It seems like only yesterday the Astros were the laughing stock of the AL. Times were lean, with very little talent and a decade of futility, there seemed to be little to no light at the end of the tunnel. In just a few short years General Manager Jeff Luhnow has turned around both the farm system and major league club, to the point that each is bursting at the seams with talent. The last two years have brought about the dawn of a new era in Houston; defined by young talented players all over the field, and an aggressive approach in free agency, the trade market and draft. In the last two seasons alone the Astros have welcomed multiple impact rookies in the form of Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, and Alex Bregman. With a host of others not too far behind, the ‘Stros look set to compete for years to come. Seriously, you can’t imagine how much work it is to do a Podcast on Houston Astros Prospects and follow it up with a magnum opus post about Houston Astros prospects? They have so much dynasty goodness it’s unbelievable. I’m not joking when I say I feel like I could just draft Astros players and manage to field a solid squad. Albeit one that needs to trade some of it’s prospect depth for pitching, but that’s besides the point. This is a long one, so enough with the small talk let’s discuss some Houston Astros Prospects! Wooooooo!!!
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Francis Martes, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
How bad did the Marlins screw up including Martes as the third player in the Jarred Cosart trade? Not a gamble worth taking if you ask me….BUT who am I to say? Once considered a power relief arm, Martes has developed into one of the top 5 starting pitching prospects in the game. Many of his doubters were out in full force this past April after Martes struggled out the gate. Many of them ignored the fact that he was the youngest pitcher in AA at 20, and needed time to get acclimated to the level. Welp, after his initial struggles he posted a gorgeous statline with a 2.74 ERA, supported by a 2.42 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, 9.58 K/9, and only allowing 3 homers in 118 innings. That’s more butter than Land o’ Lakes kid. Did I mention he was 20 the entire season? Now I don’t want you to think Martes is without his flaws, cause he’s got some. Chief among them his command can be wonky, which is what got him into trouble in April. He’s also a small righty, which scares off a lot of people. Though if you know me, then you know redheads and short righties are my thing. Just call me Bone Crusher, cause I ain’t never scared. As for his arsenal Martes has stuff for days, mixing a mid to high 90’s heater that can ramp up to triple digits, with a nasty mid-80’s curveball spinning 12-6 break. Both of those pitches grade out as 70’s on the 80 grade scale. Pssst, that’s good. Martes also mixes in an above average change, and an average cutter from time to time. His control is above average, working in and around the zone consistently, but his command still needs improvement. My guess is Martes starts the season in AAA, with an opportunity to log some late season innings with the big league club.
Kyle Tucker, OF | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+/A
The brother of current Astro Preston Tucker, the younger brother is the more talented prospect. Projecting as a future all-star type with the bat, Tucker or Derek Fisher are equally acceptable answers as the systems best bat. Blessed with a big athletic frame, a great hit tool, good power, above average speed, and base running instincts, Tucker looks to be a future multi-category contributor. He’ll need to add some weight and man muscles in order to reach his power ceiling, but with excellent bat control and lofty swing a solid foundation is there. Should return to high A this year, but with the Astros switching affiliate High A leagues, Tucker will head to the Carolina League leaving behind the hitting haven in Lancaster.
A.J. Reed, 1B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
After the signings of Josh Reddick, and Carlos Beltran, the chances for Reed breaking camp as the ‘Stros starting first baseman is zero. A pre-season darling of mine, and many others coming into 2016. Reed like many Astros first baseman before him, disappointed at the plate and shuttled between the big leagues and AAA. He once again showed in AAA what encouraged many prospectors last season slashing .291/.368/.556 with 15 homers in a touch under 300 plate appearances. However, in 122 major league at bats that was not the case, producing a putrid .164/.270/.262 slashline. There’s a few obvious things we can deduct from this; 1. he wasn’t ready for the bigs (No Shizz genius) 2. There’s still hope. As you heard in yesterday’s podcast both Halp and I still maintain our faith in Reed’s bat, and him overcoming a bad case of the Singleton’s. Do I still consider Reed the best first base prospect in the minors? No, he’s been surpassed by Cody Bellinger. However he’s still in the top 5 easily, and might be a great buy-low option if someone in your league is quitting on him. As for the profile it remains the same, Reed is a middle of the order power bat with on base skills, who’s batting average will always be weighed down by contact issues.
