Top 33 Prospects: Houston Astros by Eric Longenhagen April 13, 2021 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. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in my opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on my lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher. 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 Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value. All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2021 2020 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Astros Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Jeremy Peña 23.6 A+ SS 2022 50 2 Hunter Brown 22.6 A- SP 2023 50 3 Jairo Solis 21.3 A SP 2022 45+ 4 Korey Lee 22.7 A- C 2023 45 5 Luis Garcia 24.3 MLB SP 2021 45 6 Bryan Abreu 24.0 MLB SIRP 2021 45 7 Pedro Leon 22.9 R SS/CF 2025 45 8 Colin Barber 20.4 R CF 2024 45 9 Peter Solomon 24.7 A+ SP 2021 40+ 10 Tyler Ivey 24.9 AA MIRP 2021 40+ 11 Forrest Whitley 23.6 AAA MIRP 2022 40+ 12 Freudis Nova 21.3 A 2B 2022 40+ 13 Shawn Dubin 25.6 A+ SIRP 2022 40+ 14 Jordan Brewer 23.7 A- CF 2023 40 15 Alex Santos II 19.2 R SP 2025 40 16 Grae Kessinger 23.6 A SS 2022 40 17 Nivaldo Rodriguez 24.0 MLB SP 2021 40 18 Chas McCormick 26.0 MLB RF 2021 40 19 Dauri Lorenzo 18.5 R SS 2025 40 20 Misael Tamarez 21.2 R SP 2024 40 21 Zach Daniels 22.2 R CF 2024 40 22 Austin Hansen 24.6 A+ SIRP 2021 40 23 Jojanse Torres 25.7 A+ SIRP 2022 40 24 Luis Santana 21.7 AA 2B 2022 40 25 Jose Alberto Rivera 24.2 A SIRP 2021 35+ 26 Tyler Brown 22.5 R SIRP 2024 35+ 27 Jairo Lopez 20.4 A- SP 2022 35+ 28 Angel Macuare 21.1 A- SP 2022 35+ 29 Manny Ramirez 21.4 A SIRP 2023 35+ 30 Brett Conine 24.5 AA SIRP 2021 35+ 31 Juan Pablo Lopez 22.2 A SP 2022 35+ 32 Julio Robaina 20.1 A SP 2022 35+ 33 Diosmerky Taveras 21.6 R SIRP 2023 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B OF LF CF RF LHP RHP 50 FV Prospects 1. Jeremy Peña, SS Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Maine (HOU) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/50 45/45 30/40 55/55 55/60 50 Billed as the best collegiate defensive player in the 2018 Draft, Peña has since added 20 pounds of muscle and now has modest, but relevant power. After looking uncharacteristically mistake-prone during the 2019 Fall League, he was the Dominican Winter League’s best infield defender in 2020 and should be a plus big league defender at shortstop. While he isn’t as deft and precise with the barrel, Peña’s swing shares some common rotational elements with fellow Astro Yuli Gurriel. Peña can pull his hands in and get the fat part of the bat on pitches on the inner half, which should enable him to hit 12 to 15 annual pull shots, maybe a couple more because of the Crawford Boxes in Houston. But the profile foundation here is Peña’s on-base ability and plus glove at a premium position. He’s 23 and hasn’t played above A-ball, but is still a pretty stable prospect, in part thanks to his coming of age in LIDOM. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League, LIDOM) 2. Hunter Brown, SP Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from Wayne State (HOU) Age 22.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/55 60/70 40/50 30/45 92-95 / 97 Brown is one of several pitchers who blew up during the 2020 Fall Instructional League in Florida. He was often up to 99 at the alt site and sat in the mid-90s during instructs while incorporating a good slider and a rebooted curveball (Brown shelved it in college but it has now been reintroduced in pro ball, and is already better than the slider). Both breaking balls have impact potential. There are some similarities with the way Walker Buehler’s stuff changed when he first returned from Tommy John. Brown had a long layoff (though it was because of the pandemic rather than a TJ) and returned with more velo and two good breaking balls rather than just one. Brown’s uptick in stuff has coincided with a change in his physicality, as he’s clearly taking advantage of pro strength programs and facilities (remember, this guy comes out of a Division II school). The change in his physique lends credence to the uptick in stuff, though there’s still relief risk here because we haven’t seen Brown hold it for a whole season as a starter and he was wild during his brief 2021 big league spring training work. He has a chance to take yet another leap in 2021, especially in an org that is very good at developing pitchers. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 45+ FV Prospects 3. Jairo Solis, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (HOU) Age 21.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 50/50 60/60 45/55 30/45 92-95 / 97 Solis had Tommy John late in the summer of 2018, so he didn’t pitch at all in 2019. He was a Pick to Click after the 2019 season in anticipation of him exploding when he returned from rehab, but because of COVID, he didn’t pitch until the fall, only returning for 2020 instructs. Scouts who have covered Houston the last couple of years count Solis among the most talented pitchers in the org and think he has as much upside as guys like Forrest Whitley and Bryan Abreu, if not more. He came out during 2021 spring training sitting 93-97 and during 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 Mets varsity lineup shelled him. But remember that Solis is still just a 21-year-old who has barely pitched the last two years. If you line up his broad strokes age/stuff quality/relief-risk profile, it lines up pretty closely to LSU prospect Jaden Hill, who entered the 2021 season as a likely top 10 draft pick (he recently blew out). Solis should be close to a healthy Hill on the FV continuum. In addition to the mid-90s heat with vertical action, Solis 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 2018) but their shapes deviate enough from his fastball/curveball combo that they play well when located, which doesn’t happen regularly yet. 