Top 27 Prospects: Houston Astros by Eric Longenhagen February 23, 2018 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the World Series champion Houston Astros. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. Top Prospects Series 2018 2017 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Astros Top Prospects Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV 1 Forrest Whitley 20 AA RHP 2018 60 2 Kyle Tucker 21 AA RF 2019 60 3 Yordan Alvarez 20 A+ LF 2020 50 4 JB Bukauskas 21 A- RHP 2019 50 5 Hector Perez 21 R RHP 2020 45 6 Cionel Perez 21 AA LHP 2019 45 7 Freudis Nova 18 R INF 2021 40 8 Corbin Martin 22 A- RHP 2020 40 9 JD Davis 24 MLB 3B 2018 40 10 Gilberto Celestino 19 R OF 2020 40 11 Rogelio Armenteros 23 AAA RHP 2018 40 12 Jairo Solis 18 R RHP 2021 40 13 Max Stassi 26 MLB C 2018 40 14 Jorge Alcala 22 A+ RHP 2020 40 15 Garrett Stubbs 24 AAA C 2018 40 16 Jonathan Arauz 19 A INF 2021 40 17 Riley Ferrell 24 AA RHP 2018 40 18 Brandon Bailey 23 A+ RHP 2019 40 19 Joe Perez 18 R 3B 2021 40 20 Reymin Guduan 25 MLB LHP 2018 40 21 Dean Deetz 24 AAA RHP 2018 40 22 Abraham Toro-Hernandez 21 A 3B 2021 40 23 Ronnie Dawson 22 A+ OF 2020 40 24 J.J. Matijevic 22 A 1B/LF 2021 40 25 Framber Valdez 24 AA LHP 2018 40 26 Jandel Gustave 25 MLB RHP 2018 40 27 Tyler Ivey 21 A- RHP 2020 40 60 FV Prospects 1. Forrest Whitley, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Alamo Heights HS (TX) Age 19 Height 6’7 Weight 240 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command 70/70 55/60 60/60 55/60 50/55 45/55 When Whitley remade his physique during his senior year of high school, his stuff and command both ticked up, and they’ve continued to do so. He now sits 93-97. Whitley’s size and delivery create good angle up and down in the zone, and he can sink or cut his fastball if he wants to. He has a knee-buckling curveball, a hard slider, and a burgeoning changeup that has quickly developed into a plus pitch. Whitley’s delivery is a bit violent, but he throws strikes and already has impressive control for a pitcher this size, age, and with this kind of stuff. This unique combination of stuff, pitchability, and command allowed Whitley to traverse three levels last year, ending with four impressive appearances at Double-A. Whitley struck out 143 hitters in 92.1 innings. He doesn’t turn 21 until mid-September and has ace ceiling. This week, Whitley was suspended 50 games for a violation of the minor-league drug program. MLB’s statement on the suspension didn’t specify what Whitley tested positive for, but Fox San Antonio reporter Chuck Miketinac tweeted that Whitley was “given an unknown stimulant” by a friend to aid Whitley’s wakefulness during a long drive at night. 2. Kyle Tucker, RF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Plant HS (FL) Age 20 Height 6’4 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/65 65/65 40/60 45/40 40/50 55/55 The player-evaluation side of the industry doesn’t anticipate that Tucker will remain in center field for very long and wasn’t particularly enthused by his Fall League effort, but he’s going to hit and, if last year’s launch angle uptick is any indication, is also going to hit for power. Tucker was a flat-planed, hit-first outfield prospect in high school who scouts hoped would grow into power. Instead it seems Tucker and Houston have taken advantage of his natural bat control and engineered a more power-friendly swing. He’s had success through Double-A at age 20 and is likely to mature into a middle-of-the-order threat. Tucker has posted some strong stolen-base totals and played some center field, but he doesn’t project to play there full-time in the majors. 50 FV Prospects 3. Yordan Alvarez, LF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Cuba Age 20 Height 6’5 Weight 225 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/55 65/65 30/55 50/45 40/50 45/45 The Dodgers signed Alvarez for $2 million just before the 2015 international free agency calendar turned over, then traded him to Houston for Josh Fields a few months later. In his pro debut at Low-A, Alvarez was a force of nature before his in-game power tapered off following a promotion to High-A Buies Creek. Alvarez does have plus raw power and good feel to hit, plus his swing has enough natural loft that scouts think he’ll hit for contact and power. Alvarez looks athletic and fleet-footed enough to play an outfield corner right now, but he’s already a massive 225 pounds at age 20 and will probably end up at first base. He has the physical capability to mash enough for first and his debut season was encouraging. If the feel for airborne contact continues to develop, he could move way up this list during the summer. 