Astros Trade Deadline Preview: A Prospect Perspective

Astros Trade Deadline Preview: A Prospect Perspective

Alright Astros fans!! Up on your feet, it is time to talk trade! This is obviously an exciting time to be an Astros fan. The team on the field is producing and seems to be coasting to their first AL West title. The team’s style of play and fan friendly type of players has really brought the Houston fan base back to life. The current 62-30 record of the major league ball club combined with the amount of young stars on the major league team and the amount of potential every day players in the minors make for something special. Fan interest really gets cranked up at this time of the year. The regular season has less than 70 games to go and the trade deadline brings a component of unknown excitement.

To start off, let me be clear: the Astros should be BUYERS! Not every year does your team have a chance to win a world series and the Astros this year have a legitimate chance. They will most likely enter the playoffs as the #1 seed in AL, securing them home field advantage until at least the world series. Also, the Astros have about a 3-4 year realistic window as we have discussed before. When Altuve, Springer, Correa, and others need to get paid, a level of the unknown will shadow over the future. Also the Houston Astros organization has managed to keep a top ten farm system by all accounts while simultaneously winning at the MLB level. In other words, we have players that other teams covet. Another factor that plays into this discussion is that so many of the Astros top prospects are currently blocked at the MLB level by a productive under 30 year old starter.

We simply will not be able to keep everyone on our 40 man roster for years to come. We can either trade these prospects now or inevitably lose some in the Rule 5 draft. Now I am usually in the camp with many of the readers of this site: I love prospects! We follow them, we root for them, and they become like our “baseball children” as they progress through the minor leagues. Although there is an attachment to “our prospects” we have to be realistic and want what is best for our whole organization. Plus, I am also really attached to Altuve, Springer, and Correa and want to see them parading through Houston after a World Series title.

This article will break down our current prospects into categories.

Untouchable prospect: while no one is untouchable for the right deal, we would like to keep these players unless absolutely blown away

Top prospects: one or two of these players would likely be the centerpiece of a major trade we complete

High ceiling prospects: players who have had moderate minor league success but could eventually become MLB regulars if everything clicks

AAA type immediate contributor prospects: These prospects either have MLB experience or are right on the border. The type of player that is on a 40 man roster but maybe not an every day player yet.

Untouchable Prospects

1. Kyle Tucker

Position: OF, some CF potential but most likely a corner outfielder
Age: 20
Current level: AA Corpus Cristi
2017 stats: .294 BA, .371 OBP, .551 SLG, .922 OPS, 22 2B, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 19 SB

Analysis: While currently more than holding his own at AA at the ripe age of 20, Kyle Tucker is proving he is a top 20 prospect in all of major league baseball. He was a starter for Team USA at this year’s Futures Game. He could fill one of the main offensive needs of the Astros in the next two years: a 3rd outfielder (to go with Springer and Reddick) and a left handed bat with punch. Tucker could slide into the every day starting lineup at left field in 2019. He could be that perfect left handed compliment to the right handed studs: Altuve, Correa, and Springer. He profiles as the perfect #2 or #5 hitter in that lineup. Tucker profiles as a 20 HR, 35 2B, 15 SB kind of player, something that I would not like to give up unless blown away.

2. Forrest Whitley

Position: RHP, right handed starting pitcher
Age: 19
Current level: High A Buies Creek
2017 stats: 4-3, 2.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 62 IP, 23 BB, 91 K, 1.47 K/IP

Analysis: Whitley has the potential to be a major league front of the rotation starter. #1 or #2 major league starting pitchers are not cheap, unless under team control. Forrest Whitley so far in his minor league career has exceeded expectations. He has probably been the most productive high school pitcher of the 2016 draft class thus far. While pitching at a level much higher than his 19 years of age would suggest, he has dominated. With a rather cautious projection, Whitley could be pitching in the major leagues by the time he is 22. Whitley could be the perfect long term replacement for either Dallas Keuchel or Lance McCullers if one of them is not able to be kept long term.


Top Prosects

1. Derek Fisher

Position: OF, some CF potential but most likely a corner outfielder
Age: 23
Current level: Triple A Fresno
2017 stats: .299 BA, .366 OBP, .561 SLG, .926 OPS, 23 2B, 19 HR, 56 RBI, 14 SB

Analysis: Pretty similar player to Kyle Tucker with a little lower upside, but is closer to being major league ready. Both are left handed outfielders with a nice speed and power combination. This year it has all clicked for Tucker! He even had a cup of coffee with the Astros major league club and impressed. Hitting two homers and showing he was basically ready for the big show. Fisher also started for Team USA in this year’s Futures Game. The only thing that really makes Fisher more apt to being traded is that the Astros also have Kyle Tucker. Tucker has the more “All-Star upside” of the two. A rebuilding team that trades for Fisher would most likely slide him to a corner outfield spot and have him starting for their major league club every day.

2. Francis Martes

Position: RHP, right handed starting pitcher or powerful back end of the bullpen arm
Age: 21
Current level: Houston Astros
2017 stats: Minors: 0-2, 5.29 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 32.1 IP, 28 BB, 38 K  Majors: 2-0, 4.85 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 26.0 IP, 12 BB, 28 K

Analysis: This season has probably bumped Francis Martes from a top 30 prospect to about the 60-70 range. He did not dominate AAA like the Astros would have hoped. Walks have been a conisistent problem for him. He was called on to fill a void on the major league team when many of the starters were injured and was serviceable. Another year of AAA seasoning could do wonders for Martes’ development. His long term future might be as a 8th inning electric-armed reliever.

