Who is the Astros’ Breakout Prospect of 2018?
Every year in the minors, and particularly the Astros system, a prospect will “breakout” and become a player to watch. With the Astros having built a deep farm system, there was a strong likelihood they would have multiple breakout prospects. There are many prospects that could be on the list making it hard to just choose one. Therefore, I will provide a few candidates and y’all get to vote on who is the Astros breakout prospect of 2018.
Josh Rojas, SS
Rojas was a 26th round pick in the 2017 draft and broke onto the seen a bit hitting 10 HR in 52 games following the draft. Rojas started the 2018 season with Buies Creek and made quick work of the Carolina League hitting .311 with .921 OPS in 24 games. That was good for a 161 wRC+. He was promoted to Corpus Christi where he continued to hit well. He hit .280 with 815 OPS in the first half of the AA season. He hit a wall down the stretch but overall had a .722 OPS with 26 stolen bases in AA. He played 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, RF this season showing off his value at multiple positions. Overall he had a 12.2 BB% and 16.0 K% with 34 2B, 38 SB in 130 games.
2018 Stats: 130 G, .263 BA/.351 OBP/.408 SLG, 34 2B, 6 3B, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 38 SB, 68 BB/89 SO
Josh James, RHP
James was drafted in the 34th round of the 2014 draft and steadily made his way through the Astros system. James’ sleep issues are well documented, and getting this figured out, along with some mechanical adjustments, helped him gain elite velocity. This season in the minors he struck out 171 in 114.1 innings with a 3.23 ERA earning him his call up to Houston. James showed why he was getting a lot of buzz striking out 9 in 5 innings in his major league debut and showed off his 101.1 MPH fastball in the first inning. He led the Astros minor league system in strikeouts, and it wasn’t close. His secondary pitches (changeup, slider) have looked good too.
2018 Stats: 23 G, 3.23 ERA, 114.1 IP, 79 H, 41 ER, 49 BB, 171 K, 13.5 K/9 (MiLB)
Toro was one of my pre-season picks to be a breakout prospects this season. Toro was a 5th round pick by the Astros in the 2016 draft and has steadily made his way through the system. He played the 2018 season at 21 years old. He started the season with Buies Creek and hit well posting a .834 OPS with 136 wRC+ in 86 games. He showed good power and posted good walk (12.9 BB%) and strikeout (17.8 K%) rates. He was promoted to Corpus Christi where he had an 86 wRC+ in 50 games. He struggled a bit but hit .296 with .813 OPS over his final 20 games. He also led the Astros system in doubles with 35.
2018 Stats: 133 G, .247 BA/.345 OBP/.435 SLG, 35 2B, 16 HR, 78 RBI, 8 SB, 62 BB/108 K
Ryan Hartman, LHP
Hartman was the Astros 9th round pick in the 2016 draft. He has consistently posted good numbers in his minor league career but this season he dominated the Texas League. He pitched in 25 games for the Hooks and had a 2.69 ERA with 26 BB/143 K in 120.2 innings. He also had a 2.96 FIP and 2.92 xFIP. Everything looked good for him with a 42.1 GB%, 29.9 K% and 5.4 BB%. I can’t find much on his actual stuff, but clearly the results are great.
2018 Stats: 25 G, 2.69 ERA, 120.2 IP, 104 H, 36 ER, 26 BB, 143 K, 10.7 K/9, 5.5 K/BB