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 2019 season. I will also try to avoid the obvious guys to watch like Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley, Yordan Alvarez, Corbin Martin, J.B. Bukauskas and the other top guys.
Round Rock Express (AAA)
Hitter – Nick Tanielu, INF
Tanielu has been in the Astros system since being drafted in 2014. He has made his way through the system and hit at every level. So far in his MiLB career he has a .295 BA and .763 OPS in 409 games. He missed the majoirty of the 2017 season with an ACL injury but came back to strong to hit .288 in 105 games between AA and AAA in 2018. He put on a show this spring hitting .340 with 5 2B, 4 HR, 15 RBI in 19 games. He will start the season in AAA but with his versatility in the infield (1B, 2B, 3B) he could be an option to come up if there is an injury on the infield.
Why? Great performances in spring and he is versatile. Sounds like the perfect call-up if the Astros need some infield help along the way.
One More: Drew Ferguson, OF
Pitcher – Akeem Bostick, RHP
The Round Rock pitching staff is loaded with top prospects like Forrest Whitley and Corbin Martin. But one guy who has flown under the radar a bit is Akeem Bostick. He was acquired by the Astros in a trade with the Rangers in 2015. He has bounced around the minors a bit the last few years but had his best season in the Astros system in 2018 when he had a 3.67 ERA with 105 K in 98 innings between AA and AAA. Bostick had a solid spring striking out 8 in 8.2 innings while allowing just 2 earned runs. He should have a chance early on to show what he can do in AAA.
Why? He has been around a while and hasn’t reached his potential yet. Maybe 2019 is the year for him.
One More: Ryan Hartman, RHP
Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
Hitter – J.J. Matijevic, OF
I’ve wrote about Matijevic quite a bit this year but I definitely think he is one to watch in Corpus Christi. Matijevic was a 2nd round pick by the Astros in 2017 and put together a solid first full season in 2018. He played 101 games and finished with a .887 OPS, 26 2B, and 22 HR between A/A+. But he really improved over the final 34 games posting a .992 OPS, 175 wRC+ and 11 HR. At this point he is listed as an outfielder but he may end up moving to first. Either way, his bat will be his calling card and I’m interested to see how he builds on his great finish this year.
Why? Matijevic was destroying the ball last year but people are still down on him it seems. If he continues this in AA, he can’t be overlooked any longer.
One More: Osvaldo Duarte, INF
Pitcher – Tyler Ivey, RHP
Ivey was a high upside selection in the 2017 draft. He initially attended Texas A&M before transferring to Grayson Community College. Some saw it as a possible over draft but Ivey’s numbers, and stuff, are proving other wise. Ivey started the season with Quad Cities had a 3.46 ERA in 41.2 innings. The peripherals were even better. He had 8 BB/53 K (26.8 K/BB%) and a 2.14 FIP/2.40 xFIP in those 41.2 innings. He was promoted to Buies Creek where he has a 2.69 ERA with 82 K in 70.1 innings. There he had a 2.56 FIP/2.86 xFIP and 54.4 GB%. Ivey has the tools to become a top starter and the Astros are showing their confidence in him, starting him in AA this season.
Why? Ivey was dominant in 2018and I want to see if he can continue his great peripherals at the higher levels. If so, he should see his stock soar.
One More: Carson LaRue, RHP
Fayetteville Woodpeckers (A+)
Hitter – Jonathan Arauz, INF
Arauz was a “throw-in” in the trade that brought Ken Giles to Houston. He has had potential and it started to show early last year when he .299 with .863 OPS in Quad Cities before earning a promotion to Buies Creek. Unfortunately he really struggled in high-a hitting just .167 with .511 OPS in 71 games. But he did have an insanely low .180 BABIP. He will only be 20 years old this season and will start back in high-a with a chance to improve on his struggles from last year.
Why? I want to see if he can overcome his late season struggles and re-establish himself as a legit prospect.
One More: Corey Julks, OF
Pitcher – Peter Solomon, RHP
Solomon was drafted in the 4th round in 2017. A guy who had electric stuff but control issues. He dominated in 2018 though. He started the year with Quad Cities and had a 2.43 ERA with 88 K in 77.2 innings. He was promoted to Buies Creek where he was even better posting a 1.96 ERA with 4 BB/26 K in 23 innings. Overall he had a 2.32 ERA with a 2.40 FIP in 100.2 innings. Solomon has good stuff including a rising fastball and two solid off-speed offerings. He also finished with a GB% north of 50%. He will start back in high-a but if things go as they did last year, I don’t expect him to be there long.
Why? I’m watching to see if he can repeat his success from last year as he moves up to AA (eventually).
One More: Chad Donato, RHP
Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
Hitter – Ross Adolph, OF
Adolph was recently acquired by the Astros in the JD Davis trade. Adolph was a 12th round pick by the Mets in the 2018 draft. He played in short season ball in 2018 but showed his ability posting a .857 OPS with 9 2B, 12 3B, 7 HR, 14 SB and a 147 wRC+. It appears the reason he fell was some past medical history but he was healthy this past season. He has plus raw power and speed. I haven’t been able to watch him but after reading reports, he seems to be a very good athlete and has a chance to stick in center field.
Why? I want to see what he can do in full-season ball after a very good showing in short season in 2018.
One More: Jeremy Pena, SS
Pitcher – Austin Hansen, RHP
Hansen was drafted by the Astros in the 8th round of the 2018 draft. Hansen was solid in college as the closer for University of Oklahoma. His junior year he had a 3.29 ERA with 52 K in 38 innings. I haven’t been able to find much info on his stuff, but he was very good for Tri-City following the draft. He pitched in 14 games and struck out 45 in 30.2 innings while allowing just 14 hits and 6 earned runs (1.76 ERA). So that right there, leads me to the “why” below.
Why? Decent numbers in college but dominated short season ball. I want to see if his stuff will continue to play in professional ball.
One More: Brett Conine, RHP