Graduations, mislaid draught picks and a deluge of waste and acquisition deadline deals person gutted nan Astros’ workplace system. Outside publications peg it among nan 5 worst successful nan sport, devoid of nan benignant of top-end talent that usually appears successful top-100 manufacture rankings.
Perception sometimes does not lucifer production. The squad has produced a top-five finisher successful American League Rookie of nan Year voting during 9 of nan past 10 seasons, including Yainer Diaz’s fifth-place showing successful 2023.
Houston could participate outpouring training without a top-100 prospect, but dismissing nan strategy wholly is unwise. J.P. France, Chas McCormick and Framber Valdez are among nan onetime unheralded prospects who helped propel nan 2023 Astros to nan precipice of a pennant. The team’s evident aversion to exceeding nan luxury taxation whitethorn only trial imaginable extent further.
Conversations pinch Astros officials and a glimpse astatine nan team’s existent roster building produced this database of six prospects astir apt to debut during nan 2024 play and, perhaps, proceed that aforementioned tally connected Rookie of nan Year voting.
Spencer Arrighetti, RHP
Spencer Arrighetti pitching for nan Asheville Tourists. (Tony Farlow / Four Seam Images via Associated Press)
After needing 4 starts to find himself, Arrighetti authored a breakout 2023 play that should make him Houston’s astir major-league-ready pitching imaginable entering outpouring training.
Opponents slashed .196/.303/.339 against Arrighetti during his last 24 appearances, 15 of which arrived successful nan hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League for Triple-A Sugar Land.
After yielding 18 earned runs successful his first 4 starts of nan minor-league season, Arrighetti allowed 43 crossed his adjacent 24 outings — a 3.52 ERA that cemented him arsenic a morganatic major-league prospect.
Provided he stays healthy, Arrighetti is nan first successful statement for a spot commencement aliases a longer audition if a personnel of nan rotation gets injured. The squad had conversations astir bringing him up past September, but a operation of nan Astros’ precarious playoff business and Arrighetti getting deed successful nan forearm by a comebacker scuttled it.
Kenedy Corona, OF
Corona is nan only subordinate Houston added to its 40-man roster earlier nan Rule 5 Draft, which demonstrates really overmuch he’s risen successful nan organization’s hierarchy. Still, of nan six prospects listed here, Corona is possibly nan furthest from contributing astatine nan major-league level.
Including Corona is almost wholly a byproduct of his spot connected nan 40-man roster, which makes it acold easier for nan Astros to summon him successful an emergency. Corona is an elite protect halfway fielder, but must refine his violative attack to solidify himself arsenic a major-league player.
Curtailing strikeouts should beryllium Corona’s foremost objective. He punched retired 136 times successful 117 games past play betwixt High A and Double A. Corona had a 20-homer play astatine Double-A Corpus Christi and stole 31 bases, but posted conscionable a .325 on-base percent pinch 127 strikeouts.
But if expected halfway fielder Jake Meyers struggles aliases is injured and Houston’s carousel astatine nan position continues, Corona could floor plan arsenic an in-season stopgap aliases security argumentation while nan nine contemplates its adjacent move.
“The defense is beautiful special. We really for illustration nan defense,” wide head Dana Brown said astatine nan wintertime meetings. “He’s still beautiful young. I deliberation he’s a down-the-road mundane guy. I deliberation it’s going to return a small time. But we surely worth nan middle-of-the-field defense pinch (the) upside he has. We consciousness beautiful bully astir it.”
Joey Loperfido, UTIL
Perhaps nary position subordinate imaginable accrued his banal much successful 2023 than Loperfido, nan erstwhile seventh-round prime who earned 2 in-season promotions and vanished nan twelvemonth successful Triple-A Sugar Land.
Loperfido started games astatine 5 positions: first base, 2nd guidelines and each 3 outfield spots. He slugged .548 pinch a .940 OPS successful Double A and ended his play pinch a 32-game cameo astatine Triple-A Sugar Land. Loperfido’s batting mean and interaction complaint decreased successful Triple A, 2 traits he’ll request to rebound astatine nan opening of 2024.
That Loperfido hits left-handed and tin move astir nan section will only summation his worth to nan major-league team. Michael Brantley’s departure leaves conscionable 3 existent left-handed hitters connected nan team’s 40-man roster: Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Jon Singleton.