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. If the command piece can be ironed out, Solis has a mid-rotation future. If not, it lies in high-leverage relief. (Fall Instructional League) 45 FV Prospects 4. Korey Lee, C Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Cal (HOU) Age 22.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/55 30/50 50/45 40/50 70 Lee has a great baseball player’s frame and superlative athleticism for most positions, let alone catcher. His mobility and plus-plus arm make him a potential impact defender there, and he may end up playing other positions, too. The Astros gave him some reps in the outfield after he signed in 2019, and Lee had amateur experience at several infield positions. He’s currently catching on one knee, with his hands working from the ground up as he tries to frame fastballs at the bottom of the zone. While one-knee’d catching can create problems for some guys as they exit their crouch to throw, it’s not a problem for Lee, who explodes out of his stance and maintains sound footwork that helps enable arm accuracy. He doesn’t have a long track record with the bat, however. Yes, Lee hit .320/.420/.626 as a junior at Cal but he didn’t perform anywhere near that level as an underclassman and hasn’t really had an opportunity to reinforce that line in pro ball because the pandemic washed away what would have been his first full season. Pro scouts who saw him in 2019 after the draft thought his swing was long, sweeping downward in an unimpactful way, and also thought he struggled to recognize breaking balls. His 2020 instructs and 2021 spring training looks were much stronger than that, though, which seems to have coincided with a change to Lee’s swing. He’s eliminated a big leg kick and simplified his footwork. His rare physical ability combined with the low industry inventory at the catcher position makes him a potential everyday player if the swing change helps make him an even average all-around offensive player. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 5. Luis Garcia, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (HOU) Age 24.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 244 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/55 45/50 55/60 50/50 91-94 / 96 Of the many hard-throwing young 20-somethings who occupied the thick middle of this list a few years ago, Garcia is the one whose touch-and-feel command really emerged. He’s now a lock to remain a starter and will likely play an integral role in Houston’s rotation going forward. During the course of a start, he’ll typically sit in the 90-94 range and touch as high as 96 while working an awful lot to his glove side with the heater and his two very distinct breaking balls. Both Garcia’s slider/cutter and curveball are average, though his slider has a little more lateral movement than it did in 2020, so maybe that pitch is above now. It’s his tailing mid-80s changeup that has the nastiest action, and the best chance to finish big league hitters. Garcia was a 32% strikeout, 11% walk rate guy in the minors, including his most recent full season in 2019, the only time in his pro career he’s exceeded 100 innings. He no longer looks like the sort of pitcher who’ll produce peripherals like that over a full season and I’d expect both of those rate stats to fall. The lack of a short- and long-term workload track record and the leap Garcia might be asked to make in a rotation coming off a short 2020 create some extra volatility here, but Garcia’s arm action is so loose and his lower half is so robust and strong that it might be less of an issue for him than it would be for others. He projects as a big-league ready No. 4/5 starter who’ll produce in the 1.5 to 2 WAR range. (Alternate site, MLB) 6. Bryan Abreu, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic (HOU) Age 24.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops 60/60 70/70 80/80 30/30 93-96 / 97 Because he has premium arm strength and both of his breaking balls are nasty benders from hell — they’re roughly the same velocity but have clearly different shapes — Abreu has elite reliever ceiling. His complete lack of fastball control forces him to work with those breaking balls early in counts, which impacts hitters’ willingness to offer at them later in at-bats as they’ve already seen a couple. Houston had him semi-stretched out as a starter during 2021 spring training but he’s almost certain to wind up in single-inning relief, where he could become a closer. It’s more likely he becomes a righty version of José Alvarado, providing viral GIF fodder at times while raising the blood pressure of Astros fans at others. (Alternate site) 7. Pedro Leon, SS/CF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Cuba (HOU) Age 22.9 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 