Houston Astros Top 33 Prospects

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Houston Astros. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here.

Astros Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Jeremy Peña 24.8 MLB SS 2022 55
2 Hunter Brown 23.9 AAA SP 2023 50
3 Colin Barber 21.6 A+ CF 2025 45
4 Yainer Diaz 23.8 AAA C 2023 45
5 Korey Lee 24.0 MLB C 2022 45
6 Pedro Leon 24.1 AAA CF 2025 45
7 David Hensley 26.3 AAA 3B 2023 40+
8 Joe Perez 22.9 MLB 3B 2022 40+
9 Forrest Whitley 24.8 AAA MIRP 2022 40
10 Chayce McDermott 23.9 A+ SP 2025 40
11 Jairo Solis 22.5 A SIRP 2023 40
12 Logan Cerny 22.8 A CF 2026 40
13 Seth Martinez 27.9 MLB MIRP 2022 40
14 Shawn Dubin 26.8 AAA SIRP 2022 40
15 Will Wagner 23.9 AA 2B 2025 35+
16 J.C. Correa 23.8 A+ C 2024 35+
17 Parker Mushinski 26.6 MLB SIRP 2022 35+
18 Luis Baez 18.5 R RF 2027 35+
19 Cristian Gonzalez 20.7 A+ SS 2025 35+
20 J.J. Matijevic 26.6 MLB 1B 2022 35+
21 Wilyer Abreu 23.0 AA LF 2024 35+
22 Misael Tamarez 22.5 AA MIRP 2024 35+
23 Edinson Batista 20.1 A SP 2024 35+
24 Spencer Arrighetti 22.5 A+ SIRP 2025 35+
25 Miguel Ullola 20.1 A SIRP 2025 35+
26 Ronel Blanco 28.9 MLB SIRP 2022 35+
27 Jaime Melendez 20.8 AA SIRP 2024 35+
28 Dauri Lorenzo 19.7 R SS 2025 35+
29 Alex Santos II 20.4 A SP 2025 35+
30 J.P. France 27.3 AAA MIRP 2023 35+
31 Julio Robaina 21.3 AA MIRP 2022 35+
32 Jordan Brewer 24.9 AA CF 2023 35+
33 Tyler Whitaker 19.9 A RF 2026 35+
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55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Maine (HOU)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 202 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 55/55 50/55 60/60 60/60 50

A third-round pick out of Maine in 2018, Peña was seen as a defense-first shortstop with big league bloodlines and questionable offensive upside as an amateur, but he’s transformed his body as a pro, adding more than 20 pounds of muscle since signing, while also re-engineering his swing in order to tap into his new-found power. Peña is a plus defensive shortstop with above-average instincts, footwork and hands to go with a solid-average arm. He can get a bit aggressive at the plate, but he shows a consistent ability to drive the ball, and while he was ranked preseason with the hope that he could one day reach 20-plus home runs annually as a big leaguer, he is already on pace to do that in his first year and blow through this FV projection, which was made prior to Peña graduating. His makeup is off the charts, and he works as hard as he plays, with a quiet intensity to his overall game. Will there be any sort of regression here? Given Peña’s propensity to chase, it’s possible that he’ll have dry periods like the one Luis Robert is having this season; his rate of breaking ball chase (45% — the league average overall chase rate is 32%) in particular has been notable and might be something big league pitchers look to exploit. But his defense ensures that even if Peña goes through similar stretches, he’ll still be a solid everyday performer at a bare minimum. He is more than filling Carlos Correa’s shoes and has been worth a win more than the incumbent as of list publication.

50 FV Prospects

2. Hunter Brown, SP

Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from Wayne State (HOU)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 60/70 40/45 30/40 94-96 / 100

Brown provided a challenge to teams in the 2019 draft. Working in his favor was a starter’s frame and upper-90s velocity, but there was also precious little pitch data, as Brown was plying his trade at a small Division-II school in Michigan and didn’t have a long track record of performance there. The Astros finally pounced in the fifth round, and Brown has become one of their top pitching prospects by deepening and improving his arsenal throughout his development. Brown has plenty of arm strength, routinely sitting in the mid-90s and touching triple-digits at times. He was on a bit of a velocity roller coaster during the 2021 season, but finished the year at his best, sitting more 96-98 mph during the final month of the season. Brown has a very hard (at times 93-96 mph) slider that grades out as plus thanks mostly to its velocity, but he’s added a low-80s curveball as a pro that is even better in terms of spin and break, and the curveball plays nicely off his vertically-oriented fastball. His changeup, which was virtually non-existent in college, is still rare and typically below average, though it flashes better than that. All in all, it’s a fantastic package in terms of stuff, but it comes with ugly, imprecise command and big pitch efficiency issues that leave some evaluators wondering if Brown would be better off in a bullpen role, where he could just let it fly for 20-30 pitches and dominate. He’ll remain a starter for now, and will likely make his big league debut during the 2022 season.

