Hello! Apollo’s resident prospect writer, in for my bi-annual appearance. The 2022 draft and signing period has concluded, the trade deadline has come and gone. Below will be a top-down, thorough detailing of the state of Houston’s farm system. I like to include a “reminds me of” comparison at the end of my blurbs, but those are not projections. They are, however, meant to give an idea of the player archetype. Chart above, analysis with stats and video clips of each player to follow.
You can compare it to my preseason report, if you’d like.
|#1. Hunter Brown||23||RHSP||AAA||2022|
|#2. Drew Gilbert||21||OF||N/A||2025|
|#3. Pedro Leon||24||CF/IF||AAA||2023|
|#4. Colin Barber||21||OF||A+||2024|
|#5. Yainer Diaz||23||C/1B||AAA||2023|
|#6. Korey Lee||24||C||AAA||2022|
|#7. Jacob Melton||22||OF||N/A||2025|
|#8. Ryan Clifford||18||1B/OF||ROK||2027|
|#9. Alex Santos II||20||RHP||A||2025|
|#10. David Hensley||26||UTIL||AAA||2023|
|#11. Joe Perez||22||3B/1B||AA||2023|
|#12. Michael Knorr||22||RHSP||N/A||2025|
|#13. Jayden Murray||25||RHSP||AA||2023|
|#14. Misael Tamarez||22||RHP||AA||2024|
|#15. Andrew Taylor||21||RHP||N/A||2026|
|#16. Forrest Whitley||24||RHP||AAA||2023|
|#17. Spencer Arrighetti||22||RHP||A+||2025|
|#18. Luke Berryhill||24||C||AA||2023|
|#19. Jaime Melendez||20||RHP||AA||2025|
|#20. Shawn Dubin||26||RHP||AAA||2022|
|#21. Logan Cerny||22||CF||A||2025|
|#22. Cristian Gonzalez||20||SS||A+||2025|
|#23. Parker Mushinski||26||LHP||AAA||2022|
|#24. Quincy Hamilton||24||OF||A+||2024|
|#25. Will Wagner||24||2B/3B||AA||2024|
|#26. Zach Dezenzo||22||3B/COF||N/A||2025|
|#27. Tyler Whitaker||20||IF/OF||A||2027|
|#28. Miguel Ullola||20||RHP||A||2026|
|#29. Colin Price||22||C/OF||A||2025|
|#30. J.P. France||27||RHP||AAA||2023|
|#31. J.J Matijevic||26||1B/COF||AAA||2022|
|#32. Nolan DeVos||21||RHP||N/A||2025|
|#33. Joey Loperfido||23||1B/2B/OF||A+||2025|
|#34. Trey Dombroski||21||LHSP||N/A||2025|
|#35. Justin Dirden||24||OF||AA||2023|
|#36. Luis Baez||18||OF/1B||ROK||2027|
|#37. Jimmy Endersby||24||RHP||AAA||2023|
|#38. Kenedy Corona||22||OF||A+||2024|
|#39. J.C Correa||23||C/2B/3B||A+||2024|
|#40. Tyler Guilfoil||21||RHP||N/A||2026|
#1. Hunter Brown (RHSP, 23, AAA, ETA: 2022)
Fastball: 60/70, Slider: 60/60, Curveball: 70/70, Changeup: 40/50, Command: 35/45. AVG 95.8 MPH, T100.
Hunter Brown is an impact talent who would immediately make nearly any pitching staff better when called up, including Houston. If you’d like a more in-depth analysis of Brown and his arsenal, you can read my piece from May here.
I’ll save a full reiteration of movement profiles and Vertical Attack Angle and arm action and batted ball data for you to check out if you want to click that link, but in summary; in that piece I noted that Brown has made a leap in 2022. He’s really in a tier of his own in Houston’s system, and can help out the team either as a leverage reliever or starting pitcher as soon as possible. Brown has a 113.3 Stuff+ and a 102.6 Location+ through 831 pitches in the PCL, averaging just over 60 pitches an outing. He’s running a 30% whiff rate on his four seam, more than that on the curve, with the slider just behind. For someone pegged with 30 grade command on many outlets, Brown’s newfound ability to place his pitches in above-average locations while fine-tuning some truly ridiculous breaking stuff has turned him from a high-volatility lottery ticket into a top 50 overall prospect with attainable, and maybe even actualized, frontline starter upside. He’s the best pitcher in the PCL by nearly any metric you want to look at, and one of the game’s premier pitching prospects. He should be in top 50 lists.
Reminds Me Of: Dylan Cease – although you can clearly see the Justin Verlander influences in his mannerisms and delivery.
#2. Drew Gilbert (OF, 21, Unassigned, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 45/65, Power: 35/55, Field: 50/60, Run: 55, Arm: 60.
Drew Gilbert was the Astros first round pick in 2022, and I forgot how nice it feels to be able to be excited about a first rounder again. The University of Tennessee center fielder slashed .362/.455/.1.128 against SEC competition while playing excellent defense, and heard his name called at pick 28 to Houston. At 5’9/185, he’s a remarkably connected, sturdy athlete with easy 60 grade bat speed that produced max exit velocities around 111 MPH. He gets close to the max often, with a 94.1 MPH average exit velo, but most of his hard contact is on the ground because he lets the ball get a little too deep. The Astros are likely going to employ more of an approach tweak than a swing path change to get him to lift the ball more. If Gilbert adapts, he could put up some gaudy slash lines as a pro thanks to his athleticism, barrel dexterity, and sticky plate skills. Gilbert’s hit tool is even more impressive when you combine it with a nearly immaculate plate approach – his chase rate dropped to 15% while still managing to swing at more quality pitches than ever in 2022, and a near-90% in-zone contact rate playing in the SEC indicates some premier bat-to-ball skills. Unlike many fliers on toolsy premium position defenders, neither hit tool nor plate approach lack for Gilbert – they may even be his calling cards.
Defensively, Gilbert profiles as an average-to-above average center fielder, and if he were ever to move off to right field (he certainly does not have to, and should stick in center), he’d be an absolute premium defender there, with great range and a plus arm, all the way up to 95 from a mound. I’ve seen his routes get circuitious, but he’s an excellent athlete with generally good instincts who is a definitively professional center fielder. The arm, as mentioned, is plus with true carry and on-line throws. With the right approach tweak at the plate, Gilbert could be a quick mover as the center fielder of Houston’s future.
Reminds me of: Andrew Benintendi, little more raw pop.
#3. Pedro Leon (OF/IF, 24, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 35/50, Power: 55/60, Field (OF) 50/60, Field (IF) 35/45, Run: 70, Arm: 80.
Leon would be less of a big deal in most systems, but where Houston’s organization has excelled in churning out decent major leaguers with maybe one or two exceptional tools, he’s one of the few intriguing physical freaks left. Massive rotational pull-side power headlines the package, a cannon of an arm from both infield and outfield follows, and Leon eats up infield dirt like a Dyson vacuum as he wheels into second base on steal attempts. All this comes from a 5’9 frame that looks a little bit like those Lil’ Astros twitter posts come to life.
