Astros Top 30 Prospects For 2020

Astros Top 30 Prospects For 2020

With the season just a couple weeks away, I am now releasing my Astros top 30 prospects. Let’s go!

1. Forrest Whitley, RHP

Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
DOB: 09/15/97

At this point, everyone knows who Forrest Whitley is. He has been the Astros top pitching prospects for the last few years. After a dominant 2017 which saw him strike out 143 over 92.1 innings while reaching AA at just 19 years old, he has struggled a bit to recapture that magic. A suspension and a few nagging injuries has held him back. Fortunately, his stuff is still there. Whitley possesses a fastball than has nice life and gets up to 98 MPH which he pairs with a devastating changeup. He also has a very good curveball and above average slider. The physical tools are there and he if cleans up his control a bit, he should be in Houston this summer.

2. Jose Urquidy, RHP

Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
DOB: 05/01/95

One of the best stories in the Astros organization in 2019, Urquidy made a quantum leap as a pitcher, eventually earning a big league call-up. He’s been best known for his changeup for most of his career, but began throwing much harder last season and paired it with command improvements. He throws both a curveball and slider, the latter being the stronger pitch, which are more average but play up thanks to his location. Urquidy knows how to use his arsenal and projects to be part of the opening day rotation, where he can stick as a #4 starter for some time.

3. Abraham Toro, 3B

Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
DOB: 12/20/96

One of the better day two finds by the previous front office, Toro has steadily matured into a balanced offensive threat at the pro level. A switch hitter, Toro has a patient approach that has produced plenty of walks at every level, and has slowly tapped into more and more of his above-average raw power. Across Double and Triple-A in 2019, he had an outstanding .324/.411/.527 slash line with 17 homers, earning a big league callup. Toro has a big arm that’s an asset at his current position, third base, but if he remains with the Astros organization a move to the outfield or perhaps first base appears likely. He’ll go as far as his bat carries him, and if he’s able to get to all of his power, he could be a near-everyday player thanks to his on-base acumen.

4. Jeremy Pena, SS

Level: A+
ETA: 2021
DOB: 09/22/97

Pena was drafted by the Astros in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft. During the draft process, Pena was seen by many as the best defensive shortstop in the class, and he has done nothing to disprove this notion. He has solid speed which leads to good range and possesses a plus arm. Pena’s bat is behind his glove, but that’s not to say he is a slouch with the bat. He has added weight and improved his power, evident by his .440 slugging last year. In 2019 he finished with a 141 wRC+ in 109 games. This was a huge step forward for what people thought was just a defensive minded shortstop. He has a solid understanding of the strike zone and has the ability to draw walks and limit his strikeouts. He might start in AA this year and if he continues to hit well, he will be a consensus top 100 prospect.

5. Korey Lee, C

Level: A-
ETA:2022
DOB: 07/25/98

After two so-so seasons with Cal, Lee took a big step forward in 2019, emerging as the team’s top offensive weapon behind 3rd overall pick Andrew Vaughn. Broadly built at 6’2″, 205 lbs., Lee is a strong athlete with a strong lower half and shows solid across the board defensive skills and above average arm strength, projecting as a solid average catcher at the highest level. With the bat, he shows a With the bat, he shows a nice mix of hit and power, with a simple stroke that keeps the barrel in the hitting zone for a long time. His approach is also pretty advanced already, and generates a healthy quantity of walks. Lee piled up 15 home runs with the Golden Bears as a junior and added 3 more in the NYPL during his pro debut, and projects as a 20+ home run threat down the line. With the ability to hit for a solid average and get on base from the backstop position, this gives Lee a strong shot to be a future regular at catcher.

6. Cristian Javier, RHP

Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
DOB: 03/26/97

Javier has been in the Astros system since 2015, and each year he has posted phenomenal numbers. In 2019 he struck out 170 in just 113.2 innings, while making it up to AAA. His fastball is in the low 90s but has an extremely high spin rate. He also possesses plus pitchability. To go along with his fastball he has a solid curveball and slider. He needs to work on his control (4.7 BB/9) last year but he has continued to strike guys out at a high rate. If he continues to pitch well in 2020, he should see some time in Houston this summer.

