At long last, MLB Pipeline has released its Houston Astros top 30 prospects rankings for 2021. Some other sites have already released theirs, but I tend to use MLB Pipeline more, partially because I’m cheap and can read it all for free. But also partially because it’s as close to “official” as it gets given that it’s done by MLB.com.
This year’s rankings are, of course, impacted by the fact that there was no minor league season in 2020, so many of these prospects haven’t played in meaningful games in more than a year. That certainly makes evaluating them tougher and also makes it interesting to try and find out why some of them rose in the rankings and others fell.
Here’s what’s changed in the Houston Astros top 30 prospects rankings by MLB Pipeline.
For this year, there’s no change at the top. Despite the fact that he’ll miss the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, Forrest Whitley remains the team’s best prospect. We’ll see if that holds true next year, though. The biggest change is the addition of outfielder Pedro Leon at No. 2, with the Cuban product looking like the team’s center fielder of the future.
As was the case in 2020, there’s not a single lefthanded pitcher in the team’s top 30, which is slightly concerning. But more than half — 16 of these 30, to be exact — are righthanded pitchers. There are two catchers, six outfielders and six infielders. Also of note, of the team’s top 10 position player prospects, only one (outfielder Colin Barber) hits from the left side.
Pitcher Peter Solomon, a fourth round pick in 2017, made the biggest jump, moving up 11 spots from 26th to 15th. He underwent Tommy John surgery after only two starts at High-A ball in 2019 but appears to have regained his mid-90s fastball and offers a pair of plus, yet inconsistent, breaking balls. The Astros added him to the 40-man roster and he’s impressed this spring, so we could potentially see him in the majors this year.
For a more familiar name, Luis Garcia climbed seven spots up to No. 6 in this year’s rankings. He made his major league debut in 2020 and looked solid in limited action, complimenting a mid-90s fastball with an excellent changeup and strong slider. He’s likely the next man up in the event of an injury, so he should be in position to lose his rookie status this season.
Outfielder Zach Daniels also climbed seven spots up to No. 13. The team’s fourth round pick in 2020, Daniels had an enigmatic college career but his tools are impressive, with plus raw power and speed. If he shows he can cut down on the strikeouts and be more selective at the plate, he “could be at least a 20-20 player” who can play all three outfield positions.
Bryan Abreu dropped a whopping 11 spots down to No. 14. He had a rough 2020, showing up to camp out of shape and walking seven batters and hitting another two in just 3.1 innings. He still offers a mid-90s fastball and a pair of excellent breaking pitches, but his poor command and lack of a changeup means his ceiling may be as a reliever. But he’s got to find the strike zone.
Outfielder Jordan Brewer, a third round pick from 2019, fell seven spots to No. 17. The drop seems mainly due to injuries, which included a toe injury in 2019 and left knee surgery last year that kept him out of the team’s instructional league. His excellent speed is a real asset and he displays plus raw power, but he’ll have to improve his contact and his pitch selection at the plate.
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Flamethrowing pitcher Jojanse Torres fell six spots to No. 20 despite pitching well in camp and at the alternate site in 2020. His fastball can reach 100 mph and he also throws a power slider, but his changeup isn’t developed and his control is poor. He’s already 25, so there’s little point in trying him out as a starter anymore. The Astros will have to see if he can hone his command enough to be an effective reliever.
Other Notable Prospects
Three of the top five prospects remained unchanged, with Whitley (first), infielder Jeremy Pena (fourth) and catcher Korey Lee (fifth) staying put. Leon slides in at No. 2, and it’s pitcher Hunter Brown who was bumped up to the third spot. The boost seems to be from dramatically improving his curveball in last year’s instructional league, giving him a legitimate four-pitch repertoire.
Pitcher Alex Santos, the Astros’ top pick in the 2020 draft, moved up four spots to No. 11. Unlike many of the organization’s pitching prospects who feature big arms but lack command, Santos has a smooth, repeatable delivery that should allow him to throw plenty of strikes. He’s only 19, so he will further mature physically and has plenty of time to improve his secondary pitches.
Freudis Nova was the team’s highest ranked infield prospect in 2020 but fell five spots and was passed by Pena. Nova still exhibits plus tools including good power and a strong arm, but his plate discipline needs work and he just needs more all-around polish. Pena is a plus defender and has made great strides offensively, explaining his placement ahead of Nova this year.