I have a full-length piece on Leon from earlier this year as well, so if you’d like to read that, here it is. I’ll condense my takeaways, and add as necessary, here. Leon’s offensive profile is super weird, in that he hunts offspeeds and low pitches generally. I don’t even necessarily want to say that he struggles against fastballs, but he is an extremely patient low-ball hitter and looks to demolish sliders and curves down in the zone, ignoring most other offerings. A 90 MPH average EV, a 113.3 max, and a 105 80th percentile gives him the plus power grade I’ve designated. Leon has seen his in-zone contact rates surge as he gets used to professional pitching this season, up to a non-problematic 84.4 Z-Con%, which bodes well for further refinement of the hit tool towards league average. He swings out of his shoes, leading to slightly above average whiff rates that raise not quite red, but maybe orange flags. Regardless, when Leon hits the ball he does so extremely hard, and often at the right launch angles, which can balloon the BABIP. Perhaps overly patient, he also generally makes good swing decisions. If Leon can just adjust to the fastball a little better, there’s all-star upside at premium defensive positions in both the infield and outfield. He’s a capable center fielder as is, where he should stick, and can operate as an emergency middle infielder.
Reminds me of: Ramon Laureano
#4. Colin Barber (OF, 21, A+, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 40/65, Power: 40/50, Field: 50/55, Run: 50/50, Arm: 45.
Shelved due to a shoulder surgery at the tail end of last year, Barber was Houston’s over-slot selection in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. With a supreme understanding of the strike zone, good bat-to-ball skills, and some developing pull-side power, Houston drafted Barber with the hope of an impact center fielder down the line. And it looks like a fantastic strategy, as Barber’s hit tool has only gotten better each year in the system, and his plate discipline sets up a fantastic floor for pro ball. This season, he’s got the highest in-zone contact rate in the entire system.
At time of writing, Colin Barber is slashing .306/.414/.474, good for a 147 wRC+ and playing all three outfield positions in A+ Asheville. While adept at spraying the ball all over, Barber’s home run power is mostly limited to the pull side, which he gets to often through a smooth, compact and controlled lefty swing. He has solid walk to strikeout ratios, a healthy blend of pull-side game power and speed, and is generally doing everything right. I don’t get to watch Asheville as much as I do other Astros affiliates, but I was always impressed with Barber’s understanding of the strike zone and competitive at-bats. He profiles as an on-base minded center fielder with 20 home run pop for now, with some tweener defensive risk if he continues to fill out more. He should see a Double-A assignment very soon at only 21 years old, and is still one of my favorites in the system to crack a top 100 list by end-of-season if he performs well there – especially if the hit tool and contact rate holds up against AA quality breakers.
Reminds me of: Brandon Nimmo.
#5. Yainer Diaz (C/1B, 23, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 50/60, Power: 60/60, Field: 40/45, Run: 20, Arm: 55.
Yainer managed to leapfrog all the catchers. I had very smart people who were telling me he’s better than Korey Lee since last season (I think they’re extremely close, they just have very different skills), so now I’ll convey it to you. Diaz has a bonkers 95 MPH average exit velocity on his line drives and fly balls. His 111 MPH max exit velocity relays something like a 55 grade raw, but he taps into all of his power so often that I’ll grade his overall power out as plus – at 60. There’s very little noise in Yainer’s setup and he employs a deep barrel path, capable of adjusting to the outside pitch to drive it the other way, but with the rotational ability to generate whip, peppering the pull side. He can get impatient, usually doesn’t face 2 strike counts, and for the most part expands with 2 strikes, displaying an old-school mentality I don’t have a problem with – particularly because his bad-ball contact is still generally hit hard enough to produce. There’s no profound weakness here; Yainer Diaz has a legitimate stick that will, in all likelihood cash him MLB checks.
If there is a downside, it’s on the defensive end. Diaz is not a butcher behind the plate, but he finds himself in an organization that has expressed a deep reverence for exceptional catcher defense since the Evan Gattis Behind The Plate experiment. His receiving is almost adequate but doesn’t provide any defensive value, which is fine so long as the bat carries him along. Diaz employs the one-leg down setup with bases clear, helping his framing. With runners on though, he stays in the traditional catcher’s crouch, and lacks the athleticism or cannon arm to nab runners from the modern setup like Korey Lee can. The future of catching is likely rooted in timeshares, and Yainer has been playing a lot of first base in the minors. He doesn’t profile to provide any defensive value there either, with basically no range, but the modest versatility could find him in a major league majority split as a productive hitter.
Reminds me of: Willson Contreras
#6. Korey Lee (C, 24, AAA, ETA: 2022)
Hit: 35/40, Power: 50/55, Field: 50/55, Run: 50, Arm: 70
Lee was number 2 on my preseason list, so I suppose I should explain the drop. Everything positive I wrote about Lee in March still holds true, although with the caveat that it seems at the AAA level he’s overmatched on offspeed offerings. Lee is whiffing 44% of the time on non-fastballs, and that is not a recipe for success at the big league level (see; Torkelson, Kelenic). Nearly every rookie struggle you’ve ever watched comes with offspeed whiffs. He’s only 23 and the book is far from closed on his ability to improve in this aspect. It’s the only truly troublesome part of Lee’s game. Additionally, he doesn’t lift the ball quite enough to really maximize all of his decent power (109 max EV), instead stinging his fair share of ground balls and liners, which limits his ultimate offensive ceiling. Tapping into slightly more lift and improving on staying competitive with better breaking balls will ultimately determine Lee’s big league future.
Defensively, he’s a capable starting-caliber backstop with a Howitzer arm that can rival Maldonado’s. The one-leg-down setup is constant, which occasionally limits blocking ability, and there’s still some room to improve in framing. But the foundation is there for someone still relatively new to catching to be a defense-first starting catcher in the Bigs, and whatever power Lee can tap into at the highest level is going to be a plus.
Reminds me of: James McCann
#7. Jacob Melton (OF, 22, Unassigned, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 35/55, Power: 45/60, Field: 45/55, Run: 60, Arm: 55
Melton, the Astros’ second-round selection in 2022, is a really well-rounded center fielder profile without a true carrying tool, but does a lot of things well enough. His swing decisions are polarizing, as Melton’s bad decisions rate was rather high depending on whose metrics you use, but the underlying chase and contact rates are actually above average. He’s also perhaps the best breaking ball hitter in the 2022 draft, but there are questions about his ability to catch up to 95+ velocity, as he nearly never saw it in college. Regardless, it’s a short loading mechanism with good bat speed and there’s not a ton of noise in his lower half, so the Astros must have thought it projectable. A 111.7 MPH Max EV and solid 80th percentile outcomes tabs him with above average power, and the hit tool may come along even better than expected in a Houston organization that has tended to maximize these well-rounded archetypes.
