As Astros fans, we have been blessed with prospects having breakout seasons year after year. In 2016 it was Ramon Laureano, in 2015 it was Francis Martes, in 2014 it was Brett Phillips. Not every system has breakout prospects, but fortunately the Astros have. This is what makes the Astros' system so fun to watch and keep up with. Here are some prospects I think have the chance to be the "breakout" prospects of 2017. For this list I will try to avoid guys ranked in the team's top 30 prospects. For reference, here is my list prior to the 2016 season.
Cristian Javier, RHP
Javier was signed by the Astros in 2015 as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic. In 2015 as an 18 year old he pitched for the DSL Astros posting a 2.13 ERA with 9 BB/50 K in 42.1 IP. Javier made his 2016 debut with the GCL Astros on June 27th. He was 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 37 K in 25.1 IP. He was then promoted to Greeneville where he had a 1.75 ERA with 29 K in 25.2 IP.
Javier doesn't necessarily have plus stuff but really knows how to pitch and attack hitters. His fastball ranges from 88-93 MPH and he mixes a good slider and average curveball. When I asked a scout if Javier had more pitchability than raw stuff his reply was "yes, but raw stuff definitely there". Javier will be just 20 years old in 2017.
2016 Stats: 4-2, 2.29 ERA, 51 IP, 34 H, 18 BB, 66 K, 11.6 K/9
Bryan De La Cruz, OF
De La Cruz was signed by the Astros in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. He made his Astros system debut in 2014 when he split time between both DSL teams hitting .262 with a .704 OPS in 59 games. In 2015 he made his stateside debut hitting .242 in 44 games with the GCL Astros. De La Cruz played the 2016 season with Greeneville and Tri-City and started to show his potential. He hit just .239 overall but had 19 BB/33 K and 3 HR in 44 games.
De La Cruz has a good body at 6'2" and 175 lbs with the chance to add more power as he grows. He has the classic right field profile with power and a big arm in the outfield. He will be just 20 in 2017 and should make his full season debut with Quad Cities.
2016 Stats: 44 G, .239 BA/.331 OBP/.396 SLG, 4 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 19 BB/33 SO
Lupe Chavez, RHP
Chavez was originally signed out of Mexico by the Blue Jays in 2014. He was originally an outfielder in Mexico but made the transition to the mound and it looks like it was the right decision so far. The Astros acquired Chavez last July in the deal that sent Scott Feldman to the Blue Jays.
Chavez pitched in rookie ball in 2016 and posted a 1.38 ERA with 10 BB/41 K in 45.2 IP. Like Javier, Chavez's stuff may not be considered top notch but he knows how to pitch. He has a fastball that sits low 90s (touching 92/93) and a very good changeup that flashes above average. He is listed at 6'2" and just 150 lbs, so plenty of room to grow too.
2016 Stats: 4-1, 1.38 ERA, 45.2 IP, 36 H, 10 BB, 41 K, 8.1 K/9
The Astros signed Fernandez out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 at just 16 years old. He debuted in the Astros system in 2014 playing for the DSL Astros and the GCL Astros combining to hit .300 with 13 2B, 37 RBI, 35 SB in 69 games. In 2015, Fernandez played the season with the GCL Astros and just .148 in 43 games.
Fernandez had a better 2016 season with Greeneville hitting .223, though with a .713 OPS (102 wRC+). He showed off some pop with 17 XBHs in 52 games, to go along with 20 SB. He also posted a very respectable 13.2% walk rate and 24.6% strikeout rate. Fernandez is a toolsy outfielder/second baseman. He has very good speed and a good build. He will be just 20 years old for the 2017 season.
2016 Stats: 52 G, .223 BA/.341 OBP/.372 OBP, 10 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 20 SB, 30 BB/56 SO
I wanted to list Jorge Alcala and Hector Perez (both RHP) here but they seem to be talked about a bit. I tried to choose guys who are under the radar but could really make their name known in 2017. Hopefully one of these guys will “breakout” and establish themselves as another top prospect in the Astros system.