The Astros are the defending world champions and just punched their ticket to the 2018 ALCS with a roster full of homegrown studs. So we can excuse them if the current system doesn’t stack up to previous years. And yet, this top ten still boasts three specs that should appear on just about every top 100 list this preseason. The Colin Moran trade and David Paulino’s graduation are the only notable changes to the group from last year. They’re a bit pitching heavy and the current MLB roster doesn’t leave much room for new talent to step into everyday roles, but that’s picking nits. On the plus side, any prospects that do manage to graduate in 2019 – I’m looking at you Kyle Tucker – are stepping into a winning environment and a stacked lineup. This year’s previews will use a simple A, B, C grading system to tier/group the prospects and as always I’m attacking these lists as a fantasy player.
1. Kyle Tucker, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019
He’s easily the best fantasy prospect in this system and likely a top 10-20 prospect on traditional lists as well. The ceiling to dream on is something similar to the power/speed combination Christian Yelich is providing, although it would obviously be foolish to expect it all to come together right away in 2019. His 24/20/.332 season in Triple-A earned him a cup of coffee with the MLB club this past year and there’s really nothing left for him to prove in the minors. He should be a solid target in redrafts come spring.
2. Yordan Alvarez, 1B/OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019
Alvarez split time between Double and Triple-A in 2018, and slugged .534 for the year. His defensive profile limits him to first, DH, or maybe left field, so he’ll need to do some offensive damage to make an impact. With both the hit and power tools projected to be above average, it’s worth the gamble. He’ll need more time to cook at Triple-A, so a mid-to-late 2019 ETA is probable with 2020 being the year he most likely cements a role with the big club.
3. Forrest Whitley, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019
This is a touted arm, but one that barely pitched this year. He served a 50-game drug suspension followed by two trips to the disabled list for oblique and lat injuries. There’s too much upside in his plus heater and curve to knock him out of this tier and he’ll likely still rank highly on other 2019 lists. In 118 innings over the past two seasons he’s posted a K/9 north of thirteen. That strikeout potential is where I think his fantasy value lies. He’ll be pitching in the Arizona Fall League and could find himself in the mix for a rotation spot at some point. I doubt they rush things though, so it will most likely take an injury or a shuffle for him to get many meaningful MLB innings in the coming year.
4. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2019
Spending the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Fresno, Armenteros logged 118 innings and struck out 134 batters (10.2 K/9). His best pitch is his change-up, and between his big build (6’1″/220), his experience (over 400 MiLB innings), and his reported feel for his entire arsenal, he looks like an easy bet to carve out a role in the rotation as early as this year.
5. Freudis Nova, SS | Age: 18 | ETA: 2021
Nestled among all these pitching prospects is Nova, an international signing from 2016 with all the offensive tools to be a star. He’s easily my “favorite” fantasy prospect in this tier, but he’s still a ways off at just 18 years old, which makes him more of a gamble than the others. His defensive skills will keep him on the left side of the infield and this time next year he should easily be one of the elite specs in this system.
6. Cionel Perez, LHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019
There’s nothing fancy here. Just a lefty with decent control of a starter’s arsenal. His fastball, slurve?, and change are all considered above-average pitches. Perez threw some innings with the Astros as a reliever in 2018 and could be in the mix again this year. There are only so many spots in that rotation though, and he’ll need to start to have much fantasy value.
7. Corbin Martin, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2020
Martin is a college arm with experience both in relief and in the rotation. His plus fastball/slider combo would work in either role, but he had a great year as a starter in Double-A, throwing over 100 innings with a walk rate under three and a strikeout rate around nine.
8. Josh James, RHP | Age: 25 | ETA: 2019
James got a look in three starts for the major league club in 2018, and he pitched well – striking out 29 batters in 23 innings and limiting his walks. Similar to Martin, his role is a bit up in the air, but he’d be an interesting depth piece in dynasty leagues.
9. Myles Straw, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Straw’s money tool is his speed, making him fantasy relevant for stolen bases (even as a fourth outfielder). My money tool is that orange thing they give you in LEGO sets to get pieces apart. It has saved me countless chipped teeth and bloody knuckles.
10. Seth Beer, 1B/OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2021
–>Insert Brett Kavanaugh joke here<– Beer’s profile is similar to Alvarez, he’s just a little more one-dimensional and has more riding on his bat to make up for any defensive liabilities. Beer and Straw are tiered together because both have warts but they both provide depth for different needs…speed or power.