Defensively, he could stick in center field as well thanks to good reads and above average speed. There’s nothing wrong with the defensive profile, although it may end up trending closer to average at the MLB level if he sticks at the premium position. Regardless, he’s so well-rounded that Melton can provide value at the corners, and a CF vacancy will not make or break his MLB career. A lot of 55s across the board on tools, and with his college performance pedigree it’s a floor over ceiling profile, but a good one to bet on.
Reminds me of: Paul O’Neill
#8. Ryan Clifford (COF/1B, 18, ROK, ETA: 2027)
Hit: 25/55, Power: 40/70, Field: 25/45, Run: 45/40, Arm: 50
Clifford signed way overslot out of the 11th round, with $1.25 million prying him away from his Vanderbilt commitment, and finally added some high school upside into an Astros system starving for it. He’s been famous ever since he was about 13, and is generally regarded as one of the better prep bats in the 2022 class. With a 109.5 MPH Max EV under his belt already at 18, there’s clear potential for massive power in the left-handed bat of Ryan Clifford. There are some moderate whiff concerns in his profile, but for the most part it’s a professional looking, controlled swing with plenty of thump behind it and an advanced feel for the strike zone that should let him walk and nuke his way into middle-of-the-order production.
Defensively, he looks a little better as a first baseman than an outfielder, but there’s rave reviews about Clifford’s work ethic, and I anticipate he’d end up be average or better at first base or right field. It’s a remarkably similar profile to Seth Beer, although Clifford is less stiff as an athlete and generally looks more projectable on the defensive side, at the expense of some certainty in the hit tool.
Reminds me of: Seth Beer
#9. Alex Santos II (RHSP, 20, A, ETA: 2025)
Fastball: 40/55, Curveball: 45/60, Slider: 40/55, Changeup: 40/50, Command: 30/50, Sits 89-93, T95.
Santos is becoming a bit of an enigma, to me, but not in a particularly worrisome way. After a velocity spike in his first professional season and an accompanying command issue (to be expected), the velocity has now disappeared on his fastball. He touched 97 last year, but I haven’t seen more than 95 yet. Alongside a non-linear velocity development track, though, comes real refinement in both of his breaking balls. This is much more of the profile I expected when getting my looks on Santos as a prep prospect: spinny breakers and a sneaky fastball that create a finesse strikeout arm, while the clean arm action and big frame let you dream on an eventual velocity uptick. He’s got four pitches now, leaning into some differentiation on his slider and curveball the way the organization likes to do, and isn’t afraid to pitch backwards.
Santos is higher up on this list than a lot of other 4-pitch RHP with backend starter profiles because of his age, and because he still isn’t mechanically maximizing. While a good athlete, he hasn’t quite shed a lanky and unfinished aura of rawness – there’s a tick or two more to tap into here, and the Astros have a very good record of getting their pitchers to do so generally, although less so with the high schoolers. If Santos’s fastball starts to creep back into the mid-90s as he gets stronger and more connected, there’s still a mid-rotation outlook and long term big league SP here.
Reminds me of: Adrian Houser
#10. David Hensley (UTIL, 26, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 50/55, Power: 50/60, Field: 50 (60 at 1B), Run: 40, Arm: 50
Hensley is a late bloomer. The 6’6 utility man taken in the 2018 draft’s 26th round has posted above average offensive production since 2019, and the more advanced data that the PCL offers props it all up as more sustainable than most. At time of writing, Hensley is slashing .287/.398/.470, good for a 121 wRC+. Hensley leads the Skeeters roster with a 114.4 MPH Max EV and his 80th percentile of 102.7 indicates he’s hitting the ball hard and often. He makes excellent swing decisions (17.5% bad decision rate), perhaps even a tad too patient, and looks like an MLB caliber bat without a hole in his approach. The most criticism I can offer is that he doesn’t lift the ball enough (4.8 degree AVG launch angle). If Hensley tweaks something to improve pullside power, ambushing fastballs especially (currently only a 25% pull rate on heaters), he could unlock some ceiling yet untouched. Still, as a floor play, he looks like one of the safest bets around to cash big league checks as a utility player. Rule 5 eligible in the offseason, I’d protect Hensley.
The reason Hensley’s value is so much higher than someone with similar offensive tools who struggles to lift the ball effectively, like Marty Costes, is because Hensley provides tremendous value in versatility and even offers plus defense. In his career, Hensley has played his fair share of every infield position, and he’s started moving out to LF as well this season. He provides tremendous value at first base, where his 6’6 frame and middle infield instincts make him a ground ball vacuum, but he also has a fairly innate ability to scoop, and is athletic enough to move around. It all profiles as more of an average second and third baseman, with the ability to play shortstop capably, although SS is not a natural position anymore. Guys this tall struggle to stick there even when they’re premium athletes, which Hensley isn’t. Still, he could spell your everyday shortstop, much Aledmys Diaz does for the big league club anyways.
Reminds me of: Ben Zobrist
#11. Joe Perez (3B/1B, 22, AA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 35/45, Power: 55/60, Field: 40/45, Run: 45, Arm: 65
Perez was added to the 40 man, and has an MLB at-bat under his belt now. After being sent down, he immediately suffered an oblique injury and is still working his way back to full health. Perez is playing games again for the Hooks, and hitting poorly. He has an intriguing power profile, with plus pullside pop and a controlled all-fields approach that leaves room for optimism on his hit tool not to crater at the upper levels. I don’t have anything to knock on with his swing decisions, although that’s not data-backed as most of my observations are. He’s seemingly slimmed down a good amount, and is running better than I remember seeing in previous years. While I was skeptical of his defensive ability in my last write-up, I’m more optimistic now that Perez can approach an average third base thanks to his cannon arm, and maybe even a better right field than I initially gave credit for.
Reminds me of: Nick Castellanos
#12. Michael Knorr (RHSP, 22, Unassigned, ETA: 2025)
Fastball: 50/55, Slider: 55/60, Curve: 40/55, Changeup: 45/55, Command: 45/55. AVG 94.4 MPH, T99.
Knorr has definite starter traits, with four offerings that all project to be average or better with some patented Houston positive development and, unlike many RHP in this mold for the system, plus command. His fastball has a fairly generic shape, at ~16 IVB from a fairly low effort 6 foot release, and he threw it in the middle of the zone a ton with Coastal Carolina, to positive results. The Astros will likely ask Knorr to start elevating it more, and work his secondaries in the zone, where they have bat-missing ability. Most notably, Knorr employs a hard biting gyro slider with more depth than is usual. I’m tabbing it as his best offspeed especially because it projects to add velo, although he rounds out his repertoire with a slow curve with excellent two-plane movement that I also like and an enigmatic changeup that missed plenty of bats at the collegiate level. Knorr holds his velocity exceptionally well, and profiles as a workhorse backend starter for now. The potential for any added gas in the package, or if any of the secondaries can be maximized, make it easy to see Knorr’s ceiling as a 3-starter. He’s a bit old for a draftee, but late bloomers happen. Watch out for another leap in stuff with a full offseason of professional strength training and pitch design.
