Written by: Danny Brackman
Follow him on Twitter: @d__brack
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
**Right below is the Astros Top 20 list simplified. Scroll further down for FULL Present/Future Grades, FV, ETA, and summaries on EACH PLAYER ranked in the system! Tons of Statistics on each player as well! Some player highlights, future outlooks and more enjoy!**
|1||Forrest Whitley||RHP||1st round 2016 Draft- 17th Overall|
|2||Enoli Paredes||RHP||International Signing 2015|
|3||Jeremy Peña||SS||MLB Draft 3rd round 2018|
|4||Freudis Nova||3B/SS||International signing 2016|
|5||Korey Lee||C||1st round 2019 Draft – 32nd Overall|
|6||Tyler Ivey||RHP||MLB Draft 3rd round 2017|
|7||Luis Garcia||RHP||International signing 2017|
|8||Dauri Lorenzo||SS||International signing 2019|
|9||Bryan Abreu||RHP||International signing 2013|
|10||Hunter Brown||RHP||MLB Draft 5th round 2018|
|11||Alex Santos||RHP||MLB Draft 2nd round 2020|
|12||Jairo Solis||RHP||International signing 2016|
|13||Jordan Brewer||OF||MLB Draft 3rd round 2019|
|14||Zach Daniels||OF||MLB Draft 4th round 2020|
|15||Jose Alberto Rivera||RHP||International signing 2016|
|16||Kenedy Corona||OF||International signing 2019|
|17||Brandon Bielak||RHP||MLB Draft 11th round 2017|
|18||Jairo Lopez||RHP||International signing 2017|
|19||Tyler Brown||RHP||MLB Draft 3rd round 2020|
|20||Grae Kessinger||SS/3B||MLB Draft 2nd round 2019|
1. Forrest Whitley – RHP – 23 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’7 – Wt: 195lbs – ETA: 2021
At the top of the Astros farm is Forrest Whitley: undoubtedly the most talented individual within the system… but also probably the riskiest. He’s dealt with a number of injuries over the past couple of years, as well as a PED suspension in 2018. Most recently he was shut down again during Astros summer camp which resulted in him not being able to make his heavily anticipated MLB debut during the 2020 season.
However, when he’s healthy, he’s shown some of the most dominant stuff out of any pitching prospect in baseball. A power sinker with heavy horizontal movement in the mid 90s is his go-to. Unlike many sinker-ballers, Whitley is able to miss bats with it since his pitch mix is so deep. He compliments the pitch well with three distinct breaking balls—a hard cutter, slider, and curve—which are all above average or better. His best secondary might be his changeup which plays off his sinker nicely.
When he’s on his game, Whitley is able to showcase a very deep pitch mix that has tons of potential at the front of the Astros rotation. If he can get back to his 2018 self, I would look for him to be starting games as soon as mid-2021. However, he should be monitored heavily over the off-season and into spring training. If he isn’t able to get back to 100%, it will likely be another frustrating year in 2021 for the Astros and for Forrest Whitley.
2. Enoli Paredes – RHP – 25 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 5’11 – Wt: 171lbs – ETA: Debuted 2020
One of several rookie pitchers to debut in 2020 for the Astros, Enoli Paredes bulldozed his way into the back end of the bullpen early in the summer. The Astros were forced to deal with a pitching staff that was massively overhauled in the off-season, so Paredes got his chance and ran with it.
With a power four-seamer that he dials to the upper 90s, Paredes chose to go with that pitch at as high a rate as anyone in 2020 at 68%. His peripherals weren’t great on the heater (.321 xBA) but I don’t think it will be a huge problem for him going forward because of his slider. His primary breaker was very effective (.238 xBA), so he might want to throw it a bit more going forward. It has elite spin (around 2900 rpm) and a good amount of horizontal break, making it a legit put away offering.
Paredes flipped in a few curves that flashed plus, as well as a show-me change, but he didn’t really need more than his fastball and slider out of the pen this year. If I were him, I would look at potentially flipping the script and going with a Diego Castillo slider-dominant arsenal since Enoli’s is so good. If he can simply find the zone, his stuff is electric enough to be a dominant guy at the back of the Astros pen for the next few years.
