Yesterday, Baseball America unleashed its annual Top 100 prospects list. Unfortunately, it begins with a typo, as an Astros prospect does not feature at No. 1 overall. We here at The Crawfish Boxes expect this oversight to be corrected during the next revision.
Aside from that glaring oversight, H-Town farmhands came out smelling pretty. Five bright-eyed young professional baseballers appear on the twenty-eighth iteration of the list.
15. RHP Francis Martes
19. OF Kyle Tucker
51. RHP David Paulino
54. RHP Franklin Perez
72. A.J. Reed
The feat is made more impressive by the fact that the Astros have, within the last three seasons, graduated seven former Top 100 propsects to the majors (3B Alex Bregman, SP Joe Musgrove, SS Carlos Correa, OF George Springer, SP Lance McCullers, SP Mike Foltynewicz [now with the Braves], and 1B Jon Singleton).
Notable is the absence of the Astros’ 2016 first round draft pick Forrest Whitley, a right-handed pitcher who has featured on all of the industry’s other Top 100 lists. Also missing is Derek Fisher, who appears on other publications’ lists.
Martes, 21, was acquired from the Miami Marlins as (at the time) the afterthought piece in a trade that sent starting pitcher Jarred Cosart to Florida. Also returned in the deal were CF Jake Marisnick, 3B prospect Colin Moran, and the draft pick that resulted in drafting CF Daz Cameron. Infielder Kiké Hernandez and outfielder Austin Wates followed Cosart to the east coast.
Martes reached double A at age 20 last season, where he pitched 125 innings with a 3.30 ERA and 16% K-BB% rate. If he reaches his ultimate ceiling, he could be a #2 type starter on a playoff-caliber team.
Tucker was drafted in 2015 only three spots after Bregman. At age 19, he hit .276/.348/.402 at Class A before earning a promotion to Lancaster, where he put up silly video game numbers just like everybody else. He will likely begin the season at Advanced-A Buies Creek.
Paulino reached the major leagues last season. It did not go well. But that was after only 14 innings at the Triple Alevel, which would have been a tall order for most pitchers. He dominated Double A in 64 innings, allowing a 1.83 ERA with a silly 25% K-BB%. Like Martes, he profiles as a frontline starter, but carries more risk due to an extensive log of injuries and suspensions throughout his career.
Perez was a highly-touted international free agent in 2014 who hasn’t struggled to adapt to pro ball in the slightest. After posting a FIP lower than 2.00 in 2015, he reached Class A ball at age 18 in 2016. Once there, he dominated the competition with a 2.84 ERA and 20.2% K-BB% over 67 innings. He figures to be a strong #3 starting pitcher at present, with possible potential for more if he continues the type of performance and growth he showed in 2016.
Reed was last season’s 11th-ranked prospect. His drop to #72 is reflective of his impressive struggle to adjust to Major League pitching in 2016, but also that the industry still considers him one of the best first baseman prospects in the majors.
While history is littered with big sluggers who struggled in their first go-round who went on to become stars, Reed will have to prove that he can make adjustments to regain his former shine. But the tools are still there - Baseball America still sees Plus power, with an above-average Hit tool and average fielding with a Plus arm. He should see plenty of opportunities to (insert cliché regarding improving perception of his ability) in 2017, even on a possibly playoff-bound Astros club.