Reminds me of: Joe Musgrove
#13. Jayden Murray (RHP, 25, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Fastball: 50/60, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 45/60, Command: 50/55, Sits 90-94, T96.
Murray is part of the Trey Mancini return, and, well. I’m going to have him a little bit higher than I did Chayce McDermott, whom the Astros gave up in that trade, even though I really liked McDermott’s outlook. There’s a lot more solid starter traits you can bank on in Murray’s profile, although he is going to need to be Rule 5 protected this offseason. Drafted in the 23rd round out of Dixie State, Murray is one of the premier testaments to Tampa Bay’s revered development system, and comes to one that isn’t too shabby itself. At 25, he’s a bit behind the curve as a senior sign who had a pro season taken away from him in 2020, but has emerged as a potential backend starter.
Murray has a loose arm action with great scap retraction and some deceptive traits embedded in his fluid delivery due to his laggy arm. In my conversations with some Astros voices, I’ve gotten the impression that they’re higher on his low-90s 2-seam fastball than the consensus, with its above average horizontal break – there was even an LMJ comp thrown around. The changeup is truly wicked when it’s on, but needs some additional refinement. There’s a solid shot for three above average pitches and above average command to create a backend starter or five-and-dive option out of Jayden Murray.
Reminds me of: Merrill Kelly
#14. Misael Tamarez (RHP, 22, A+, ETA: 2024)
Fastball: 50/55, Slider: 45/50, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 30/40, Sits 93-95, T97.
For about a year now, I’ve tabbed Tamarez as someone who looks the part of a moldable mid-90s workhorse with more future feel for breaking stuff than he was initially given credit for, not unlike fellow organization-mate Luis Garcia. I said he’d probably see AA early in 2022, and he began the year on the Hooks roster. Home run problems have crept up in AA as his fastball command hasn’t progressed the way it could have, but at 22 years old Misael Tamarez still has a solid foundation to build off of.
Tamarez has a fiery, competitive mound presence and a durable starter’s build with plenty of upside. Adding another pitch (cutter, downer curveball especially) would give him mid-rotation potential. As is, Tamarez is an intriguing leverage relief profile, with some spot starter looks. Most of what puts him in this tier is projection, that either another uptick in velocity or a fourth offering will come around the way this organization loves to do, and create a more traditional SP mold.
Reminds me of: Luis Severino
#15. Andrew Taylor (RHP, 21, Unassigned, ETA: 2026)
Fastball: 50/60 Slider: 40/55, Curve: 35/45, Changeup: 40/60, Command: 40/55, AVG 90.4 MPH, T94.
Andrew Taylor is a project if there ever was one. The Astros, Rays, and Guardians are all over pitchers like this. He’s due for something of a mechanics overhaul, with an evident disconnect from his torso and lower body on foot strike. Regardless of the inefficiencies in his delivery, his fastball, parked in the low 90s, has Cristian Javier invisiball traits, with around 20 inches of induced vertical break (IVB), and 10.5 inches of horizonal break (HB). The hard biting slider will add velocity as his mechanics clean up as a professional, likely eventually profiling as plus, while the curveball looks fine but lags behind. He also flashes a plus changeup, with wicked run and tail, although lacks feel and placement for it presently – the changeup is a good allegory for Taylor overall. There’s a ton to dream on if things go right. He’ll go about as far as the Astros can coax more velocity out of him, without losing the spectacular movement profile on his heater. This is another lottery ticket, with Astros pitching development betting on themselves to find that tweak and unlock Taylor as a mid-rotation big leaguer.
Reminds me of: Jake Odorizzi
#16. Forrest Whitley (RHP, 24, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 55/55, Curveballl: 60/60, Cutter: 55/55, Changeup: 60/60, Command: 35/45, AVG 94.7MPH, T96.6
Whitley resurfaced this year, tossing a tantalizing couple of innings off his Tommy John surgery, before getting sat back down with minor shoulder inflammation on July 10th. The former top pitching prospect in baseball is up here because his raw stuff is still that of a frontline starter, but also down here because it’s significantly more likely than not he will never handle a starter’s workload. A plus mid-90s fastball is still there, setting up four offspeed offerings that are all still there and above average for any level. His projectible mechanics still indicate he will be able to fill up the zone when he needs to. You probably don’t need to hear any more about Whitley, but he showed that the frontline arsenal did come back in full from Tommy John. Meanwhile, the durability concerns are only growing.
Reminds me of: Stephen Strasburg
#17. Spencer Arrighetti (RHP, 22, A+, 2024)
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 55/60, Curveball: 50/50, Changeup: 40/45, Command: 30/45, Sits 92-95, T98.
I was the high guy on Arrighetti last year, and I’d be fine being the high guy again. The 22 year old 6th round pick has experienced two ticks up on his fastball velocity in his first full professional season, topping all the way out at 98.2 MPH. This is a pitcher with some 89s on his four seam at draft time, so that’s extra meaningful. Arrighetti is a plus mound athlete with a very clean rotational delivery and a quick arm that generates plenty of deception in his fairly low 3/4ths quarter release. With the increased velocity, the fastball is playing better at the top of the zone, and flashes some really impressive armside run. He’s got one of the better two-plane sliders in the system. Arrighetti rounds it all out with a solid sweeping curveball to lefties and a changeup that should end up useable, but really doesn’t even have to. Spencer is running a 32.3 K% and is limiting home runs effectively enough to earn the bump up to Corpus Christi, and I maintain belief in a starter to emerge from this profile, with multi-inning relief as the fallback.
Reminds me of: Kevin Gausman
#18. Luke Berryhill (C, 24, AA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 35/40, Power: 60/60, Field: 50/60, Run: 35, Arm: 45
Luke Berryhill maintains his MLB backup catcher outlook, and at one point this season had the longest on-base streak in baseball, at 51 games. Emblematic of that streak is his extremely advanced plate approach, running LITERALLY AN EIGHT PERCENT chase rate, a number I can honestly say I’ve never seen before, but still making enough in-zone contact to be dangerous when combined with his absolutely plus raw pop.
Berryhill’s biggest problem, aside from middling bat-to-ball skills, is in his throws down to second, where his arm grades out as above average in a vacuum but it just takes him too long to get the ball out of his hand. Base stealers have run all over him at all levels, but it isn’t an arm strength problem. There’s at least a chance the transfer can get ironed out – I wouldn’t hold your breath, though. All reports are that pitching staffs love to work with him, and he looks to be a serviceable receiver and framer. Yainer is getting a lot of hype recently, as reflected in my own rankings, but Berryhill likely has the better tools to stick at catcher long-term at the highest level. Really low-risk profile here, likely a big leaguer.