3. Jeremy Peña – SS – 23 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’0 Wt: 202lbs – ETA: 2022
Taken in the 3rd round in the 2018 draft, Jeremy Peña comes into the list as the Astros top position player prospect. He is a great athlete from a mid-major college who has benefited from pro strength and conditioning immensely, as seen in the 20+ lbs of muscle he’s put on in the past 2 years. That’s translated into a slight uptick in power which is definitely a bonus for someone who was initially thought of as a defense-first prospect. He also has shown a good eye for drawing walks over his career so far.
That being said, Peña still is a defense first player, but that isn’t a slight on his ability. More so, he’s just a slick defender up the middle of the field with a strong and accurate arm. He’s played a few games at 3B and 2B, so if he’s able to flex around multiple positions he could find himself helping out the big-league club sooner than expected.
Peña is a good runner, swiping 20 bags last year, but he also got caught 10 times so he will need to work on his success rate if he wants to continue to have the green light. I’m confident he will make the necessary adjustments due to his athleticism and work ethic. He’s a noted hard worker and positive presence among his teammates. He won’t win any batting championships or home run titles, but he has the makings of a solid big-league player who can contribute across the board.
4. Freudis Nova – 3B/SS – 20 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 – Wt: 178lbs – ETA: 2022
Many evaluators are high on the 2016 international signing, and for good reason—he has wicked bat speed, a solid frame, and a cannon for an arm. However, over his pro career he has struggled with refining his plate approach and recognizing off-speed pitches.
This is very common among young prospects playing above their age level, though how Nova does in the return to competition early in 2021 will be very telling, one way or another. He posted a mediocre 95 wRC+ (100 is average) in A ball in 2019, but it was his first taste of full season ball and he was still only 19.
Nova was invited to the Astros fall instructional league, so that was very beneficial for his development in an otherwise lost year. He might have some of the best offensive upside in the Astros farm and he’s on track to play AA in 2021, so watch out for Nova on the come up soon.
5. Korey Lee – C – 22 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’2 – Wt: 210lbs – ETA: 2022
Another elite athlete in the Astros system, Korey Lee is a pretty interesting player to keep an eye on. He got a few innings on the mound in college and some in the outfield and first base after being drafted last year in the 1st round. It looks like he is ultimately settling in at catcher, where he projects to be an average defender with an above average arm. He has good hands and a quick transfer, leading to some pretty impressive pop times.
Teammates with Andrew Vaughn, Lee was a masher in his own right in college, posting over a 1.000 OPS with 15 bombs his junior year. He also saw a batting average surge during the summer of 2018 and he carried it into 2019. He utilizes his strong lower half and core very well, locking his front side at contact and getting the most out of his swing.
Lee was sent straight away to low A ball after being drafted, where he posted a solid 122 wRC+. He didn’t hit for a ton of power, but he kept his plate discipline and got on base by spraying the baseball all over the field (36.9% pull, 27.8% center, 35.2% oppo) and drawing walks (10.8%) without striking out too much (18.9%). Current Astros catcher Martin Maldonado is signed through the 2021 season, so I would expect Lee to take over at some point in early 2022.
6. Tyler Ivey – RHP – 24 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’4 – Wt: 200lbs – ETA: 2021
One of my personal favorites in the Astros system, and a relatively unknown prospect, Tyler Ivey might find himself in the Astros rotations sooner than expected if Forrest Whitley isn’t able to come around. Ivey doesn’t have the same ceiling as Whitley since his stuff isn’t as good, though his pitch mix is just as deep and his command is even better.
Ivey’s delivery is a little funky but he’s able to repeat it well enough to the point where it isn’t an issue. Ivey commands his four-seam fastball well at the top of the zone, working it in the low-to-mid 90s. He has above average spin on the fastball and even better on his breaking stuff, giving him very nice strikeout upside. He utilizes three different breaking balls, the best of which is a curve that has very good vertical break. The cutter gets in on lefties well and the slider can induce plenty of righty roll-overs, giving him a solid floor even if he isn’t missing bats that day. He mixes in an average change and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that pitch continue to develop going forward.