45 FV Prospects

3. Colin Barber, CF

Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Pleasant Valley HS (CA) (HOU)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 194 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/70 45/50 30/45 60/60 40/50 40

Barber is a sweet-swinging lefty outfield stick with advanced bat-to-ball skills. After missing all but 16 games of 2021 due to a shoulder surgery, he’s raking at High-A Asheville to the tune of .314/.423/.487 as of list publication. Bat-to-ball skills still drive Barber’s profile, and he might end up with a special hit tool. He’s currently posting a 91% in-zone contact rate, and while he is essentially age-appropriate for High-A, it’s remarkable that Barber basically skipped a level and missed a whole year but is still hitting like this. He’s also gotten considerably stronger since high school even though he didn’t have an overtly projectable frame; he’s hit some balls in the 110-111 mph range this year and is a candidate to outproduce his raw power grade in games because his feel for contact is so good. Barber is a plus runner with a shot to stay in center field so long as his arm strength doesn’t become a liability there, forcing a Ben Revere-style move to left field. That would put more pressure on his offensive performance, but Barber looks like he’s going to clear that bar. He’s a potential everyday outfielder.

4. Yainer Diaz, C

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 60/60 40/50 20/20 45/50 60

Traded from Cleveland along with Phil Maton for Myles Straw, Diaz was once of several prospects who could have been considered part of Cleveland’s looming 40-man crunch, but Houston didn’t add him after the season and perhaps lucked out that there was no Rule 5 Draft. He’s slugged his way from Corpus Christi to Sugar Land, and now feels like a post-season must-add. Diaz has plus, all-fields power and covers the outer third of the plate especially well. Even while being a relatively free-swinger, he’s only struck out at a 15-16% clip since entering full-season ball and has a rare hit/power combination for a catcher, though he has been a little bit older for each level. A stiff, upright hitter, Diaz might have some issues with fastballs running in on his hands at the big league level, as he tends to be late on the ones he has seen at Double- and Triple-A, driving them almost exclusively to the opposite field, and he’s only been able to pull breaking balls that don’t quite finish. It’s part of why he’s projected with a below-average hit tool here even though he’s performed at an above-average clip in the minors.

Diaz is a viable defensive backstop but he hasn’t ever had to deal with the grind of a full season back there, peaking at 51 starts at catcher in 2021, and he has seen as much time at first base this year as he has behind the plate, as well as a little bit in the outfield corners. He receives on one knee with the bases empty before utilizing a traditional crouch with runners on, and he’s an acceptable receiver and ball-blocker with a great arm. Because he’s a bit stiff, it’s possible the grind of a full-season will impact his defensive mobility and even his offense if he has to catch 80-plus games. He is understandably very raw at the non-catching positions right now, and it’s unclear which of them he’ll actually be able to play. Diaz has the offensive ability to be an everyday catcher, it’s just hard to project him to be one when he’s never caught a full season of games. Instead, he projects as a part-time backstop who hopefully can end up accruing 400 or so plate appearances over the course of a season while playing a few different positions.

5. Korey Lee, C

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Cal (HOU)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/55 30/45 50/50 40/45 70

The centerpiece of Lee’s defense is his plus-plus arm, which will produce the occasional sub-1.8 pop time. In 2021, he lowered his arm slot to further shorten his pop times at the hopefully temporary expense of his throwing accuracy – many of the stolen bases he allowed last season were a result of his throw being off-target rather than late. He caught from a one-kneed crouch that varied quite a bit over the course of the season — sometimes sprawling, at other times more compact; sometimes with his left elbow on the outside of his upright knee, at other times with it tucked in. If there’s any below-average element to Lee’s defense, it’s his receiving. His low setup results in framing from below the zone, and he had more passed balls than most of the other highly-rated catching prospects in 2021, though the constant tinkering with his setup may be partly to blame for that. Also keep in mind that he’ll likely spend most of 2022 as a Sugarland Space Cowboy in Triple-A West, where robo strike zones are being implemented this season, so any variance in the quality of his receiving may be moot.

The 2021 tinkering was not limited to Lee’s defense, though. He’s cut out some of the pre-load movement in his batting stance and has made noticeable adjustments to his front foot. In his short professional debut in 2019, his timing in the box involved him tapping his toe, then lifting his foot to land a few inches up, taking a noticeable step toward the pitcher and shifting his weight accordingly. In 2021, that sequence was simplified, and instead of the toe tap, Lee is planting it and shifting his weight forward in his swing without the additional stride forward, resulting in a more balanced overall look. Though his offensive numbers have fallen short of what he produced batting behind Andrew Vaughn in his breakout season at Cal (.320/.420/.626), Lee is still moving quickly through the system, making his big league debut shortly before list publication. He’s going to end up with a 30-grade hit tool, and his ability to produce like an everyday catcher will be dictated by how much pull power he can get to in games. With Martín Maldonado and Jason Castro both nearing the ends of their contracts, an integral role for Lee is imminent.