60/60 40/55 60/60 55/55 80 A 5-foot-9 stick of dynamite, Leon has a big power/speed/arm tool trinity. Until 2021 Spring Training, the last action Leon saw was during the 2018-19 Cuban National Series, in which he homered 15 times in 30 games before dealing with an oblique injury. He was cleared to sign last December but an oblique injury moved back his workout. When it was finally held, teams got a text on the way there saying that Leon had a deal with Houston already done. The shoulder is healthy and with his power, elite arm strength, and incredible bat speed from the right side, Leon is the sort of player who would have prompted teams to burst through their bonus pool when they weren’t hard-capped. The success rate of Cuban hitters, especially ones who have had a long time away from baseball during their relocation process and pre-eligibility period, is highly variable, but Leon looked pretty comfortable against big league pitching during 2021 Spring Training, and he squared good velocity several times. The Astros plan on experimenting with him at shortstop and in center field. He’s a very interesting and talented prospect with a chance to be an impact player. (International signee) 8. Colin Barber, CF Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Pleasant Valley HS (CA) (HOU) Age 20.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 194 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 45/45 30/45 60/60 40/50 40 Barber is a sweet-swinging lefty outfield stick with really advanced bat-to-ball skills. He’s also gotten considerably stronger since high school even though he didn’t have an overtly projectable frame, and while he may not have gargantuan power, he might outproduce his raw power grade in games because his feel for contact is so good. He went to the alt site very late in the year then had an impressive instructs, where he not only raked but also posted plus run times. The same source who collected those plus run times has a left field projection on Barber due to a lack of arm strength, and his hit tool will likely need to help amplify the power for him to profile as a true everyday player there. I have a slightly higher degree of confidence in Barber doing this since he’s a strong, short-levered hitter and those guys’ hit tools seem to max out more consistently than their longer counterparts. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League) 40+ FV Prospects 9. Peter Solomon, SP Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from Notre Dame (HOU) Age 24.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 211 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 50/50 50/50 55/60 40/45 90-94 / 95 Solomon had strike-throwing issues in college and Notre Dame had several other talented, more consistent (at the time) pitchers, so he spent most of his time there in a multi-inning relief role. By the time he had finished his first full season in pro ball, Solomon had started as many games as he had his entire college career while only working about four innings per outing in Houston’s piggyback development style. Off to a very fast start in 2019, Solomon blew out and needed Tommy John surgery. Even as he rehabbed over the next two seasons (only returning for 2020 instructs), he was asked about in trades and seemingly continued to hone starter-worthy command during rehab. He looked great during 2021 spring training, sitting 93-94 with carry and working with a plus changeup. Both of Solomon’s breaking balls are about average and have glove-side utility. What kind of workload he’ll be able to sustain remains a question, since not only is Solomon coming off a TJ but he’s also never thrown more than 100 innings in a season when healthy. His stuff looks like that of a No. 4/5 starter, though. (Fall Instructional League) 10. Tyler Ivey, MIRP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Grayson County JC (TX) (HOU) Age 24.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops 55/55 45/50 60/60 45/50 40/45 40/40 90-92 / 95 Ivey’s violent head whack, some minor injury stuff, and the lack of an innings foundation — caused partially by a 2019 suspension, the official reason for which was initially undisclosed, though it was later revealed that he was caught using a foreign substance — all push him toward the bullpen, but he has starter’s stuff. His fastball plays well at the top of the zone even though it isn’t all that hard, and really hasn’t been since 2018. His curveball is the headliner, though. It’s a gorgeous, old-school 12-to-6 yakker that freezes hitters. He also has a cutter/slider and a changeup, the latter of which shows flashes of bat-missing movement. Everything about Ivey screams multi-inning bullpen weapon. (Alternate site) 11. Forrest Whitley, MIRP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Alamo Heights HS (TX) (HOU) Age 23.6 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 30/40 93-97 / 99 As enigmatic as any pitcher in the minors, Whitley’s 2020 alternate site performance added to what has been a consistently inconsistent career dating back to high school. He transformed from a soft-bodied pitchability high schooler to a svelte, five-pitch, fire-breathing dragon in the span of about 18 months, then had a 2018 stimulant suspension plus lat and oblique issues before 2019 brought shoulder fatigue, control problems, and what looked like a conditioning regression. Depending on the day, his fastball velocity was anywhere from 91 to 98 at the 2020 alternate site, and he seemed a distant thought even at the end of the year when the big club was clamoring for pitching. Spring of 2021 arrived and by mid-March, Whitley needed Tommy John. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that it may gives him the opportunity to rebuild and fine tune his body, which is common for TJ rehab guys. It’s possible we’ll once again see Whitley sitting 94-97 with a bevy of elite secondary offerings, but I’d be surprised if he’s able to do that year after year for a half decade based on how unfortunate his health-related track record has been so far. (Alternate site) 12. Freudis Nova, 2B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (HOU) Age 21.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/60 35/55 50/45 40/45 70 I’m getting some Gilbert Lara flashbacks here, which isn’t a good thing. Like Lara, Nova has quickly filled out and morphed from a swing-happy middle infielder with power projection into one with more of a corner look and considerable present power. He’s so much bigger and stronger now that some scouts who saw him both last fall and this spring think his ultimate destination may be first base, and that his body has already begun to look like that of late-career Hanley Ramirez. Nova’s plus-plus arm may enable him to hide some of what project to be lateral range deficiencies, and he could still end up at third base or playing a Moustakas-y second. It puts more pressure on him to develop a better approach than his current, over-aggressive version. Remember though that Nova has performed on paper despite his approach, including a nearly average line as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League back in 2019 that featured 25 extra-base hits in just 75 games. Unlike the Gilbert Lara/Brewers situation, the club here thought highly enough of Nova to put him on their 40-man. The chance for a viable middle infielder with relevant game power still exists here, but is looking less likely as time passes. (Fall Instructional League) 13. Shawn Dubin, SIRP Drafted: 13th Round, 2018 from Georgetown College (HOU) Age 25.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops 55/55 60/60 50/50 40/40 92-95 / 97 Dubin took a long route to pro ball (from a JUCO to Buffalo and then to an NAIA school) and his destination will be a big league bullpen. He enjoyed a velo spike in 2019 and dominated low-level competition with mid-90s heat and a really good slider. At the time, Dubin was listed at a dandelionesque 155 pounds but has since climbed up over 170, albeit without seeing any more velo. It might help quell some concerns about his size and durability, though. Dubin was once again mostly 93-96 this spring, folding in an upper-80s slider and mid-80s curveball. One source put a 70 on Dubin’s slider. If that’s true, then projecting him in a middle relief role here will be light. (Alternate site) 40 FV Prospects 14. Jordan Brewer, CF Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Michigan (HOU) Age 23.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 55/55 30/50 70/70 40/50 60 There’s an injury update at the end of this blurb, which is otherwise unchanged because of said injuries: Brewer was draft eligible in 2018 at Lincoln Trail JC in Illinois and went unselected, but emerged in his season at Michigan due to his huge tools: solid average raw power, plus-plus speed, plus arm strength and good instincts on the bases. In the 2019 draft, Brewer was an outfielder for the College World Series finalist and arguably had the best raw tools in the draft. But he lasted until the back of the third round due to his rawness at the plate, underlined by his 56 strikeouts to 24 walks. At the plate, Brewer’s pitch selection is below average and his swing can get long, so the prototypical profile of the below average contact platoon center fielder, like a Jake Marisnick, is the reasonable upside since Brewer is already 23, going on 24, and has barely played during the last two years because of a toe injury, the pandemic, and a knee surgery. (Injury rehab) 15. Alex Santos II, SP Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Mount St. Michael HS (NY) (HOU) Age 19.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 194 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops 45/55 30/50 50/55 25/50 89-93 / 95 Santos spins the ball a little better than your typical boiler plate prep pitching prospect and his build allowed for strength and velocity projection while he was a rising junior. At that time, he was sitting in the low-90s, up to 95, and had a 55-grade curveball. Based on his build and geographic location, Santos was one of the high school arms who seemed like they had a chance to have a big uptick in velocity after a winter of training, and maybe leap into the first or second round of the 2020 draft. He looked a little less athletic and loose in his first 2020 start but it was chilly (in the 50s); he showed no real velo uptick and never got a chance to. It moved him from the 40/40+ FV cusp to the 40s, much like Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist the year before. Santos’ velo was up during Fall Instructional League, though, where he sat about 94 but also looked a little