The Houston Astros followed the Chicago Cubs blueprint in building for their World Series win in 2017. They traded veterans, acquired prospects and lost a bunch of games. Those losses gave them high picks in the draft and they acquired a number of other top prospects with those picks. They probably would have traded Jose Altuve if another team had expressed an interest in him, but he was a bit on the short side and still not an All Star. Once the George Springers and Carlos Correa’s developed into major leaguers the Astros reversed themselves and began trading some of their surplus prospects to take them into the playoffs. The organization is still stacked with prospects waiting for their turn to show the Astros what they can do.
Pitching is their strength, though they could trade a couple of those prospects to grab a more reliable veteran. Forest Whitley at 6′7 may be the best of the pitching prospects with his mid to high 90s fastball. He was the Astros first round pick in 2016, the 17th pick in the draft, climbing from Low A to AA where he combined to strikeout 143 batters in just 92 innings. Last year he only threw 91 innings so the Astros will gobble up innings in the minor leagues before they expose him to the toil of the major leagues. Expect him to see a role towards the end of the 2018 season.
David Paulino, another 6′7″ tower had settled into the rotation last year until a drug failure forced him to end the season early. With his character tainted it will be interesting what role he plays next year. His fastball also hits the mid to high 90s but he has had trouble staying healthy. That health and the drug suspension have limited him to a high of 85 innings in 2016 since signing in 2010. Last year he survived 43 innings before being suspended. Expect him to start the season in AAA to limit his innings and get his mojo back.
The hardest thrower may be Jandel Gustave, who regularly hits triple digits with his fastball. He blew out his elbow in April and missed all of 2017. With his lack of command and secondary pitches his best use is in the bullpen, but with his Aroldis Chapman type heat he could be their closer of the future. He will need to spend some time in the minors to regain arm strength after the surgery.
Other pitchers on the cusp are the 2017 first round pick J.B. Bukauskas, who stands only 6′0″ but still throws in the mid-90s. A college drafted pitcher with good secondary offerings he should rise quickly after beginning his career in short season. Expect a quick rise to AA in 2018. Cionel Perez is a lefthander signed out of Cuba. He does not throw hard but has a mixture of pitches to keep hitters off balance. Elian Rodriguez is another Cuban signing who throws hard but lacks command. A 30/19 walk to whiff ratio in 25 innings tells the tale on him, though the Astros shelled out $1.9 million to sign him.
On the position side Kyle Tucker is their top prospect. He is the younger brother of Preston Tucker who played briefly for the Astros. While Kyle has the potential to be an All Star Preston is more a fourth outfielder utility type. Preston has the speed to play center but the arm to fit in right. The power bat was explosive enough to slug 25 homeruns last year.
Colin Moran led the NCAA in RBIs, which led to him being drafted by the Marlins in the first round in 2013. His bat fell silent with the Marlins and they accepted their losses trading him to the Astros for Jarred Cosart. Last year Moran had a break out season with 18 homeruns in 79 games. This led to a promotion to Houston where after three games he fouled a pitch off his face and missed the rest of the season. Whether he can replicate his production last year is open to question, but Alex Bregman seems to have this position sewn up to begin the 2018 season.
Yordan Alvarez was one of many Cubans signed by the Dodgers. They traded him to the Astros for Josh Fields. Yordan has a left handed bat with the potential for power at 6′5″ and 230 pounds. His defensive tools for the outfield need work but at 20 years old the Astros can show some patience with him.
J.D. Davis is another third baseman who projects for power. Last year he hit 30 homeruns, with four of those swatted in the major leagues. His defense is not as strong as Bregman or Moran so he may have to wait his turn or move to first base to get his opportunity. His legs do not carry a lot of speed to fit in the outfield.
A.J. Reed and Teoscar Hernandez have seen too much time in the major leagues to be considered prospects. There is no room for them on the major league roster so expect them to bide their time in the minor leagues. A.J. Reed carries power at the first base position. Teoscar is a good defensive outfielder for centerfield who lacks power but has a good hit tool. A good spring may give him a roster spot as a fourth outfielder.