Collaborating on a prospect list is always an illuminating exercise, and often leads to my opinions changing rapidly over the course of discussion. That is something that has happened recently as I’ve discussed my rankings with AstrosFuture, but there are a handful of players I feel strongly about, one way or another, and continue to differ on. Here’s a look at some of those names ahead of the full list’s release.
Luis Santana, 2B
The first of two players acquired in the J.D. Davis deal that will appear in this article, Santana has typically been placed near the back of Astros top 30s this spring. While he isn’t a physical prospect and has an unorthodox hitting style, it’s one that really works for him and I rate his feel for the game highly. He’s undersized and doesn’t bring five-tool potential, but I really believe in Santana’s ability to hit and that’s enough for me to rank him aggressively as it’s the rarest skill in young prospects. I see Santana as a potential regular with medium risk at second base and thus ranked him as the #12 prospect in the system.
Yordan Alvarez, Corner/DH
Anyone who follows me on Twitter is probably familiar with my evaluation of Alvarez, whom I see as a longshot to handle serious outfield work at the major league level. His bat still profiles just fine at first base or DH, but I don’t think he is a top 50 prospect in that role, more of a fringe top 100 prospect in baseball. That shouldn’t be seen as shade, and there’s no question that Alvarez brings plus-to-plus-plus power and potential for average hitting ability to the table which on its own makes him an exciting prospect regardless of his long-term defensive home. He made strides with his approach in 2018 which bolsters his projection, but doesn’t have the immaculate discipline of a Seth Beer. This shouldn’t be taken as me saying Alvarez won’t make it in the bigs, this is just an extremely strong system with some players that I like even more. There has been some positive buzz about Alvarez’s outfield work this spring out of the Astros camp, and if he ends up holding down a LF job every day in the big leagues I will gleefully eat crow.
Brandon Bailey, RHP
Like the first two prospects mentioned, Bailey was acquired by the Astros via a trade for a player on the periphery of the ML roster. I’ve written about Bailey extensively here on Crawfish Boxes and most of our readers are likely familiar with why I like him so much at this point. His fastball is a plus pitch in the low 90s with explosive arm-side run, and he can really spin a breaking ball as well. He’s an undersized righty and his offspeed stuff is more solid than wipeout, but it has been improving recently and I think there is plenty of potential for Bailey to beat the odds and become a long-term starting pitcher. He also profiles well in the bullpen if the rotation doesn’t work out. I currently have Bailey ranked all the way up at #13 in the system.
Myles Straw, CF
I agree with most assessments of Straw’s ability, I just think his profile is being undervalued by prospect evaluators. He has next-to-no power, but the rest of his game is strong enough that I still see a 2-win player with extremely low risk. Straw covers a lot of ground in CF, has surprising arm strength, great bat-to-ball ability and is a 7 runner. Most evaluations agree with all of those points, but still place Straw in the teens somewhere. Personally I think his very high floor warrants a ranking in the back end of the top ten, and I placed him 9th- a meteoric rise for the former walk-on. AstrosFuture and I actually agree on Straw, and his inclusion in this post represents (mild) disagreement with the opinions of the prospect evaluation community at large.
Framber Valdez, LHP
Another player I am a bit lower on, I place Valdez behind pitching prospects such as the aforementioned Bailey, Rogelio Armenteros, Bryan Abreu and Jayson Schroeder. Valdez can contribute in the big leagues now, but I don’t think he will be able to establish himself as either a long-term starter or late inning reliever, as he is largely a two-pitch guy with lacking command, which I don’t see as projecting especially well to either role. He can get big leaguers out, but I think his future is as a middle or long reliever which pushed him down into the 20s on the organizational ranking for me.
Ross Adolph, OF
Yet another trade acquisition. Adolph was acquired alongside Santana in the Astros’ swindling of the Mets earlier this offseason, and could make a leap in the Astros’ organizational rankings if he is able to stay healthy and his tools continue to pop. A surprising athlete, Adolph brings average-to-above average power and speed to the table, and could be the type of player that can handle CF occasionally on off days. He’s struggled greatly with injury going back to his prep days, but his 2018 was a healthy, bounceback year in which he dominated NCAA pitching and had a strong pro debut in short-season ball. Adolph may well end up profiling as a reserve outfielder, but I think the tools here are pretty real and see a potential 20/20 threat if it all comes together. I ranked him as the #21 prospect in the system and considered him a few spots higher.
Jeremy Pena, SS
I’m not too far off from overall opinion on Pena as most evaluators seem to be fans, but I do have him a handful of spots higher on my list than on most others I’ve seen and wanted to take the opportunity to praise his play. A third-round selection out of Maine, Pena is a glove-first shortstop with speed and some feel for hitting. He’s unlikely to ever make power a big part of his game, but that’s okay given the rest of his profile. Pena is a lock to stay up the middle and is pairs his plus speed with good instincts. I am a fan of Pena’s contact ability and see him developing into an average hitter whose glove can earn him a spot near the bottom of a lineup, where his baserunning ability can make him a modest offensive contributor. With his fielding and running ability, Pena brings two very stable and valuable skills to the table and won’t need to set the world on fire with his bat to produce. I placed him inside the Astros Top-25 prospects.