less projectable and more reliever-ish to scouting sources who saw him there than they had expected given his draft pedigree. (Fall Instructional League) 16. Grae Kessinger, SS Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Ole Miss (HOU) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 204 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/45 45/45 30/35 50/50 50/50 55 Kessinger is a classic low-variance SEC utility guy with elite baseball instincts and makeup. He’s not very toolsy and both his contact ability and power will likely end up shy of average at maturity, but his ability to do literally everything else well will probably enable him to play in the big leagues for a decade, and Houston gave him reps all over the infield during his first pro summer. Unlike many 2019 college draftees who need to come out of the gate hot with the bat in 2021, Kessinger’s need only hover around that 90 wRC+ realm to continue projecting in this role. (Fall Instructional League) 17. Nivaldo Rodriguez, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela (HOU) Age 24.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 50/50 55/55 45/50 50/50 89-92 / 94 Rodriguez was 95-98 on the TV radar gun during a spring training game against Washington, but those readings appear to have been faulty, as he sat in the low-90s in 2019 and ’20, and during his other starts at locations with pitch tracking this spring. That’s still nothing to sneeze at, as Rodriguez’s backspinning heater plays a little bit above its velocity due to its carry at the top of the zone. Though he doesn’t have precise command, Rodriguez lives in and around the zone with all four of his pitches, the best of which is a low-80s curveball with vertical depth and action that complements his fastball well. He also has an upper-80s cutter/slider and a changeup, both of which are just shy of average. The entire package is that of a fifth starter or long man, and Rodriguez is likely to be up pretty frequently in 2021. (Alternate site, MLB) 18. Chas McCormick, RF Drafted: 21th Round, 2017 from Millersville (HOU) Age 26.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/50 55/55 45/45 50/50 55/55 50 McCormick projects to play a role similar to the one Jordan Luplow has played in Pittsburgh: a part-time, lefty-mashing corner outfielder. He is the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s all-time hits leader and tweaked his swing over the course of his first two full seasons in pro ball (his stance and stride direction have changed), which helped him lift the ball more consistently. He now strides closed, and he’s able to cover the outer half of the plate really well because of this. McCormick performed statistically up through Triple-A amid some pretty aggressive promotions and his proprietary expected stats from the 2019 minors were actually better than his triple slash line. He’s a low-variance role player. (Alternate site, LIDOM) 19. Dauri Lorenzo, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (HOU) Age 18.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40 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 camp. 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 is not a slam dunk for the left side of the infield. Switch-hitting middle infielders are hard to come by, though, and Lorenzo is short to the ball and his swing has lift, which is also rare. His early career path makes it more important that a well-rounded contact/power combination emerge from the offensive skill set since second base looks more like his eventual home, but the physical ability to clear that offensive bar appears to be here. (Fall Instructional League) 20. Misael Tamarez, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (HOU) Age 21.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 206 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/55 50/55 35/50 92-94 / 94 Tamarez had interesting 2019 pitch data (a 19-year-old topping out at 93 with plus cut and carry), but I had nothing else to go on at the time (not even video) so he didn’t make last year’s list. He had a strong showing at 2020 instructs, where Tamarez’s fastball was more often parked at 93 rather than just peaking near there. He’s also an above-average athlete with a precocious changeup. A scout who saw instructs has also been impressed by Tamarez’s on-field maturity and what looked to them like strong work habits. That scout thinks Tamarez belongs ahead of Santos here. Of the young 40-FV-and-below arms who may yet continue to emerge in this system, Tamarez either has better stuff or is a more starter-y looking athlete than the others. He’s a high-priority full-season follow for 2021. (Fall Instructional League) 21. Zach Daniels, CF Drafted: 4th Round, 2020 from Tennessee (HOU) Age 22.