1 IP, 3-1, 3.16 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 50 K, 9 BB. (Double-A Corpus Christi): 8 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 15 K, 3 BB.
Whitley has found himself on the fast-track to the big leagues after earning his second promotion of the season a few weeks ago. Very few pitchers drafted out of high school have made their Double-A debut in just their first full season. Whitley has earned it and hasn’t stopped showing why he’s one of the most exciting pitching prospects in baseball. He was absolutely dominant in his Double-A debut, pitching six shutout innings, allowed just two hits and struck out 11.
1. Kyle Tucker, OF
MLB.com lists: Top 100 Prospects (#10), Top 10 OF Prospects (#4)
Few outfield prospects have impressed more than Tucker in the last few seasons. The Astros drafted him with the No. 5 overall pick in 2015, and he has since moved to the top of their prospect list, as well as MLB’s. He’s an above average hitter with a great combination of power and speed that he’s put on display this season.
2017 stats: (High-A Buies Creek): 48 games, .288/.379/.554, 9 HR, 43 RBI, 31 R, 13 SB, 24 BB, 45 K. (Double-A Corpus Christi): 62 games, .254/.309/.484, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 33 R, 8 SB, 17 BB, 61 K.
Tucker tore up High-A Buies Creek before being promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi in late May. He’s had his ups and downs in 62 games at the Double-A level but has really turned it on in his last seven games. Over that stretch, he’s batting .357 with four homers and six RBI. The 20-year-old still has some fine tuning to do before being considered for a MLB debut, but he has one of the highest upsides in the Astros system.