It is that time of year when, "Hope Springs Eternal." The smell of freshly cut grass and ocean spray in West Palm Beach, Florida. Of getting the band back together again with a few new faces. There is nothing quite like the blooming baseball season.
Each year brings the aggressive few who were on a mission in the offseason, and with it, new prospect lists. Sources are readily available, which consolidate the official rankings (MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus) found in Roster Resource: Astros.
Here we explore a different kind of Top 20, examining a functioning group of names Astros fans can anticipate seeing this year. They are ranked not by overall prospect value, but by how close they are to reaching (or in the case of those who have already made their MLB debut, returning) to the majors. A vast majority are not highly ranked by all publications for various reasons, such as; post-peak age, closer to average than elite tools, and so on.
Owing to the acronym, (TINSTAAPP) There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, this article focuses on "organizational depth" of this system, not presently represented in most publications. One need only look back to 2019, when the Astros filled roles with "non-prospects"; Tyler White, Tony Kemp, Max Stassi, Jack Mayfield, Brady Rodgers and Reymin Guduan.
There were parlays and promotions that nicked up a top ten farm system, when four prominent prospects were traded to ARI for future HOF, Zach Greinke. The Dbacks insisted that 26th round draft pick Josh Rojas be included in a deal, which has their organization paying down $20.6M of Greinke's contract over two years. Bursting at the seams and running out of time and space, Houston was forced in Rule 5 to leave unprotected several fringe prospects; Jonathan Arauz, Yohan Ramirez and Brandon Bailey, who were promptly selected and put on major league 26-man rosters. Meanwhile, the heavyweights of the ranks -- unanimous Rookie of the Year, Yordan Alvarez, and untouchable Kyle Tucker have graduated in style. Making way for a whole new crop of names like, Korey Lee, Luis H. Garcia and Jeremy Pena.
Keep your eyes peeled for prospects who once fell off the radar; Nathan Perry, Jairo Solis. Before I could warn you too often of 9th round, Peyton Battenfield, poof! he gone. Not to dismay, fans, CJ Stubbs, and Ryan Gusto, drafted in successive rounds are poised to make a statement.
Can the Astros possibly overcome draft punishment? The stage is set with a re-vamped General Management for continued, expert amateur draft acumen; and by perhaps capitalizing in the International draft.
A System Often Underrated with Hidden Gems
What if someone had told you the day he was traded into a logjam in NY, that J. D. Davis would put up more oWAR than Manny Machado, or Kyle Schwarber? More than Paul Goldschmidt, or Nick Castellanos? Davis was long past regarded in the Astros system which saw a surging Alex Bregman firmly entrenched by pushing Gurriel to 1B, even a rising Abraham Hernendez-Toro, drafted in 2016. Regarded as surplus then by Jeff Luhnow, most believed it was the Mets who gave up more value. [On these pages, I lamented the return in trade; 'win some/lose some', takes 3-5yrs to be certain sometimes.]
Many such examples exist when young players simply could not separate themselves in Houston, yet they are finding successful playing time elsewhere; Kemp, Trent Thornton, Derek Fisher, Ramon Laureano, Hernandez, Dan Straily, JD Martinez.
Offseason signings may affect the prospects below; Catcher Dustin Garneau as backup to Martin Maldonado. Austin Pruitt will compete in bottom rotation/long relief capacities. In case of injury or poor play, the Astros have these on stand-by.
Astros Top 20 Closest to the Next Step
In baseball parlance, these will get the first hard look.
11.) Forrest Whitley (S2 mid-June call up); 12) Brandon Bielak (S2 or sooner, a la, Corbin Martin); 13.) Chas McCormick; 14.) Rogelio Armenteros; 15) Nick Tanielu
16.) C/1B/DH, Lorenzo Quintana 17.) Jojanse Torres
Darkest Horse? Jake Meyers.
Who am I missing to debut in 2020?