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 211 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/35 70/70 35/60 60/60 40/55 45 It’s not as if hitting prospects with huge power and severe strikeout issues are rare, but what is rare is that Daniels barely performed in college but is still seen as a guy with huge power potential. In part due to injuries and then the pandemic, Daniels never played more than 35 games in a college season and never homered more than five times in a single campaign. He struck out roughly 40% of the time combined between his underclass seasons at Tennessee and the wood bat summer ball he played amid them, then exploded during non-conference play in 2020, walking as much as he struck out while slashing .357/.478/.750 for four short weeks. He draws some Giancarlo Stanton swing comps because of his closed stance/stride and tucked hands, and Daniels’ raw power is only a grade shy of Stanton’s. Daniels can also really run and has the Michael Vick, sportscar forward tilt and posture as he does. He’ll run some plus times straight through the bag and some 70-grade times with the turn on his way to second base. The bust probability here is high because the track record for college hitters striking out this much and succeeding is very sparse, but guys with this kind of power/speed combo don’t exactly grow on trees. (Fall Instructional League) 22. Austin Hansen, SIRP Drafted: 8th Round, 2018 from Oklahoma (HOU) Age 24.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 204 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/55 50/55 35/40 93-95 / 96 Raise your hand if you had this Hansen as the Oklahoma pitching product most likely to make a big league impact. Hansen has three distinct pitches but his grip-it-and-rip-it mode of attack fits in the bullpen. He’ll show you 94-95 with the heater and work his 82-86 mph, two-plane slurve pretty consistently to his glove side despite the high-effort delivery. Every once in a while you’ll get an above-average, mid-80s changeup from Hansen, too. He’s a near-ready middle relief prospect. (Fall Instructional League) 23. Jojanse Torres, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (HOU) Age 25.7 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 55/55 50/50 35/35 94-97 / 99 Torres signed with Milwaukee back in 2015 but his deal was voided due to identity falsification. He re-emerged in 2018 with Houston and had a breakout ’19 when he suddenly became part of the exciting contingent of young arms from which Cristian Javier and Enoli Paredes have already emerged. While he has one of the harder fastballs in this entire system, I’ve seen Torres throw his slider much more than his fastball in person, as it seems he can put it in the zone more consistently than his heater, which hums in at 94-98. Even though Torres’ slider has good-looking length and tilts in at unusually-high velocities for a slider that bends like his does, hitters don’t offer at it very often, and this was especially true of big league hitters this spring. In about 60 pitches on tape, Torres generated just three swings and misses, two on his fastball and one on his changeup. The raw stuff here looks like it belongs in a high-leverage role, but the way it seems to be playing appears to push it toward a lesser, middle-inning one. (Alternate site) 24. Luis Santana, 2B Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (NYM) Age 21.7 Height 5′ 8″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/60 40/40 30/35 40/40 40/45 50 Santana has become pretty polarizing. I’ve had some sources NP him (as in, they consider him a non-prospect) while others still think his bat-to-ball skill is a carrying tool. I’ve had some knock his makeup and coachability while others like his swagger and individuality. For a thick, projectionless guy, his exit velos from 2019 are concerningly low. He needs to be a 60 or 70 bat to profile as an everyday second baseman because he’s unlikely to hit for power or be a very good defensive player, and it’s just much more likely that he ends up in some kind of bench role. The bat-first infielders who tend to end up hopping around to different orgs in these roles (think Brad Miller, Wilmer Flores) almost always have more power than Santana, with those guys outnumbering the punchless Sogard types pretty handily. (Fall Instructional League) 35+ FV Prospects 25. Jose Alberto Rivera, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (HOU) Age 24.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops 70/70 55/55 50/55 30/35 93-97 / 99 The Angels selected Jose Alberto Rivera in the Rule 5 but, even though he threw just one spring inning, they returned him to the Astros because he didn’t throw enough strikes to stick in their bullpen. He sat 97 and touched 100 in 2019, and both his breaking ball and changeup are potential swing-and-miss offerings. He may have been less likely to stick with the Angels than he would have been elsewhere given their desire to compete immediately rather than deal with potential wildness (as compared to Yohan Ramirez the year before, who went to a team willing to put up with it to roster him long-term). He is not on the 40-man but may still make a 2021 debut if the club deals with a rash of injuries. (Fall Instructional League) 26. Tyler Brown, SIRP Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Vanderbilt (HOU) Age 22.5 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 242 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops 50/55 50/60 30/40 91-95 / 96 Brown was mostly 91-93 during the abbreviated 2020 college season but was more 92-95 the season before, when he struck out 65 and walked just nine in 49 innings of relief work. If he can reclaim that comfy mid-90s range, he is very likely to be a quick-moving middle relief piece with a vertical action fastball/curveball combo. (At-home dev) 27. Jairo Lopez, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (HOU) Age 20.