4. JB Bukauskas, RHP Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from North Carolina Age 20 Height 6’0 Weight 196 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 55/60 60/60 40/50 40/50 Bukauskas was originally slated to be draft eligible out of high school in 2015 but reclassified as a 2014 graduate to get to campus earlier. He asked clubs not to draft him out of high school in 2014 and matriculated to North Carolina where he became an instant pillar of the Tar Heel rotation. He enjoyed three years of success at UNC and was considered a potential top-five pick until his stuff and command backed up late in the season, a development which strengthened some concerns clubs already had about his size, durability, and strike-throwing. He fell to Houston at 15 overall. If Bukauskas is going to start in pro ball, he’s going to have to integrate a changeup. He failed to throw a single one in some starts last year, but it’s flashed 50 or 55 for scouts at times. Instead, Bukauskas has relied on a fastball in the 93-96 range and a plus, mid-80s slider, over which he has better control than the fastball. Breaking-ball-heavy pitchers have thrived with Houston and Bukauskas would likely coast through the system as a two-pitch relief arm and reach the big leagues this year if Houston is inclined to push him. He could be a late-inning reliever in six months or a mid-rotation piece in a couple of years. 45 FV Prospects 5. Hector Perez, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic Age 21 Height 6’3 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Splitter Command 60/70 50/60 45/50 40/55 30/45 Perez wields electric stuff but is a maddeningly inconsistent strike-thrower. His ability to work with any kind of efficiency began to wane after a dominant April and May, and worsened as the season aged into the summer. Perez doesn’t have great feel for a regular release point, and his pitches sail or spike well short of the plate. This glaringly inhibits Perez’s ability to throw strikes and also dilutes the quality of his secondary stuff. He’s well built, explosive, and appears to be athletic, so there’s hope that this will improve with time. Even if Perez grows into 40-grade control, he’s probably a dominant reliever at that point because he has four plus-flashing pitches. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, touches 98, and you could argue it plays up because hitters don’t see the ball out of Perez’s hand very well. He blew it past hitters up in the zone much of last year and it projects as a plus-plus pitch, especially if Perez is moved to the bullpen. He also has a plus-flashing slider that has cutter action at the knees and above, but downward bite beneath the strike zone. The latter is much more effective. Perez’s split-change flashes plus but too often tumbles in well beneath the strike zone and doesn’t entice hitters. Perez’s spike curveball misses bats, too, and he flips it in for called strikes at times, but he doesn’t get on top of it consistently. If he can find some semblance of mechanical consistency, all four pitches could be dominant. If not, he’ll be a frustrating relief piece. The likely outcome is somewhere in the middle. 6. Cionel Perez, LHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Cuba Age 21 Height 5’11 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 55/60 40/50 50/55 40/45 40/50 Houston voided their original deal with Perez — which was for $5 million — after they were dissatisfied with his physical. After two months in limbo, Perez agreed to sign for $2 million instead. The 2017 season was the spindly Cuban lefty’s first one as a pro and he pitched pretty well across three levels, finishing the year with a handful of starts at Double-A. He has some mid-rotation ingredients, led by an above-average, flat-planed fastball that he works in on hitters’ hands and up above the strike zone. After Perez has gone through the order once, he starts pitching off both his breaking balls. The tilting, two-plane slider is better than the curveball, and is a second above-average offering. Perez’s changeup feel comes and goes. It often has good fade, but Perez throws it with detectable arm deceleration and hitters lay off of it. Perez knows how to approach hitters with what he’s got. He doesn’t typically miss with his fastball in a spot where he can get hurt, and he has a clear plan for navigating lineups multiple times — as well as the stuff to execute it. He has an outside shot to be a 55, but without a clear plus pitch, he’s more likely a future 50 who is two years out. We can also probably assume he has some heightened injury risk based on whatever Houston found when they did his initial physical. 