6. Pedro Leon, CF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Cuba (HOU)
Age 24.1 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 55/55 40/50 60/60 40/50 70

A 5-foot-9 stick of dynamite, Leon has a big power/speed/arm tool trinity. Until 2021 spring training, the last action he had seen was during the ’18-19 Cuban National Series, during which he homered 15 times in 30 games before dealing with an oblique injury. Injury issues pushed back his stateside workout, and when it was finally held, teams got a text on the way there saying that Leon had a deal with Houston already done. The Astros sent him straight to Double-A, where he hit .249/.359/.443 in a season shortened by a thumb injury. Though he’s always played a mix of the middle infield and outfield, in the 2021 Fall League his reps began to shift more toward the latter, which has continued this season. After making three errors in as many games at shortstop to start 2022, Leon hasn’t played there since, and has instead played a mix of center field, right field, and second base. He had issues with throwing comfort and accuracy at shortstop, and looked awkward throwing from there, often pulling the first baseman off the bag. These issues are masked, but not entirely remedied, at second base. Ironically, when he can crow hop and uncork max-effort throws from the outfield, Leon’s arm is plus-plus. He isn’t a savant-like outfield defender, but he easily runs well enough to play center field, and as Leon had a three-year gap in play between when he last played in Cuba and first played minor league ball in the US, and has also had to work at four different positions, there might be late growth in these areas.

That’s perhaps also true of his hit tool. Leon’s swing is uphill, and at times he struggles to get on top of fastballs. The issue is tempered by his above-average feel for the zone and his compact frame, which keeps his swing short. Most of Leon’s game power comes from getting extended on fastballs out away from him and on hanging breaking balls. Because he doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man until after the 2024 season, Houston can take their time developing Leon’s defense before deploying him as a toolsy, versatile, up-the-middle role player.

40+ FV Prospects

7. David Hensley, 3B

Drafted: 26th Round, 2018 from San Diego State (HOU)
Age 26.3 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 50/50 40/45 40/40 50/50 50

Hensley is a very strange, dichotomous, multi-positional prospect who, at 6-foot-6, has been tasked with playing lots of 2B/SS in the upper levels of the minors. While he has below-average hands, Hensley shows an ability to throw from all kinds of funky platforms, and his internal clock and instincts are quite good. He’s played every position but center field in pro ball, and while he should only stand at shortstop in case of emergency, he’s fine everywhere else. He also has better bat-to-ball feel than is typical for such a long-levered hitter, and is especially adept at barreling pitches on the inner third. While he’ll occasionally torch balls in excess of 110 mph, Hensley mostly peppers the gaps with doubles contact. That he is a contact-oriented, versatile infielder at his size is extremely weird. His bat-to-ball skills and defensive versatility make him a more stable role player than Joe Perez at this stage, and there are aspects of his skill set that seem freaky enough to juice his FV more than the usual 26-year-old upper-level guy.

8. Joe Perez, 3B

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) (HOU)
Age 22.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/60 45/55 40/40 45/50 70

A two-way high school prospect, injuries (including a TJ and shoulder surgery) have kept Perez off the field for much of his pro career, except in 2021 when he dominated A-ball and finally reached the upper levels of the minors. He has plus pull power that he has gotten to in games despite his grooved swing, largely because Perez hunts pitches in the center-cut band of the strike zone where he can actually make contact. Perez is as svelte and mobile now as he ever has been (much more so than when he was in high school). That has helped to bolster his range and overall defense at third base, which is aided by his huge arm. He likely doesn’t have the bat-to-ball skills to play every day, not that he would for the next few years anyway with Alex Bregman still under contract. Instead, Astros fans will get to experience what it would have been like had they kept J.D. Davis, though Perez will need to start playing some other corner positions in order to fit snugly into that comp.

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Alamo Heights HS (TX) (HOU)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 238 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/55 60/60 60/60 55/55 30/35 93-97 / 99

As enigmatic as any pitcher in the minors, Whitley has had a consistently inconsistent career dating back to high school. He transformed from a soft-bodied pitchability prepster to a svelte, five-pitch, fire-breathing dragon in the span of about 18 months, and for a while he looked like one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Then he had a 2018 stimulant suspension, plus lat and oblique issues, before ’19 brought shoulder fatigue, control problems, and what looked like a conditioning regression. Elbow issues plagued his 2020 and culminated in a ’21 Tommy John, from which Whitley recently returned. He’s been 93-96 mph with scattershot control and his usual secondary-heavy approach to pitching, leaning on his changeup and cutter. It’s understandable when rehabbers are rusty, but it’s hard to know if that describes Whitley or if he has relief-only control anymore. He’s still on the Houston 40-man and, especially with several other Triple-A 40-man occupants either dinged up or dealing with reduced stuff, Whitley is just an injury away from being called to the big leagues. He hasn’t thrown more than 60 innings in a single season since 2017 and at this point, I consider him a relief-only prospect. His repertoire depth should enable him to work multiple innings, however, and perhaps give him the eventual innings load to trampoline back into a starting role. It’s tough to rank him in a FV tier of impact (the 40+ and above guys are who I think of as core role players or better) given the litany of issues here.

