by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Houston Astros have long been viewed as the owner of one of the strongest farm systems in the league. While that’s not necessarily the case anymore, thanks to a series of graduations, the system certainly isn’t void of talent. As it is we’re omitting Yuliesky Gurriel, who theoretically is eligible, as there are a trio of impressive pitchers at the top. Let’s take a look:
1) Francis Martes – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017
Acquired from Miami back in 2014, Martes was impressive in his first full season at Double-A as he posted a 3.30 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. His control took a small step backwards, though no one is going to complain about a 3.4 BB/9 (he was at 2.5 in ’15) when you generate a 9.4 K/9 and 1.00 GO/AO (he owns a 1.19 mark over the course of his career).
A hard thrower, reports have his curveball as being his best secondary offering with his changeup taking dramatic steps forward as well. If he can master the latter the upside is tremendous, though being listed at 6’1” is going to give some people concern. Regardless he has ace-like stuff and could arrive before long.
2) Kyle Tucker – Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
His brother, Preston, is also an Astros’ prospect though Kyle holds the better potential at this point. The fifth overall selection in 2015, he hit 9 HR with 32 SB over 432 AB as he split time between two levels of Single-A. He did post a 17.5% strikeout rate at Single-A, and while it did drop to 8.7% upon his promotion to High-A it was in too small of a sample size (69 PA) to draw conclusions from. It’s something to watch, though at his age (he’ll turn 20 prior to the ’17 season) he has time to figure it out.
At 6’4” expectations are that his power grows as he matures, and with 25 doubles and 7 triples that’s easy to imagine. Sure it could come at the expense of a little bit of speed, but a potential 20/20 outfielder is easy to get excited about.
3) David Paulino – Right Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
Paulino got 7.0 innings in the Majors last season, though they were rather underwhelming (5.14 ERA). For a pitcher who accumulated a 10.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 across three levels (90.0 IP) in the minors, that shouldn’t be a major cause for concern. The 6’7” hard thrower has the potential to be an ace, though there’s always the chance that he instead settles in as a lights out reliever. The latter would appear to be a last resort of sorts, and would only happen if his changeup doesn’t continue developing or if the team decides he can’t handle the workload needed from a starter (he’s thrown 203.1 innings in his career, though he lost 2014 due to Tommy John surgery).
4) Forrest Whitley – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
The team’s 2016 first round selection impressed over his first 18.2 IP, putting up 26 K vs. 6 BB. At his age (19-years old) and size (6’7”), that’s highly impressive and could be a glimpse of things to come. He also should benefit from being overshadowed by Francis Martes and David Paulino, allowing him to develop while the others get the accolades. Don’t mistake things here, though, Whitley’s upside is arguably just as high as the team’s other two top pitching prospects.
5) Derek Fisher – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2017
Strikeouts… Strikeouts… Strikeouts… Sure he showed a good eye at the plate (83 BB), but it’s impossible to ignore his 154 K over 478 AB. He did show an improvement upon being promoted to Triple-A, though the limited AB at the level make it hard to get overly excited:
- Double-A (448 PA) – 28.6%
- Triple-A (118 PA) – 22.0%
If he can continue along that Triple-A path, for a player with 21 home runs and 28 stolen bases there is a ton to like. However, if his Double-A mark proves to be closer to the truth the overall upside will ultimately be capped.
6) Franklin Perez – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
7) Teoscar Hernandez – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
8) J.D. Davis – Third Baseman (Grade – C+)
9) Garrett Stubbs – Catcher (Grade – C+)
Note: This may be a bit of a stretch, but he has strong defense and also hit .304 with 10 HR (as well as 22 doubles and 1 triple) over 326 AB last season. The biggest question is his size (5’10”), but if he can overcome that he’s proving to have true potential.
10) Anibal Sierra – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, MLB.com
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: