Top 10 Prospects (2018): Houston Astros: Is The Value Behind The Two Elite Prospects?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There is no question that the Astros own two of the elite prospects in the game with a handful of other intriguing options behind them.  After that?  Things get murky, in part thanks to the trades they’ve made en route to a World Series title and the upcoming pursuit of another one.  Obviously no one is going to complain, as flags fly forever, but it’s something to keep in mind as we explore what’s left.  Who has the upside?  Who could take a step forward in ’18?  Let’s take a look at how things currently stack up:

 

1) Kyle Tucker – Outfielder
ETA – 2018
Grade – A

Splitting time between High-A and Double-A Tucker hit .274 with 25 HR and 21 SB.  He backed up the power with 33 doubles and 5 triples, showing that there’s potentially more upside (he could pop a 30 HR season at any time) and there’s little reason to think that the speed will completely disappear.  Maybe he doesn’t steal 20+ bases annually, but he has 10+ SB potential.

There is a bit of swing and miss to his game, with a 13.2% SwStr% overall last season.  He improved the mark upon reaching Double-A though, at 12.6%, which is extremely promising and led to a 20.1% strikeout rate.  That shows the potential to improve, and even if he simply keeps it in the 25-26% range when coupled with his power and speed there’s no reason to think he won’t post a solid average (in other words, there isn’t the risk of a sub-.250 hitter).

 

2) Forrest Whitley – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2019
Grade – A

The 17th overall selection in the 2016 draft, Whitley pitched across three levels last season (92.1 IP, including 14.2 at Double-A) and flashed enough of the skills we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 13.94 K/9 (17.7% SwStr%)
  • Control – 3.31 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 38.1%

The most notable number is the walks, considering he pitched the year as a 19-year old and stands 6’7”.  Typically it takes taller pitchers time to find their control, but Whitley actually got better as he advanced (2.59 BB/9 at High-A, 2.45 at Double-A).  Considering the way Houston appears to be pushing him it’s not unthinkable that he arrives late in ’18, but 2019 is far more likely.  Either way he is looking like a top of the rotation starter with ace potential.

 

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3) J.B. Bukauskas – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2020
Grade – B+

Bukauskas was selected 15th overall and while he only got 10.0 innings after being selected it was enough time to flash how good he can be (21.3% SwStr%, 58.3% groundball rate).  Listed at 6’0” there are going to be questions as to whether or not he can hold up to starting every five days, or if his two-pitch mix will be better suited for the bullpen (where he’d instantly be dubbed a potential closer of the future).

The Astros will obviously give him an opportunity to thrive as a starter, and if he can develop his changeup he will have the upside of a top of the rotation starter.  If he does shift to the bullpen he’ll arrive in 2019, and that could be how he initially gets his feet wet.

 

4) Yordan Alvarez – First Baseman/Outfielder
ETA – 2019
Grade – B+

Alvarez played at Single-A (139 PA) and High-A (252 PA) and showed a good approach as he posted an 8.6% SwStr% and 10.7% walk rate.  He didn’t show much power, with 12 HR (as well as 17 doubles and 3 triples), but listed at 6’5” and 225 lbs. he looks the part of a power hitter.  We’ve also seen players with terrific strike zone presence mature and develop power as they progress (think Josh Bell) and it’s possible that Alvarez takes a similar path.  He won’t turn 21-years old until June, and it’s possible the power comes quickly.

 

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5) David Paulino – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B

No one is going to question the stuff, though the 80-game suspension a year ago does cast a cloud over him.  The other big issue is the potential to give up a lot of home runs, which plagued him during his six starts in the Majors last season (9 HR over 29.0 IP).

Those two things do cause concern, but you also can’t overlook the pure quality of his stuff.  At 6’7” and with an impressive three-pitch repertoire he has the look of a potential ace.  The question is going to be if he can overcome the obvious issues or if he’ll be ticketed for a role in the bullpen.

 

The Rest:
6) J.D. Davis – Third Baseman (Grade – B)
7) Corbin Martin – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
8) Rogelio Armenteros – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
9) Garrett Stubbs – Catcher (Grade – B-)
10) Cionel Perez – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

** ORDER OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE TODAY **
Order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $7.50!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

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