Astros: reasons why the minor league system ranks low

Houston Astros, Forrest Whitley (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Houston Astros, Forrest Whitley (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

Over the past few months, baseball outlets have released their minor league rankings within each team’s system and systems as a whole, but one thing stayed firm; the Houston Astros ranked near the bottom on each of them. This is a combination of trades, loss of picks due to the sign stealing scandal and opinion based on the Astros.

MLB Pipeline has been the most active in ranking a player from each team to point out a good sign in each team’s farm system, but the Astros have been known as a team to develop their own talent in recent years. While having a strong core offense, it is ideal for the organization to develop an advanced rotation, while their best pitchers in recent years were traded for, excluding Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr.

The Astros have been ranked low on minor league rankings, but why?

You can pull the opinion card on baseball writers and analytics, but the Astros aren’t in the best position for the future just yet. While most of their best prospects have only played half a season in the system to those that haven’t played a minor league game yet, there is a jumbled group of players that haven’t had the chance to develop and be highly evaluated. Minor league rankings produce a mindset for fans to follow, but the overall expectations will vary depending on your own opinion. The Astros have talent in their system, but they will need to rely on their minor league pitching soon at the MLB level.

MLB Pipeline:

Astros Top 30

Most intriguing/non-Top 100: OF Pedro Leon

Best Prospect by 2023: RHP Alex Santos

Make or break: RHP Forrest Whitley

Best defensive: IF Jeremy Pena

Top International: IF Freudis Nova

Top 25 Under 25: DH Yordan Alvarez, although not a prospect

Fastest: OF Jordan Brewer

Power hitter: OF Zach Daniels

29th Ranked Farm System

Most contending teams do not usually stand at the top of minor league rankings, and as the Astros are projected to win the American League West, their farm system stands around 24 on most rankings. While standing at 26th on Baseball America‘s list, 25th on the Athletic‘s and 28th on ESPN‘s, who have been known to hate the Astros, ESPN didn’t rank a single Astros minor leaguer in their top 100 prospects. Baseball Prospectus hasn’t released their farm system rankings just yet, but we can expect similar results.

Players ranked in top 100:

The Athletic: 29. Forrest Whitley, 67. Luis Garcia

Baseball America: 80. Forrest Whitley

Baseball Prospectus: 69. Forrest Whitley, 82. Jeremy Pena

MLB Pipeline: 41. Forrest Whitley

The Astros still have great infield depth in their AA system and below with Jeremy Pena and Freudis Nova, who wants to make it to the show this year. Among the pitchers, many analysts have fallen off the hype train of Forrest Whitley after his injuries and suspension, as MLB Pipeline dropped him from third to out of the top ten right-handed pitching prospects. After missing a whole season due to the pandemic, many of these young stars were not given full evaluations.

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One of the biggest trades that dumped a few top Astros prospects was to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Zack Greinke, who has been a very reliable starter in his two seasons in Houston. IF Seth Beer, RHP J.B. Bukauskas and RHP Corbin Martin were dealt to Arizona, although making up three of the top five Astros prospects ranked by MLB Pipeline. This was an expensive move that also included a lower ranked infielder in Josh Rojas as well. At the end of the day, acquiring Greinke led to a great World Series push like we saw with Justin Verlander in 2017, but it depends on opinion of an AL pennant being enough.

The Astros are in a predicament if their prospects do not progress well this minor league season, as Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Verlander and Zack Greinke are all free agents. This could be a leading reason for why the farm system ranks so low, because most players aren’t 100% ready to take over one of these jobs. If the pandemic never struck, the Astros would be in a better position to possibly lockdown the players they want and move on to the talent within the system like they have done before.

The loss of a season and biased reporting can play an overall effect on how baseball reporters are viewing the Astros’ minor league system moving forward. These circumstances are hopefully not going to be a leading issue going into the upcoming season, but if it does, Houston could be in a tough situation with their soon to be free agents. The Astros have struck gold on so many prospects under the mind of former General Manager Jeff Luhnow, so it makes sense that Astros fans and others expect Houston to be fine, but a lack of experience and no ’20 minor league season is holding the advancement of these prospects.

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Contention is based on experience and skill, and for this ball club, they are heading into possibly their last season of winning the AL West, if they don’t make big signings next offseason. General Manager James Click will have the ability to spend a little more money next winter, but there is a longer list on needs to fill than this past offseason.