The baseball season is about to start but before it does, you can familiarize yourself with the Astros top prospects. Below are my rankings of the Astros top 30 prospects heading into the 2022 season.
1. Jeremy Pena, SS
Level: Triple-A DOB: 09/22/97
Pena was drafted by the Astros in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft. During the draft process, Pena was seen by many as the best defensive shortstop in the class, and he has done nothing to disprove this notion. He has solid speed which leads to good range and possesses a plus arm. On the offensive side, Pena has added weight and improved his power, evident by his .579 slugging in 2021. He has a solid understanding of the strike zone and has the ability to draw walks and limit his strikeouts while also being a threat to steal bases. Pena was ready to put up a big 2021 season but, unfortunately, he got hurt and was sidelined until August. He came back with a vengeance though making an immediate impact in Triple-A where he crushed the ball putting up a .944 OPS with 10 HR in 30 games. At the plate, he has power to all fields and the ability to be a threat on the base paths. Pena should be the starter at shortstop this season with Correa going to Minnesota. He is major league ready defensively and we got to see plenty of improvement with the bat over the last few years. Read more on Pena here.
JEREMY PENA WALK-OFF HR!!! pic.twitter.com/D6wH6nuDOX— Astros Future (@AstrosFuture) September 22, 2021
2. Korey Lee, C
Level: Triple-A DOB: 07/25/98
Lee was the Astros first round pick in 2019 out of California. Broadly built at 6’2″, 205 lbs., Lee is a strong athlete with a strong lower half and shows solid across the board defensive skills and above average arm strength, projecting as a solid average catcher at the highest level. With the bat, he shows a nice mix of hit and power, with a simple stroke that keeps the barrel in the hitting zone for a long time. His approach is also pretty advanced already, and generates a healthy quantity of walks. Lee projects as a 20+ home run threat down the line. With the ability to hit for a solid average and get on base from the backstop position, this gives Lee a strong shot to be a future plus at catcher. Lee put it together on the field in 2021 season crushing 11 HR and hitting .277 while throwing out 43% of base stealers. He is the future at the catcher position. Read more on Lee here.
3. Hunter Brown, RHP
Level: Triple-A DOB: 08/29/98
Brown was drafted by the Astros in the 5th round of the 2019 draft out of Wayne State University. He only pitched in 23 innings following the draft but he has shown enough to deserve a high ranking. Brown runs his fastball up to 98 (despite throwing mid 80s in high school) and has shown the ability to maintain his velocity in multiple innings. He also possesses a big breaking curveball and sharp slider, which both flash above average. Brown probably has the highest upside of any arm in the system and the makings of a top of the rotation pitcher. He has a great pitcher’s build and has had some success going deeper into games this season. In 2021, his first full season, Brown struck out 131 batters in 100.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. You can read more about him here.
4. Pedro Leon, OF
Level: Triple-A DOB: 05/28/98
The Astros were rumored to be the favorites for Leon for quite a while but COVID threw a wrench in the plans. He was eventually signed in January of this year for $4 million. He is seen as a fast riser due to his age but also due to his physical skillset, and that has been true in 2021. He has a short and compact swing with power to all fields. He also possesses an above-average arm in the outfield and is a plus runner on the bases. At the signing, James Click referred to him as a true five tool prospect and he has shown that this year. The Astros have used him at SS, and so far the reports have been up and down. He started the season in AA and after a first couple of rough weeks, he turned it on posting an OPS above .900 in both June and July. Leon has the potential to be an impact player at the MLB level and he has shown it already in the minors with the power and speed combination.
5. Alex Santos, RHP
Level: Low-A DOB: 02/10/02
Santos was drafted by the Astros in the 2nd round of the 2020 MLB draft. Due to COVID, he was unable to make his professional debut. Santos has a mid 90s fastball with a high spin rate and pairs that with two solid secondary offerings, a curveball and a changeup. He also is a good athlete at 6-3, 215 lbs. Santos has an extremely high ceiling and started to show that in 2021 pitching in full season baseball at just 19 years old. He was up and down in his performance but flashed his potential throughout the season. He will be 20 in 2022 and has a chance to make it up to Double-A.
6. Peter Solomon, RHP
Level: Triple-A DOB: 08/16/96
Solomon was a high upside pick in the 2017 draft out of Notre Dame. A guy who had electric stuff but control issues. He came into the Astros system and had a great 2018 season (2.32 ERA, 114 K in 100.2 IP). Unfortunately he got hurt early on in 2019 after two starts and missed the rest of the year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He has came back in 2021 and had a great year striking out 112 in 97.1 innings in Triple-A and even made his MLB debut allowing just 2 runs in 14 innings. Solomon has multiple solid pitches including an fastball that can sit mid 90s. I think he will have a big role for the Astros in 2022.