Yuleski Gurriel, 1B/3B | Age: 32 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA/A+
The first MLB player from the first family of Cuban baseball. Yuleski had a solid if unspectacular debut in 2016, and just snuck under his rookie limits. Followed by his younger brother Lourdes Jr., it’s a big ole’ family reunion here in 2017. During his debut Gurriel showcased advanced contact ability at times, but his pitch recognition skills and power were short of what I expected. His deal is front loaded heavily so it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll play everyday, “at which position?” remains a question however. My guess is he takes the reins as the starting first baseman and hits toward the back end of the lineup. If he can acclimate to better pitching, particularly better off-speed and breaking pitches he could be a steal in the back end of re-draft leagues. Still falls behind top draft picks and internationals like Zack Collins, Nick Senzel, Kyle Lewis, Corey Ray, and Kevin Maitan in my first year player draft rankings.
Derek Fisher, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
There are some players where I pray they get traded, and Fisher is one of those. I’m worried he could spend his time shuttled between AAA and the bigs as a lefthanded platoon bat for the right-handed heavy Astros. Let’s forget about all that for now and discuss one of my favorite fantasy prospects in the minors. Fisher brings an excellent combination of power and speed, which could work out to be a true 20/20 threat. He brings to the table more than just power and speed though, accumulating a .368 OBP through 3 minor league seasons. He’ll never be a player who hits for a high average, as he sees a lot of pitches, and swings and misses far too frequently to ever sustain anything above .265. Some of the swing and miss is approach based, and some of it is the swing. Regardless, Fisher is a player that could one day develop into a fantasy star.
David Paulino, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA
A 6’7 giant with a lanky, but strong frame, and frontline starter upside. Paulino is another talented young arm that could factor into Houston’s rotation (or pen) this season. Following Tommy John surgery in 2014, Paulino’s innings have been limited, having never thrown more than 100 frames in any one season. Though if all goes well in 2017, this should be the year he breaks beyond that threshold for the first time in his young career. So to put it bluntly, injury concerns are part of the package. Even beyond the TJ, Paulino missed some time in 2016 for elbow tendinitis as well as a disciplinary issue. His stuff is as nasty as there is, with some scouts putting his arsenal on par with that of the aforementioned Martes. Paulino mixes a plus 4 seamer that can touch 98, but mostly sits 93-96, with a plus low 80’s curveball with 12-6 break, an above average to plus change (depending upon who you read), and a fringe slider. His control and command are above average, and he rarely gets into trouble with walks. Could see a bullpen role in Houston this year with an innings limit somewhere in the 130 range.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Teoscar Hernandez, OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA
After making his bones early in his pro career as a power, speed threat with a big swing and miss profile, Teoscar evolved in 2016. Following a very inconsistent, and at times disappointing 2015, Hernandez adopted a more patient and contact focused approach. The new approach saw him rake in the first three months of the season, seeing a promotion to AAA in late June before being promoted to the big league club a month and a half later. Hernandez has the feel of a fourth outfielder on a good team, but could slot into everyday at bats should he be traded or he find his way into playing time in Houston due to injury. The 20/20 ability is real, and the new approach hopefully stabilizes his floor.
Garrett Stubbs, C | Age: 23 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA/A+
An under the radar catching prospects with advanced hit tool, and a well rounded skillset. My prospecting partner in crime Michael Halpern likened him to J.T. Realmuto and I think he’s spot on. Stubbs does a little bit of everything well very similarly to Realmuto. Across High-A and AA he slashed .304/.391/.469 with 10 homers and 15 steals. The power breakout is welcome, but suspect, luckily the rest of his offensive profile is as real as they come. His ability to throwout runners at a high clip will help push his ETA, and almost guarantee a shot at MLB playing time.
Colin Moran, 3B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
I loathe Colin Moran, why the Houston Astros and Jeff Luhnow doesn’t is beyond me. After a disappointing 2016 Moran’s time with Houston looks to be coming to an end. Even the biggest Moran believer has to admit that it’s all crashing down. Look at it this way, when your defense is poor, your power is below average, and your prevailing tool is your hitting and approach, yet you still slash .259/.329/.368, it ain’t good. My guess is Moran surfaces with another club as a boring first baseman. Like a crappier Yonder Alonso.