40 FV Prospects 7. Freudis Nova, INF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic Age 17 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/60 40/50 20/50 60/50 40/50 55/55 Nova tested positive for PEDs before he was eligible to sign his first contract in 2016, so the Marlins backed out of a $2.5 million bonus agreement with him. He agreed to a $1.5 million deal with Houston that was reduced to $1.2 million after he took his physical. Nova stayed in the DSL for his first professional season and looks likely to stay up the middle of the diamond (probably at second base) while doing some damage with the bat. Scouts disagree about what his future offensive profile will look like (one source thinks he’ll be a high-contact hitter, another thinks he’ll sacrifice contact to hit for substantial game power), but there’s at least agreement that Nova is quite talented and has pretty significant upside. 8. Corbin Martin, RHP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Texas A&M Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 55/55 55/60 45/55 40/50 Martin’s stuff was down a bit after the draft, but he flashed three plus pitches throughout the spring. Martin sits 90-94 and will touch 96. He has a vertically breaking, low-80s slider that projects to plus. Some scouts with amateur coverage thought Martin’s changeup and command were inconsistent, and that he had considerable relief risk; others think his changeup has promising fade and think it could be plus at peak. His command will need to improve, but Martin has some mid-rotation ingredients. He projects as a No. 4 starter for now. 9. JD Davis, 3B Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from Cal State Fullerton Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 70/70 45/50 40/40 40/40 70/70 Davis impressed the Houston staff during 2017 spring training, where he got plenty of playing time while other Houston infielders participated in the WBC. Despite this, he was essentially forced to repeat Double-A due to the presence of Colin Moran and, later, Tyler White in Fresno. Eventually, Davis reached the majors and hit for power over a small, 25-game sample. He has comfortably plus raw pop but has had strikeout issues dating back to college. (Davis is a bit stiff and just a little too enticed by breaking balls down.) He’s got below-average range at third base, but his plus-plus arm (Davis closed in college) helps mask this and he’s a passable defensive third baseman. He’s also seen time at first base each of the last two years and in both outfield corners last season. He’s likely a good, four-corners role player with power. He could pick up some extra at-bats as a DH. 10. Gilberto Celestino, OF Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic Age 18 Height 6’0 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/55 30/40 20/40 60/60 45/60 55/55 Celestino remains a promising defensive center-field prospect, but he didn’t develop the physicality and on-contact thump for which many were hoping last year, and he remains a rather light-hitting, glove-first type. Celestino still exhibits advanced pitch selection and good feel for contact, but he doesn’t drive the ball right now and his lack of progress in this area over the last year has created some skepticism about whether he ever will. Because he’s fine in center field and could be very good there one day, he won’t have to hit much to profile, but the reports from scouts indicate more fourth-outfielder risk than they did a year ago. 11. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Cuba Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider 50/50 45/50 Armenteros is unlike any other pitcher in this sytem, which is full of hard-throwing, up-in-the-zone fastball guys with good breaking balls. Armenteros is a deceptive, touch-and-feel righty with a plus changeup and command of a fastball that ticked up into the low-90s last year. He was previously 87-91 and is now more 89-92, touching 94. He’s been described to me as “Better Josh Collmenter” because of the deception created by his vertical arm slot and the concern that somewhat a fringey repertoire may not play multiple times through a lineup. (The slider is a 40, the curveball is a change-of-pace rainbow.) There’s enough stuff and pitchability here to project a No. 5 starter, but there might be more on-field impact if Armenteros is deployed creatively in relief. 