Ivey dominated AA ball at the end of 2019 as a 23-year-old, so he is on the cusp of a big league call up in 2021. The Astros pitching staff has turned over massively in the past year and I would expect that to continue, giving Ivey a solid chance at a rotation spot if all goes well to begin next year. With the Astros track record of developing pitching, I think they’ll get the most out of Ivey, giving him a true SP3 ceiling and a high-K SP4 floor.
7. Luis Garcia – RHP – 23 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 – Wt: 244 – ETA: 2020
The 23-year-old Luis Garcia was able to make his debut in 2020, despite previously having never played above A+. Coming out of the pen and making one spot start over five appearances, Garcia was able to show why the Astros front office were so bullish on the young Venezuelan pitcher.
He worked his four-seam fastball consistently in the mid-90s, popping a few 97-98s, though he is more likely to sit at the lower end of that range when starting regularly. The spin is average, but he gets so low in his leg drive that it gives the pitch some added deception and above average vertical movement. His slider and changeup both get above average horizontal movement in opposite directions, letting the pitches play off each other very nicely. The cutter and curve add even more offerings to Garcia’s arsenal, and his willingness to throw each and every one of his pitches is promising to his chances at sticking as a starter.
The big question will be his command, which has looked spotty at times but better in his brief MLB stint. His stuff is good, so I’ll bet the Astros give him some time to start next year either in AA or AAA to get a few starts under his belt before rejoining the big-league club.
8. Dauri Lorenzo – SS – 17 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 5’11 – Wt: 186lbs – ETA: 2024
NO PROFESSIONAL STATS
The Astros prized signee from their 2019 international crop, Dauri Lorenzo is an intriguing shortstop prospect with a lot of projectability. He’s still only 17, but he brings a speedy, switch hitting middle infield profile to the table for the Astros to work with.
Lorenzo flashes double plus sprint speed at present but as he fills out his body it is more than likely he will lose a step. If the available listings are accurate he’s already put on 20ish pounds in the past year, but I’m actually glad to see him put on weight as that makes me confident he’ll grow into average power eventually. His swing is a bit long from both sides of the plate and he gets away with it due to his solid bat speed, but that can be cleaned up with good coaching.
The appeal with Lorenzo comes with his overall package, rather than one particular tool. He is a long way from the majors so that could change down the road, but for now he’s a good upside lottery ticket. It’s promising that he was added to the Astros instructional league this fall, so they’re clearly high on the teenager. With the Astros’ track record for developing hitters recently, I’m pretty excited too. Hopefully we can get a better look at the switch-hitting infielder in full season ball next year.
9. Bryan Abreu – RHP – 23 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 – Wt: 225lbs – ETA: Debuted
After two disappointing showings in 2019 and 2020 with the Astros, Bryan Abreu is looking more and more like a lock for a relief role. His fastball dropped from averaging 95 last year to 93 this year, and it didn’t really even get results when it was 95. He was placed on the 60-day IL, ending his season early. To this point, Abreu has been forced to rely massively on his high-spin breaking ball combo instead of the hard stuff which has all but condemned him to the bullpen for good.
The slider and curve are both above average, with the slider flashing plus. Unfortunately for Abreu, it seems the curve might have even regressed some along with his fastball, as seen by the +5 inch decrease in vertical movement (it’s dropping almost half a foot less than last year). The slider took a slight VB decrease too, but the spin is still great so it’s still a plus pitch when it’s located well.
When Abreu is on, he absolutely has the stuff to miss bats at a high level for the Astros bullpen. When he isn’t on though, he might have some Astros fans biting their nails and yelling at their TVs asking for a pitching change.
10. Hunter Brown – RHP – 22 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’2 – Wt: 212lbs – ETA: 2022
A Division II product, the Astros are looking at Hunter Brown like an artist does ball of clay. It’s been widely documented that he has steadily increased his fastball velocity from 91 as a freshman, to 93 as a sophomore, to 95 as a junior, and is now currently up around 97 (topping 99). Projection-much? Despite average spin, it looks like he’s able to generate some extra VB, letting the pitch play nicely at the top of the zone.
Hunter’s now mid-80s slider has sharp horizontal break to it, giving him a legit out pitch. He also recently added in a curveball to go with his decent fading changeup. His stuff works well playing off the fastball so he should be able to attack both left and right-handed hitters without a ton of worry.
With a true 4-pitch arsenal, Brown looks like he could be a legit major league starter. He has the frame and his mechanics are smooth and repeatable. The lost year hurts his development, but I fully expect him to pick back up where he left off developmentally when play resumes next year.
11. Alex Santos – RHP – 18 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’3 – Wt: 185 – ETA: 2024
NO PROFESSIONAL STATS
A New York kid and 2020 draftee, Alex Santos signed well over slot value in the 2nd compensation round so the Astros could convince him to play pro ball instead of going to college. He took the offer, and I’d have to guess the Astros are ecstatic. With their penalties for their infamous cheating scandal, the Astros were left without 1st or 2nd round picks in 2020 so they really needed to make the most out of what they had.
Santos already gets his fastball into the mid-90s, and his 2600+ rpms (HOLY CANNOLI) will make the pitch borderline double-plus. Though he throws a solid curve with sharp VB, I really like the slider he’s showing in the bottom video. I could see that being his primary breaking ball going forward. It’s a true gyro and the movement profile looks great (virtually no spin-induced VB), giving a totally different look than the curve. His change looks more average though it’s still a solid fourth offering, especially for combating lefties.
It will be interesting to see how instructional work this fall affected him going into next year. Like other cold-weather high school draftees, Santos could take some extra time to develop, and you can probably add even more with the lost 2020 season. Regardless, his pure stuff is already very good and it’s only getting better with pro coaching.
12. Jairo Solis – RHP – 20 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’2 – Wt: 205lbs – ETA: 2022
DID NOT PITCH IN 2019
Solis underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and hasn’t pitched in a game since, but he remains one of the higher-upside arms in the Astros system. Spending the past year and a half rehabbing and now more recently working with coaches at instructs, hardly any information has come out regarding the 2016 international signee. He is apparently now healthy, so I will be curious as to how the Astros decide to progress with him.
Solis mainly works with a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve that he is able to spot well to steal strikes and get whiffs. He also works in a pretty good change that gives him another offering for lefties.
Solis is most likely headed to A+ to begin next year, though if he can stay healthy and up his workload I could see him finishing the year at AAA. Lot of “ifs” here, but if he is able to do just that, I’d expect Solis to soar up prospect rankings. If the Astros can’t successfully get him back on a starter’s track, I suspect they won’t be shy to move him to the pen where he can utilize the fastball-curve combo. Even if that’s the case, he has the makings of a damn good relief arm.
13. Jordan Brewer – OF – 23 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: L – Ht: 6’1 – Wt: 200lbs – ETA: 2022
What do you know? Another elite athlete in the Astros system. Former College World Series standout at Michigan, Jordan Brewer has flashed some mouth-watering tools for people to get excited about. At the same time, there is room for caution as he hasn’t been playing at that type of level against good competition for very long (JuCo transfer).
Brewer struggled in his first taste of pro ball after being drafted, but I’ll chalk that up to the long college season. He undoubtedly could’ve benefited from a season in 2020, but it likely wouldn’t have mattered anyway since he underwent knee surgery early in the summer. This is something to note, as he has had his issues with injury in the past, and his legs are probably his most valuable asset.
Brewer is a 70-grade runner at present, so it is concerning seeing him miss time due to a knee injury. When he’s healthy though, he also has shown good barrel control that could propel him into an MLB average hitter. He’s wiry strong, so I think he can provide average power as well. He is a little jumpy in the box, so I’d look for pro hitting coaches to work with him in quieting some things up.
