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2021 Minor League Season Recap Part 1: 2020 and 2021 Draftees

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MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Part 1 of the Minor League Recap, where we will look at a range of players in unconventional categories like “Super Young Guys in A / A+”.

The draft was super exciting about a decade ago, when Luhnow was drafting guys like Correa and McCullers, two top-15 talents. The past two years the Astros have been stripped of higher picks. That misfortune, however, hasn’t kept the team from bringing some intriguing talent into the system.

MLB / MILB made some interesting moves in 2020, one of which was scrapping “Short-Season A Ball,” meaning the leagues above the Gulf Coast League and below full-season leagues. In prior seasons college draftees would usually spend their draft year in leagues like the NY Penn League. No longer. They go to the GCL or A ball.

These write ups are heaving focused on stats and specifically on guys who performed well. I’m not profiling below-average players. I have no insider data, and in fact anyone with the time and the will could write these. But nobody has on this site, so without further ado.

DRAFTEES FROM 2020:

It was a five-round draft and only four picks were made. Other signees from 2020 draft class will be covered elsewhere.

SHAY WHITCOMB: a 5th rounder from the 2020 draft, Whitcomb absolutely raked against inferior competition at UC San Diego. He has stuck at SS and kept raking. His opened in Fayetteville and put up a slash of 282/369/429 with 7 HR in 41 games. Fine numbers but not exactly screaming for a promotion. They sent him to Asheville at the end of June and he hit 300/358/601. That’s an ISO of .301 for those keeping score. 38 of his 70 hits were for extra bases and he hit 16 home runs. Those gaudy numbers only amounted to a wRC+ of 149, and the K rate was 31%. Still, he had a huge year, with 23 combined HR and 30 SB. He will start 2022 at Corpus and should find his way onto every top 30 list in the offseason

TY BROWN: He was Vanderbilt’s closer in 2020 and his stuff is nasty. The Astros challenged him in two ways in 2021: first, to start, and second, with aggressive promotions. On the surface, his numbers were bad: 6.95 ERA across Asheville (A+) and Corpus (AA). Still, his K/9 in AA was 13.2, and he accumulated 90 IP. I imagine he goes back to Corpus in 2022 but with his lack of control (18.6 BB rate in AA), odds are that he goes back to relief unless he shows marked improvement next year.

ALEX SANTOS: He could also fit into the “super young guys category” as a 2020 HS guy reaching full-season ball is unusual for anyone not a 1st-rounder. He’ll be a teenager for another 5 months. He only threw 41 IP but he showed signs in run-prevention (3.46 ERA) and missing bats (26% Ks). He walked 30 batters, but was not at all overwhelmed by the level of competition. He did nothing to hurt his stock and I imagine they’ll send him back to Fayetteville in 2022 with the main goal of increasing his workload. He may have the most potential helium of anyone in the system and the best chance to land on a top 50 midseason list in 2022 year.

DRAFTEES FROM 2021:

The Astros first picked in the 3rd round, but went all the way through to the 20th round. A few names who debuted in full-season ball:

WILL WAGNER (IF): If you love bloodlines, you love Will Wagner, son of the greatest Astros’ closer over all-time, Billy Wagner. Only an 18th-rounder, Wagner had no trouble adjusting to A ball. He was a 4-year college player, making him a bit long in the tooth (he just turned 23), but for a guy coming from a small school (Liberty), Wagner looked great. Across 31 games he slashed 299/388/436. There doesn’t seem to be a carrying tool but he’ll get a chance to keep playing and improve perhaps by adding power.

KOBE KATO (IF): A 13th rounder out of Arizona, Kato did one thing that jumped out: control the strike zone. He only hit .242 and slugged .341 across 31 games, but he drew 24 walks and K’d just 16 times.

MICHAEL SANDLE (OF): Another old guy (turning 23 tomorrow), the 10th rounder flashed power in 35 games at Fayetteville, hitting 287/350/538 (ISO of .251). He was also 9/10 in SB.

QUINCY HAMILTON (OF) : A more-highly regarded player than Sandle, Hamilton was drafted 5 rounds earlier and disappointed a bit, with only a .723 OPS across 33 games. He was much better in September than August, but he’s already 23 and while he swiped 9 bags, his ISO was (.096). He drew walks (12.7%) he didn’t flash the power (2 HR) he showed at Wright St.

RHETT KOUBA (P): An 11th rounder out of Dallas Baptist (a favorite for Astro scouts), Kouba threw only 13.1 IP in A ball. He faced 52 batters and yielded 1 HR and 1 free pass. Small sample aside, when you K 25% of hitters and walk 2%, you’re worth keeping an eye on. Next year will be his age-22 season.

AARON BROWN (P): On the surface, the 8th rounder from Middle Tennessee St. doesn’t warrant a write-up after a 5.95 ERA in 19 IP in A ball. Under the hood though, the 3/28 walks to Ks says he was unlucky, as does the gap between xFIP (3.12) and that ghastly ERA. If you believe there’s some luck in HR to fly ball ratio, then keep an eye on Aaron Brown. The Astros seem intent on drafting a college pitcher named Brown every year, so maybe we’ll have one at every level in 2022.

SPENCER ARRIGHETTI (P): There’s not a single thing to dislike here. First, he’s from Katy. Second, his college team was the Ragin’ Cajuns. Third, he’s pretty young (Jan 2000 DOB) compared to the rest of the college draftees. And fourth, while he only threw 9.2 IP, he walked 2 and K’ed 16, and batters his .091 against him. Give me more than 10 IP of Spencer Arrighetti in 2022!

CHAYCE MCDERMOTT (P): Tons to like here as well. Across 19.2 IP in Fayetteville, McDermott posted a 3.44 ERA. Another 4-year college guy, he struggled a bit with walks (13.5%) and HR (3), which will never make one an advanced stats darling (FIP of 4.14). Still, when you strike out 45% of hitters, that’s elite. I imagine, like Whitcomb, he makes his way to the back of off-season top 30 lists. He posted similarly cartoonish K rates at Ball St. this year, where he threw 82.2 IP. He’s probably a lock to start in the rotation at Asheville next year and I imagine he’s tracked mid-season to Corpus barring a setback.

CONCLUSION: We don’t know a lot about Click, but they’re not afraid of older college players (that was also a sign-ability issue) and not afraid to throw guys into the fire. Seeing guys drafted in the 13th and 18th round hold up in full-season ball is a good sign.