Reminds me of: Ryan Jeffers
#19. Jaime Melendez (RHP, 20, AA, ETA: 2025)
Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 50/55, Curveball: 40/45, Changeup: 55/55, Command: 30/35, Sits 93-95 T96.
Melendez has an electric top-of-zone fastball that he employs liberally out of his extension-efficient 5’8 frame. It’s a remarkably controlled delivery, all things considered, and I would rarely notice the height if every other evaluator didn’t harp on it so much. At 20, he’s still very young for his level, but it would have been nice to see some command improvements at this point, and those have not been readily apparent. He’s walking batters at an unsustainable rate, but the entire 4-pitch package and unique sequencing still gives him a really solid outlook as a big league reliever. Some late-blooming command improvements would put a starter’s outlook back on the table. Melendez has been much, much better since a disastrous first month of the year, so it speaks to the young righty’s ability to adjust in such an aggressive assignment.
Reminds me of: Deivi Garcia
#20. Shawn Dubin (RHP, 27, AAA, ETA: 2022)
Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 70/70, Cutter: 60/60, Curve: 70/70, Command: 35/40, AVG 97.4 MPH, T101.
Shawn Dubin finds himself a couple spots lower than the preseason, mostly due to the draftees trickling in, but also because he’s hurt. Again. A model darling, Dubin has four plus pitches including a new devastating cutter, all of which capable of earning him a living at the MLB level in a vacuum. His last appearance was June 21, before being shut down with a forearm strain, a familiar injury for Dubin.
Dubin’s arsenal is good for a 130 Stuff+, with an explosive four seam fastball that can reach 101 MPH and a 4.7 VAA, leading to whiffs at a 30% clip. On a fastball. The cutter, averaging 89 MPH and slider a tick behind profile even better, with around 40 Whiff% on the both of them. His downer hammer of a curveball differentiates well, with 9 inches of added drop and 5 inches of additional sweep, as well. Shawn Dubin is a bat-missing, high octane, super spinny backend relief arm with some command issues (but not as severe as advertised elsewhere, IMO), if he can just get healthy again. The injuries are baked into the value, here, because there might not be more eye-popping raw stuff in any system.
Reminds me of: Dillon Maples
#21. Logan Cerny (OF, 22, A, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 30/35, Power: 45/60, Field: 45/55, Run: 70/70, Arm: 55
Cerny is a physical freak as far as bat speed and twitch-level athleticism go, with strikeout concerns raising massive red flags in the profile. He’s a burner with plus pullside pop and some holes in his swing, so it’s a high-volatility range of outcomes, but in those outcomes is perhaps the highest 99th percentile in the system. It looks like Cerny might swipe 40 bags this season. He’ll stick in center field and provide tremendous all-star upside at the premium position, but the most likely outcome is still a flameout as the hit tool never progresses.
As has been reported to me, Cerny struggled earlier in the year to keep on good weight he’d worked to put on all offseason, and the conditioning led to many of his early-season issues. It may be a story of a late bloomer who grows into his toolset and everything gets easier down the road, and it may not. But Cerny is a tremendously fun breath of air on a Fayetteville team that, frankly, has been hard to watch at times. And if he ever gets anywhere near his ultimate ceiling the Garrett Stubbs trade is going to look like a heist.
Reminds me of: Mookie Betts
#22. Cristian Gonzalez (SS, 20, A+, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 30/40, Power: 30/45, Field: 50/55, Run: 55/50, Arm: 70
Gonzalez is a projectable left-side infielder who keeps physically growing (seriously, I’ve been told he’s pushing 6’6 now) even as he receives advanced assignments in the Astros system. He hasn’t put it all together at the plate yet, but shows burgeoning pull-side power through a deep and efficient barrel path. Gonzalez doesn’t look likely to provide above average slash lines even at his peak, but will make his money on the defensive end, where excellent footwork and a cannon arm up to 96 across the diamond keep shortstop on the table, and a premium third baseman could be there as well if he continues to grow in the horizontal direction. Gonzalez is a great athlete and represents one of the higher all-around ceilings in the system if the bat exceeds expectations.
Reminds me of: Erik Gonzalez
#23. Parker Mushinski (LHP, 26, AAA, ETA: 2022)
Fastball: 50/50, Slider: 55/55, Curve: 60/60, Cutter: 55/60, Changeup: 30/35, Command: 45/50, AVG 92.5 MPH, T94.4.
Mushinski’s already received his call-up for the year, so you mostly know what he’s about. As a lefty out of the bullpen, he mixes up his 5 pitch mix well, with the curveball and cutter having the best grades in models by their movement profiles. He releases from a relative low point, at 5.5 feet, letting his middling velocity on the fastball play up at the top of the zone, with a 5 VAA. He’ll likely stay in the big leagues for a good while as a junk-balling lefty, but all three of the offspeed offerings are plus and he’ll induce chases with all of them. Parker has a multi-inning mop-up profile, but can also function as a lefty specialist.
Reminds me of: Andrew Chafin
#24. Quincy Hamilton (OF, 24, A+, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 45/60, Power: 30/35, Field: 45/50, Run: 55/55, Arm: 40
Quincy has done exactly what he was expected to do, as a senior sign 5th round pick out of Wright State. Tyler Black stole the show on that college club, but Hamilton was right behind him, one of the best all-around hitters as a draftee. Since then, he’s translated premium plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills to pro ball, while reworking his swing path a touch to tap into a little bit of all-fields wood bat power, the primary concern in his profile. He walks nearly as much as he strikes out, and projects to do so at all levels of competition. His load starts early and is extremely controlled, with no head movement whatsoever until he uncoils with a rotational approach and a willingness to take any ball where it’s pitched. One of the better pure hit tool projections in the system.
Hamilton looks like a 45 in center field right now, and is likely destined for some sort of tweener role, where he could provide positive value in the corners. He runs well, a touch shy of 60 grade, but lacks the true ballhawk actions of a plus center fielder. Regardless, Q is one of my personal favorites to watch in the system, with Bregman-esque discipline and hitterish tendencies that project to a nice fourth outfield floor.
Reminds me of: It’s a pretty Tony Kemp-ish plate approach, with a little more raw pop traded for the defensive versatility.
#25. Will Wagner (IF, 24, AA, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 35/55, Power: 35/40, Run: 50/50, Field: 40/50, Arm: 50.
Wagner, an 18th round selection out of Liberty, looks extremely hitterish, with a line drive oriented uncoil and the ability to catch up to premium velocity. He takes the ball the other way more than anything else, maintaining solid gap-to-gap power and the present ability for some pull side home runs. His defensive home will probably be second base long-term, but he can play third and (sort of) shortstop at a respectable level. He posted a 121 wRC+ in Asheville, before earning the call up to AA, where he’s continuing to show out well internally but the hits have not fallen. Wagner shows an advanced plate approach with good swing decisions, generally a pesky out with some modest defensive versatility that could prop him up to a big league outlook.
