The Houston Astros are roughly three weeks into scheduled games of the Grapefruit League. With that, there has been 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 am going with a well-known prospect, here it’s but hard to ignore the play that Díaz has shown this spring. Over the last week, Díaz went 7-for-14 with four doubles and one RBI. This included a single Thursday hit 109.5 mph off of Jack Flaherty and a hit off of Justin Verlander. Overall this spring, the right hander is hitting .308 in 26 at-bats. He is doing what we know he can, hit the ball and hit it well.
Díaz also has shown well with the arm. On Tuesday, he threw out Jon Berti trying to steal second. Berti led the Major league with 41 stolen bases last year. The bat is going to play, but continued improvement behind the plate can help Díaz get to the Majors quicker and help him turn into a star at the catcher position. -Jimmy Price
Honorable Mention: César Salazar
Hitter – Korey Lee
In the battle to be Martín Maldonado‘s backup to start the season, Lee is leading the charge offensively. The 24 year old made his 10th Grapefruit League appearance Thursday, moving his spring line to 6-for-19 with one double, two home runs, five RBI and one stolen base. Lee also walked once through that stretch, striking out three times in the process.
Defensively, Lee continued to show off his 70-grade arm, but the talk of this week was his play at first base. On Monday, Lee, who made one start last season at the position, appeared off the bench, taking over at first base for José Abreu. Playing just two innings in the field, he put away his one chance he had. Lee and Díaz, who played 36 games at first base last season, will continue to flex versatility this spring, possibly seeing time in left field, too. -Kenny Van Doren
Honorable Mention: Shay Whitcomb
Pitcher – Hunter Brown
I am going with another known here, but Brown had a big week, too. After struggling his first two outings, Brown showed why he is the Astros top prospect on Sunday. The right-hander struck out three batters over three perfect innings. More importantly, it only took him 34 pitches and 26 of those pitches were for strikes. Brown even continued throwing in the bullpen, following his start.
His development this year is going to be key. With the departure of Justin Verlander and the injury to Lance McCullers Jr., Brown is going to be counted on to eat innings and pitch well. He has the talent and has shown the ability at the Major League level already to be an impact pitcher. The 2023 season should be a big year for him. -Jimmy Price
Honorable Mention: Ronel Blanco
Pitcher – Matt Ruppenthal
Following an All-Star showing in the Arizona Fall League, Ruppenthal carried his success into spring training as a non-roster invitee. He made his sixth appearance of the Grapefruit League on Thursday, picking up a a save against the St. Louis Cardinals in a one-hit inning.
Ruppenthal hasn’t walked a batter in 5.2 total innings of work this spring. He has collected five strikeouts and has flashed a 91.4 mph sinker, an 81.4 mph sweeper and an 81.6 mph curveball. Ruppenthal, who saw limited time in Sugar Land last season, is on track to start the year in Triple-A with the Space Cowboys, vying for a bullpen seat with the Astros in 2024. -Kenny Van Doren
Honorable Mention: Jose Betances