Astros Top 30 Prospects For 2021
With the season inching closer, it is time to look at the Astros Top 30 prospects for 2021. While the system isn’t what is once was, I still think there is a really good group of prospects here and I’m excited to see how they perform in 2021.
1. Jeremy Pena, SS
Level: A+ 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. On the offensive side, Pena has added weight and improved his power, evident by his .440 slugging in 2019. He has a solid understanding of the strike zone and has the ability to draw walks and limit his strikeouts while also being a threat to steal bases. He was really due to breakout in 2020 at AA (despite already landing on top 100 lists) but hopefully that breakout will come in 2021. He performed well in the Dominican Winter League in 2020 posting a .779 OPS in 30 games.
2. Forrest Whitley, RHP
Level: AAA DOB: 09/15/97
At this point, everyone knows who Forrest Whitley is. He has been the Astros top pitching prospect 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 the last couple seasons. A suspension and a few nagging injuries has held him back. Whitley possesses a fastball that 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. It appears now that after a UCL sprain, Forrest will be having Tommy John surgery ending his 2021 season, and maybe his 2022 season as well.
3. Pedro Leon, OF
Level: N/A DOB: 05/28/98
The Astros were rumored to be the favorites for Leon for quite a while but COVID threw a wrench in the plans. He was eventually signed in January of this year for $4 million. He is seen as a fast riser due to his age (22) but also due to his physical skillset. He has a short and compact swing with power to all fields. He also possesses an above-average arm in the outfield and is a plus runner on the bases. James Click referred to him as a true five tool prospect. The last stats on him are from the 2018-2019 season in Cuba where he slashed .383/.467/.789 with 15 HR in just 33 games. This is a guy Astros fans should be very excited about.
4. Luis Garcia, RHP
Level: MLB DOB: 12/13/96
Garcia was originally signed by the Astros as a 20 year old out of Venezuela. He put together a breakout year in 2019 as he struck out 168 over 108.2 innings. He has a mid 90s fastball and a plus changeup along with a solid slider. Garcia possesses a stocky build too, one that you can project a lot of innings in. He made his MLB debut in the 2020 season posting a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings. He also tossed two scoreless innings in the playoffs. Garcia should be a contributor in 2021.
5. Alex Santos, RHP
Level: N/A DOB: 02/10/02
Santos was drafted by the Astros in the 2nd round of the 2020 MLB draft. Due to COVID, he was unable to make his professional debut. Santos has a mid 90s fastball with a high spin rate and pairs that with two solid secondary offerings, a curveball and a changeup. He also is a good athlete at 6-3, 215 lbs. Santos has an extremely high ceiling and hopefully can put together some good innings in 2021.
6. Tyler Ivey, RHP
Level: AA 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 and then was unable to log any professional innings in 2020 due to COVID. 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.
7. Korey Lee, C
Level: A- DOB: 07/25/98
Lee took a big step forward in 2019 at Cal, emerging as the team’s top offensive weapon. 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 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 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.
8. Freudis Nova, SS
Level: A 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 in 2019, he struggled with the plate discipline managing just 15 BB/68 K. He still has an extremely high ceiling and is only 21 years old.
9. Colin Barber, OF
Level: Rookie 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. In 2019, as an 18 year old, he performed well with a .780 OPS in 28 games. He has a ton of potential and could really climb the ranks with a good performance in 2021.
10. Bryan Abreu, RHP
Level: MLB 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. He got some time in the pen in 2019 and 2020 and hopefully he can carve out a role on the roster in 2021.
11. Jairo Solis, RHP
Level: A DOB: 12/22/99
Unfortunately stuck on the shelf for a couple years 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 an above-average starter and can finally get back on the field in 2021.
12. Hunter Brown, RHP
Level: A- 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 2021.
13. Zach Daniels, OF
Level: N/A DOB: 01/23/99
Daniels had two pretty rough seasons in college before putting it together as a junior at Tennessee. While he only played in 17 games (before the season was cancelled due to COVID) he slashed .357/.478/.750 with 8 2B, 4 HR, and 3 SB. Daniels possesses above-average power and above-average speed making him one of the most intriguing prospects in the Astros’ system. Baseball America wrote that he is the prospect with the most power, best athlete and fastest baserunner in the system.