7. Joe Perez, 3B
Level: Double-A DOB: 08/12/99
Joe Perez was THE breakout prospect of the 2021 season. The former 2nd round pick dealt with some injuries early in his career but was healthy in 2021 and it showed. He ended up playing across three different levels hitting .291 with a .849 OPS and a 125 wRC+. Overall he had 34 2B, 18 HR in 106 games. Perez showed plus power to all fields and after an adjustment period in Double-A, he held up well against competition well above his age. He is still improving defensively but has more than enough arm to make all the throws at third. He recently told me on the Astros Future Podcast that he worked on adding weight this season. He has shown to be one of the Astros top prospects. Read more on Perez here.
8. Forrest Whitley, RHP
Level: Triple-A DOB: 09/15/97
At this point, everyone knows who Forrest Whitley is. After a dominant 2017 which saw him strike out 143 over 92.1 innings while reaching AA at just 19 years old, he has struggled a bit to recapture that magic the last couple seasons. A suspension and a few nagging injuries has held him back. Whitley possesses a fastball that has nice life and gets up to 98 MPH which he pairs with a devastating changeup. He also has a very good curveball and above average slider. Forrest had Tommy John surgery ending his 2021 season but appears to be on track to pitch in 2022. I still believe in his upside and despite the setbacks, he is still only 24 years old.
9. Tyler Whitaker, OF
Level: Rookie DOB: 08/02/02
With the Astros first pick the 2021 draft, the Astros took a prospect who fell right in their laps. Whitaker was ranked the #37 prospect by MLB. Scouts noted that he has a plus arm in the outfield and big raw power. He started as a shortstop and has since moved to the outfield. Whitaker is a good athlete for his size. He has some swing in miss to his game but has the upside to be a big run producer at the major league level. He is 6-4 and 190 lbs. He played in 29 games and had a .590 OPS in rookie ball.
10. Shawn Dubin, RHP
Level: Triple-A DOB: 09/06/95
Dubin was drafted by the Astros in the 13th round of the 2018 draft after attending two different JuCo schools. He is smaller stature listed at 6-1, 155 lbs but he has added about 20 lbs and is sitting around 175 now. His fastball sits in the mid 90s, touching 99, and he has a plus slider. After a dominant 2019 season, Dubin put together a great 2021 showcasing his abilitiles with 69 K in just 49.2 innings. Dubin has enough pitches to be a starter but if the Astros decide to use him in the pen, he could be electric running it up to triple digits. You can read my interview with Dubin here.
11. Jaime Melendez, RHP
Level: Double-A DOB: 09/26/01
Melendez was signed by the Astros out of Mexico and he has made a quick rise in the system. After some time in rookie ball in 2019, the Astros started the 19 year old in Low-A this season and he went on to post a 0.49 ERA with 5 BB/38 K in 18.1 innings earning a promotion to High-A. He is a smaller pitcher (5-8) but is built well at 190 lbs. He currently has a low 90s fastball and a good slider but also pitches with deception thanks to his vertical approach angle.
12. Colin Barber, OF
Level: High-A DOB: 12/04/00
Barber was drafted in the 4th round of high school in the 2019 draft. He signed for $1 million, which was almost $600k over slot. Barber has very good bat speed and possesses above-average raw power and plus speed to keep him as a potential center fielder. In 2019, as an 18 year old, he performed well with a .780 OPS in 28 games. He has a ton of upside and started the year in High-A before having season ending shoulder surgery. He has a patient approach at the plate and a solid arm in the outfield as well. He is still just 21 years old.
13. Misael Tamarez, RHP
Level: High-A DOB: 01/16/00
The Astros signed Tamarez out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. He pitched in rookie league in 2019 but broke out a big way in 2021. As a 21 year old between Low-A and High-A, Tamarez posted a 3.76 ERA with 103 K in 76.2 innings. Tamarez has a strong frame at 6-1 and over 200 lbs. His fastball this season has been mid 90s hitting 97 MPH. He also possesses has a changeup and improving slider that can give him a deadly three pitch mix. He has the making of another under the radar pitching prospect who can make an impact in the next couple years.
14. Yainer Diaz, C
Level: High-A DOB: 09/21/98
Diaz was acquired this season from the Indians in the trade that sent Myles Straw to Cleveland. He has hit well at every stop in this minor league career and had his best season to date in 2021 where he hit .324 with 25 2B, 17 HR in 98 games. Diaz is a bat first catching prospect who should be able to hit at the highest levels. His bat will be what carries him with his ability to hit to all fields. Behind the plate he has some work to do but has solid arm strength for the position. At just 23, he could be one of the next big catching prospects.