12. Jairo Solis, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela Age 17 Height 6’2 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 55/60 45/50 45/50 55/undefined Solis made it all the way to the Appy League at age 17 and missed bats at every level, finishing the year with 69 strikeouts in 61.1 innings. He has plus fastball projection, the heater currently sitting 91-94 and touching 96. He delivers from a high slot and creates good extension. Reports on the secondary stuff are just okay — present 45 slider, 45 changeup — with both projected to average. There’s arm strength and advanced strike-throwing ability here, but it sounds like a large part of what’s going on is due to deception and command, not stuff. Solis has starter components, so he ranks ahead of the guys in the system who don’t, but unless his slider jumps more than a full grade during his development, he probably fits toward the back of a rotation. 13. Max Stassi, C Drafted: 4th Round, 2009 from Yuba City HS (CA) Age 26 Height 5’10 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/45 50/50 45/45 30/30 50/50 45/45 Evan Gattis isn’t likely to catch very much anymore and Brian McCann is of advanced age. As a result, Stassi is pretty likely to break camp with the big-league club and play a substantial role as a backup. He’s always been a fine defensive catcher with soft hands and an average arm, and Stassi made a swing change last year that made his stroke a little more compact and rhythmic. There’s a little more pop here than there was before, and it should at least help Stassi hold onto a big-league backup job, with a chance he blossoms into a little more. 14. Jorge Alcala, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic Age 21 Height 6’3 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 80/80 40/45 40/45 40/45 Alcala throws really hard, sitting 98-100 and touching 102. Long arm actions like Alcala’s aren’t typically found in a rotation and he’s also swimming upstream against below-average command and fringe secondary stuff. Alcala’s slider and changeup are below average, which is part of why he hasn’t missed as many low-level bats as you might expect given his velocity. He’d have to make significant progress in several areas to project as a starter, but if he finds just a single good secondary offering, he could be a late-inning reliever. 15. Garrett Stubbs, C Drafted: 8th Round, 2015 from USC Age 24 Height 5’10 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/50 45/45 30/40 50/50 50/55 55/55 Stubbs had an atrocious 2017 season at the plate, but it was likely due to a nagging shoulder issue that popped up during spring training. His 2016 power production was likely a bit of a mirage, too, but he has great control of the strike zone and projects as an above-average defender with an above-average arm. Scouts question the durability due to Stubbs’ size and a growing history of injuries. Some don’t think he’s rugged enough to catch a full season and that he’ll max out as a backup because of it; others want him to start playing other positions to get his bat into the lineup more often. The Astros don’t seem inclined to do that, so for now he projects as a backup. 16. Jonathan Arauz, INF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Panama Age 18 Height 6’0 Weight 150 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 30/40 20/30 45/45 45/50 50/50 Arauz began 2017 on a 50-game suspension for methamphetamine. When he returned, he and his advanced bat were sent to full-season ball at Quad Cities, but Arauz was later demoted to the NYPL after hitting just .220 — albeit with more walks than strikeouts. His left-handed swing is gorgeous. It’s compact but has some natural loft and Arauz deftly moves the barrel around the hitting zone. The power isn’t there right now and, as Arauz fits best defensively at second, scouts would like to see him grow into some, but Arauz is very slight of build and there’s a chance it never comes. There’s also chance he hits enough to play everyday even if the power doesn’t come, but that type of player probably has a limited ceiling and obviously there’s makeup stuff to consider here, too. 17. Riley Ferrell, RHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from TCU Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command 60/60 50/55 45/50 Ferrell had surgery to repair an aneurysm in his throwing shoulder back in May of 2016. It caused him to lose feeling in his pitching hand and surgeons had to use part of a vein in Ferrell’s groin to repair his shoulder. His stuff was mostly back in the Arizona Fall League, as Ferrell was up to 96 and sitting 93-95 with an average slider. He had a comfortably plus slider at TCU, and