3. Franklin Perez

Position: RHP, right handed starting pitcher
Age: 19
Current level: Double A Corpus Christi
2017 stats: 4-2, 2.98 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 54.1 IP, 16 BB, 53 K

Analysis: Franklin Perez will be extremely appealing to other organizations. While he excelled at High A so far this year, he is now going to be pitching in AA at age 19. With a great K/BB ratio and staggeringly low WHIP Perez is likely to shoot up prospect rankings very soon. While maybe not a super high ceiling player, it is hard to argue with his success.

4. Yordan Alvarez

Position: OF/1B, corner outfielder or 1st baseman
Age: 20
Current level: High A Buies Creek
2017 stats: .321 BA, .321 OBP, .565 SLG, .987 OPS, 11 2B, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 3 SB

Analysis: Maybe the most unexpected prospect of the year. Alvarez has fulfilled some of his potential this year, becoming the Astros’ 3rd invite to the 2017 Futures Game. He lit up Low A pitching this year but has cooled off since his promotion to High A. An option at both first base or a corner outfield spot, the Astros could sell high on Alvarez.

5. Jake Rogers

Position: C, purely catcher and will stay there
Age: 22
Current level: High A Buies Creek
2017 stats: .292 BA, .377 OBP, .533 SLG, .910 OPS, 17 2B, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 9 SB

Analysis: Jake Rogers has really come into his own this year offensively. His current offensive production combined with his above average defense makes him a legitimate prospect and a candidate for “most improved prospect.” The Astros may sell high if he is included in a deal.


High Ceiling Prospects

1. Daz Cameron

Position: OF, capable of playing all 3 outfield spots
Age: 20
Current level: Low A Quad Cities
2017 stats: .237 BA, .312 OBP, .431 SLG, .743 OPS, 19 2B, 9 HR, 46 RBI, 20 SB

Analysis: While Cameron has been a little disappointing in his minor league career so far, he has shown signs of turning it around. Although repeating Low A for a second straight year, he is still only 20 years old. He also still has 20/20 potential with his good speed and power combination. He is also capable of playing center field in the majors which is a huge bonus for a prospect. If he puts it all together he could profile as a good speed/power combination center fielder, similar to his father Mike Cameron.

2. Cionel Perez

Position: LHP, left handed starting pitcher
Age: 21
Current level: High A Buies Creek (Has not pitched there yet, only in Low A)
2017 stats: 4-3, 4.39 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 55.1 IP, 17 BB, 55 K

Analysis: Another solid international signing by the Astros. At his peak, Perez could be a middle of the rotation left handed starter. He has been hit hard in a few of his Low A outings this year, but dominant in others. His peripheral numbers still look good and he is still striking out about a batter an inning. Could be a good 2nd or 3rd piece of a deal.


AAA type immediate contributor prospects

1. Joe Musgrove – Spent much of the season in the Astros rotation as their 4th/5th starter. Very good K/BB ratio but may not have elite upside.

2. Colin Moran – Best minor league season to date has been in 2017. Finally tapping into some power. Blocked at the major league level by Alex Bregman.

3. J.D. Davis – Forced to repeat AA due to the Astros logjam at 3B in AAA and the majors. Old school type of power third baseman.

4. Tony Kemp – Fan favorite and great teammate. Plays the game the right way. True second baseman forced to move to a corner outfield spot because of Jose Altuve. Good lead off hitter.

5. A.J. Reed – Once a top prospect, now questions remain if he is an everyday player. Tremendous power but still struggles with strikeouts and making consistent contact.

6. Tyler White – Had a great April with the Astros major league club in 2016 before being demoted to AAA. Surprisingly versatile on defense for his size and stature. Could be a good MLB bench guy.


Top 10 players on the Astros wish list

1. Jacob DeGrom – All-Star level pitcher will a few years of team control left. Still relatively young at age 29.

2. Chris Archer – Complete stud! Also the type of pitcher the Astros covet. Devastating slider and high K/9 rate. Only down side are the Rays are still in it and would demand the house.

3. Zach Britton – Perfect fit for Houston. He could either take over the 9th inning or leave Giles there and become what Andrew Miller was for the Indians last year.

4. Sonny Gray – When healthy a consistent and reliable starter. Oakland and Houston have dealt in the past and we could speed up their rebuild.

5. Gerrit Cole – Former #1 overall pick. Probably a #2 or #3 starter but would fit nicely in Game 3 of a playoff series behind McCullers.

6. Kelvin Herrera – Royals relief ace who has experience in both the 8th and 9th innings. True strikeout reliever

7. Justin Wilson – Dependent capable left handed arm that could be a great fit with the Astros. Could become their best lefty or 8th inning guy.

8. Felipe Rivero – Although inexperienced, has an electric arm that could have all-star or closer upside.

9. Marcus Stroman – Fiery competitor. Maximizes his frame and ability, but probably only a #3 starter for us.

10. Ervin Santana – Until this year has only been an average pitcher. Would really be “buying high” and the advanced numbers don’t like him.

Notable Omissions

1. Miguel Cabrera: Although it would be a major power move, Houston simply would not take on his massive contract.

2. Justin Verlander: Still effective but far from the pitcher he used to be. His contract pays him like the 2010-2013 Verlander.

3. Jeff Samardzija: Big contract and I do not know if he is an upgrade over pitchers like Mike Fiers or Charlie Morton.

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**Photo Credit: Kiel Maddox/Fresno Grizzlies**

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About Cory Clouser

Born and raised in Houston, TX. Now residing in Carterville, IL. Lifetime die hard Astros fan. Grew up with Biggio and Bagwell, now living the adult life with Altuve and Correa. Also host a weekly sports podcast. "Sauce on the Side" on soundcloud or find it at @TheSaucyPod on twitter.