Do the Astros trust their outfield prospects going into 2024?
One thing that we know for sure is that Michael Brantley is about to become a free agent and the Astros bringing him back is far from an easy decision. Not only was out for a long time after having shoulder surgery, Brantley didn't look particularly good when he did finally return and he will be 37 years old for most of next season.
That makes getting Houston's outfield situated for next season a top priority and how ready Houston thinks their top outfield prospects are will color a lot of their offseason plan. Chas McCormick played well enough this season to earn regular playing time and Kyle Tucker is a lock for the next couple of years, but that third outfield spot is tricky to suss out.
After trading outfield prospects Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford to the Mets to bring back Justin Verlander, Houston have a few outfield prospects of note that played in Double-A or higher last year in Joey Loperfido, Jacob Melton, Colin Barber, Kenedy Corona, and Justin Dirden. All of these guys rank in the top 15 or so Astros prospect rankings, but none of them are a sure thing to be able to break camp with Houston next spring as most of them still have some warts to their game at present.
While Melton is the higher rated prospect for the long-term, Loperfido probably has the best chance in all likelihood to make the Astros' roster out of spring training next year. He had a strong year at the plate in 2023 with an .880 OPS and mashed his way to Triple-A where he played 32 games although his production did drop off a bit there. Lopefido has a well-rounded toolset at the plate and would fit well in left field, but playing just one season at Double-A or higher is a tough sell for an Astros team that needs to compete in 2024.
How the Astros feel about all of those guys will determine what course of action they take during the offseason.