7. Freudis Nova, SS

Level: A
ETA: 2022
DOB: 01/12/00

Nova has come along pretty slowly since receiving a seven figure bonus in 2016, but had a decent full season debut last year in Quad Cities where he posted a 95 wRC+ in 75 games as a 19 year old. He’s still rough around the edges and will need to improve a free swinging approach to get within reach of his considerable ceiling. Still, he offers the potential for a middle of the order bat at a left side infield spot. While he showed some power with the 20 doubles last year, he struggled with the plate discipline managing just 15 BB/68 K. For what its worth, he drew 10 walks in 26 games in August, so a nice improvement to end the season. He still has an extremely high ceiling.

8. Bryan Abreu, RHP

Level: AAA
ETA: 2019
DOB: 04/22/97

An elite spinner of the baseball, Abreu is highly athletic on the mound and has racked up strikeouts in bunches as a professional. His lean 6’1″ frame produces mid-90s velocity with relative ease, but Abreu has difficulty repeating his mechanics and has never been a great strike thrower. His breaking stuff is nothing short of outstanding, as he shows an ability to tweak the spin and shape to suit his needs, and he routinely sits around 95 MPH with his fastball. If the Astros are able to rein him in a little bit and coax out a few more strikes, Abreu has the stuff to be a #3 starter in the big leagues. The more likely outcome for now is that he’s a late inning relief weapon capable of throwing multiple innings.

9. Brandon Bielak, RHP

Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
DOB: 04/02/96

Bielak is a high floor prospect who was drafted boy the Astros in the 11th round of the 2017 draft. He has a good build and should be able to sustain a large workload. Bielak has a low to mid 90s fastball that has excellent spin rate. He has a nice changeup and a curveball that has a chance to be a really good pitch. He finished the season posting a 3.04 ERA in his last 12 starts, and that included a 9 run in 4 inning outing. Take that out and his ERA drops to 2.05 in those other 11 starts, and this came in the hitter’s paradise that is the PCL. Like with Whitley and Javier, if he continues to perform well, he should get a shot in Houston soon.

10. Jairo Solis, RHP

Level: A
ETA: 2022
DOB: 12/22/99

Unfortunately stuck on the shelf for about 18 months now, Solis was charging up lists back in 2018 as an 18 year old dominating the Midwest League. A 6’2″ righty with projection remaining, Solis sat around 92-94 when he last pitched and backed it up with a plus curveball and promising changeup that flashed above average. While not an elite strike thrower yet, Solis shows the ingredients for starter’s command and has a #3 starter ceiling if his stuff comes back the same after Tommy John surgery.

11. Tyler Ivey, RHP

Level: AA
ETA: 2021
DOB: 05/12/96

Ivey was one of my favorites in the 2017 draft and the Astros selected him in the 3rd round. His performance when on the field has been really good, including a 1.57 ERA in 46.0 innings in AA in 2019. Unfortunately he dealt with some injuries in 2019 but appears to be healthy moving into 2020. Ivey has an active delivery but does well to repeat it. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s and he mixes an above-average curveball and a solid slider and changeup. Ivey has all the makings of a potential big-league starter. He just needs to stay healthy and he should be on track for Houston.

12. Colin Barber, OF

Level: Rookie
ETA: 2023
DOB: 12/04/00

Barber was drafted in the 4th round of high school in the 2019 draft. He signed for $1 million, which was almost $600k over slot. Barber has very good bat speed and a knack for making contact. The left-handed hitter has above-average raw power and plus speed to keep him as a potential center fielder. Last year in played in rookie ball as an 18 year old and performed well with a .780 OPS in 28 games. He has a ton of potential and with a big year in Quad Cities, he could easily find himself in the Astros top 5-7 prospects.

13. Grae Kessinger, SS

Level: A
ETA: 2022
DOB: 08/25/97

Kessinger’s MLB bloodlines and fundamentals have had him on the radar for awhile, but he was sliding on draft boards a bit with a slow start to his junior season. He flipped the switch in SEC play, hitting .406, and ended up being selected in the second round. Kessinger has great hands in the field and good instincts, which allow him to play a solid shortstop and project around the diamond. He hasn’t hit for much power in his career thus far, but he’s a big 6’2″ and could potentially find more pop through swing adjustments. He was pushed to QC quick and still managed to post a 93 wRC+ with 11.8 BB% and 14.6 K%.