Drafted: 4th Round, 2021 from Ball State (HOU)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 197 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 50/55 30/40 30/45 92-95 / 98

McDermott, whose brother is a pro basketball player, had a relief look at Ball State, albeit an exciting, potentially high-leverage one if he were to experience a velocity spike in pro ball. His arm action is long but loose, he gets down the mound well, his fastball has carry, and his curveball has depth and bite. So far in pro ball, developed as a piggyback starter the way Houston tends to, McDermott has not only held serve as a starting pitching prospect but increased his chances of staying there, largely because he has better-than-anticipated command of his two breaking balls. He’s throwing his curveball a little bit harder than when he was at Ball State (from 74-75 mph on average to 77). While his changeup is a distant fourth offering, McDermott’s two breaking balls have enough demarcation to present different looks to hitters, and they play very well with his riding fastball. While his fastball command and pitch efficiency are still in a fringe area for a starter, he’s made enough progress to start projecting him as one.

11. Jairo Solis, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (HOU)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/50 60/60 45/55 30/40 92-95 / 97

Solis hasn’t pitched in affiliated ball since 2018 due to multiple Tommy John surgeries and the pandemic sandwiched in between. When he has thrown, he has been exciting, if quite wild. He came out during 2021 spring training sitting 93-97 mph, and over the course of four total innings against big leaguers, garnered at least one swing-and-miss with each of his pitches. He also struggled badly with his mechanical consistency and command, and the big league varsity lineups shelled him. It feels like he’s been a prospect forever, and the track record of players who go this long without actually playing is not very good, but Solis is still just 22 as of list publication and has big stuff when healthy.

In addition to the mid-90s heat with vertical action, he has a power pitcher’s overhand curveball to go with a firm, upper-80s slider and changeup. The movement he creates on the slider and changeup is mediocre-looking (note also that his 2021 spring spin rates, per Savant, were below my sourced numbers from ’18, either because he was hurt or in anticipation of sticky stuff enforcement), but their shapes deviate enough from his fastball/curveball combo that they play well when located, though that doesn’t happen regularly. The fastball/curveball, meanwhile, have more margin for error due to sheer nastiness. While Solis has filled out during the last couple of years, his lower half is still weak, which impacts his delivery’s consistency and his command. At this stage, he is much more likely to return as a reliever than a starter, perhaps with a pared-down repertoire. He is a little over a year removed from the second TJ and theoretically on track for a late-season rehab, but the Astros don’t really have any incentive to show the industry how he looks. If he comes back and looks great, they’ll have to use a 40-man space on him or risk losing him in the Rule 5 to a club that likes what they saw, whereas if they slow-play his rehab and he doesn’t throw, they get to keep him in the org anyway.

12. Logan Cerny, CF

Drafted: 10th Round, 2021 from Troy (PHI)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/60 35/45 60/60 45/55 40

Acquired from Philadelphia for Garrett Stubbs, Cerny was the Phils’ tooled-up 10th round pick out of Troy, a high-variance scout favorite with rare power and speed for a college prospect. Cerny has strikeout issues because of his high-octane, pull-heavy approach, but unlike lots of the power-over-hit outfielders the Astros have brought into the org, he is actually performing on paper early in his career, and he’s on pace for a 20/20 season (he’s actually on pace for closer to 40 steals) as of list publication. Cerny has plus bat speed and plus wheels that enable him to play center field, giving him some breathing room on offense. That Cerny is punching out at a 30% clip in A-ball is a bust-indicating red flag, but he has a bigger ceiling than all but a few players in this system.

13. Seth Martinez, MIRP

Drafted: 17th Round, 2016 from Arizona State (OAK)
Age 27.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
40/40 60/60 45/45 45/45 55/55 90-92 / 94

Martinez has had a two-tick velocity bump since 2019, his final year with Oakland, when he was sitting 89 mph and topping out at 92. He’s now sitting 91-92 and can manipulate his fastball’s shape, creating sink, ride, and even cut (usually 84-86 mph), which helps keep him off of barrels despite the below-average velo. Martinez’s repertoire has east/west action. He has an athletic drop-and-drive delivery and a very low slot, creating a shallow approach angle that seems to benefit his slider the most. His slider has big lateral sweep and very little drop. In fact, the interaction of Martinez’s release height and arm slot make it so some of his sliders, especially the ones that finish to his arm side, appear to be rising. He’s a five-pitch long reliever/swingman.

