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MiLB Trends to Watch

The Astros’ farm is a little thinner than it looked two weeks ago, but there’s plenty of movement over the home stretch of the season

Quad Cities River Bandits
The talented Quad Cities River Bandits are poised for another great season in 2016
Flickr user “pioneer98”

Freudis Nova’s progress with Quad Cities

Since receiving a 7-figure bonus out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year old, Nova has been regarded as one of the most talented players in the Houston system as an infielder with the potential to hit for average and power. In his limited rookie ball action in 2017 and 2018, Nova handled the bat well, including a .308 batting average in the GCL last year, evidencing the potential that has been recognized in him since a young age. This season, Nova was left in extended spring training for awhile before joining the River Bandits as a 19 year old, and he’s amassed 59 games played in the Midwest League since.

The results for the Astros’ phenom have been mixed. On the one hand, his power potential has been obvious. Out of his 60 hits this season, 22 have gone for extra bases (18 doubles, 3 homers and a triple), and he’s hitting an admirable .264 as one of the younger players in the league. However, his approach has been much too aggressive, as he has managed just 8 walks against 55 strikeouts on the year, good for a 3.4% BB rate. His K rate is easy to stomach considering the power potential, but to make good on his offensive upside he’ll need to tighten things up and get on base more frequently. There’s plenty of time for Nova to make the necessary adjustments- but patience at the plate has proven to be an area where improvement is needed. Nonetheless, Nova’s demonstrated an ability to make contact with full season pitching, and hit the ball with authority, as a teenager- and those are very good boxes to check.

Wilyer Abreu making waves with his bat

Nova’s Quad Cities teammate, Wilyer Abreu, was signed as an 18 year old prospect as part of the 2017 July 2nd class. A 6’0”, left handed outfielder, Abreu is an offensive-minded prospect who profiles in an outfield corner. Abreu’s offensive talent didn’t immediately manifest in rookie ball, and he still has a lot of room to grow, but his first taste of full season ball has been a promising one.

After a brief debut with the River Bandits in June, Abreu was sent to Tri-City for a spell, where he hit just .229/.273/.329 against older competition. However, since being assigned back to Quad Cities on August 3rd, Abreu has hit safely in 8 out of 9 games, with an 11 for 30 total, 5 walks and 8 strikeouts. On the whole with Quad Cities, Abreu’s line currently sits at .310/.403/.448 in 18 games. Abreu’s profile demands that he hit a lot- but he’s showing the nascent potential to do so, and has a chance to hit his way onto the back end of top 30s down the stretch.

Abraham Toro, juiced ball are fast friends

It has been a season to remember for bat-first prospect Abraham Toro, who recently earned a promotion to Triple-A on the back of a .306/.393/.513 performance in Corpus Christi, where he also tied his career high with 16 home runs. Toro brings above average raw power and a plus arm to the diamond, and has blossomed into a complete hitter in 2019. A fifth round selection back in 2016, Toro is still just 22, and has put himself in prime position to make his big league debut in 2020.

Since being promoted to Round Rock, Toro has made 8 starts and assembled a .469/.550/.594 line, going 15 for 40 with 4 doubles, 5 walks and 3 strikeouts. A switch-hitter, Toro is more developed on offense than defense, but looks poised to hit himself into big league lineups several days a week while splitting time around the diamond at the infield and outfield corners.

Ivey making up for lost time

After opening the year in dominant fashion, starting pitching prospect Tyler Ivey was unfortunately shelved from mid-May to early July, at which point he was eased back in via rehab assignment. Over two months since his initial injury, Ivey is back to pitching deep into games, and the results have been excellent. In his most recent turn on August 9th, Ivey shut down Midland over 6 innings, striking out 7 while allowing a single run on 3 hits and a walk.

With trades and graduations thinning out the system, Ivey, alongside Brandon Bielak, is one of the starters with the best claim for #2 in the system status. Already 23 years old, Ivey could push to make his big league debut in 2020, health-permitting. With a diverse arsenal, formidable fastball and swing-and-miss curve, Ivey looks close to #4 starter status, and could potentially grow into more if one of his tertiary offerings takes a step forward.

Jonathan Arauz adapting to Corpus

Somehow, Jonathan Arauz just turned 21. The up-the-middle prospect was part of the seven-player Ken Giles trade, coming to Houston alongside the since-departed reliever in exchange for five pitchers. Hailing from Panama and equipped with picturesque swings from both sides of the plate, Arauz has a lot to dream on but has been slow to progress as a pro. That said, the progress has been tangible, and a strong showing in Fayetteville this year earned him a promotion to Corpus earlier this month.

Arauz hit the ground running with the Hooks, turning on his first homer in his fourth contest with the team as part of a 3 for 4 night. On the whole, he’s batting .265/.324/.441 in Double-A, and celebrated his birthday just over a week ago. Utility player may be the most likely outcome here, but Arauz still has power potential to grow into, and his best days at the plate may well be ahead of him. He’s a player I’d caution against overlooking.

Colin Barber hits the ground running

Expected by many to head to Oregon to play college ball, the Astros enticed Barber to pro ball by offering him a seven figure bonus in the fourth round. Without signability concerns, Barber likely would’ve been a day one selection, and received day one money to forego his commitment to the Ducks. Barber’s swing has a quick trigger and plus bat speed, and his speed is plus as well. With some natural power in his 6’0” frame, Barber has a chance to contribute with all five tools.

At just 18 years old, Barber’s career is in its infancy and he’ll stay confined to the GCL for the entirety of his debut. He’s looking comfortable in the pro game thus far, though. Since a rocky start, he’s gotten his line up to a respectable .239/.346/.403 on the back of some hot hitting in the last two weeks. Perhaps the most encouraging marker thus far- he’s walked 11 times in just 78 plate appearances, demonstrating a mature approach to pair with his plus tools. Barber has the potential to be a top-5 prospect in the system someday.