Predicting the Next Astros Top-100 Prospect
The Astros farm system doesn’t get much love from national prospect rankers these days, and with the likely graduation of current Astros top prospects like Whitley, Urquidy, Toro, Abreu, Javier, etc., some new guys will need to step up in the rankings to fill the void. For the purposes of this article, I will highlight two Astros prospects who I think will be among the 2021 national preseason top-100 prospects lists.
Baseball Prospectus already has Pena as their number 100 prospect heading into the 2020 season. However, he is not among the top 250 prospects according to Fantrax nor is he on MLB Pipeline’s top 100. I expect that to change in the near future.
Pena’s calling card is his glove. The best pure shortstop in the Astros system not named Carlos Correa or Alex Bregman, he was considered one of the top defenders in all of the 2018 draft class. The Astros took a chance on him in the third round expecting that his bat would come around. In his first full season as a pro, it did.
In 2019, across 109 games combined for A Quad Cities and A+ Fayetteville, he slashed .303/.385/.440 with 28 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases. Baseball Savant’s scouting report on him notes that “Pena makes regular contact to all fields and has a patient approach. He has the strength to do some damage at the plate and the Astros are working with him to try to unlock some power in his right-handed swing. He has solid speed and an aggressive nature on the bases.”
Pena struggled a bit in the 2019 Arizona Fall League where he hit just .183 in 24 games and it remains to be seen whether he can produce numbers similar to his 2019 numbers as 2019 is his only full professional season. But he has looked okay at the plate in his time with the Big League club in 2020 Spring Training and if he can replicate his 2019 numbers in 2020 at AA, we could be looking at the Astros top prospect come this time next year.
Enoli Paredes is a hard-throwing (reaches 99 mph) righty with a wipe-out curveball (70-grade FV per Fangraphs) and a Major League average slider. Like Pena, he is currently overlooked by national prospects rankings. But with a solid showing in 2020 that could change quickly.
The majority of his appearances so far in pro ball have been in relief and his power stuff plays well out of the pen. But in 2019, 12 of his 22 appearances were starts. This season should give us some more clarity on the Astros’ plan for the 24 year old, whether they want to groom him as a starter or allow him to use his powerful arsenal in short stints out of the bullpen. Either way, there is a lot to like about Paredes. In those 22 appearances in 2019, he pitched 94 combined innings for A+ Fayetteville and AA Corpus Christi with a 2.87 ERA and a 0.979 WHIP while striking out 12.3 per 9 innings. His 4.0 BB/9 could be cleaned up a little and hopefully another year of maturity will help with that.
Paredes is fun to watch as he is not the prototypical big body power pitcher (listed at 5’11”- 168 lbs) but he uses a supremely athletic delivery to generate his power. His Fangraphs scouting report notes that “he is arguably the best athlete in this system, and it’s incredible that he’s able to stay balanced over his landing leg despite taking a gargantuan, max-effort stride toward home. So deep is the bend in Paredes’ landing leg, so low to the ground is he at release, that his fastballs approach hitters at a very flat angle that they seem to struggle with.”
After a few impressive showings early in Big League Spring Training, Enoli will likely start the 2020 season at AA Corpus Christi where he will look to continue to light up the radar gun while honing his command. A call up to AAA Round Rock is inevitable as long as he repeats what he was able to do in 2019 and a late summer call up to Houston is not out of the question if he is able to take a step forward with his command. Either way, another strong showing this season will put Enoli Paredes on the national prospect radar and give him a chance to land on some top-100 lists heading into 2021, provided he doesn’t graduate from prospect eligibility in 2020.
Which Astros prospects do you think will end up on national preseason top-100 lists in 2021? Join the conversation on Twitter @AstrosFuture.
**Photo Credit: Joe Dwyer**