If you set the filter to 30 minor league innings pitched, 65 Houston Astros struck out more than a batter per inning in their minor league system in 2019. The Cubs: 44. The Yankees: 46. Dodgers: 62. I think I checked all the teams I thought had a shot to match, and I might’ve actually checked all the teams. There’s not a leaderboard for this so far as I know. Just me geeking out with my cat, Calvin. 

Every time I would think of a team to check–the Rays–yes, duh, of course, the Rays! 45. 

The Marlins? They seem to have a lot of heat last year, right? 36. 

The Padres? Yup, gotta be. 64. Huge, but second place. 

Anyway, they’re gonna be fine–the Astros–at least in the medium-term. Or maybe not. Maybe that one hyper-competitive dude was making all the magic and the next crew won’t take time for all his tricks (“Illusions, Dad! You don’t have time for my illusions!” – G.O.B.)  

But it wasn’t just tricks. Something true came out of all the spycraft. Four-seam fastballs up. Curveballs down. Timeless. 

More, too, but that’s at least partly how I’ll remember the Lunhow Astros. They redefined pitching. It wasn’t just them, of course, but they were a huge part of it. 

They also tainted my favorite game on the planet. Changed history. Changed lives. Yu Darvish. Dave Roberts. No need to cry for everyone here–it’s just a game and all–and a lot of the people most impacted by the cheating are probably doing pretty damn great on the quality of life scale, historically speaking, but it’s not a good look. It’s kind of amazing the game can just pick up and move on. Even more amazing how many people just shrug the everyone cheats. I get it. The world is built to make us do that.

Anyway, so: Astros prospects! Do they throw things? What do they throw? Let’s find out! 

 

Player | Age on 5/1/2020 | Highest Level Played | ETA

1. RHP Forrest Whitley | 22 | AAA | Mid 2020

Nobody’s lost sight of the ideal forest through the trees of a homer happy 2019, but it’s fair to be skeptical of the crowned king of pitching prospects heading into last season. 

 

2. RHP Jose Urquidy | 25 | MLB | 2019

Here’s what I wrote about Jose Urquidy on October 2nd in my Top 75 Prospects for 2020 Fantasy Baseball:

“Urquidy had a 1.10 WHIP in 41 MLB innings. If this surprises you, it’s likely because he had 0.72 WHIP in September, and while a few outings against the eliminated Angels and Mariners are not predictive, he also threw five dominant innings against the Athletics (10 K, 1 H). These are the teams he’ll face most in 2020. Might be a buy-window open now, but that’s in danger of slamming shut if Urquidy shows well in October.”

While he’s certainly gained some perceived value during a strong playoff run, Urquidy can still be acquired for a reasonable fee. I’m a little worried about all Astros going forward, but time could quickly prove that fear unfounded. 

 

3. RHP Luis Garcia | 23 | A+ | Mid 2021

4. 3B Abraham Toro | 23 | MLB | 2019

5. SS Jeremy Pena | 22 | A+ | Late 2021

Off-speed command leads to high strikeout rates and elevated confidence. I like Shane Bieber a lot, but few would have predicted he’d turn out the way he has. My confidence in Luis Garcia is rooted in his thick base and his fluidity in maximizing and repeating it. He was regularly popping 97 and sitting 95 to go with devastating breaking stuff. Houston has a lot of overage arms in part because that’s the path in countries where everyone tries to play shortstop or centerfield until it’s clear they cannot, but that longer route can lead to great balance and athleticism on the mound, as it has in Garcia, who Houston signed for $20,000. 

Somebody might read this and think I’m farting in Abraham Toro’s general direction, but I’m not really trying to hate on the bull. He might be really interesting in the right setting. But Houston is not that setting. If Kyle Tucker can’t catch a whiff, what’re Toro’s chances? I’d be trying to trade him if I had him. 

I have yet to remember the name of a video game from my youth in which Geronimo Pena was an exceptional player, but images from him in that game flashed in my mind as I read about the breakout of Jeremy Pena. I actually remember the day well. There’s so much outstanding coverage of the minor leagues these days that it’s tough to read it all. Anywho, I used to love video game baseball. Still could, maybe. They just move too slow these days. I grew up on Nintendo: a beautifully frenetic if simplistic platform. I liked it. And I like Jeremy Pena. He hits, walks and steals. Plays a good shortstop. Big league Dad. Which just has to be the title of a movie somewhere. Staring Hulk Hogan? 

 

6. SS Freudis Nova | 20 | A | 2023

7. RHP Enoli Paredes | 24 | AA | Late 2020

8. RHP Bryan Abreu | 23 | MLB | 2019

9. RHP Christian Javier | 23 | AAA | Mid 2020

 

Freudis Nova held his own as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League (95 wRC+). We might not get a good idea of what he could be as a fantasy asset for a while yet, but there’s a lot of reasons to be excited about this plus power shortstop with a decent chance to stay at the position. 

Big fan of Enoli Paredes. The stuff is real, his extension and arm speed are unreal for a 5’10” pitcher, and I cannot wait to see what he becomes. I think he could start if they let him fight through the struggles. 

