With the minor league rosters set, it is time to take a closer look at each team’s players and who to keep an eye on this season. Here I will list two hitters and two pitchers from each affiliate to watch during the 2018 season. I will also try to avoid the obvious guys to watch like Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley, Yordan Alvarez and the other top guys. You can see the full minor league roster here: Astros Set Minor League Roster.
Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
Hitter – Jon Kemmer, OF
Kemmer has been a late round steal for the Astros after being drafted in the 21st round of the 2013 draft. Kemmer has hit at every stop in the minors making it all the way up to AAA. In 2017 he repeated AAA but made huge improvements in every category. Overall he hit .299 with .932 OPS and 16 HR in 87 games. Unfortunately, he missed the end of the season due to an injury. He finished the season with a 142 wRC+ which was just 5 points shy of Derek Fisher. Kemmer is already 27 years old but has to chance to make his debut this year if the depth is needed.
One More: Drew Ferguson, OF
Pitcher – Rogelio Armenteros, RHP
Armenteros was originally signed out of Cuba for just $40,000. He started this season out in Corpus Christ and made quick work of Double-A posting a 1.93 ERA (2.61 FIP) with 74 K in 65.1 innings. He was promoted to Triple-A where he went 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA (3.45 FIP) and 72 K in 58.1 innings over 10 starts. He also had a very good 49.3 GB% with Fresno. Armenteros now owns a career of 42 BB/159 K in 142.0 IP with a 2.03 ERA in AA/AAA. He has started to see some national love with Baseball Prospectus ranking him as 5th in the Astros system. Armenteros has a low 90s fastball and a good changeup. He also has a lot of deception in his delivery making it hard for hitters to pick him up.
One More: Brendan McCurry, RHP
Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
Hitter – Carmen Benedetti, OF
Benedetti was the Astros 12th round selection in the 2016 draft. He had a solid college career which saw him hit .326 with 45 BB/29 SO in 54 games during his junior season. Benedetti had a good debut following the draft hitting .309 with a 121 wRC+ for Tri-City. Benedetti started the season with Quad Cities and really put together a nice run. He played in 69 games for Quad Cities hitting .332 with .446 OBP, 51 BB/47 SO and a 163 wRC+. The walk and strikeout rates are what really stood out, 17.3 BB% and 15.9 K%. He was promoted to Buies Creek and hit .268 in the final 23 games. Overall he had 27 doubles and 5 homers. He doesn’t have a lot of power, though he has good size (6’2, 225 lbs). 2018 will be an interesting one for him to see if he can continue the stellar on base numbers.
One More: Myles Straw, OF
Pitcher – Riley Ferrell, RHP
Ferrell was a 3rd round selection of the Astros in the 2015 draft out of TCU after dominating there for 3 seasons. Early into his 2016 season, Ferrell had surgery to remove an aneurysm in his throwing shoulder ending his season. He started the 2017 season with Buies Creek and pitched 2 perfect innings there with 5 K before being promoted to AA. Overall with Corpus Christi he had a 3.81 ERA with 55 K in 52 innings, but he was better than that line indicates as he finished the season great. From July 6th to the end of the season Ferrell had a 2.08 ERA with 4 BB/30 K in 21.2 innings. Ferrell has a mid to high 90s fastball and a mid 80s slider. Ferrell could see time in Houston this year if he performs well in the minors and a spot opens up.
One More: Akeem Bostick, RHP
Buies Creek Astros (A+)
Hitter – Ronnie Dawson, OF
Dawson was a 2nd round pick out of Ohio State in 2016. After dominating his junior year in college many expected him to be a fast mover in the system. Unfortunately, his 2017 season started very slow hitting just .217 with 5 HR in the 61 first half games (89 wRC+). He really turned it up in the second half though hitting .330 with 11 2B, 9 HR in 55 second half games (169 wRC+) with Quad Cities before being promoted to A+. He finished the season hitting .327 in 13 High-A games and a combined 128 wRC+ overall. Overall he had a solid 10.5 BB% and added 18 stolen bases. It turned out to be a very good first full season for Dawson.
One More: Chuckie Robinson, C
Pitcher – Jorge Alcala, RHP
Alcala has been in the Astros system since 2015 and has steadily made his way up the ladder. He started the 2017 season with Quad Cities pitching in six games and posting a 2.03 ERA with 35 K in 31 innings. He was promoted to Buies Creek and had a 3.45 ERA with 60 K in 78.1 innings. While his walk and strikeouts rates weren’t great, he was nearly unhittable all season allowing just 71 hits in 109.1 innings, good for a .184 batting average against. Alcala has a 98-100 MPH fastball, touching 102. He will have to harness his stuff but he has a ton of upside.
One More: Corbin Martin, RHP
Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
Hitter – J.J. Matijevic, OF
The Astros selected Matijevic 75th overall (2nd round) in the 2017 draft. Matijevic destroyed the Pac12 during his junior season hitting .383 with 30 2B, 10 HR, 65 RBI for the University of Arizona. The only problem was scouts weren’t sure where he would end up in the field with the two options being second base of left field. After the draft he was assigned to Tri-City where he hit .240 with 6 HR (108 wRC+). He was eventually promoted to Quad Cities and played in 6 games there. Overall his 27.8 K% with a 98 wRC+. He still has a ton of upside with the bat and will be a guy to keep an eye on this season.
One More: Jonathan Arauz, SS
Pitcher – Patrick Sandoval, LHP
Sandoval was drafted by the Astros in the 11th round of the 2015 draft. Sandoval is a big lefty standing 6’3″ and weighing close to 200 lbs. Following the draft, Elias noted Sandoval has a lively fastball that he locates well and a solid curveball and changeup in place. Sandoval had a couple mediocre seasons before putting together a solid 2017. Overall he finished with 78 K in 61.2 innings pitched good for a 4.09 ERA, though his peripherals looked way better with a 2.32 FIP. His K-BB% of 20.3% was also very good for a 20 year old in full season baseball. His fastball sits in the low 90s and curveball will flash plus, just waiting for it all to come together for him. At 21, he could be ready tot take the next step.
One More: Cristian Javier, RHP