14. Shawn Dubin, SIRP

Drafted: 13th Round, 2018 from Georgetown College (HOU)
Age 26.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Cutter Command Sits/Tops
65/65 60/60 50/50 55/55 30/30 95-98 / 99

Dubin began the year in a shorter relief role (where he sat 96-98 mph with a hard cutter and slider spinning close to 3,000 rpm) before he returned to his usual piggyback starter deployment at Triple-A Sugar Land, slowly stretching out from two to five innings before he was put on the IL with a forearm strain. His slider, one of Dubin’s three breaking balls if you count the cutter, doesn’t always have great finish despite all that spin, which is why he’s not a slam dunk late-inning guy and is more likely to work the middle innings.

35+ FV Prospects

15. Will Wagner, 2B

Drafted: 18th Round, 2021 from Liberty (HOU)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 30/30 30/35 45/45 40/56 40

Though his statistical performance has fallen off a cliff since being promoted to Double-A, Wagner is still putting balls in play at a rate twice that of his swings and misses, which is impressive in the upper levels of the minors. While he has below-average bat speed, his sweet looking lefty swing allows him to cover most of the strike zone and spray contact into the opposite field gap. Wagner is not a great defensive second baseman, but he is good enough to play there. He may actually be better suited for third, where he can make more plays moving from right to left, which he seems more comfortable with. Lefty-hitting, contact-oriented middle infielders tend to find a way to play a big league role, and Wagner is on pace to play an above-replacement one.

16. J.C. Correa, C

Drafted: 38th Round, 2019 from Lamar (HOU)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 30/30 30/35 40/40 30/45 50

I typically wouldn’t be moved by a 23-year-old repeating an A-ball level, no matter how well he was performing on paper, but Correa is an exception because he’s moved behind the plate. While he’s not even close to a finished product, his defense is okay for a first-year catcher and he has a shot to stay back there. Correa’s carrying tool is still his bat-to-ball ability. He has the lowest swinging strike rate in the org and is very tough to beat in the strike zone because of his compact swing. He has a shot to be a contact-oriented backup catcher who can also play third base in a pinch.

17. Parker Mushinski, SIRP

Drafted: 7th Round, 2017 from Wake Forest (HOU)
Age 26.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 218 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
45/45 55/55 60/60 30/30 50/50 50/50 91-92 / 94

Mushinski’s squat frame belies his athleticism, and his powerful drop-and-drive delivery is a key component to his operation, as it creates upshot angle on his fastball that helps it play despite below-average velocity. His best secondary pitch is a plus curveball, and he also commands an average cutter to his glove side, which helps him garner weak contact. Though his curve and slider velocities overlap almost entirely, the two pitches have moderately different shapes, and he tends to use the curve against righties and the slider against lefties. At quick glance, he’s easily an up/down down option, but Mushinski’s command might enable him to be so consistent that he’s just on the big league roster in perpetuity.

18. Luis Baez, RF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (HOU)
Age 18.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 50/60 25/60 40/40 30/50 55

Baez was one of Houston’s top 2022 international signees and he’s hitting for huge power in the DSL. He’s much more physical than the typical first-year international signee and his performance in the DSL should be viewed with that in mind, but he has enough bat-to-ball skill and present power to be on the prospect radar even though he hasn’t yet played stateside. Instructional League (I’m speculating he’ll come over for it) will be a much truer test of his present skill, and the industry will leave that period with a better idea of how advanced Baez’s bat is than it has from him clubbing DSL pitching.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (HOU)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 45/55 30/40 50/50 45/55 60

Gonzalez has premium physical projection and is a good defensive shortstop. His over-aggressive approach dilutes his offensive output, but he does have some pull power and is likely to grow into more as he fills out. He might have enough pop to support some kind of utility infield role even if he ends up with a 30 bat.

20. J.J. Matijevic, 1B

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Arizona (HOU)
Age 26.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 206 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/40 60/60 50/55 40/40 40/40 30

Matijevic is a hulking lefty power-hitting 1B/DH with plus raw juice and a below-average hit tool. He’s performed above the league-average line at every minor league stop, but probably doesn’t have the all-around game to profile as an everyday first baseman. He could, however, be an extremely dangerous bench bat, capable of altering the complexion of a game with one swing. With the universal DH now implemented and rosters slightly expanded, there are many more spots for hitters like Matijevic in the big leagues in some capacity than there used to be.

21. Wilyer Abreu, LF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (HOU)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 217 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 55/55 45/50 50/50 45/50 45

Abreu has all-fields power and good feel for the strike zone, enough that he could play a low-end corner outfield role in the big leagues. A hole in his swing (high fastballs) and tepid scout sentiment about his defense in center field (even though he runs pretty well) are round-down aspects of the profile.

