Earlier this week, the Astros finalized their minor league rosters for the upcoming season. Much of the intrigue surrounds shiny new toy Pedro Leon, but the lower levels are peppered with interesting names, and should make for interesting follows. As we gear up for the start of the year, let’s take a quick dive into the assignments, starting with Low-A Fayetteville:
The list is full of new faces, including some 2020 draft picks who will be making their pro debuts. Here’s a list of some potential standouts from this group who could surprise and move up the rankings:
Nerio Rodriguez - Information is light on the young catcher, but he has a number of interesting traits that have piqued my interest. He has big league bloodlines, which is always an asset, and he also sports a large, powerful frame for the position at 6’2”, 228 lbs. He made his stateside debut in 2019 with the GCL Astros, and posted an impressive .263/.391/.442 slash line with 3 homers in 31 games. There are questions surrounding his ability to stick at catcher and his contact ability, but he has shown significant power and a mature approach, so if he can stick behind the plate, there’s upside here.
Shay Whitcomb - The last pick the Astros made in the 2020 draft, Whitcomb is an offensive-minded infielder who performed excellently at the college level. His future defensive home is something of a question, but most expect it will be somewhere on the infield, with second base being most likely. He has a tight swing that generates plenty of loft, and he gets to most of his solid power in games, giving him the look of a nice infield stick down the line.
Joe Perez - Perez was the recipient of a seven-figure bonus out of high school, where he was a prodigious two-way talent who many teams preferred as a pitcher. The Astros thought differently and sent him out as a third baseman, where he profiles well thanks to his big time power and arm strength. Unfortunately, he’s been able to play very little as a pro thus far thanks to various injuries, and has shown a questionable approach when healthy. Still just 21, there’s time for Perez to figure it out, but he needs to start coming along in a hurry.
Zach Daniels - The outfield group here is very strong overall, but the best overall prospect is undoubtedly 2020 draftee Zach Daniels. His track record of performance in college was very short- he really only hit the ball well during the shortened 2020 season- but his tools are of a first round quality, with plus speed and at least plus power. The hit tool is a major question mark, but if it ends up just below-average, the tools are going to play.
Kenedy Corona - Acquired in the Jake Marisnick trade, Corona has an interesting athletic profile that gives him a fair amount of long-term potential. He’s a bit on the small side at 5’11”, 185, but nonetheless sports some real game pop to go with well above-average speed. He may end up as a CF/LF tweener of sorts, but there are enough tools present for him to impact games in a number of ways. He just turned 21 in march.
Justin Dirden - A hulking, 6’4”, 225 lb. outfielder, Dirden was an absolute force for Southeast Missouri State after transferring from Eastern Carolina. He hit 16 homers as a sophomore in 2018, and, after missing 2019 with injury, was one of the best hitters in the country during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, slashing .414/.471/.900 with 9 more homers in 17 games, spurring the Astros to sign him as an undrafted free agent. His swing isn’t especially huge and he’s a solid athlete in the box, so there’s a chance for him to make some impact with the bat as a pro.
Brayan De Paula - A projection play, De Paula has come along slowly but shows ample potential. He has an excellent pitcher’s frame at 6’3”, 175, with some room to grow into it remaining. He’s reportedly been up to 95 MPH per FanGraphs, giving him a chance at super premium lefty velocity down the line, but his command and secondaries are question marks for now, so there’s likely a lot of reliever risk.
Angel Macuare - Macuare made my Top 30 and stands out most for his pitchability. He got an aggressive assignment to Tri-City in 2019, and handled it with aplomb, showing an advanced understanding of how to play his fastball and curveball off of one another. He also sports a solid changeup, and looks very startery, even if the stuff is of a back-end variety for now.
Manny Ramirez - If you like juice, Ramirez is your guy, as he probably has the best raw stuff on this roster. Despite a smaller frame, he can run his heater into the mid-90s and also has a hard-biting curveball. He looked ready to take off heading into 2019, but struggled badly with his control, and we haven’t seen him since. If he can’t flip that switch, he’ll likely be transitioned to bullpen work, but he has upside there as well.
Misael Tamarez - A 2018 international signee, Tamarez has an advanced build at 6’1”, 206 lbs., and reportedly sat at 93 in instructs per FanGraphs, who also relayed praise from scouts regarding his work ethic and maturity. The reports don’t really mention breaking stuff right now, but evaluators who have had a chance to see him like the changeup a lot, which gives him the foundation for a potential starter’s profile if he can learn to spin something as a tertiary weapon.
Jayson Schroeder - Once a highly-touted projection arm, Schroeder had a solid rookie ball debut in 2018 after the Astros made him a second round pick, but backslid terribly in 2019, walking 32 hitters in 18 and 1⁄3 innings. Yep. Not much is known about how he has fared in the interim, but there’s enough raw talent here that Schroeder still bears monitoring. He’s an athletic 6’2” with a strong curveball.