A potential sea change in Houston might put Robert Osuna on the hot seat at some point, and Bryan Abreu has plenty of stuff to handle the role. He needs to repeat better and gain command, but I suspect working with the major league staff–and among all the veteran arms in Houston–would be good for him. 

Can pretty much copy and paste the Abreu blurb for Christian Javier, who has a little less fastball but a more well rounded repertoire and a better chance to start if he adds command. I like all these arms a lot. Houston is good at arms. 

 

10. RHP Jojanse Torres | 24 | A+ | Mid 2021

Would be in a select group in line for a potential leap in my opinion. Ended the season on a ridiculous stretch: 0.50 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 0 HR, 35.2 innings, 7 games, 5 wins, 0 losses, let’s party. Threw a seven inning one hitter with one walk against a Cleveland squad on July 24 and just went crazy from there. His season-long numbers are nice, too (1.73 ERA), but he was untouchable and clearly ready for AA and probably more with his 99 mile an hour heat and good control of a plus slider. 

 
  1. Birdman says:
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    What kind of MI can I expect in return for Whitley right now and would you consider it selling low. Roundabout way of asking if you expect a rebound from Whit. Thanks!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Birdman!

      I probably hold him at this point.

      Spring Training will bring a big stock boost, I think.

      At that point, kinda depends where you’re at in the cycle because you could certainly land a Mouatakas plus something or maybe try to build a big offer for Ketel Marte or go young and try to get CJ Abrams.

      He’s a great piece for just about anyone you’d want to get—just have to find a motivated buyer.

  2. thatguy says:
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    Never forget that the Astros implemented a teamwide systematic cheating scheme that resulted in then successfully stealing a World Series title, an MVP Award, and many millions of dollars.

  3. goodfold2 says:
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    it’s funny that the players (who apparently were VERY involved in this) got nothing done to them, even though it sounds like they implemented this more than the managers at the time, beltran maybe could’ve been the most guilty at first.

    – draft is over, we got probably 2 weeks before FA starts. should have the new baseball forecaster tomorrow night to prep for that (along with player rater here, which is updated for 20 now). while ron shandler himself has moved to the back of the line in about every “expert” league he’s been in for in some spots like 10 or so years, his book is still a top of the line prognosticating tool, as it goes over skills that produce results, and is NOT a projection system in and of itself (also his site that goes with this book is still respected).

    – pena you have listed higher than probably any other spot i’ve seen, was drafted in the 4th round right before i went kochanowicz when i needed pitching. enoli and jojanse only ones not owned yet. a lot of other HOU guys were drafted too: toro (fairly early), urquidy (1st round before my turn, but i was going bracho or best hitter anyway there, puason/carroll almost made it to me), k.lee (a catcher who went 1.30), d.laurenzo (2nd round, kinda figured you’d have him here somewhere), dubin (4th round). all those others above were already owned.

    • goodfold2 says:
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      actually l.garcia still isn’t owned. i do remember you mentioning these 3 a few posts ago too. but sooooo little HOU team info is out there yet (no PL list yet, fangraphs IS out now though as of 8 days ago but they have h.brown, bielak (both owned) higher than a lot of the pitchers here, and j.a. rivero), and they’re a weird org right now, many places have their system in general ranked very low as a whole.

      fangraphs does give pretty good grades to a bunch of paredes’ pitches (65 fast, 50 slide, upside of 70 on the curve, 55 change, 50 cut, with bad upside on the command (40)), but lower than the above since they seem to think he’s a likely multi-inning RP (like what MIL did to hader). l.garcia they really don’t like (19th in system) and think he’s still a pitch away from being a useful leverage RP (60’s on fast/slide but only upside 45 on change and horrible command). b.bailey is going to be super cheap in bidding shortly.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        just read about how MLB had grievances filed by teams/players about HOU doing “something” since 2016 yet they did nothing till it became known publicly to fans. this reeks just as much as the ray rice beating/NFL covering it up till when the tape leaked (maybe not THAT bad as GODdell actively had the tape for about 6 months and was doing the cover up). like all of these “scandals” it’s just shit that is allowed to go on (sometimes legally, like with ballgate, where in the NFL it was legal to have balls inflated/deflated by the home teams) until it appears they’ll lose money. none of this stuff is about “protecting the integrity of the league(s)” it’s about the appearance of integrity when/if they are about to lose money from appearing to NOT have integrity. as long as the money is coming in and they’re not about to lose some of it anything is fine.

  4. MY HAIR! says:
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    First year dynasty draft. Y Moncada, Hiura, Albies, or V Robles?
    Thanks!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, MY HAIR!!

      Great question!

      1. Ozzie
      2. Robles
      3. Hiura
      4. Yoan

      No knock on Yoan. Tight grouping here.
      4.

      • MY HAIR! says:
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        Thanks for the help! The projections are so close. I knew the answer was Albies but I went ahead and overthunk it anyways. Thanks for the validation! Have a good one.

  5. Matt says:
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    You trading Whitley if you own him or staying the course in dynasty?

  6. Alex says:
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    Hey man, I have picks 6 and 10 in FYPD, who you seeing going in that range? Think Witt will fall or will I have to pick between Greene and Carroll? Think Pena falls to 10 by the time March rolls around? Thanks

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