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/55 50/50 40/45 35/50 91-94 / 95 Lopez has a long, somewhat violent arm action and he’s small, but he’s a plus athlete with a really quick arm and advanced pitchability for his age. He also has a breaking ball that spins in excess of 2,800 rpm. A scout who saw him during the fall of 2020 thinks I’m overstating how messy the delivery is (they described it as “clean”), so maybe something there has changed for the better. He has a shot to be a backend starter, and has a realistic bullpen fallback due to the arm strength. (Fall Instructional League) 28. Angel Macuare, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (HOU) Age 21.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 250 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/50 45/50 55/55 40/45 35/45 89-91 / 94 Two things altered Macuare’s placement on the list. First, the visual evaluations of him continue to underscore his lack of athleticism. Second, the pitch data that originally put me onto him in a big way (his fastball had among the most vertical movement in the 2019 minors) was likely tainted by a miscalibrated TrackMan unit. A front office person told me over the phone, “Some of these 2019 readings aren’t humanly possible.” But hey, Macuare still has relatively advanced feel for pitching, especially when he’s working with his curveball. He’s more likely to end up as a depth starter rather than a consistent backend guy. (Fall Instructional League) 29. Manny Ramirez, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (HOU) Age 21.4 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 50/60 40/50 20/30 92-95 / 97 Ramirez was so wild early in 2019 that the Astros had to send him back to Extended Spring Training to continue his development in a location that didn’t impact actual games. He was re-deployed at a short season affiliate later in the summer. He still ended up walking more than a batter per inning, and the 2020 instructs reports indicate that he remains quite wild. Ramirez’s velo and breaking ball give him considerable ceiling but he needs to develop at least a full grade of control to even be viable in relief. (Fall Instructional League) 30. Brett Conine, SIRP Drafted: 11th Round, 2018 from Fullerton (HOU) Age 24.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 218 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 45/45 55/60 45/50 90-93 / 96 Conine reached Double-A in 2019, one of the three levels at which he pitched that year, amassing 134 strikeouts in 114 innings in time mostly spent at Hi-A Fayetteville. He doesn’t throw all that hard, only sitting 90-93, and Conine actually sat more in the upper-80s during his 2021 spring debut. But he pounds the zone with his fastball and even though it isn’t that hard, it still generated a 16% swinging strike rate in the minors in 2019 thanks to Conine’s command and his heater’s plus vertical movement. He also locates his (below-average) slider very consistently and has a great changeup. The velocity piece of the puzzle feels a little bit precarious based on the early spring look, but otherwise Conine is big league rotation depth right now. (Alternate site) 31. Juan Pablo Lopez, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Mexico (HOU) Age 22.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 216 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/40 45/50 45/55 35/50 90-93 / 94 Juan Pablo Lopez is a pretty standard spot starter/swingman prospect. He’s a hulking guy with a big, sturdy frame and a messy delivery that doesn’t prevent him from throwing strikes. As an Astros minor leaguer, he has thus far worked in three- or four-inning outings either as a starter or out of the bullpen, while he’s pitched exclusively in relief for los Tomateros de Culiacán in the Mexican Pacific League. He’ll sit about 92 with tough downhill plane and mix in an average upper-70s curveball and changeup. (Fall Instructional League, Mexican Pacific Winter League) 32. Julio Robaina, SP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Cuba (HOU) Age 20.1 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 40/45 50/55 45/50 35/55 89-92 / 94 Robaina was not invited to the Astros’ 2020 instructs, so there’s nothing new that might alter his report. He’s a 50 on-mound athlete with a well-balanced drop-and-drive delivery that produces an upper-80s fastball (touching 92) with cut and carry from the left side. He also has advanced breaking ball feel and the Astros trusted him enough to take a few turns at Low-A and in the Penn League when they needed him to in 2019. But mostly, I think it’s worth keeping tabs on any athletic lefty with a breaking ball. (At-home dev) 33. Diosmerky Taveras, SIRP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (HOU) Age 21.