there’s a chance it returns as he keeps working with it. If it does, he profiles as a traditional setup man. 18. Brandon Bailey, RHP Drafted: 6th Round, 2016 from Gonzaga Age 22 Height 5’10 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 50/50 40/45 55/55 55/60 45/50 Bailey, who was acquired from Oakland in exchange for Ramon Laureano, was a little old for the Midwest and Cal Leagues, but he missed many bats, striking out 120 hitters in 91 innings. He deploys four pitches, the best of which is a plus changeup that plays well off of Bailey’s flat-planed 92-94 mph fastball. He also has an above-average curveball and fringey slider that’s really only useful against righties. There’s enough here to project Bailey as some sort of big-league asset, ranging anywhere from back-end rotation piece to multi-inning relief role. 19. Joe Perez, 3B Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) Age 18 Height 6’2 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/45 60/60 30/55 30/20 40/45 60/60 A two-way player in high school, Perez was a prospect of extremes. On the mound, he sat 93-96 during his showcase summer and early during his senior year. He had among the best fastball and breaking-ball spin rates in the class. He also had plus raw power, but his frame was maxed out and there was doubt about him sticking at third. Perez had shoulder trouble during his senior year and a partially torn UCL was discovered in his elbow shortly before the draft. The Astors drafted him 53rd overall (he was announced as a third baseman) and Perez had Tommy John shortly thereafter. He’s at least a J.D. Davis starter kit and could be more if there were a physical metamorphosis during rehab. 20. Reymin Guduan, LHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2009 from Dominican Republic Age 25 Height 6’4 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command 60/60 55/55 40/40 Gugduan is a two-pitch reliever who sits 93-97 and has a 55 slider in the mid-80s. He’s a max-effort lefty who just tries to work in and around the zone rather than to specific locations. He’ll fight Rule 5 pick Anthony Gose and expensive veteran Tony Sipp for lefty relief work this spring. 21. Dean Deetz, RHP Drafted: 11th Round, 2014 from NE Oklahoma A&M Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 60/60 40/45 45/45 Deetz will begin his season serving an 80-game suspension for the PED ehydrochlormethyltestosterone. Assuming his stuff is as it was last season, he has a chance to pitch toward the back of a bullpen. Deetz sits 94-96 and touches 98 with a plus curveball. Lefties see the ball well out of his hand, so he’ll need to command his breaking ball better to deal with them, but his stuff gives him some margin for error. He was added to the 40-man this offseason and could debut after his suspension is up. 22. Abraham Toro-Hernandez, 3B Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Seminole State Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 190 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 50/50 30/50 50/40 45/50 70/70 Toro-Hernandez dominated the NYPL for a month and a half, then continued to hit for power in Low-A after he was promoted at the end of July. Houston ran him out as a catcher (he has a catcher’s build and a plus-plus arm) for 15 games last year, but he didn’t receive well. Scouts think the gap between where he is, developmentally, behind the plate and where he’d have to be in order to catch is quite substantial. Plus, most of them like what he does with the bat at third base enough to give him a chance to be a corner utility bat or even a low-end regular at third. Toro-Hernandez is an average straight-line runner with passable defensive actions and plenty of arm for third. He’s a fairly selective hitter who takes big, uppercut hacks from the left side of the plate and has a more controlled stroke as a right-handed hitter. 23. Ronnie Dawson, OF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Ohio St Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 225 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 60/60 40/50 55/55 30/40 40/40 Dawson has plus raw power that, despite his 15 homers last year, hasn’t actualized in games because he hits the ball on the ground too often. He’s a left-field-only prospect with some swing-and-miss concerns, so the power is going to have to come. Dawson has already shown he’ll take a walk and he’s a pretty good athlete, so there’s some optimism about his ability to make necessary adjustments; he just hasn’t yet. 24. J.J. Matijevic, 1B/LF Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Arizona Age 21 Height 6’0 Weight 206 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/55 40/50 50/50 30/40 50/50 Matijevic is much like Dawson. He has some pop but only fits at either first base or the outfield corners, and area scouts had concerns about how much he was going to hit. Perhaps more than Dawson, there’s optimism about Matijevic getting to his power in games despite swinging and missing. 