The Astros have built a juggernaut of a franchise. Not only is the major league team one of the best in the league (despite some recent struggles), but the farm system is one of the top systems in baseball. There are plenty of high upside prospects ranked in the top 100 across different publications. But what has made this season even more special is the prospects, who were relatively unknown heading into 2018, have know made their names known. Let’s take a look at a few guys who were unheralded heading into 2018, but put together some great seasons.
Josh James, RHP
Let’s start with Josh James. James was recently called up to the Astros and showed why he was getting a lot of buzz. He struck out 9 in 5 innings and showed off his 101.1 MPH fastball in the first inning. James was drafted in the 34th round of the 2014 draft and steadily made his way through the Astros system. James’ sleep issues are well documented, and getting this figured out, along with some mechanical adjustments, helped him gain elite velocity. This season in the minors he struck out 171 in 114.1 innings earning him his call up to Houston.
Chad Donato, RHP
Donato put up some nice numbers in college but fell in the draft a bit (11th round, 2016) due to a UCL sprain. After pitching in rookie ball in 2017 he started the 2018 season with Tri-City. He didn’t stay there long though posting a 0.00 ERA in 16 innings. He was promoted to Quad Cities where he has a 2.04 ERA with 77 K in 61.2 innings including a stellar month of August. He has a low 90s fastball and a solid curve. Donato missed a bit of development time due to injury and is already 23, but he has dominated this year and is definitely one to watch in 2019.
Josh Rojas, SS
Rojas is another late round find in the Astros system. He was drafted in the 26th round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Hawaii. He started out at a junior college in Arizona and ended up being recruiting following a stellar performance in an All-Star game. He told me more about this in my interview with him here. The Astros started the 24 year old with Buies Creek this season and he made quick work of the Carolina League posting a .921 OPS with 15 BB/13 K and 12 SB in 21 games. He has now been with the Hooks for 104 games and while he is hitting just .249, he has 32 XBH, 26 SB and posting a solid walk rate (11.8 BB%) and a solid K rate (17.2 K%) while playing every positing but CF and C. So to sum him up; he plays multiple positions, gets on bases, can steal bases, and said he tries to model his game after Javy Baez. A lot to like here.
Alex De Goti, SS
Same story, different name as the Astros have found another late round success. De Goti was a 15th round pick in 2016. He struggled a little bit over his first couple of seasons but has really came into his own this year. He started the season with Corpus Christi and hit .282 with .779 OPS in 98 games. While he doesn’t draw a ton of walks, he also doesn’t strike out much. He was still able to post a .450 SLG with that approach. He was promoted to Fresno and after 25 games he is slashing .295/.360/.420. Overall he is hitting .285 with 29 2B, 12 HR, 62 RBI and a 110 wRC+.
There are definitely more to list here, but I felt like these four have really put together some solid seasons despite not being known to the casual fan. The 2017 draft class has quite a few pitchers who have seen their stock rise quite a bit, and that will be a topic for another article here in the near future.