Reminds me of: Joe Panik
#26. Zach Dezenzo (IF/OF, 22, Unassigned, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 30/35, Power: 70/70, Field: 40/50, Run: 45, Arm: 60
Zach Dezenzo’s 115.7 MPH batted ball event on a single into left field would put him thirteenth on the MLB leaderboard for 2022. He likely has the second-best raw pop in the 2022 draft behind Spencer Jones, and played shortstop at Ohio State. The 12th round pick is a big, strong athlete who sacrifices some bat-to-ball in order to chase damage on every pitch in the zone – leading the entire country on batted balls>98MPH. His contact quality is absurd, but Dezenzo swings at everything and runs above-average whiff rates because of his propensity to chase. This is a premium power build who needs to internalize professional hitter’s discipline, and I’d give the Astros a fighting chance to do so. There’s a tremendous ceiling here for a 12th round senior. I am enamored with the whole setup at the plate – how connected of an athlete he is to get that leg down, get all those moving parts in sync, and absolutely obliterate baseballs.
While he did play shortstop at Ohio State, Dezenzo likely won’t stick there as a pro – or even up the middle at all. He’s a below-average runner with a strong arm, so a shift over to third base seems like the most natural fit. But the Astros, the way they always do, will likely try him out in the corner outfield spots to manufacture some versatility. I like to look at Dezenzo as a mini Zach Neto because of the similar plate mannerisms, but the floor is much lower, as reflected by their draft positions. Multiple outlets I trust had Dezenzo in their top 150, or even top 100 draft prospects, so for the Astros to get him in the 12th? Exciting stuff.
Reminds me of: Zach Neto
#27. Tyler Whitaker (IF/OF, 20, A, ETA: 2027)
Hit: 20/40, Power: 25/60, Run: 50/50, Field: 50/55, Arm: 60
Whitaker earned a fairly aggressive assignment to full-season A ball, and is severely overmatched due to a mix of shaky plate discipline and a bat path that, while cleaned up from his high school days, is laughably downward sloping. Still, production (or lack thereof) at lower levels means almost nothing, and not much has changed for Whitaker. He was a projection play when he was selected in the 2020 draft, and is a projection play now still, with plus power at his peak and a howitzer of an arm with potential premium position athleticism and instincts. Whitaker is sliding around the infield, at third base and shortstop, as well as both outfield corners. He’s got plenty of work to do on a professional approach and swing tweaks, but there’s a lot of clay here.
Reminds me of: Conor Gillaspie
#28. Miguel Ullola (RHP, 20, A, ETA: 2026)
Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 50/60, Command: 25/40, Sits 93-96 T98.
Ullola is a fairly undersized electric relief profile with good enough feel for spin that a starter’s outlook is not completely off the table – Miguel’s delivery and wrist positioning looks like one that can incorporate a hammer curveball as he advances into the upper levels, which Houston is not shy about encouraging. But at 20, and in Single-A, his two-pitch mix is devastating enough (37 K%), and wild enough (14 BB%), that he’s got plenty to work on already. Ullola has an unproblematic – really, even quite controlled and repeatable – release all the way up to 98, and the slider darts out of the picture the way you ask for. His fastball has a fairly generic shape even for its eye popping velocity, so while I would not be surprised to see a hundo at some point in the future, it’s merely a plus offering as opposed to a carrying pitch.
Reminds me of: Enoli Paredes
#29. Colin Price (C/OF, 22, Unassigned, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 40/55, Power: 45/55, Field: 50/50, Run: 45, Arm: 60
Price was one of my favorite senior sign targets in the 2022 class, and the Astros nabbed him underslot in the 6th round. His profile is remarkably similar to David Hensley’s in that he’s 6’6 with excellent discipline, perhaps too patient at times, although Price differs in that he puts everything in the air. Colin tore it up at Mercer as a really lanky catcher who occasionally saw time at all three outfield spots. His exit velocities relay something like average raw pop (109.5 max EV), but the elite backspin he gets on batted balls pushes it to plus, where Price’s fly balls just carry forever. He ran an 89 Z-Con% and chased less than 15% of the time, leading to a nearly 20% walk rate. This is a really high floored, polished fourth-year hitter whose only real flaw seems to be popping up too much.
I think Price will stick as a catcher. His pop times average sub-2, and I’ve seen throws down to second clocked north of 80 MPH, which is perfectly fine. He’s tall, but I’d be willing to bet the Astros get Price to go on the one-knee-down path, like many of their catchers are doing. He’ll nab some strikes at the bottom of the zone with the rest of them, and sticking at the catcher position will likely amount to Price’s discipline becoming even more valuable.
Reminds me of: I don’t know, you ever seen a 6’6 catcher before? A.J. Ellis.
#30. J.P France (RHP, 27, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Fastball: 45/50, Slider: 55/60, Cutter: 50/50, Curve: 55/60, Changeup: 40/45, Command: 30/35, AVG 90MPH, T95.7
J.P France has experienced one of the strangest and most unexpected velocity upticks I’ve ever seen, running his fastball all the way up to 96 on the stadium gun, and 95.7 in my PitchInfo dataset. The 27 year old Tulane and Mississippi State product’s command is always what held him back, but if he can park his fastball north of 92, I’m not sure the command even needs to improve much. 92 doesn’t sound incredible, but France is incredibly deceptive with a herky-jerk delivery and releases his entire bevy of pitches from a really hidden 5.2ft release point, with plus active spin leading to a steep 4.5 VAA. It all plays way up, and the slider, cutter, and curveball all profile as plus to go along with it. His cutter sits in the mid 80’s, with three inches of induced sweep. The curveball is slow, like Roy Oswalt’s, in the mid-70s, but still sports a ludicrous 9.8 inches of added drop. That curve and the slider, France’s best offerings, are running Whiff%s north of 40. France attacks hitters with his fastball and cutter early, inducing out-of-zone chases by spinning everything like his life depends on it when he’s ahead in the count. His location isn’t perfect, but 4 BB/9 isn’t exactly a death sentence. France is running a 106.8 Stuff+, a 99.3 Location+, and a 101.8 Pitching+, indicating he’s a major league caliber arm in some capacity. I’ll call it a relief outlook, but he could probably be a spot starter for a non-contender.
Reminds me of: Roy Oswalt
#31. J.J Matijevic (1B/COF, 26, MLB, ETA: 2022)
Hit: 40/40, Power: 55/55, Field: 40/45, Run: 45/45, Arm: 40
Matijevic made himself into a big leaguer by mashing AAA pitching all year, and has been on the big league roster nearly long enough to graduate off this list. He’s making more in-zone contact than I ever thought he would (84%), and whiffing less, but also showing less raw power than he’d been billed at, with a max EV of 110.4 and some fine but unspectacular 80 and 90th percentiles. He does lift the ball effectively, kind of even perfectly, but doesn’t make the best swing decisions.