He uses his speed well in the outfield and has a strong arm (pitched some in JuCo), so I think he has a good chance at sticking in center. In all, 2021 will likely be a make or break year for Brewer, so it will be important to keep track of how he does early on, or else it might be too late to get in on his upside.
14. Zach Daniels – OF – 21 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 – Wt: 211lbs – ETA: 2022
NO PROFESIONAL STATS
Zach Daniels has tools to make you drool, but he was one of the biggest question marks in the 2020 MLB Draft for a reason. He’s a physical beast, but he struggled mightily his first two years at Tennessee. This year, the red-shirt junior outfielder exploded onto the scene before Covid took over, destroying his way to a 1.228 OPS and swiping 3/3 bags through 17 games, leading to a 4th round selection.
Daniels may have truly broken out in 2020, but there are massive questions about whether or not he will be able to sustain the performance going forward. Sure, he went off the first few weeks of this year, but he was doing it mainly against lesser competition. In his first two years, he struck out at a 30% clip both for the Vols and in summer ball, so I’m not quite ready to buy in just yet to the hittability gains.
That being said, Daniels might not need to hit all that consistently to advance through the minors. Yes, he’s struck out a ton in college, but he also drew a ton of walks, so I think he’ll more likely than not just push towards the three true outcomes.
Daniels has tons of pop and he’s definitely athletic enough to stay in center. I’d look for him in A+ ball next year, but he could be a quick upward mover if he’s able to put the ball over the fence regularly against pro pitching.
15. Jose Alberto Rivera – RHP – 23 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’3 – Wt: 193lbs – ETA: 2021
Rivera had a big spike in velo between 2018-19, going from 92-94 up to 96-98 and topping 100. Because of this, I have a feeling that the Astros are going to push him aggressively up so he can have a role in the pen in the very near future. He throws a solid breaking ball that offers a good change of pace from the heater, and his split has some nasty low-spin downward bite to it. Like others in this system, and many pitching prospects in general, the issue is command.
Striking out batters hasn’t been the issue for Rivera—it’s been limiting the walks. Other than a 39-inning stint in 2018, he hasn’t been able to keep his walk rate below 10% at any minor league stop. He even was guilty of chucking 16 wild pitches in 2019. Yikes…
Therefore, I’m anticipating Rivera to abandon the starter project for a full-time pen role, which will most likely fast-track him to the majors. I could be eating my words in 6 months if it looks like Rivera fixed his command woes, but I wouldn’t count on it due to his arm action and delivery. IF THAT DOES HAPPEN Rivera has the pure stuff to start at the back of the Astros rotation, but they probably understand that he’s likely more valuable in shorter outings from the pen.
16. Kenedy Corona – OF – 20 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 5’11 – Wt: 184 – ETA: 2022
A lesser known prospect who moved over from the Mets in the Jake Marisnick deal, Kenedy Corona caught the eye of evaluators in a big way in 2019. He was on the older side for an international signing coming in to pro ball at 19, but he showed good contact ability, some speed. and flashes of power.
Though Corona only hit 5 home runs over 63 games in 2019, he also chipped in 14 doubles and 4 triples. He has solid bat speed and an athletic frame, so these are promising signs that he will eventually grow into at least average over-the-fence power. His swing is geared to the pull side (47.6% pull rate) and with an average fly ball distance of 288.3, according to Minorgraphs, it seems like he already has an idea for what he wants to do.
Corona limited the strikeouts very well while taking his walks last year, though he wasn’t facing the most advanced of pitching. Instructional work likely beneftted him well this fall, so the big tell going forward will be how he fares against better arms. I’d expect him to begin 2021 in A+ and if he sustains his contact ability, he could be a quick mover for the Astros due to their total lack of outfield depth going forward.
17. Brandon Bielak – RHP – 24 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 – Wt: 210lbs – ETA: 2020
Bielak made his debut in 2020 due to necessity, and boy was it shaky. He had looked very solid through his minor league career, projecting as a decent back end guy, though that isn’t going to be promised going forward.
