These three Astros prospects could make big moves in 2020.
After reaching the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, earning two World Series appearances and one World Series title, the talent of the Houston Astros cannot be denied. But that talent comes at a price, one GM Jeff Luhnow and company are still trying to determine.
One way the Astros can offset that price is to develop their minor league players. But that development will take some time. The following prospects may not be able to impact the major league club this season, but don’t be surprised to see them suiting up for the Astros in the next couple of seasons.
Catcher Korey Lee
Even though Lee was drafted 32nd overall in the 2019 MLB Draft, his college pedigree and performance in Single-A ball was enough to make him the third ranked Astros prospect in 2019. That type of respect at the young age of 20 should give fans a lot of hope for the former Cal Golden Bear.
The reason for such respect is his collegiate and minor league performance. Lee had a monster 2019 at Cal, posting a .337/.416/.619 slash line with 15 homers and 57 RBI in 51 games. While his numbers did drop a bit in A ball, that is to be expected.
Even so, Lee did flash some speed, swiping 8 bags in 64 games in his first taste of minor league ball. That helps to prove that his 12 steals in 2018 were no fluke.
While Lee’s combination of power and speed is intriguing, it’s the position he plays that makes it all the more tantalizing. The nature of catching makes it much more difficult to produce offensively. Lee has proven to be able to handle the load of catching and put up solid numbers.
And while it may take Lee some time to improve defensively after moving to catcher in 2018, he threw out 40 percent of basestealers at Cal in 2019, proving he has an arm for the position.
Lee may not become a Gold Glove catcher, but if he can play the position adequately and provide solid offense, he would be a solid player for the Astros.
Pitcher Tyler Ivey
After starting out at Grayson County College in Denison, Texas, Ivey’s performance earned him a spot at Texas A&M University. He impressed in the SEC, enough so to make him the Astros’ third round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. Combine that with his minor league performance, and you have the sixth-best Astros prospect heading into 2020.
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However, Ivey’s minor league career has followed a little different path than his college career. He had a rough first season, pitching 38.1 innings with a 5.63 ERA. But he drastically improved in 2018, pitching 112 innings with a 2.97 ERA across two lower minor league levels for the Astros. He also struck out 135 batters that season, the most of his professional career.
While his 2018 season was good, no one could have predicted his 2019 performance. Over 52 innings Ivey posted a sparkling 1.38 ERA with 68 strikeouts. That prolific performance helped launch Ivey from 17th in the Astros prospect rankings to start 2019 all the way to sixth by the end of the season.
While Ivey’s performance so far has left little doubt of his talent, his role is not so certain. He has pitched in 50 games and made 37 starts in his minor league career. It seems the Astros are unsure of how to use Ivey given his track record, but he could be slated for the bullpen. Ivey only pitched more than five innings once in 2019, when he went six strong innings against the Midland Rockhounds.
Outfielder Jordan Brewer
Part of the 2019 MLB Draft class, Brewer finds himself as the seventh-best Astros prospect. His ranking is based largely on potential, as his first taste of professional baseball was underwhelming. His .130/.161/.185 slash line doesn’t look like much, and neither do his one home run and three RBI in 16 professional games last season. But one look at Brewer’s collegiate numbers certainly inspires confidence.
In his lone season at Michigan, Brewer posted a .338/.396/.586 slash line to go along with 12 home runs in 57 games. Those are absurd numbers on their own, but when you take into consideration his 24 stolen bases, his potential vastly improves. It is evident Brewer has potential offensively, but his defense is still in question.
With more time in the minors and work on his game, Brewer could definitely be an impact bat in the Astros lineup. And with both George Springer and Michael Brantley nearing free agency, Brewer may be needed.