15. Tyler Ivey, RHP
Level: AAA DOB: 05/12/96
Ivey was a 3rd round pick in the 2017 draft. His performance when on the field has been really good. Unfortunately he dealt with some injuries in 2019 and then was unable to log any professional innings in 2020 due to COVID. Ivey has an active delivery but does well to repeat it. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he mixes an above-average curveball and a solid slider and changeup. Ivey made his big league debut this year but ended up dealing with more injuries. He appears healthy this season and should be able to contribute to the big league club.
16. Chayce McDermott, RHP
Level: Low-A DOB: 08/22/98
McDermott was drafted by the Astros in the 4th round out of Ball State. Like many college athletes, McDermott returned to school for another year due to COVID. This looks like a great decision for him. McDermott works with a fastball in the mid 90s and can tough 98 MPH. He has a plus curveball and a changeup as well. He had a really good year in 2021 where he struck out 125 in 82.2 innings with a 3.05 ERA at Ball State. He is a good athlete and has a good build at 6-3, 197 lbs and should project as a starter long-term. He is also the brother of Sean McDermott who plays in the NBA.
17. Cristian Gonzalez, SS
Level: Low-A DOB: 10/22/01
This may seem like an aggressive ranking, but I have seen and heard nothing but good things on Gonzalez. The 6-3 shortstop was signed out of Dominican Republic in 2018. He is only listed at 180 lbs and still has plenty of room to grow. Gonzalez is solid defensively at shortstop but possesses a an absolute cannon for an arm. . Cristian has the ability to hit for some average but has been able to add power to his game already this season at 19 years old. He is only 20 years old and should be in High-A at some point. Gonzalez has as much potential as anyone in the system.
18. Jonathan Bermudez, LHP
Level: Triple-A DOB: 10/16/95
Bermudez was a 23rd round pick back in 2018. Bermudez put up a solid 2019 season but has really had a breakout 2021. The lefty has posted a 3.34 ERA with 16 BB/98 K in 70 innings in Double-A. Bermudez has a good build at 6-2 and 230 lbs. Bermudez is a smoke and mirrors kind of pitcher (meaning he is deceptive) but still possesses a low 90s fastball with a big sweeping slider and a solid changeup. He knows how to attack hitters and can throw strikes with all three of his pitches. He is 25 years old, but looks like a pitcher who can help the Astros in the near future. You can read more about Bermudez here.
19. Shay Whitcomb, SS
Level: High-A DOB: 09/28/98
Whitcomb was the Astros 5th round pick in the 2020 MLB draft out of UC San Diego. He is a big bodied shortstop, standing at 6-3 and 202 lbs. He is a bat first infielder who stood out offensively in college who hit .315 with .939 OPS in 136 games at UC San Diego. He started the 2021 season in Low-A and slashed .282/.369/.429 in 41 games earning a promotion to High-A. There his numbers got even better hitting .300 with a .959 OPS. He finished the season with 23 HR and 30 SB overall and one of the best offensive seasons in the Astros system this year. The righty hitter is aggressive at the plate, leading to some strikeouts, but also to some solid extra base hit production. He is average defensively but does provide some speed on the basepaths and the ability to play all over the infield.
20. Matthew Barefoot, OF
Level: Double-A DOB: 09/20/97
Barefoot is a former 6th round pick by the Astros in 2019. After solid fundamental changes to his swing, he started to show that progress in 2021. He played across three different levels in 2021 putting up a 20/20 season. Barefoot has a ton of raw power and showed some of it off this past year. He is a lefty thrower, righty hitter and will most likely end up in the corner, but would be a plus runner in the corner and uses that speed on the bases too. He struggled in Double-A this past year, but has the potential to be an impact outfielder.
21. Luke Berryhill, C
Level: Double-A DOB: 05/28/98
Berryhill, originally drafted by the Reds and traded to the Astros last off-season, put up a big season. After making some adjustments on advisement from Astros coaches, he turned in a phenomenal 2021 season. He had a career year posting a .974 OPS with a 159 wRC+ in 73 games across three different levels. Berryhill flashed his raw power connecting on 15 HR in just 74 games. He finished with a .412 wOBA which was third among all minor league catchers. This led to him being named the Astros minor league player of the year. He bat showed off in 2021 but he was solid on defense too with his framing numbers being above average. You can read more on him here.
22. Dauri Lorenzo, SS
Level: Rookie DOB: 10/29/02
The Astros signed Lorenzo in July of 2019 for $1.8 million out of the Dominican Republic. Scouts noted the 18 year old a line drive stroke and drives the ball consistently to all fields. Lorenzo, a switch-hitter, has some power but should develop more. He is also an above average runner with a strong arm. He has the makings of a great prospect and now it is just about putting it together. He debuted in the Astros system in 2021 and posted a .628 OPS in 41 games as an 18 year old.