14. Hunter Brown, RHP

Level: A-
ETA: 2022
DOB: 08/29/98

Brown was drafted by the Astros in the 5th round of the 2019 draft out of Wayne State University. He only pitched in 23 innings following the draft but he has shown enough to deserve a high ranking. Brown runs his fastball up to 98 and has shown the ability to maintain his velocity one multiple innings. He also has a sharp slider as his secondary pitch but will need to continue to work on his curveball to stick as a starter. Brown has a ton of upside though and could be a breakout guy in 2020.

15. Enoli Paredes, RHP

Level: AA
ETA: 2020
DOB: 09/28/95

Paredes is fun to watch. He is only 5-11 and 168 lbs but he has a fastball that can top out at 99 and sits 95-97 MPH. He is a very good athlete and also possesses an above average curveball. He is also mixing in an improving changeup which is vital to him sticking as a starter. Either way, his main two pitches can easily get him in a big league pen. In 2019 he posted a 2.87 ERA with 128 K in 94.0 innings. Just like the pitchers above him, he is on a track for Houston soon.

16. Luis Garcia, RHP

Level: A+
ETA: 2021
DOB: 12/13/96

Garcia had a breakout year in 2019 as he struck out 168 over 108.2 innings. Garcia since 2017 and has put up very good numbers each year. He has a mid 90s fastball and an above-average slider. He has a stocky build too, one that you can project a lot of innings in. He should be in AA in 2020 and if he continues to perform like this his stock will really rise.

17. Jordan Brewer, OF

Level: A-
ETA: 2022
DOB: 08/01/97

An older prospect who took a long route to pro ball, Brewer has a football background and oozes tools including plus plus speed and above average power. Coming off a huge year for Michigan in 2019, he struggled at the plate a bit in his pro debut, but has the potential to impact the game in a number of ways. The hit tool is his biggest question mark as his swing tends to get long, but if he becomes even an average hitter, he could be a star.

18. Peter Solomon, RHP

Level: A+
ETA: 2021
DOB: 08/16/96

Solomon was another high upside pick in the 2017 draft. A guy who had electric stuff but control issues. He came into the Astros system and had a great 2018 season (2.32 ERA, 114 K in 100.2 IP). Unfortunately he got hurt early on in 2019 after two starts and missed the rest of the year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Not sure on his time table to return yet. Solomon has multiple solid pitches including an fastball that can sit mid 90s. 

19. Brett Conine, RHP

Level: AAA
ETA: 2021
DOB: 10/16/96

Conine was drafted by the Astros in the 11th round of the 2018 draft. He made the transition from reliever to starter in the pros and the transition has went well. After a solid showing in 2018, he followed that up with very good season in 2019. He started in A ball but finished the year in AA and overall had a 2.20 ERA with 134 K in 114.1 innings. He has a fastball, slider, curveball, and improving changeup. For more on him, check out this interview.

20. Dauri Lorenzo, SS

Level: Rookie
ETA: 2024
DOB: 10/29/02

The Astros signed Lorenzo in July of 2019 for $1.8 million out of the Dominican Republic. He has yet to play minor league baseball but should debut at some point this year. Scouts noted the 17 year old a line drive stroke and drives the ball consistently to all fields. Lorenzo, a switch-hitter, has some power but should develop more. He is also an above average runner with a strong arm. He has the makings of a great prospect, it’s just a bit early to really rank him up high without even seeing him.

21. Garrett Stubbs, C

Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
DOB: 05/26/93

Stubbs has been in the Astros system since being an 8th round pick back in the 2015 draft. He made his way through the system and made his MLB debut in 2019 playing in 19 games. Stubbs has a slender build but is an athletic catcher who can actually run the bases well too. The Astros experimented with him in 2019 playing him in the outfield a bit at the MLB level and second base in AAA. He doesn’t have a ton of power, but he has a keen knack of making contact, evident by his low strikeout rate throughout his professional baseball career. He is solid behind the plate and has arm strength to be a presence in the running game. Right now, Stubbs projects as a guy who could fill out the back end of the Astros roster in 2020.

22. Jose Rivera, RHP

Level: A
ETA: 2022
DOB: 02/14/97

Like Garcia, Rivera was part of the 2016 international class. Signed out of the Dominican Republic, Rivera has electric stuff. His fastball tops out at 99 and sits mid 90s easily. He also has a solid curveball but is still working on a third pitch. In 2019 he posted a 3.81 ERA with 95 K in 75.2 innings. 

