clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Four Candidates to Join the 40-Man this Season

The injury-riddled Astros could use some reinforcements from the farm to help get through the summer, and a group of players have emerged as prime candidates

Syndication: The Corpus Christi Caller Times Angela Piazza/Caller-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Throughout the Astros’ dominant run over the last near-decade, they have consistently gotten rookie contributions, even when they haven’t had top prospects knocking on the door. Their premier minor league talents aren’t likely to help this season, but some of their more mid-range prospects could crack the big leagues relatively soon. In my view, a group of four upper level names have emerged as the top candidates to join the active roster- let’s take a look at what each can offer the big club:

Quincy Hamilton, OF, Sugar Land (Age 25)

In college, Quincy Hamilton helped lead an explosive Wright State offense alongside Brewers prospect Tyler Black, hitting .374/.535/.771 with 15 bombs as a senior. Despite being 23 on draft day, his huge production got him into the top five rounds, eventually becoming the Astros’ fifth selection. His tools profile was a bit vanilla, but he had plenty of fans in the player evaluation space thanks to his hitting polish and ability to cover all three outfield positions if necessary- though he does fit best in left. This combination of traits gave him the look of a classic fourth outfielder, and after a couple of steady years on the farm, he continues to fit that mold. He dominated both A-ball levels in his first full season last year to earn a late season promotion to Corpus. He struggled in his first taste of the upper minors, but handled it much better this season with a .268/.361/.445 slash to earn a promotion to Triple-A. Hamilton has played in just 7 games with the Space Cowboys thus far, but has already muscled out 5 homers and walked 6 times. There’s no standout tool in his kit, but he can offer some level of impact in just about every phase of the game. His fringe average power from the left side isn’t the best fit for Minute Maid, but his on-base skills could nonetheless be helpful in a reserve role.

Justin Dirden, OF, Sugar Land (Age 25)

An undrafted free agent out of Southeast Missouri State, Dirden only played one full college season thanks to a transfer from ECU, injuries and COVID, but it was an impressive one- he hit .340/.437/.655 with 16 HRs as a 20 year old in 2019, and while the sample was very small, he was even more dynamic in 2020, hitting .414/.471/.900 with 9 HRs in just 17 games. While there wasn’t a ton to go on, the Astros were impressed enough to give him a real bonus after the truncated 2020 draft. He was a strong performer in A-ball in 2021, combining for a .274/.397/.537 line with 15 HR across the two levels, and broke out further by hitting .324/.411/.616 in 92 games with Corpus last year. He cooled off after a late season promotion to Sugar Land, but reestablished his hype with a massive spring training that had many clamoring for him to break camp with the Astros. That would not end up happening, and he again struggled early in the year back in Triple-A. He started to right the ship in May, but hasn’t yet found his power stroke, with just 6 HRs in 233 PAs. He profiles similarly to Hamilton overall, so who comes up first between the two will likely simply come down to who hits better in the short term.

Spencer Arrighetti, RHP, Corpus Christi (Age 23)

A well-traveled amateur, Arrighetti made stops in JUCO and at TCU before finding his footing at the University of Louisiana. He popped up during his draft year by anchoring the Cajuns’ staff to the tune of 91 strikeouts against 29 walks in 83 and 23 innings and a 3.12 ERA, and was especially good early in the year before a heavy workload caught up to him. The 6’2” righty is able to generate swings and misses in the zone with his fastball and slider, and his command has gradually improved over the last few years. After a very rough start to the season, Arrighetti has been downright dominant with the Hooks- over his last 36 innings pitched, he has struck out 50 batters against 12 walks with just 19 hits and 8 runs allowed. He did get touched up for two homers in his last start, but that has the look of a blip as he had allowed just one all year previously. The Astros have had to scramble for innings at times this year thanks to injuries in the rotation, and while Arrighetti could stand to work on a couple of things for a bit longer in the minors, the stuff can play right now, and there really isn’t a more polished candidate ready to go.

Shay Whitcomb, IF, Sugar Land (Age 24)

The Astros’ final selection in the shortened 2020 draft, Whicomb was a three year starter at shortstop for UC San Diego, posting a career .315/.423/.516 slash line across 660 PAs, with 21 total homers. He was also dominant on the 2019 Cape, hitting .303/.371/.606 with 8 HRs in just 125 PAs. There were questions about his defensive fit at the next level as few believed he could stick at shortstop, but the Cape evidenced Whitcomb’s significant raw power, which didn’t really fully show in NCAA play. It would immediately show up with the Astros organization, though- making his pro debut in 2021, he hit 23 HRs in 444 PAs across Low and High-A, to go with a .293/.363/.530 slash line. He did strike out at a 30.1% rate, but it was nice to see the power- which is at least plus, if not greater- manifest in a game setting right away. This created some hype for Whitcomb entering 2022, but he really struggled in his transition to Double-A, hitting just .219/.283/.399 with 165 strikeouts in 506 PAs. There were concerns that he simply wouldn’t hit enough, and the Astros sent him back to Corpus to start this season. He looked much more comfortable repeating the level, hitting .273/.340/.546 with 12 HR in 197 PAs and trimming his strikeout rate considerably. The performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A, and despite only having played in nine games so far, he has already impressed. In his first 40 PAs at the level, Whicomb has accumulated 13 hits, 5 of which are homers, and has struck out a reasonable 10 times. There have also been positive developments on defense, where evaluators have praised his improvement on the left side of the infield. While he probably doesn’t have the chops to handle everyday shortstop duties in a vacuum, he has shown enough to profile as a fill-in option up the middle, and he has also shown enough arm to handle third. He’s not going to be an exemplary hitter for contact, but he has learned how to maximize his game power and handle several positions, which could make him a valuable utility piece if he hits at even a below-average rate.