23. Alex McKenna, OF
Level: High-A DOB: 09/06/97
McKenna is a former 4th round pick from 2018 who looked good following the draft but then struggled with injuries (and COVID) before finally being healthy in the 2021 season. He started the year in High-A and hit .305 with a 1.005 OPS in 41 games before being promoted to Double-A. There he hit .206 with a .619 OPS in 38 games. McKenna is a wiry athlete with great power, but some swing and miss to his game. He should continue to put on weight which could increase his power. He is a good outfielder and has a chance to stick in CF. Read more on McKenna here.
24. Jordan Brewer, OF
Level: Low-A DOB: 08/01/97
An older prospect who took a long route to pro ball, Brewer has a football background and oozes tools including plus plus speed and above average power. Coming off a huge year for Michigan in 2019, he struggled at the plate a bit in his pro debut, but has the potential to impact the game in a number of ways. The hit tool is his biggest question mark as his swing tends to get long, but if he becomes even an average hitter, he could be a legit prospect. Some of the adjustments he made paid off posting a .785 OPS in 65 games in Low-A. I think he can be a breakout guy in 2022.
25. J.C. Correa, INF
Level: High-A DOB: 09/15/98
J.C. is known by many because he is Carlos Correa‘s younger brother, but he is a legitimate prospect in his own right. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020 after a solid college career at Lamar. Correa started the year in Low-A and slashing .306/.392/.477 in 56 games earning a promotion to High-A where he hit .314. Correa is a solid defender in the infield but he will be carried by his bat. He has a knack for making contact, striking out just 59 times in 101 games this season, but has also drew 35 walks. He only had 9 HR in 2021, but finished with 32 doubles. If he continues to hit, his status will keep rising as he moves into the upper levels.
26. J.P. France, RHP
Level: Triple-A DOB: 04/04/95
France was drafted by the Astros in the 14th round of the 2018 draft. The right hander had an incredible 2021 season which saw him strikeout 157 in 114 innings, both highs for the Astros system last season. He had a 4.28 ERA in Double-A but was even better in Triple-A with 3.59 ERA in 80.1 innings. France doesn’t have blow away stuff, but has a good blend of pitches. He mixes a slider, cutter and chanegup off of his low 90s fastball. He has a strong chance to make it to the MLB this season. Read my interview with France here.
27. Justin Dirden, OF
Level: High-A DOB: 08/01/97
Dirden was another undrafted free agent following the 2020 draft but put together a great season slashing .274/.397/.537 with 15 HR in 83 games. The outfielder showed a nice combination of power and patience with a 14.9 BB% and a .263 ISO. Overall. he had a 149 wRC+ in 83 games. A really good under the radar season from Dirden as he had some of the best numbers in the Astros system. The lefty swinger has above average power but will have to show it at the higher levels.
28. Jimmy Endersby, RHP
Level: Double-A DOB: 01/16/98
Endersby was signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2020 and put up a solid year in his first full season in the minors. He started the year in High-A and had a 4.85 ERA (3.50 FIP) but had 43 K in 29.2 innings. He got promoted to Double-A and posted a 3.48 ERA with 67 K in 67.1 innings. He finished the season with 110 K in 97 innings, giving him the 6th most strikeouts in the Astros system in 2021. Endersby has a mid 90s fastball and a big breaking ball that keeps hitter off-balance.
29. Jonathan Sprinkle, RHP
Level: Double-A DOB: 07/08/98
Sprinkle was an undrafted free agent signed in 2020 but has shown that he would have been selected if the draft hadn’t been cut short. Sprinkle had a phenomenal first pro season striking out 79 in just 44 innings. He was pretty much unhittable allowing just a .154 BAA. He pitched across three different levels finishing the year in Double-A. He possesses a low to mid 90s cutter, mid 80s slider and high 80s changeup. He could move fast in 2022. Read more on Sprinkle here.
30. Grae Kessinger, INF
Level: Double-A DOB: 08/25/97
Kessinger’s MLB bloodlines and fundamentals have had him on the radar for awhile, but he was sliding on draft boards a bit with a slow start to his junior season. He flipped the switch in SEC play, hitting .406, and ended up being selected in the second round. Kessinger has great hands in the field and good instincts, which allow him to play a solid shortstop and project around the diamond. He hasn’t hit for much power in his career thus far, but he’s a big 6’2″ and could potentially find more pop through swing adjustments. He struggled with the bat in 2021 but could still profile as a utility guy.