Dirden and Wagner make headlines in Spring Training debut
The Astros won their Spring Training debut yesterday on the backs of two spectacular performances from a couple of prospects Astros' fans have begun to keep close tabs on: Justin Dirden and Will Wagner.
Though the Astros' farm system isn't exactly highly touted across the industry, they continue to churn out big league contributors year after year. Don't be surprised if Dirden and Wagner are next up on the list.
Dirden went 2-2 in his spring debut, finishing with a home run and a double, driving in two runs. Both his home run and double were driven to the opposite field.
Wagner also finished the day 2-2 with a double. He is notably the son of Billy Wagner, the Astros dominant closer that should be a 2024 Hall of Fame inductee.
The last thing I'll ever claim to be is a scout. Some guys are top-rated prospects because of how many tools they possess and how limitless their ceiling may be. But they don't always work out, as evidenced by former "sure thing" Forrest Whitley.
Though neither may jump off the screen physically, both Dirden and Wagner rake. At the end of the day, their job is to hit, and they do that at a high level. Both will be players to watch as they rise through the system.
Dirden went undrafted in the 2020 covid-shortened draft, then signed with the Astros. Due to their sanctions and loss of draft picks, Houston needed to find talent falling through the cracks. They may have done just that with Dirden.
In four college seasons, Dirden hit .347 with an 1.139 OPS. He's continued performing in his two minor league seasons, carrying a .291 average and .939 OPS across all levels. He reached AAA last year and continues flying through the system.
Baseball America ranks Dirden the Astros ninth-best prospect, giving him a 45-grade in hitting, 55 in power, speed and arm, and a 50-grade in fielding. They point out how impressed Houston is with Dirden's athletcisim and his ability to turn into an everyday regular. One thign working against Dirden is his age (he's already 26), but for my money, I think he's far likely to contribute to the Astros big-league club than, say, Pedro Leon. "Tools" are one thing. Dirden just hits.
The same can be said for Wagner. The 24-year-old 18th-round draft pick spent 2022 between high-A and AA levels. He hit .261 with a .767 OPS. Decent numbers, but not ones that would leave him flying through the system.
Wagner then went on to explode in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .346 with a, 1.145 OPS, three home runs and 15 RBI in only 14 games. Mike Trout, Todd Helton, Bryce Harper, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols and Max Scherzer are just a few of the big names that have developed in the AFL. Wagner's success there bodes well for future success.
Baseball America rates Wagner as the 18th-best Astros prospect, highlighting his ability to be a super-utility player. They gave him a 55-grade in hitting, highlighting his consistent quality at-bats, but also point out what has been limited power to this point in his career, giving him only a 40-grade in power. He also received a 40-grade in run, and a 45 in field and arm.
Don't be surprised if Wagner takes the David Hensley route and forces his way through the system by consistently finding his way on base and providing versatility in the field.
Both Wagner and Dirden are under-the-radar prospects that an overwhelming majority of fans outside of Houston don't know. Well, their loss. As the Astros golden era and title window remain open, I'd bet both of these guys develop into big league contributors in the near future.