Singleton should statesman nan play connected nan major-league roster, but he is retired of minor-league options and slashed .167/.258/.204 successful his last 62 sheet appearances past season. Singleton does not boast Loperfido’s protect versatility, either. If Loperfido produces to statesman nan minor-league season, it’s not difficult to envision a script wherever he could adhd equilibrium and a boost to nan big-league bench.
Jacob Melton, OF
Brown resisted moving Melton astatine past season’s waste and acquisition deadline, alternatively packaging Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford successful nan woody for Justin Verlander. In nan aftermath, immoderate wrong nan Astros statement said Melton classed up of some Gilbert and Clifford successful nan team’s soul imaginable valuations and rankings.
Expecting them to opportunity different is foolish, but it’s clear Melton is nan astir ballyhooed imaginable remaining successful an different barren workplace system. The second-round prime should beryllium nan team’s apical imaginable erstwhile each extracurricular publications statesman publishing their rankings and — possibly — nan semipermanent reply Houston has been searching for successful halfway field.
“He’s sewage a chance to beryllium special. He was asked for successful almost each waste and acquisition talk — each teams were asking for him. That’s nan 1 feline I was acrophobic to springiness away,” Brown told a team-run podcast this winter. “This feline has a chance to beryllium a stud. If we tin conscionable cleanable up his attack a small bit, he’s sewage a chance to beryllium really good. Really breathtaking player.”
Melton missed immoderate clip past play pinch a hamstring wounded and has taken conscionable 56 sheet appearances supra High A, meaning a beardown commencement to his 2024 play is mandatory to make a major-league call-up a reality. Melton stole 46 bases, slugged .467 and sported an .801 OPS successful 450 sheet appearances crossed High A and Double A.
Will Wagner, INF
Last spring, nary different Astros 2021 draftee earned an invitation to major-league outpouring training, wherever Wagner impressed nan coaching unit pinch his constitution and fierce violative approach. There were whispers Wagner, nan boy of erstwhile Houston person Billy Wagner, could situation for a spot connected nan major-league chair toward nan extremity of nan 2023 season.
Wagner underwent hamate bony room successful June to extremity that discussion. He returned to affiliated shot successful August and ended his play pinch a six-game cameo astatine Triple-A Sugar Land, during which he went 15-for-26.
Wagner slashed .337/.420/.518, worked 35 walks and struck retired conscionable 50 times successful 287 sheet appearances crossed 3 levels past season. Almost each of Wagner’s worth is tied to his bat, but nan statement exposed him to first base, 3rd guidelines and 2nd base, producing nan type of versatility sought astatine nan major-league level.
Wagner and Loperfido are successful akin positions. Both deed left-handed, play each complete nan section and could plug holes connected nan Astros’ major-league roster. Minor-league accumulation whitethorn find which 1 gets nan first call.
Forrest Whitley, RHP
It’s now aliases ne'er for Whitley, who was erstwhile nan apical pitching imaginable successful each of shot yet whose banal has plummeted amid a rash of injuries, ineffectiveness and a 50-game supplier suspension earlier nan 2018 season. Since 2019, Whitley has a 7.01 ERA successful 129 2/3 innings of affiliated ball.
Whitley’s Astros tenure has now spanned 4 workplace board and 3 wide managers, nan past of whom remains bullish connected nan large right-hander’s potential. During nan MLB Winter Meetings, Brown mentioned Whitley — without punctual — arsenic an soul action for nan team’s major-league bullpen.
Whitley has spent his full master profession arsenic a starter, but it’s clear Houston wants to extract immoderate worth it tin from a pitcher successful whom it has already invested $3.15 million. Converting him to a reliever is nan easiest measurement to do truthful successful 2024, particularly for a squad pinch a starting pitching surplus. Brown wanted to effort Whitley successful nan big-league bullpen past season, too, but his betterment from a lat strain stalled, making that impossible.
Last month, Brown said Whitley is patient — and an Instagram video of him rubbing 98 mph this offseason would look to reenforce that. Whitley is expected to person a 4th minor-league action year, Brown said, extending his stint connected nan 40-man roster for astatine slightest 1 much season.
(Top photograph of Whitley: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)