In 2015, Carlos Correa (3.4 WAR) and Lance McCullers (2.7 WAR) made their big league debuts and helped carry the Astros to their first playoff appearance in 10 years. In 2016, Chris Devenski (2.8 WAR) and Alex Bregman (1.0 WAR) debuted and quickly became key contributors.
Question: Of the prospects who haven't tasted the big leagues yet, who do you expect to be the biggest contributor(s) to the 2017 Astros?
I think the answer to this question is a little harder than the last few years since the major league roster is deeper than it has been in a long time. With that said, I expect Martes to make his debut this season and hopefully he can provide the Astros with the same spark McCullers did in 2015. I also believe Teoscar Hernandez and Derek Fisher have an outside chance of contributing to the outfield if there is an injury or something opens up.
Hoyt and Gustave still count as prospects. I think at least one will be big contributors to the bullpen this year. While there aren't as many openings on the roster as there have been in the past, this is a great spot to be in.
It's hard to imagine it being anyone other than Francis Martes, if we're talking about people who don't have a single AB or IP in the Majors yet. A bunch of other guys, like Jandel Gustave, David Paulino etc., while still rookies by the rule book, already debuted last year.
Aside from Martes, it's hard to see someone who has no time in the Majors yet who is both close and talented enough to be that guy in 2017. Maybe Ramon Laureano takes off like a rocket or something, but it doesn't seem too likely.
I believe the most impactful debut this year will be Francis Martes, but I think Ramon Laureano will surprise everyone and be a huge rookie contributor as well.
Like many have mentioned, this is a tough one because there aren't a ton of “true” rookies with zero MLB experience in the system right now. The Astros debuted a ton of rookies last season to varying levels of success. So the “true” rookie who should have the greatest impact will be Francis Martes, whom I expect to debut sometime in June.
I also want to throw Jandel Gustave's name in the ring - though he pitched a few innings in the second half last season his outings mostly consisted of mop up duty to get some innings. With the off season departure of Pat Neshek, the Astros wanted to go cheaper and somewhat younger for the last right-handed bullpen spot. James Hoyt seems the most likely to assume that role, but I think Gustave has really improved in the last year or so and could hold down a bullpen spot if given the opportunity.
Man, everybody is playing it safe with Martes, huh? Just a reminder that Chris Devenski wasn't even on the TCB Top 30 prospect list last year.
The talent is there with Martes, but he hasn't pitched above AA and seems to have more players blocking him than someone like Garrett Stubbs. If Stubbs keeps tearing the cover off the ball and either McCann or Gattis go on the DL, it seems like Stubbs would get a shot.
Martes, on the other hand, needs more than one player to move out of his way. Let's just say the rotation is Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Morton, and Fiers. You've still got at least Joe Musgrove in line ahead of Martes, and maybe even Devenski and/or Michael Feliz though they're likely destined for the bullpen.
HOF4BGO hit the nail on the head. If we're looking at potential impacts, we have to look for opportunity. There is no more fertile ground than the outfield.
One starter (Josh Reddick) has started more than 115 games just twice in his career.
Another part-time guy is 40. Another is a slap hitter who may or may not be good.
And the third is George Springer, who played 162 games last year, but failed to top 103 games in each of his previous two seasons.
So if someone goes down and needs to be replaced, odds are it will happen in the outfield. Which means there are a number of prospects who could be called upon quickly. Ramon Laureano's name has already been bandied about, as has Teoscar. But, I see two big names who could help here out of nowhere.
The first is the most unlikely: Kyle Tucker. Dude is 20 years old, one of the top prospects in Houston's system and raked last year. He's still very young and barely played at High-A, but how much time might he need? Carlos Correa needed just 250 plate appearances before Houston called him up two years ago. He only played 29 games at Double-A before getting another 23 at Triple-A. Couldn't you see Tucker on a similar path?
No, I think it's a stretch too. But I could see it being possible.
The real threat here is Derek Fisher. He's got experience in Triple-A. He's had success at every level he's been at. He's a good athlete who may be limited to a corner spot (where Houston could need help in the case of injuries). Not every scout loves Fisher, but he's the perfect kind of guy to step in and have a huge impact. You could see Fisher starting games if something happened to Reddick. Heck, his ZiPS projected line of .224/.306/.393 with 19 homers and 19 steals isn't great, but it's not terrible for a guy making his MLB debut at 23.
Fisher is the guy I'd put money on unless it's Springer who gets hurt, in which case, bet on Laureano.
Everyone seems to be betting big on Martes, but I think the easier route to the big leagues comes through the bullpen and I don't really see the Astros deploying Martes out of the back end unless they run into a string of injuries.
That is why I'll go with David Paulino. Paulino has shown some serious durability issues and got a quick taste of the big leagues in 2016, so he appears as a perfect candidate to provide quality innings out of the bullpen. This could serve as an innings cap, while the Astros look to stretch him back out in 2018 or 2019 as the rotation shakes out and guys like Fiers and McHugh are replaced with younger upside.
I could see Paulino soaking up around 40 innings and providing strong effort as one of the first men up out of the bullpen.
If not Paulino, James Hoyt has to be the most likely to make the jump, as he should see some positive regression from his 2.05 HR/9 last year in the majors. If that trends back toward his sub 1 HR/9 put up in the minors, he should be able to take advantage of a strong strikeout rate and put up a sub 3.50 ERA in meaningful innings out of the pen.
Derek Fisher. He has progressed well throughout every level in the minors. A high walk rate has helped him achieve this.
I expect him to continue to perform well down in AAA. Then, with the Astros lack of a LF who can hold down the job, I can see Fisher coming up and filling that role probably sometime post all-star break.
He'll add a lot to the team with his good eye and speed. Add that into the Astros lineup, you could have a dangerous team come October.