The Houston Astros completed their Grapefruit League schedule and their two exhibition games with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. With that, there were plenty of opportunities for prospects to play with the Major League club and show what they can do. Below are a few prospects that stood out to Jimmy Price and Kenny Van Doren.
Hitter – Yainer Díaz
I’m pretty sure Díaz has been on this list before, but with his performance, it has been hard to not have him on here again. Díaz finished spring training hitting .325 with seven doubles, one home run and eight RBI in 40 at-bats. Then Monday, in the exhibition game between the Astros and Space Cowboys, Díaz connected on a solo home run to right field.
This hot spring, along with what he has done in the minors, helped Díaz secure on a spot on the Opening Day roster. He wasn’t the only catcher to make it either. While Martín Maldonado was the obvious one, César Salazar also made the team as the backup catcher. Díaz is going to get chances as the designated hitter and possibly at first base and in the outfield, too. The kid can hit, and he will get a good chance to show what he can do now. -Jimmy Price
Honorable Mention: Justin Dirden
Pitcher – Forrest Whitley
Whitley has been around a long time and was once considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Despite some set backs, Whitley has continued to put in the work, and after a solid spring, he turned in a masterful performance against the Astros in an exhibition game Tuesday night.
The right-hander was dominant against the Astros’ top lineup, tossing 3.2 innings and allowing just one run (scored after he left) while striking out five with no walks. His velocity was great: up to 96.7 MPH on the fastball/sinker with an average of 95.1 MPH. He also had exceptional velocity on his slider, clocking one in at 92.5 MPH. Whitley looks to be back in top form and could be a huge development for the Astros in 2023. -Jimmy Price
Honorable Mention: J.P. France
Hitter – Corey Julks
Following 31 home runs and 22 stolen bases in Triple-A last season, Julks showed up to Major League camp with the same hot bat. The 27 year old played his way to the next level, having his contract selected from Triple-A Sugar Land to be on the Opening Day roster.
Through 18 spring training contests — a career high — Julks slashed .275/.318/.550 with three doubles, one triple and two home runs, clubbing a two-run shot Sunday in the final Grapefruit League game. The non-roster invitee scored six runs and stole one base, striking out roughly 18% of the time with three walks. His continued success at the plate kept him on the Astros’ roster out of camp. –Kenny Van Doren
Honorable Mention: Will Wagner
Pitcher – Ronel Blanco
In his final audition for the Astros’ bullpen, Blanco tossed three scoreless innings in his start against the Space Cowboys on Monday. The right-hander struck out two batters, issuing one walk and yielding a single to Grae Kessinger, who made the most of his Sugar Land debut. Blanco threw 19 of his 33 pitches for strikes, touching 95.8 mph on his four-seam fastball and generating five whiffs. Houston named Blanco to the Opening Day bullpen. -Kenny Van Doren
Honorable Mention: Ronny Garcia
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