22. Misael Tamarez, MIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (HOU)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 206 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 45/50 50/55 30/40 92-94 / 94

Tamarez’s fastball has riding life but his upright delivery creates steep angle that limits where it can miss bats, typically above the zone rather than within it. While there are some advanced pitchability elements here, including a willingness to use his changeup right-on-right even though it’s his third pitch, Tamarez has been walk-prone for most of his career and has a relief-only mechanical look. The good news is that each of his three pitches has bat-missing capability. His slider lives off of its above-average velocity more than raw movement, sitting 86 mph and up to 90. He’s parked in the 93-96 mph range as a starter and could theoretically throw harder in relief. If that’s the eventual path, Tamarez lacks a true plus secondary weapon typical of pitcher who demands a consistent spot on the active roster. Still just 22, he has through the 2023 season to either polish his control or improve at least one secondary to nail down a 40-man spot.

23. Edinson Batista, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (HOU)
Age 20.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 55/60 45/50 30/40 35/60 90-94 / 95

The 19-year-old Batista doesn’t have dominant stuff, but he is a projectable youngster keeping his head above water in full-season ball, and has a chance to carve out a backend rotation spot down the line. His low-90s fastball touches 94 mph and plays best at the letters, living more off of angle than explosive movement. Batista also has an average, low-80s slider and a fringe curveball, both of which could add power as he continues to physically mature. His delivery is balanced and consistent enough to project Batista as a starter, though he hasn’t shown any early indicators that he’s going to have special, role-cementing command. For now, he’s a well-rounded developmental starter, probably a lower-variance one likely to mature into a fifth to seventh starter type.

24. Spencer Arrighetti, SIRP

Drafted: 6th Round, 2021 from UL-Lafayette (HOU)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 186 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/60 50/50 30/40 30/40 93-95 / 96

Arrighetti had a nomadic amateur career, going from TCU to Navarro Junior College (TX) before finishing up at Louisiana. His velocity grew throughout the 2021 season, and that has continued, as Arrighetti is now throwing 4 mph harder than he did in college. He has the vertical fastball/breaking ball attack that is typical of this system, and the relief risk, too. Velocity gains in this system should always be viewed in light of the Astros’ piggyback style of development, but a four-tick bump in less than a year is significant, and the arrow has been pointing up on Arrighetti’s velo for longer than that. It’s feasible to think he could be a late-bloomer given his odd amateur path, with his current middle-of-the-road projection being that of a relatively wild fastball/breaking ball reliever.

25. Miguel Ullola, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (HOU)
Age 20.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 184 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/60 30/40 93-96 / 97

Ullola is a little power pitching prospect with electric arm speed who has touched at least 97 mph while sitting 93-95 in a three-inning piggyback role at Low-A. His fastball has big riding life at the top of the zone. The rest of his skill set — both his command and the consistency of his breaking ball, a mid-80s slider that has plus velocity for a pitch with such vertical shape — is unkempt. Ullola isn’t especially projectable from a velocity standpoint. Instead, he needs to polish his secondary stuff and command. He’s a one-pitch dev project at the moment, but because of when he signed, he still has all of 2023 and ’24 to get those things to a viable point before he’s put on the 40-man.

26. Ronel Blanco, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (HOU)
Age 28.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/50 40/40 30/30 30/30 94-97 / 98

Dominican flamethrower Ronel Blanco has big time arm strength and a hard cutter/slider with short movement, relying mostly on velocity. His release is inconsistent, impacting his command and the efficacy of his slider enough that he is more of an up/down reliever than a true on-roster building block.

27. Jaime Melendez, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Mexico (HOU)
Age 20.8 Height 5′ 8″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 40/45 50/50 40/50 30/40 93-95 / 98

Melendez, who looks like he’d fit into a child’s XL t-shirt, has already reached Double-A as a 20-year-old starter and is punching out over 30% of opposing hitters while struggling with walks. He powers a mid-90s fastball right past hitters at the letters, aided by his lack of height and due north arm slot, which creates enough ride on the pitch for him to miss bats in the strike zone. While his other pitches flash bat-missing movement on occasion, especially his 12-to-6 curveball and his changeup, they are more consistently below average, though Melendez is still only 20, and only one of them needs to become more consistent for him to profile in middle relief.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (HOU)
Age 19.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 40/50 25/45 50/50 45/50 50

Lorenzo got just south of $2 million on the IFA market a couple of years ago and was the youngest Astros prospect in their entire 2020 Instructional League group. He’s already become very physical, so much so that there’s early concern he won’t be able to stay at shortstop. Second base was already squarely in the picture here, as Lorenzo’s arm isn’t a slam dunk for the left side of the infield. He is repeating the complex level in 2022 and isn’t performing on paper so far, but the sample is small and Lorenzo still has impressive physicality for a middle infielder, and there aren’t huge hit tool red flags here like there are with other early-career international busts.