14. Enoli Paredes, RHP
Level: MLB 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. The Astros ended up calling him up in 2020 and he posted a 3.05 ERA with 20 K in 20.2 innings.
15. Shawn Dubin, RHP
Level: A+ 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, touching 99, 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. Even if he doesn’t make it as a starter, he has a solid enough two-pitch combo to be effective in the pen.
16. Brett Conine, RHP
Level: AA 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.
17. Grae Kessinger, SS
Level: A 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 in 2019. 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.
18. Dauri Lorenzo, SS
Level: N/A 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.
19. Brandon Bielak, RHP
Level: MLB 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.
20. Chas McCormick, OF
Level: AAA 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.
21. Jairo Lopez, RHP
Level: A- 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 is athletic and has solid stuff but will need to continue to refine his off-speed offerings to stick in the rotation.
22. Tyler Brown, RHP
Level: N/A DOB: 10/02/98
Brown was drafted by the Astros in the 3rd round of the 2020 draft after dominating college baseball in relief. He was a closer for Vanderbilt for the last two seasons and in 2019 he put up a really good year with 9 BB/65 K in 49.1 innings while picking up 17 saves and a 2.19 ERA. He was off to another good start in 2020 (14 K in 10.2 IP) before COVID cancelled the remainder of the season. Brown has a mid 90s fastball that he mixes with a solid slider. He is a big pitcher, standing at 6-4 and 240 lbs which leads some scouts to think he can maybe transition to a starter.
23. Jordan Brewer, OF
Level: A- 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.
24. Jojanse Torres, RHP
Level: A+ 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.
25. Peter Solomon, RHP
Level: A+ 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.
26. Shay Whitcomb, SS
Level: N/A DOB: 09/28/98
Whitcomb was the Astros 5th round pick in the 2020 MLB draft out of UC San Diego. He is a big bodied shortstop, standing at 6-3 and 202 lbs. He had success every year in college and continued to improve going from a .869 OPS as a freshman, to a .984 OPS as a sophomore, to a 1.008 OPS as a senior. In 57 games as a sophomore he had 25 doubles and 11 homeruns, showing off some of his power. He has also maintained good walk to strikeout ratios with 84 BB/105 K in 136 college games. Another positive sign, he went to Cape Cod League in 2019 and had 9 2B, 8 HR and a .976 OPS in 34 games.
27. Nathan Perry, C
Level: A- DOB: 07/07/99
Perry was drafted out of Bassett High School in Virginia in the 5th round of the 2017 draft. Perry is a well built catcher, listed at 6’2″ and 195 lbs. Perry has the power for the size and has an aggressive uphill swing. Perry’s ceiling is almost as high as Lee’s. He took big strides in 2019 where he played in Tri-City at just 19 years old and hit 11 2B and 12 HR in 67 games. Some scouts have noted he is a bit slow behind the plate and may move to first base, but for now the Astros will continue to groom him at the catcher position.
28. Taylor Jones, 1B
Level: MLB 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. 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.
29. Richi Gonzalez, OF
Level: N/A DOB: 12/29/02
Gonzalez was signed by the Astros in the 2019 International free agent signing period out of the Dominican Republic. Gonzalez is 6-3 and 185 lbs with plenty of projection left. He has the tools to stay in center field and could be a breakout guy in 2021. While there isn’t a ton of information on him right now, he has a lot of upside and will be one to watch.
30. Valente Bellozo, RHP
Level: MLB ETA: 2019 DOB: 06/30/94
Bellozo was really an unknown prospect coming into the 2019 season. He was signed out of Mexico by the Astros in 2017 for an undisclosed amount (but less than $300,000). He pitched well in the DSL in 2018 before making his stateside debut in 2019. He dominated in 2019 posting a 1.70 ERA with 12 BB/69 K in 58.1 innings.
**Photo Credit: Joe Dwyer**