25. Framber Valdez, LHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic Age 23 Height 5’11 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command 55/55 60/60 40/45 Valdez sits 88-92 and has an average slurvy breaking ball that plays up against lefties. He has continued to start in the minors but projects as a lefty bullpen piece. He’ll probably get a big-league opportunity this year, but he’s behind three or four lefties on the depth chart right now. 26. Jandel Gustave, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Dominican Republic Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Command 70/70 55/55 40/40 Gustave’s velocity was down a tick in 2017. He was up to 100 in 2016 and averaging about 97-98 with his fastball. Last year, he dealt with forearm tightness and was more 94-97, still with a 55 slider, before he was shut down in late April. He had Tommy John in late June. He continues to project in relief assuming his stuff returns after rehab. 27. Tyler Ivey, RHP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Grayson CCC Age 21 Height 6’4 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 55/60 40/45 60/60 45/50 40/45 After his freshman year, Ivey transferred from Texas A&M to Grayson County Community College for the 2017 season and became draft-eligible as a sophomore. The Astros popped him in the third round and signed him for $450,000, about $150,000 below slot. He’s a physical, 6-foot-4 righty with a violent head whack and a pretty decent four-pitch mix headlined by a fastball that touches 95 and a plus, 12-6 curveball. Ivey’s changeup projects to average, his slider is below. From a stuff perspective, that gives Ivey a chance to start or fill some kind of multi-inning role. He threw about 120 innings last year between JUCO and pro ball, so he’s farther along, from a workload perspective, than a lot of arms in this system. ***** Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference) Patrick Sandoval, LHP – Like almost every pitching prospect in this system, Sandoval can really spin a breaking ball (two, actually) and his fastball plays best up at the letters. He has a high-effort delivery and below-average command of an average fastball, but both of his breaking balls are 55s. That will play in relief. Sandoval’s changeup and control both have a chance to mature in the 45/50 range, so he has a shot to grow into a more substantial big-league role than just a lefty relief piece, but that’s his most likely outcome. He signed for $900,000 as an 11th-rounder in 2016. Cristian Javier RHP – Javier bounced around to several low-level affiliates last year and piled up 80 strikeouts in 60 innings, some as a starter and some out of the bullpen. He has a big-breaking but inconsistent slider that Javier doesn’t always get on top of because he has a long, low-slot arm action. It flashes plus, but he also throws plenty of easily identifiable duds. Javier’s low arm slot means he’s at risk for role-limiting platoon issues, and his changeup feel isn’t great right now. He projects as a breaking-ball-heavy reliever. Carlos Machado, OF – A 19-year-old Venezuelan outfielder, Machado essentially repeated a GCL/Appy League assignment in 2017, but he produced in both years and had a slight uptick in power production during the his second tour, as you might expect. Machado does have advanced feel to hit, but his physical tools all hover around average, so he’ll either need to outperform current power projections or develop a 60 bat to profile as an everyday player. His frame still has some room for mass, so there’s a chance he gets there. Chuckie Robinson,C – Robinson is A-ball Evan Gattis. He had a good year in Low-A as a 22-year-old, and scouts don’t think he can catch, but Robinson has ridiculous hand/wrist strength that generates plus game power. He’s a three-true-outcomes DH prospect whose performance merits skepticism because of his age. Nick Hernandez, RHP – An eighth-rounder in 2016, Hernandez reached Double-A (but struggled there) in his first full pro season. He K’d 48 in 34 innings at Low-A before a promotion thanks largely to his plus changeup. Peter Solomon, RHP – Solomon is an arm-strength and spin-rate lottery ticket who was drafted in the fourth round