29. Alex Santos II, SP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Mount St. Michael HS (NY) (HOU)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 194 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops
45/55 30/50 50/55 25/50 89-93 / 95

Santos has cut his 2021 walk rate in half upon repeating Low-A this season, but even though he’s striking out more than a batter per inning, his velocity is actually down a tick compared to last year; he’s only sitting 90 mph. He’s still a somewhat projectable 20-year-old with a good looking breaking ball and delivery, but he has to slot behind similarly-aged prospects who either have better stuff or command. At this point, he’s more of a pedigree-driven bounce back prospect than a guy who cleanly projects as a big league pitcher.

30. J.P. France, MIRP

Drafted: 14th Round, 2018 from Mississippi State (HOU)
Age 27.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 216 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/50 50/50 40/40 50/50 50/50 91-93 / 95

Another five-pitch righty having success at the upper levels, France attacks with a heavy dose of four-seamers and cutters, with the former riding above the zone while the latter has late action to his glove side. The cadence of France’s delivery tends to catch hitters by surprise, as it is complete almost as soon as it starts, causing his fastball to jump on hitters on first look even though its velo is only in the 92-94 mph range. His breaking ball shapes run the gamut, with the cutter, slider, and curveball all working with different shape, depth, and velocity. The mid-70s curveball breaks almost straight down, while the slider is between it and the cutter. An inconsistently located changeup rounds out the whole repertoire, which has enabled France to punch out 30% of hitters in 25 total Triple-A starts, typically in the four-to-five inning range. There’s no plus pitch here, but rather a bevy of average offerings that should enable France to play a reliable, above-replacement spot starter or long relief role.

31. Julio Robaina, MIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Cuba (HOU)
Age 21.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 50/50 45/45 55/60 40/45 89-92 / 94

Robaina has had a little bit of a velo boost in his age-21 season, sitting closer to 92 mph after his fastball averaged 90 in 2021. While he has a four-pitch mix that includes an above-average changeup and a slider that, while closer to average to the eye, some proprietary pitch metrics consider to be plus, Robaina’s below-average fastball command funnels him toward the bullpen. He tends to try to land his slider off the plate to his glove side and his curveball in the zone, and while Robaina doesn’t have big league starter-quality feel for these, he has enough to make it clear that that’s what he’s trying to do. For whatever reason, he has almost dictatorial control of his changeup, the locations of which are tightly clustered down and to his arm side, almost never in a vulnerable part of the strike zone. Though perhaps not likely to be added to the Houston 40-man after the season, he’s an interesting short-term depth arm with a shot to be a swingman/long reliever if his velo keeps ticking up (it’s up about a tick from 2021) and/or if he develops average command.

32. Jordan Brewer, CF

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Michigan (HOU)
Age 24.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/30 55/55 30/45 60/60 40/50 60

Brewer is the kind of prospect who the lost 2020 season hurt the most: the raw college prospect who needs reps. He was draft eligible at a junior college before matriculating to Michigan, where he broke out at a big program and went in the third round of the 2019 draft. This is a high-risk hit tool prospect with big tools. Unlike a lot of other prospects of this ilk, Brewer has a pretty good idea of the strike zone, he just swings through a ton of in-zone pitches, and has an especially tough time getting on top of high fastballs. He’s begun to play some first base (and has actually taken to it pretty quickly) and much more right field than center, as his instincts in center are middling. The strikeout issues and fringe center field ability are enough of an issue to slide Brewer’s FV into more of a late-bloomer tier rather than anticipate that he’s a big league role player.

33. Tyler Whitaker, RF

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from Bishop Gorman (NV) (HOU)
Age 19.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/60 25/50 50/45 30/50 55

Whitaker is a traditional right field prospect with a big, projectable frame, present power that should be at least plus at maturity, and swing-and-miss issues that threaten to undo his offensive production. So far in pro ball, those strikeout problems have done just that. He swings down at the ball and has a big hole down-and-in. If that can be tweaked, Whitaker could break out, but he’s hitting well below the Mendoza Line as of list publication.