All in all, Matijevic is a production-propped power lefty bench bat profile who could put up league average slash lines for years at a time in a good scenario. He likely won’t have a place on the Astros long-term, but could cash big league checks in a strong side platoon elsewhere. If his defensive value at either first base or the outfield was more impressive, it would all be a more cohesive package. Still, J.J is a big leaguer and is always capable of changing the game with one swing of his bat.
Reminds me of: Seth Brown
#32. Nolan DeVos (RHP, 21, Unassigned, ETA: 2026)
Fastball: 55/55, Slider: 45/60, Curve: 45/50, Changeup: 40/55, Sits 90-93, T95.
DeVos, the Astros 5th round selection out of Davidson, is an undersized righty relief look with four pitches displaying modern shapes that model-driven teams like the Astros look for, and his future will be almost entirely predicated on an ability to add velocity. His plus fastball gets 20.4 inches of IVB on average, and he displays feel for backspinning it pure, up to the top of the zone. He gets good sweep on the low-80s slider, and flashes a mid-70s sweeping curveball as well. The changeup reverses axis the way you’d like for it to, with solid MLB movement profiles, but DeVos doesn’t have the same same feel for it as his other offerings. There’s good clay here for a multi-inning reliever, with a professionally maximized arsenal that moves the way pitch designers dream of. He’s a plus mound athlete with a clean, quick arm and gets down the mound explosively, so adding velocity isn’t a pipe dream. Likely a RHB specialist type, but the Astros will certainly try him out as a starter for now.
Reminds me of: Joe Barlow
#33. Joey Loperfido (OF/2B/1B, 23, A, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 35/50, Power: 30/40, Field: 45/60, Run: 55/55, Arm: 45
Loperfido FINALLY got the call up to High-A on Deadline Eve after demolishing with the Woodpeckers, a .304/.399/.473 slashline good for a 144 wRC+. He changed his plate approach in one of the more dramatic turnarounds I’ve seen in a while. Last year, I saw something of a Joey Gallo approach, with whiffs flowing like a river in the midst of an uppercut gamble of a swing and lots of patience. This year, the bat path is still fairly steep, but Loperfido has adjusted into a barrel-to-ball, quicker stroke that finds gaps with efficiency. He’s a great 6’4 athlete, capable of playing a double plus first base, a good second base, and all three outfield positions capably. Loperfido looks like a Swiss Army Knife with innate barrel feel and the wherewithal to adjust as he goes. The 2021 seventh rounder looks like a utility piece in the future, and while I might have him too low, I’ll need to see him perform against more age appropriate competition.
Reminds me of: Jake Cronenworth
#34. Trey Dombroski (LHP, 21, Unassigned, ETA: 2026)
Fastball: 40/45, Slider: 45/45, Curve: 40/45, Changeup: 50/60, Command 60/70, Sits 88-90, T91.
Dombroski had the best command in the 2022 draft class, and the Astros nabbed him in the fourth round. I don’t particularly like the shape on any of his offerings, save for the changeup, so here he is. However, he is a lefty with truly elite command, so, at the same time, here he is. Dombroski sits in the upper 80s with slightly above average ride on his fastball for the velocity, but that’s not exactly saying a ton for 88. If he could tack on some velo while maintaining shape, it’d be an interesting pitch. The slider gets below average sweep, but he places it well. The changeup, on the other hand, is beautiful, and Dombroski will likely employ it liberally against RHH as a pro. Dombroski cuts across his body (adding deception, to be fair) and so seems unlikely to ever develop into some sort of flamethrower. Regardless, as-is Dombroski is a big, repeatable, 5-starter profiling junkball lefty, and something tells me the Astros drafted him with a concrete plan to add some strikeout stuff to this arsenal. He did have a 100th percentile FaBIO rating, as his batted ball profile was immaculate while pitching for Monmouth.
Reminds me of: Patrick Corbin
#35. Justin Dirden (OF, 25, AA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 45/50, Power: 55/60, Field: 50/50, Run: 40, Arm: 50
Dirden is a masher. The big-bodied undrafted lefty slugger from Missouri Southern has done nothing but mash since he hit affiliated ball, and should earn his AAA promotion shortly after publication. He has easy plus power, maximized entirely by lifting nearly everything he sees at optimal launch angles. Dirden creates elite backspin, leading to carrying fly balls in spite of merely above average exit velocities, as opposed to elite. He’s slashing .323/.409/.601 for a 153 wRC+ with the Hooks at time of writing, with 18 home runs. Dirden uses the whole field and is a fairly complete hitter, whose flyball tendencies would likely play up at his eventual home park. It’s a DH/corner outfield profile, but Dirden is far from unplayable in right field. A real testament to the amateur scouting department for finding such a productive bat, undrafted.
Reminds me of: Corey Hart
#36. Luis Baez (OF/1B, 18, ROK, ETA: 2027)
Hit: 25/50, Power: 30/60, Field: 30/50, Run: 40, Arm: 60
Luis Baez signed internationally in 2021 for $1.25m. Plus raw pull-side power headlines the package, and he generates great bat speed with a good arm, but there’s definite danger of becoming positionless as a right-handed 1B/DH/OF that has not yet shown tremendous defensive instincts. He’ll crack the top 30 lists as soon as he flashes a hit tool in game action for his deep barrel depth and raw power outlook – some evaluators have him in already for his projectible swing and strength. He’s holding his own in rookie ball, and I’ll be able to get a better idea when he reaches Fayetteville, probably next season.
Reminds me of: Hunter Dozier
#37. Jimmy Endersby (RHP, 24, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Fastball: 40/40, Slider: 55/55, Curve: 60/60, Changeup: 40/50, Command: 35/40, AVG 91.9 MPH, T93.6.
Endersby has a spinny right-handed specialist relief profile set up by two above-average breakers and a jumpy fastball that’s absolutely not fooling anybody at the upper levels yet. Despite a low spin profile, Endersby’s fastball gets good IVB, but it plays down when not placed perfectly, while the curveball has above average two-plane movement, running more than 40 whiff% along with the slider. He’ll have to pitch backwards as a big leaguer or add some velocity for his spinny multi-inning relief upside.
Reminds me of: Glenn Otto
#38. Kenedy Corona (OF, 22, A+, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 35/50, Power: 35/40, Run: 60/60, Field: 40/45, Throw: 45
Corona is a super fun sparkplug to watch. Last I put him on a list, he promptly put up an 80 wRC+ in Fayetteville, but I should have stuck by my convictions. Hidden in the approach was always a plus contact tool and a twitchy tweener OF with an intriguing line drive approach. And anecdotally, he was always getting pretty unlucky every time I was been able to tune in, lining out or smoking grounders right to people. He recognizes inside-outside well and adjusts the bat path accordingly, using all fields but looking to pull the ball primarily. Corona also runs well, and looks to be able to stick the bat on the ball as he advances through the system. In 2022, he’s put up a 130 and a 127 wRC+ across A and A+ ball, while improving his swing decisions by an order of magnitude.