23. Shawn Dubin, RHP

Level: A+
ETA: 2021
DOB: 09/06/95

Dubin was drafted by the Astros in the 13th round of the 2018 draft. He is smaller stature listed at 6-1, 155 lbs but he has the stuff to make up for it. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and he has a plus slider. In 2019 be split time between Quad Cities and Fayetteville and posted a 3.58 ERA with 151 K in 110.2 innings. 

24. Chas McCormick, OF

Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
DOB: 04/19/95

McCormick has been a very pleasant surprise since being selected with a day three draft pick, and has now developed into a polished, versatile outfielder who projects to help out a major league bench. While not a blazing fast runner, McCormick is an instinctive defender who nonetheless covers a lot of ground. At the plate, he controls the strike zone exceptionally well, and has developed very strong on base skills. He doesn’t project for much over the fence power, but he has plays heady, well rounded baseball and can be deployed anywhere in the outfield, making him an ideal fourth outfielder.

25. Luis Santana, 2B

Level: AA
ETA: 2022
DOB: 07/20/99

Santana was acquired by the Astros in the deal that sent J.D. Davis to the Mets. He isn’t very tall but is well built at 5’8″ and 175 lbs. Santana has nice bat to ball skills and has displayed a solid approach at the plate, evident by his exceptional walk and strikeout rates. He doesn’t have a ton of power but could still grow in to more later on. He is a decent baserunner, but isn’t going to steal many bases. He is a second base only prospect and is going to need his bat to carry him through the minors. But he has the skills to have a plus hit tool that could help him reach the MLB.

26. Ronnie Dawson, OF

Level: AAA
ETA: 2021
DOB: 05/19/95

Dawson was the Astros second round pick in 2016. He made his way to AAA last year but struggled overall posting a .698 OPS in 103 games. He still has above average power and has shown that in games. He is also an above average runner but struggled running bases last year being caught 10 times in 24 attempts. Baseball America called him the best defensive outfielder in the Astros system, which is a big deal. Solid defense, speed and power can help get him to the bigs, but he is going to have to improve his bat to ball skills (30.5 K% in 2019). He should start the season in AAA this year.

27. Jairo Lopez, RHP

Level: A-
ETA: 2023
DOB: 11/21/00

Lopez was another signing out of Venezuela in the 2017 signing period, though he signed for $300,000. Lopez made his stateside debut in 2019 and definitely made the most of it. He started the year in the GCL and had a 1.09 ERA with 25 K in 24.2 innings. He was promoted to Tri-City, where he pitched 3.3 years younger than average, and had a 1.71 ERA with 36 K in 26.1 innings. He will be 19 for the 2020 season and hopefully making his full-season debut. He is athletic and has solid stuff but will need to continue to refine his off-speed offerings to stick in the rotation.

28. Jojanse Torres, RHP

Level: A+
ETA: 2021
DOB: 08/04/95

Torres is a little bit older for the lack of time he has spent in the minors but he has electric stuff that one can easily project in the pen. His fastball can hit 99 and a solid slider. His command is shaky right now but if that improves he will have a solid chance of a making a big league roster. He struck out 107 in 94.2 innings in 2019.

29. Taylor Jones, 1B

Level: AAA
ETA: 2020
DOB: 12/06/93

Jones showed signs of a breakout in Double-A in 2018, hitting .314/.409/.528 for Corpus with 13 home runs. He was notably old for the level at age 24, but given his lack of experience as a hitter compared to his peers, his advanced age was a bit less concerning than it would be typically. His upward trajectory continued into 2019, when he clubbed 27 home runs across Double and Triple-A, with 22 of those coming in Round Rock. After hitting 15 home runs across 2016 and 2017 in the pros, Jones appears to have made the necessary adjustments to tap into his considerable raw power, and should get a chance to prove he has a future as a big league bat in 2020. He’s more or less ready to go and would likely be first on the list for a call-up if the Astros suffered an injury to a corner type.

30. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP

Level: MLB
ETA: 2019
DOB: 06/30/94

Armenteros really broke onto the scene in 2017 when he dominated across AA and AAA posting a 2.04 ERA with 146 K in 123.2 innings. He had a good year in 2018 but he was unable to replicate that success in 2019. Despite his struggles in 2019 he still has an opportunity to help the big league club. Armenteros has a low high 80s to low 90s fastball and a solid changeup. 

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**Photo Credit: Tammy Tucker**

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