Like other Astros pitching prospects, Bielak comes at you with a deep arsenal and good command, but his stuff needs to be working in sync for him to get results. This year, he relied heavily on his average fastball (49.4% usage) and it showed. His underlying metrics look just as bad as his 6.75 ERA on the season, so he will likely need to spend some time in the minors in 2021.
Bielak did flash an above average changeup, and that was the one pitch he threw that didn’t get mashed. His curve also has nice vertical break to it, but he just didn’t throw it a whole lot (8.4% usage). Since his fastball isn’t great, I’d look for him to rely more on his pitch mix, with the change and curve in particular. If he does just that, I’d expect him back at the end of the rotation mid-2021.
18. Jairo Lopez – RHP – 19 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 5’11 – Wt: 220lbs – ETA: 2023
Another international prospect who signed on the older side, Jairo Lopez has done well in the lower levels of the minors thus far. Last year he dominated rookie and A- ball in 13 outings split between starts and the bullpen against similarly-aged competition. His mix and pitchability are both advanced—he has good feel for each one of his pitches and appears comfortable using different offerings in different situations.
Lopez already gets his fastball into the mid-90s and can command it well enough. His best skill, however, is his ability to spin his breaking balls. According to Fangraphs, Lopez can get his breakers up to an awesome 2850+ spin rate. His slider is harder and gives more VB than his curve which is a true hammer 12-6. Both are legit.
Lopez is undoubtedly not the ideal size for a starting pitcher, though now that it appears he’s added a good amount of weight (as long as it’s good weight, and it appears it is) I wouldn’t be too worried about his stature. There could be health concerns down the road, but his mechanics look fluid and efficient as of now.
The ability to command a pitch mix with this kind of natural stuff is pretty rare, so if Lopez can continue to keep the walks down as he climbs the ranks of the minors, he’s an arm to get excited about.
19. Tyler Brown – RHP – 22 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’4 – Wt: 242lbs – ETA: 2022
NO PROFESSIONAL STATS
After a couple dominant years collecting saves for the #Vandyboys, Tyler Brown is taking his abilities (and his amazing story—please do watch the video at the bottom) to the next level. An imposing presence on the mound, Brown might be given an opportunity to start for the Astros even though 58/60 of his career collegiate appearances were out of the bullpen.
Brown has the frame and the pitch mix to start, but I personally think letting him get after it for an inning or two like he did for the Commodores will help get the most out of the big righty. His fastball and curve are both above average, but his change and slider are probably average at best. Thus, I think if he focused on tunneling those two he could be a very good option out of the pen.
Pitching in the SEC gives athletes a distinct advantage when transitioning into pro ball, so I believe if the Astros wanted Brown in the pen he could come up sooner rather than later, potentially debuting in September of next year if all goes well. Realistically, he will spend 2021 in AA or AAA and would only be called up out of necessity, but seeing what happened with the Astros this year, I wouldn’t bet on anything related to the state of their pitching staff.
20. Grae Kessinger – SS/3B – 23 Years Old
Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’2 – Wt: 204lbs – ETA: 2022
Kessinger was a high effort/high energy player at Ole Miss, and many pro organizations liked the make-up. He was selected in the 2nd round after having a couple very productive college years but really struggled to hit much once moving to pro ball. What’s promising is that he hardly struck out and walked a ton, coming pretty close to a 1:1 K:BB ratio.
The plate approach and zone recognition are excellent and his hands are quick through the zone, so I think Kessinger can become at least a league average hitter. Without severe alterations to his mechanics that would likely mess everything else up, I doubt he’s ever going to hit more than 15-20 home runs.
Kessinger’s appeal doesn’t come from the pop, though. He’s a good defender who can play both SS and 3B and he’s be able to get on base at a great clip. Hopefully he’ll keep on swiping a few bags here and there too. In all, his barrel accuracy development will either make or break Kessinger as a decent every day starter versus a platoon or bench role.
Links to all other Team Top 20 Rankings: CLICK HERE!