Reminds me of: Tommy Pham
#39. J.C Correa (C, 2B, 3B, 23, A+, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 45/55, Power: 30/35, Field: 35/45, Run: 40, Arm: 40
J.C has done nothing but produce since stepping foot in professional baseball. He lacks his brother’s impact tools – truthfully, he lacks any one of them, although looks to be able to put the bat on the ball roughly as consistently. Important to remember that Carlos had already won a rookie of the year award and was on his way to winning a World Series at this age, just to appreciate how advanced he was. J.C transitioned to catcher from his traditional middle infield role at the tail end of last season, and to my eternal surprise he looks…fine? His receiving is actually pretty good, and there’s nothing wrong with the throws either, even if they’re not impressive. Astros love trying to manufacture versatility like this, and if Correa can stick as a catcher his hit tool can really carry him into an MLB role. Correa is tremendously advanced at the plate, walking as much as he strikes out, with a balanced all-fields approach and little to no loading mechanism. He still has modest over-the-fence pop when he really gets all of it, but it’s definitely below average game power.
Reminds me of: C.J Hinojosa, but like, a catcher.
#40. Tyler Guilfoil (RHP, 21, Unassigned, ETA: 2026)
Fastball: 50/60, Curve: 35/50, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 40/50, AVG 91.8 MPH T95.
Guilfoil’s fastball and changeup both have really intriguing data, making me tab them as plus pitches, and he places his curveball well enough in the chase zones that I feel comfortable calling it average at its peak. Guilfoil has a somewhat disconnected delivery with the arm coming in late and whippy, creating a good amount of back-turning deception. Combine that with his fastball’s movement profile, with 19 inches of IVB and 12.1 inches of HB, and you have an alien pitch from a low, concealed 5.45 foot release. The changeup, too, has 16 inches of induced horizontal break, absolutely darting to Guilfoil’s armside. It’s a single inning relief profile, but one I’m a big dan of. Guilfoil also ranked in the 99th percentile of batted ball outcomes per FaBIO, pitching for Kentucky in the SEC.
Reminds me of: Ron Marinaccio
And now, some noteworthy guys grouped by role:
Spot Starter Types
Peter Solomon (RHP, 26, AAA)
Solomon has a deep 5 pitch mix, and was in my top 10 last year but has lost some of the velocity on his already-average fastball, now sitting at 91.8 and topping out at 94 MPH. The cutter, slider, and curve are all awesome, but if he’s going to throw 92 from a generic arm slot he’s going to be relegated to AAAA.
Edinson Batista (RHP, 20, A)
Batista has a projectable, whippy three-quarters arm action and a fastball up to 95, with three offspeed offerings in his back pocket, including a slider he displays great feel for. He doesn’t project for special command per se, but it could certainly get above average as Batista thrives in his advanced assignments and displays some pitchability traits.
Julio Robaina (LHP, 21, A+)
Robaina’s velocity keeps ticking up, but it’s a below average fastball from an undersized frame with limited potential to get much better. His curveball is a beautful, MLB-ready offering and the changeup flashes above average. The command looks like a 60, but sometimes Robaina shows his youth by losing the strike zone entirely. It’s a 5-starter profile at best, but just might get there.
Aaron Brown (RHP, 23, A+)
Brown displays among the best command in the system, with pitching-machine type repeatable mechancs and a fastball up to 95. Not a special fastball shape, prone to the home run, with a plus changeup and a work-in-progress curveball. I’m probably the high guy on Brown, but I like all three pitches and his ability to place them.
Ronel Blanco (RHP, 28, AAA)
Blanco has a 113.8 Pitching+ in AAA right now, and looks like an above average MLB ready middle reliever. He has a plus fastball with great ride up to 98.8, a plus cutter-slider hybrid at 90MPH, and a nascent change-of-pace changeup. High intensity, violent delivery that blows up hitters and should continue to do so.
Bryant Salgado (RHP, 22, A)
Salgado is up to 97 as a tandem starter with an absolutely disgusting curveball that he’s improving his feel for every time out there. He’s going 4 innings at a time, but definitely looks like a two-pitch single inning reliever in the big leagues.
Joe Record (RHP, 27, AAA)
Record is a deception play, with his gloveside arm flying all over the place before his low-90s fastball, up to 95.2, appears behind his ear. It’s an unorthodox windup as well, throwing off plenty of hitters’ timing. He’s got a 4-pitch mix, with a 12-6er and a slider with some sweep to it, and looks like a middle reliever.
Corey Julks (3B/COF, 26, AAA)
Julks employs a pull-side dominant approach and has been launching home runs in AAA ever since a swing tweak. He runs decent zone contact (85%), and shows plus raw pop with a 112 MPH max EV. It’s a pretty advanced plate approach that should mostly translate to a major league club, especially the Crawford Boxes. Julks pulls flyballs like nobody else could, but he does whiff on 35% of offspeeds, which is cause for some concern.
Michael Sandle (OF, 23, A+)
Sandle is a super athletic tweener outfielder with plus foot speed and plus bat speed, but a relatively flat bat path that combines with an average hit tool and imperfect plate discipline to drag it all down. Still, he’s a good flier on the bat speed and raw power, and works the whole field, effectively shooting doubles to both gaps.
Shay Whitcomb (3B/2B, 23, AA)
Whitcomb is a big middle infielder who should probably move over to third. He swings out of his shoes, displaying exit velocities near the top of the system, but has struggled mightily in adapting to advanced breaking balls in AA. He’s got a deft barrel and profiles for 20 or more nukes if he can figure out spin in the near future.
Zach Daniels (OF, 23, A+)
Daniels has 70 raw power, and the hit tool is playing up better than it certainly could have, as Daniels has adjusted his entire swing mechanism significantly since his time as a draftee. It looks like he’s beginning to tap into the raw, although his HR/FB rate is unsustainable even for someone with Stantonian power. Still, Daniels is my bet of this subgroup to infiltrate my next list, especially if I get eyes on him at AA towards the end of the year.
Overall, the system has experienced something of a retooling, although I recognize I’m likely higher on names like Dezenzo, Arrighetti, and Tamarez than consensus. The Astros nailed the 2022 draft, and a full suite of draft picks goes a long way to even the playing field for an organization that’s been providing sustainable major league talent off scrap heaps the last couple of years. I’d have Brown inside a top 100, with Gilbert, Leon, Barber, and Yainer knocking on the door to various degrees. There’s plenty of pitching talent left for an organization that knows what to do with it, as well as a host of high-floored lefty hitting outfielders and solid catchers. There’s no generational freak athletes here, but certainly some productive big leaguers.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed.
- Ben Zeidman (@midzee4)