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Missing In Action
Freudis Nova, 2B
Austin Hansen, RHP
Blair Henley, RHP
Tyler Ivey, RHP
Matthew Barefoot, OF
Kobe Kato, 2B

This group is full of (mostly) injured prospects from lists past. Nova tore his ACL last year and things might go the way of Leonard Weaver rather than Willis McGahee from the sounds of it. He was once an exciting, bat-first middle infield prospect. Hansen is coming off an unknown surgery and has begun to throw. He looked like a high-probability low-leverage reliever when healthy, with below-average command of three good pitches. Henley was sitting 92 mph and had a plus curveball in 2021; he is now on the road back from Tommy John. Ivey was once a 40+ FV prospect and looked like a nasty multi-inning reliever. He’s now on the restricted list for what I’m told are personal reasons. Barefoot, who was a pretty good two-way prospect in high school, had a good 2021 as an old-for-the-level player, but shoulder surgery has him shelved for all of this season. The same is true of Kato, who is a little second baseman with bat-to-ball skills from the University of Arizona.

Bench Bat Types
Corey Julks, CF
Luis Santana, 2B
Quincy Hamilton, OF
Zach Daniels, CF
Joey Loperfido, CF
Shay Whitcomb, 2B
Grae Kessinger, 1B

Julks is a pull-heavy Triple-A outfielder with good numbers and a bunch of 45/50-grade tools that could enable him to be a fifth outfielder. Santana, who looked like a capital “d” Dude for a minute, is still making an exceptional amount of in-zone contact, though he’s fallen down the defensive spectrum and swings at everything. Hamilton was one of my favorite senior signs from 2021, a late-bloomer from Wright State with a well-rounded game. He’s crushing A-ball and should be promoted. The same is true of Loperfido, whose hit tool I have a little less confidence in but who has a better chance to play up the middle. Daniels is a power-over-hit corner guy who is striking out a ton in A-ball at age 23. Whitcomb and Kessinger were premium statistical performers in college who haven’t continued that in pro ball, though Whitcomb had until this year.

Spot Starters
Peter Solomon, RHP
Jonathan Bermudez, LHP
Jose Bravo, RHP

Solomon and Bermudez are both on the 40-man but have taken a step backward. For Solomon, it’s been his velocity (he’s sitting 90-92 mph), while for Bermudez, it’s been command. Bravo sits 90-92, but has a good changeup and slider, and throws a ton of strikes.

Sleeper Relievers
Jonathan Sprinkle, RHP
Rhett Kouba, RHP
Diosmerky Taveras, RHP
Joe Record, RHP

The huge-framed Sprinkle was a 2020 undrafted free agent who is now missing lots of bats at Double-A. He gets way down the mound, which helps his cutting, low-90s fastball play; his slider, which is comfortably plus, doesn’t need any help. His walks kept him from the main section of the list. Kouba sits 91 mph and has a plus slider. Taveras has long thrown very hard but can’t find the zone. Record is extremely deceptive — his glove hand flies all over the place and, like a magician’s assistant, misdirects hitters before the ball appears from behind his head. He sits 92 and has two pretty good breakers.

System Overview

Below-average in terms of both top-end and overall depth, the Astros’ system might be a barrier between them and any significant deadline additions. As other teams caught up to Houston’s understanding of pitch data, the players the club would typically target in the draft became harder to come by. Their core competency is still drafting and developing pitching, though their high-profile attempts to do so lately haven’t been very successful, especially the high school pitchers they’ve picked. The Astros are much better at drafting a slew of interesting arms and coaxing enough out of a few of them for the draft class as a whole to look good, and most of their big league roster is homegrown. The 2020 draft, which only had five rounds and in which they only had four picks, made it impossible to execute that strategy en masse, and they’re at risk of getting nothing from that class. The Astros’ lost draft picks from the sign stealing scandal, as well as their failure to do off-the-field homework on their 2021 fourth rounder, have made it tough to inject any high-end talent into this system over the last 48 months.

Houston tends to target older pitchers on the international market, when the cement is drier on their stuff and they have a better idea of what they’re getting. As I wrote in February, the CBA’s 40-man timeline makes it extremely difficult for Latin American pitchers to become starters, but Houston’s approach has helped them net Cristian Javier, Framber Valdez, José Urquidy and Luis Garcia. Of the big league starters who have thrown at least 70 innings so far this year, only 11 were signed out of Latin America, and four of them are Astros. Miguel Ullola, who signed at age 19.5, is the guy in the system who could take a similar trajectory.

Houston added scouts this offseason but still has one of the leaner staffs in the game, especially on the pro scouting side. While it’s unlikely because the big league club is so good, the team runs the risk of being caught flat-footed ahead of an unexpected seller’s deadline if it has a weirdly bad year. While that possibility feels remote, Houston certainly isn’t in position to pick anyone’s pocket on a low-level prospect, like the Rays did with Curtis Mead for example. Especially as more teams move toward statistically-driven means of evaluation, the opportunity to take advantage of asymmetrical player evaluation is basically nil unless you’re augmenting your model with better subjective information than your competitors.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Brian Reinhartmember
1 year ago

their failure to do off-the-field homework on their 2021 fourth rounder”

For those like me who didn’t know the story here, looks like he failed to sign with the Astros after an initial verbal agreement somehow fell through.