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 248 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/65 45/50 40/50 20/35 94-97 / 98 Diosmerky is still a premium arm strength flier type. He was sitting 94-97 as a teenager in the 2019 GCL and was once again in the mid-to-upper-90s during 2020 instructs. Despite his age, Taveras is not a projectable sort; his frame is maxed out and then some. His slider is also still a 40-grade pitch. He has a relief shot, and the eventual quality of his breaking ball will dictate his role. (Fall Instructional League) Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Younger, Higher Variance Types Enmanuel Valdez, 2B Roilan Machandy, CF Nathan Perry, C Deury Carrasco, SS Yohander Martinez, 3B Alfredi Jimenez, RHP Luis Vega, RHP Valdez, 22, is a stocky, slower twitch infielder with limited range. He has good hands and actions and some feel to hit. He performed with the bat until a mid-year 2019 promotion to High-A. He could be a bat-first infield role player. Machandy, 19, is a speedy DSL center fielder from Cuba who needs a long-term look because of his tools. Perry is a 20-year-old, well-built catcher with an athletic lefty swing, and his defense is improving. His exit velos are in the 40/45-grade area right now, but he’s still pretty young and puts on a better show than that during BP. Carrasco barely played in 2019 and was bad when he did, but he only turned 20 in September. I liked him as a speed/glove/versatility bench piece last year. Yohander Martinez was a 2019 DSL All-Star. He’s well-built and has a plus arm; his swing has some length but it also has lift. Jimenez is a 21-year-old lower slot guy up to 95. Vega is an 19-year-old pitchability righty with a bunch of average pitches. Older, Potential Role Players Ronnie Dawson, CF Jose Siri, CF Bryan De La Cruz, OF Matthew Barefoot, OF Ralph Garza Jr., RHP Leovanny Rodriguez, RHP Alex McKenna, OF Shay Whitcomb, 2B Tommy DeJuneas, RHP Ross Adolph, OF Ronel Blanco, RHP Dawson has some pop and has worked hard to give himself a shot to stay in center, but the contact piece there is light. He might be a star overseas. Siri was once a 50 FV thanks to his plus speed and power, but he’s an on-field stallion who’s never been tamed. De La Cruz is in that tough spot between the Guillermo Heredia bench outfield types (who can play center) and the Adam Duvall types (who have actual power). Barefoot is a swing change candidate with present speed and defense. He hit really well with wood on Cape Cod but flopped in a short Penn-League run in 2019. Leovanny Rodriguez, 23, is a three-quarters slot righty who sits 91-95 in relief. He has good numbers up through High-A. McKenna, Adolph, and Barefoot are all tier two or three college center fielders who performed as amateurs. They have tweener traits and had down statistical seasons in 2019. There was some 35+ FV support for Adolph because he has more pop than most others here. Whitcomb doesn’t have big visual tools but raked at a smaller SoCal school, UC San Diego. De Juneas is up to 97, Blanco up to 96. They’re both well into their mid-20s and have control problems. Mashers Taylor Jones, 1B Joe Perez, 3B J.J. Matijevic, 1B Rainier Rivas, 1B Scott Manea, C This is pretty self-explanatory. Jones is on the 40-man and you’ve probably seen him play. He averaged 91 mph off the bat in 2019, and hit 48% of his balls in play at 95 mph or above. He might be a corner bench piece because of the power. Perez has big raw power and also has huge arm strength, so I wonder if he might be moved to the mound if he doesn’t hit again in 2021. Rivas was acquired from the Angels for Max Stassi. He is only 19 but still averaged exit velos above 92 mph in 2019. He’s wholly unprojectable and positionless, but there’s real power. Matijevic whiffs too much to be a 40 FV first base fit. Meanea has a fire hydrant and plus power. Unique Looks Willy Collado, RHP Kent Emanuel, LHP Kit Scheetz, LHP Brayan De Paula, LHP Dean Deetz, RHP Collado was close to being on the list even though he only touches 92 on occasion. He’s a side-arm sinker/slider relief prospect with bat-missing tail on an upper-80s fastball. He’s 22 and has reached Double-A. Emanuel generates big sink on his fastball. Scheetz was undrafted out of Virginia Tech but has missed bats all the way up the minor league ladder. He’s a funky, junk-balling lefty who is great bullpen injury insurance for 2020. De Paula is pretty projectable, and has real arm strength (up to 95) but poor control. We’ve written about Deetz the last few seasons, but his control regressed last year. System Overview You probably already know that this org has been fantastic at identifying and developing pitching, and that remains true enough that the club may still contend even without Justin Verlander and, for a while, Framber Valdez giving teams the raspberry at the top of their rotation. The rest of baseball has realized the value of acquiring the pitching characteristics Houston was hip to before most others, so the flow of backspinning fastballs will probably slow down, but bear in mind that there’s also a new regime in place that may have other ideas, especially since Tampa Bay (from whence James Click came) likes their two-seamer/slider guys. The Pedro Leon signing marks another of several high-profile Houston acquisitions from Cuba (Cionel Pérez, Yuli Gurriel, and (sort of) Yordan Alvarez and Aledmys Díaz) while other teams place more focus on 16-year-old Dominican kids. The Astros have also typically targeted older pitchers internationally. Again, the Click era is still pretty new and these things are subject to change, though because of how the international market works, we may not see alterations here for a couple of years. Overall, this system feels like it has below-average impact at the top but also has a couple of lower-ranked guys with breakout potential who might eventually provide Top 100 value or impact.