We got all your Astros here!
Jose Alvarez is a six-foot-one, 180 lb. right-handed hitting and throwing catcher/first baseman/right fielder from Maracaibo, VZ. Born on June 4, 2000, he signed with the Astros just weeks after his 16th birthday on July 2, 2016. From 2017 through 2021, he appeared mostly at the rookie level aside from a 17-game hitch with the Low-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers in 2021.
The 2022 campaign would see Alvarez learn the meaning of the term “well-traveled,” at least when it comes to the high-minor slog that some prospects find themselves in. He started the season at the Double-A level with the Corpus Christi Hooks, where he slashed .253/.336/.326 in 29 contests with one homer and nine RBI and played all over the place. He logged time in right field (89 innings, .897 fPct), catcher (59 2⁄3 inning, .985 fPct, 33 percent kill-rate), left field (36 innings, 1.000), first base (26 innings, .960 fPct), third base (two innings, one error), and pitcher (two innings, one error).
So corner outfielder, first base, and backstop seem to all be in Alvarez’ wheelhouse. On June 21, he was assigned to the High-A Asheville Tourists. In 18 games with that outfit, he slashed .254/.286/.373 with a home run and 15 RBI. In 103 1⁄3 innings behind the plate, he racked up a .992 fielding percentage and threw out six-of-20 base stealers. He also played 28 innings at first base without an error. On June 24, he hit a double and a home run with three RBI in a 14-4 win against the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
On July 14, Alvarez was assigned to the Triple-A Sugar Land Space Cowboys. He only appeared in one game for them, as a pinch runner, and scored one run. A week after joining the Cowboys (and two days after getting reassigned to the Tourists), Alvarez was moved down to the Low-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers. He played in 23 games and slashed .333/.429/.449 with one homer and a dozen RBI. He played 83 innings behind the plate, fielding at a .973 clip and throwing out five-of-21 runners. He spent 40 innings at first (1.000), 32 innings in right field (.600), and 13 innings in left (1.000).
Alvarez certainly got his licks in, and saw more minor league ballparks than most did in 2022. He’s got a lot of defensive pliability, which gives him a lot of utility. Although he strikes out a little too much (about 25 percent of the time), he hits well enough to continue with the Astros in 2023. Where he starts next season is anyone’s guess, but I’m willing to bet it’s at Double-A or higher.
Layne Henderson is a six-foot-four, 200 lb. right-handed reliever from Glendora, CA. Born on June 6, 1996, he was a 30th round choice of Houston back in 2018 out of Azusa Pacific University, 912th overall. Through his final two seasons of collegiate play, he struck out 133 batters in 105 2⁄3 innings. He was 10-4 with three saves, a 1.183 WHIP, and a 2.64 ERA.
If Henderson makes it to the majors, he’d be the fifth to ascend to baseball’s top level after being chosen 912th overall. From 2018 through 2021, he worked his way up through Houston’s minor league system, peaking with the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks in 2021.
Henderson remained with the Hooks to start the 2022 season. On April 15, he earned a win by pitching the 10th through the 12th innings, striking out three, and allowing only one of the “ghost” runners to score on no hits and no walks as the Hooks defeated the Midland RockHounds, 15-11. On June 18, he struck out five over 2 1⁄3 hitless innings, surrendering only a walk in a 10-5 win against the Springfield Cardinals.
Through the first three months of the season, Henderson struck out 41 in 34 innings and held the opposition to a .200/.297/.300 slash line. On July 2, he was pushed up to the Triple-A Sugar Land Space Cowboys. In a month at the higher level, he published like results; a .182/.229/.333 opposing slash line and a dozen strikeouts in 9 1⁄3 frames.
Back down in Corpus Christi for the final month-and-a-half, Henderson kept it up, striking out another 15 in 10 innings while allowing only one run.
Overall, Henderson whiffed 68 in 53 1⁄3 innings in high minor-league ball, putting up a 1.163 WHIP and going 5-4 with a 3.54 ERA. In another system, Henderson probably would have already made a major league appearance, but the Astros are pretty stacked, both in starters and relievers. Nevertheless, he’s likely to make his major league debut sometime next season.