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Prospects Poised to Rise in 2019

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The Astros farm is strong at the top, but is facing impending graduations. Here are a few players who could help fill the void if they can maintain momentum.

Whataburger Field

The Astros’ farm system has refused to slow down under Jeff Luhnow, and in 2019 there are several players with potential for big rises from their current standings. Here is a look at a few names that could improve their stock significantly during the upcoming season.

Ross Adolph, OF, Age 22

Coming from humble beginnings in Ohio prep ball, Adolph has had a meandering path to the pro game, including multiple surgeries that hampered his natural athleticism and on-field results. In 2018 he experienced a breakout with Toledo in NCAA ball, hitting .332/.445/.654 and pacing the MAC with 15 home runs. A plus runner and quick-twitch athlete, Adolph has been a fairly prolific base-stealer as well, but has kinks to work out with the glove at present. Thanks largely to his origins in Ohio and his medical history, Adolph has generally flown under the radar thus far, and is less than a year removed from lasting until the 12th round in the 2018 draft before being picked by the Mets.

Adolph’s transition to pro ball was a successful one, as he carved up NYPL pitching to the tune of a .276/.348/.509 slash line, seven homers, fourteen steals, and an eye-popping twelve triples to demonstrate his plus running ability. The young outfielder’s athleticism could allow him to man center field if he can improve his actions as a defender, and if he can continue to hit he should be able to impact games with both power and speed, giving him the upside of a regular outfielder at the major league level. While he currently ranks behind Astros outfielders such as Ronnie Dawson, J.J. Matijevic and Alex McKenna, I think it is easier to envision Adolph playing every day than that group. His skillset reminds me of the outfield version of Ian Desmond, though he may not be quite as explosive as Desmond once was, he has a similar set of diverse strengths, and was a great under-the-radar addition to the organization through trade this winter.

Brandon Bailey, RHP, Age 24

Similar to Adolph, Bailey is a player who came into the Astros organization through trade, but very much fits their draft M.O. An undersized righty starter, Bailey has enjoyed modest success as a pro pitcher but hasn’t started garnering much buzz until recently, likely thanks to his dimunitive size (5’10”, 175) and relatively advanced age. Bailey bolstered his stock somewhat in 2018, missing plenty of bats in High-A ball before moving to Corpus for a trial run where he was less successful but held his own. Not satisfied, Bailey headed to Driveline for some offseason training, and turned a lot of heads with his work there.

The right-hander attacked hitters with explosive fastballs, showcasing plus life on his heater and drawing effusive praise from both staff and fellow players. The clips of Bailey that have surfaced in recent weeks demonstrate the hurler’s ability to spin the ball at an elite level, a trait that is becoming more and more sought after around the pro game. Driveline lead Kyle Boddy went as far as to say that were his class redrafted in today’s baseball climate, he would be an easy top-75 selection. I am inclined to agree, as Bailey is showing an easy plus fastball and has strong offspeed stuff to boot. There is some Marcus Stroman here to Bailey, and I’ve become really high on him since the end of the 2018 campaign.

Heitor Tokar, RHP, Age 18

I might be a year early on this one, but as the saying goes, that is better than being a year late. Tokar was one of the most hyped acquisitions of the Astros 2017 IFA class, sporting a mammoth 6’7” frame and impressive feel for a changeup. Thus far Tokar hasn’t overpowered hitters, topping out in the upper 80s with his heater, but shows impressive command and control by any standard, let alone that of a typical 6’7” pitcher. In his first DSL campaign in 2018, Tokar had a 35/6 K/BB ratio in 43.1 innings, allowing just 27 hits and no home runs.

Still just 18 years old, Tokar is likely to marinate in extended spring training until short season ball, but stands a good chance of being assigned to the Gulf Coast League, which would give him his first taste of stateside play. There is an ocean of untapped potential here, and Tokar really isn’t ready to show what he may be able to do down the line, but the 2019 season should provide him with increased visibility and chances to excite evaluators, which should increase his stock. If he comes back already showing improved velocity, all the better. It is difficult to pin down just how high Tokar’s ceiling might be at this stage of his development, but he checks all the boxes that one looks for in a teenage pitching prospect. I look forward to having more footage of Tokar available to dream on next offseason, and think his name will be familiar to many more Astros fans by that time.