J.D Davis, 3B | Age: 23 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
Calling Davis the anti-Moran, might make him a genius, but I think it just means he doesn’t suck. 2016 was a breakout year for Davis as he slugged 23 homers for AA Corpus Christi. He brings to the table the classic corner infielder skillset with plus power. The ultimate ceiling could be a middle of the order type bat, though more the 5 or 6 hitter, than the 3 or 4 hitter. He’s a lot like A.J. Reed from the sense that his power is generated from brutish strength over elite bat speed.
Ramon Laureano, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA/A
Following a breakout 2016, Laureano was one of the buzziest players this side of Gleyber Torres in the Arizona Fall League. Making loads of hard contact, and pairing it with plus speed, advanced approach, and an above average hit tool will do that. After slashing .319/.428/.528 with 15 homers and 43 steals across two levels in 2016, you’d think he’d have more buzz. “How little buzz does he have Ralph?” So little buzz that he didn’t even make the Astros top 10 on Baseball America last month. This ladies and gentlemen is why you have me, to get you focused on the fantasy implications of this whole thang. The long and the short is Laureano was one of the top breakout prospects of 2016, making hard contact and raising hell on the bases at each stop along the way. Should see AA and AAA this year, with an outside chance he gets some run in Houston.
Jason Martin, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A+
What do we have here? Another power/speed player coming off a breakout 2016. How many of these guys do they have? Trillons, trillons, son. The 21 year old outfielder dropped a 23/20 season this year at High-A Lancaster of the California League. It’s easy to dismiss those numbers when you know how hitting friendly both Lancaster and the Cal League on a whole are. However, a significant jump in slugging and ISO like Martin experienced should not go ignored. I still wouldn’t add him in leagues where less than 200 prospects are owned, but even in those leagues he should be on the short list to add should this production keep up.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs
Forrest Whitley, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: Rk
This draft has some real giants, Puk, Hansen, and Wentz, but none more opposing than Whitley. At 6’7 240 he has the workhorse frame, and the plus stuff to have front end starter upside. He’s worked hard to firm up his big frame; has great polish and body control for a big guy.
Franklin Perez, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A
High upside teenage arm who’s shown polish since coming to the United States from Venezuela at 17. His plus fastball sits 91-93, ramping up to 95 on occasion. His curve grades out as an above average pitch and flashes plus at times, while his change is still developing. He’s solidly built, but his 6’3 frame still shows room to fill out more, potentially adding a couple of ticks of velocity onto his heater. Perez is a low minors power arm, with enticing upside.
Freudys Nova, SS | Age: 16 | ETA: 2021 | 2016 Level: N/A
One of the top International free agents of the 2016 class. Nova originally signed with the Miami Marlins for $2.5 million before seeing the deal voided following a failed drug test. This allowed Houston to scoop him for $1.2 million in July, and the rest as they say is history. Who they are, I’m not sure. Nova brings one of the most enticing skillsets of any teenage international this side of Kevin Maitan. He’s drawn comparisons to Hanley Ramirez due to his plus hit tool and power at the shortstop position. He’s a longways away but worth a stash or at least keeping on your radar.
Daz Cameron, OF | Age: 19 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: A/A-
Imma keep it real, Daz has been a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong I like Tha Dogg Pound as much as the next guy, but Kurupt’s solo career has been far superior. Grey’s intern who I borrow for foolhearty errands on the weekends informs me, I’m confusing my Daz’s. Yeah, so I got my Daz’s confused. So whatff? The same sentiment holds true, Cameron has been just sub-par so far in his short pro career after signing way above slot at $4 million as a 2015 second round pick. The debate about his hit tool, or lack there of, has raged on. With the doubters looking to be right so far. He showed improvement in the short season New York-Penn League at the end of the year, and there’s still hope things could come together. The toolsy across the board superstar many dreamed on during his high school career is looking less like a reality. At this point he looks like a plus defender with average offensive skills.
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