after an inconsistent junior year at Notre Dame. He sits 92-95 and has trouble repeating due to the length of his arm action. Brandon Bielak, RHP – Bielak had a dominant summer after he was drafted in the 11th round. He struck out 42 and walked just five in 33.2 innings. He has a 55 curveball, a low-90s fastball, and profiles in middle relief. Brett Adcock, LHP – Houston’s fourth-rounder in 2016 from Michigan, Adcock is a thick 6-foot-1 lefty with below-average control, but he throws pretty hard and has a good breaking ball, and that’s often enough for lefties to reach the majors as a reliever. Miguelangel Sierra, SS – Sierra looked like a viable defensive shortstop whose power on contact would outweigh shaky bat-to-ball skills enough to make him a potential regular, but he flopped in the New York-Penn League last year, hitting just .178. Scouts think Sierra needs to re-work how his hands operate before and during his swing — they have cited excessive length, stiffness — and think something has to be done to improve his timing. He still has interesting tools, but the bat is in bad shape and needs to bounce back this year. Josh Rojas, INF – Rojas is already 23, but he hit for a ton of power in the Midwest League after he signed last year. He has a some low-ball pop but may not have enough arm to play anywhere but second base or left field. Kyle Serrano, RHP – Serrano had a disappointing college career marred by injury but he has enough arm strength and breaking ball to be considered a relief prospect. Myles Straw, OF – Straw has one of the more bizarre spray charts in baseball, as he rarely ever pulls the ball (though he did more of it in 2017). He has great peripherals (13% career walk rate, 16% career strikeout rate) and runs well but doesn’t project to hit for any game power and, at age 23, has only accumulated about 50 plate appearances above A-ball. He’s a fun org guy who could be an extra outfielder. Randy Cesar, 3B – Cesar hit .297/.350/.403 between Low- and High-A in 2017. He’s a rather immobile third baseman with a plus arm, above-average raw power, and a pretty simple, pull-heavy swing that lets him torch mistakes up in the zone. He’s going to have to hit a ton to profile as a corner infielder, but 2017 was a positive step. Deury Carrasco, SS – He’s a bit undersized but the 18-year old Dominican shortstop has the tools to stay at short, or at least on the middle infield. He’s a 55 runner with some feel to hit and his body has more projection than you’d expect for a guy listed at 5-foot-9. Cistulli’s Guy Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.Chuckie Robinson, C This space is typically reserved for two kinds of player — either (a) defensive tweeners who lack power on contact but never strike out or (b) slightly older pitchers with excellent strikeout numbers and average or better arm speed. Chuckie Robinson is neither kind of player. He’s a fringe defensive catcher who’s recorded nearly a 23% strikeout rate as a professional but also features impressive raw strength. Robinson, as Longenhagen notes, bears some similarity to Evan Gattis in this regard — a comparison drawn even more easily by virtue of the fact that neither player sees any use for batting gloves. While Longenhagen is pessimistic about the catcher defense — and is a much more dependable source than this author — Robinson did at least record a caught-stealing rate of 41% in 2017, or roughly 10 points better than the Midwest League average. Here’s Robinson hitting a triumphant grand slam in August: System Overview It’s possible this system looks artificially deep because the front office targets the sort of pitcher whom we’re keen on identifying here at FanGraphs. Almost all the pitchers here have high-velo fastballs that play up in the zone and a good breaking ball that can be thrown for strikes and worked down. These specific skills are being sought after in the draft and nurtured on the backfields by a growing number of clubs. It will be interesting to see how frequently Houston continues to pursue pitchers like this now that we’re entering the first full season where they’ll be looking for players with a more data-driven approach to scouting. Contending teams typically experience a thinning of the farm system as they move their better assets to acquire pieces necessary to Win the Thing. Houston hasn’t been shy about moving players blocked by better big leaguers (Teoscar Hernandez, Ramon Laureano, Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove) and still have some guys like this hanging around (A.J. Reed, perhaps Davis) who I can’t imagine they’ll think twice about moving.