5) Hunter Brown
Wait, we're already advocating for an extension for a rookie with less than 25 career innings on his arm? You got it.
Brown had a meteoric rise through the Astros' farm system. A former fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft, Brown flew up prospect boards after coming to Houston, soaring past Forrest Whitley as the Astros' future rotation workhorse. He currently sits 68th on the MLB's Top 100 prospect list, the lone representative for the Astros.
Brown spent much of the year with AAA Sugar Land, where he was recently named PCL Pitcher of the Year, but not for lack of success. The Astros' six-deep rotation kept Brown blocked in AAA, where all he did was dominate the competition to the tune of a 2.55 ERA and 11.4 K/9.
He eventually made it to The Show as a September call-up, where he continued to wipe away the competition, going 2-0 with a 0.89 ERA in 20.1 innings thrown. His mid-90's slider left opposing batters tied in knots, as only Jacob DeGrom topped Brown's 95.7 mph slider in velocity.
Much was made of the striking similarity between Brown and the mechanics of his childhood idol, Justin Verlander. But it wasn't just their mechanics that were similar.
Verlander is well on his way to a third Cy Young, backed by a four-seam fastball/slider combo that tied up opposing hitters all year. Opponents had a .194 batting average and .300 xwOBA against his fastball. Brown's four-seamer yielded a .305 xwOBA.
JV's put-away slider held opponents to a .222 xwOBA. Brown's? Opponents posted only a .167 xwOBA against his slider.
Yes, Brown has a very small sample size as a big-leaguer. But in that sample, it wasn't just his windup that imitated Verlander. His results were the same: untouchable.
Sure, the Astros may bring Verlander back this year, but when they've got a carbon copy in the wings, why not lock him up for the long haul before his market value explodes?