The Houston Astros continue to be well-represented on top prospect lists entering the 2017 season. The Astros had five players named to the MLB.com 2017 prospect watch list: RHP Francis Martes, OF Kyle Tucker, RHP David Paulino, OF Derek Fisher, and RHP Forrest Whitley.
Astros on MLB.com’s 2017 prospect watch
Among the players related to the Astros that dropped off the list: Brewers minor league outfielder Brett Phillips and Indians LHP prospect Brady Aiken were not included in the initial Top 100 prospects list. Former Astros prospect Josh Hader checks in at No. 38.
Martes was 9-6 with 3.30 ERA in 25 games (22 starts) with Double-A Corpus Christi in 2016. He had 131 strikeouts and 47 walks in 125 1/3 innings.
MLB.com said of Martes:
Martes' stuff is similar to what Lance McCullers Jr. showed in the Minors. He can work at 93-96 mph and reach 98 with his fastball, and while it doesn't feature a ton of life, he does show some feel for moving it around the strike zone. His curveball gives him a second well above-average pitch, combining power and depth.
Tucker batted .285 (123) with 56 runs scored, six home runs, 69 RBIs, and .798 OPS. He had 81 strikeouts and 50 walks in 117 games between Single-A Lancaster and Quad Cities.
MLB.com said of Tucker:
Some scouts considered him the top hitter in the 2015 prep class, and he has done nothing to dispel that notion. A product of the same Plant HS (Tampa, Fla.) program that spawned Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, Tucker has a smooth left-handed swing, quick hands, advanced pitch recognition and a patient approach. He has good leverage in his swing and likes to pull the ball, so he should grow into at least 20-homer power as he gets stronger.
David Paulino could have lost his prospect status in 2016 as he appeared in three games with the Astros in 2016. He was 5-4 with 2.00 ERA in 20 games (15 starts) with 106 strikeouts and 19 walks in 90 innings between Triple-A, Duble-A and Rookie Ball.
MLB.com added on Paulino:
Paulino made nice strides in 2016 with his changeup and control, and at this point, he mainly needs innings to build consistency. He totaled just 203 1/3 innings in his first six pro seasons, and the 97 he worked last year represented a career high. He missed time in 2016 with elbow tendinitis and a suspension for violating team policy, and he won't hit his ceiling of a frontline starter unless he can stay healthy.
Fisher batted .255 (214x478) with 71 runs scored, 21 home runs and 76 RBIs in 129 games between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno.
MLB.com added on Fisher:
No one in the Astros organization can match Fisher's combination of well above-average raw power and at least plus speed. He has a sweet left-handed stroke and plenty of bat speed, though he doesn't have strong feel for hitting and strikeouts will always be a part of his game. He has improved his plate discipline since turning pro and should draw a healthy amount of walks.
Whitley was 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in eight games (six starts) with GCL Astros and Greenville Astros. He struck 26 and six walks in 18 2/3 innings. At Greenville, Whitley was 0-1 with 3.18 ERA in four starts.
MLB.com notes on Whitley include:
Whitley projects to have four solid-or-better pitches, starting with a 92-95 mph fastball that tops out at 97, could have more velocity to come and features cutting and running action. He has a power curveball that peaks in the low 80s with good depth and tight spin, and he can turn it into a mid-80s slider when he wants. He has an advanced changeup for a pitcher fresh out of high school and already trusts it.