Scouting outlets have all made their postseason updates at this point, and they seem to agree on the upper tiers of the Astros farm system- Jacob Melton, Luis Baez, Spencer Arrighetti, Brice Matthews and Zach Dezenzo are a consensus top 5, and they’re typically followed by some combination of Joey Loperfido, Alonzo Tredwell, Kenedy Corona, Zach Cole, Andrew Taylor, Will Wagner and Colin Barber. With the exception of Baez and the club’s top 2023 draft picks, all of these players have a relatively high experience level and established profiles. At some point in 2024, it’s likely we’ll see some less seasoned players make strides and challenge these positions. Who are the most likely candidates?
Kenni Gomez, OF, Age 18
A 2022 international signee, Gomez has shown an impressive combination of hitting talent and athleticism when on the field thus far, and would likely rank higher already if not for injury trouble that has limited his games played to date. Gomez reached the FCL last year, but only logged 61 PAs, so it’s most likely he will return to that level to start his season, but if he performs well he could follow the Luis Baez path and reach Low-A some time over the summer. Health and development of his power tool are the keys to success for Gomez.
Waner Luciano, 3B, Age 18
An unheralded international signing, Luciano is a unique hitter with a tantalizing combination of raw power and bat-to-ball ability. While excellent at making contact, Luciano hasn’t hit for high averages to date, and likely won’t in the future, because his swing is tuned to launch the ball and he makes a lot of outs in the air. His raw power supports this kind of approach though, and his overall results have been very strong. After posting a .247/.345/.476 slash line in the FCL in 2023, Luciano has a strong case to open the year in Low-A. If he maintains his pace there, he’ll turn heads quickly.
Jake Bloss, RHP, Age 22
Both of the Astros’ top two selections in the 2023 draft were instantly slotted into the organizational top 10, but Bloss finds himself closer to the back end of top 30s as of now. This is understandable as he comes with heavy reliever risk, but his stuff is certainly of top 10 quality, particularly in this system. Bloss can get a bat-missing fastball into the upper 90s at peak, and backs it up with an above average slider and a couple fringy tertiary offerings. He also offers the physicality to start, though he’ll need to throw more strikes than he did at Georgetown for that to be realistic. If he shows early command gains, he can move up rapidly.
Cam Fisher, COF, Age 23
2023 day 2 pick Cam Fisher has an extreme profile that lacks the traits of a typical top prospect- his contact skills are middling, and his defensive value is minimal, but his elite power and plate discipline compensate for that. Unlike the players named above, Fisher’s profile isn’t likely to change much in the pros- he’s a college senior with an extreme, entrenched profile- the real question is whether his extreme power-and-patience-over-hit approach can function against pro pitching. His debut was up and down, but he did have some good stretches. If he holds up at higher levels, he will be ranked highly as a bankable offensive threat, and it should be clear whether or not that will be the case in 2024.
Michael Knorr, RHP, Age 23
A 2022 draftee, Knorr’s developmental situation is similar to that of Jake Bloss. His raw stuff is arguably the best in the system, headlined by a spinny fastball and slider that can both induce swing and miss, but his strike throwing has been up and down to date. While on the older side, Knorr has made a lot of mechanical updates over the last couple of years and may just need a bit more time to settle into him. He has a case for a back end top 10 slot right now, so it wouldn’t take much command development for him to lock in a spot in 2024.
Honorable Mentions: Chase Jaworsky, SS, Age 18; Anthony Huezo, OF, Age 17; Nehomar Ochoa, OF, Age 18; Esmil Valencia, OF, Age 18; Camilo Diaz, IF, Age 18; Alimber Santa RHP, Age 22; Ethan Pecko, RHP, Age 21
These are all upside names in the lower levels of the system, but I’m bearish on significant gains in 2024 for the position players. They are likely to spend most of the year at the complex level, where it’s hard to make noise without extreme performance. Santa is the true dark horse- his stuff is as good as anyone’s, but he had no clue where the ball was going in his return from Tommy John last year. If more distance from his surgery makes a big difference in this regard, he could shoot up lists. Pecko is a pitch data darling who flew under the radar as a draft prospect but could really benefit from pro instruction.