What to watch around Astros' top prospects in 2024

April 4th, 2024

HOUSTON -- The stunning no-hitter thrown by Astros starter Ronel Blanco on Monday in only his eighth Major League start was another example of how the organization has continued to produce big league talent despite a farm system that’s been ranked at or near the bottom of the league by MLB Pipeline in the last few years.

Blanco and fellow starting pitchers Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and José Urquidy were older international signings who went under the prospect radar and became impact big leaguers. For every can’t-miss prospect like Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer the Astros have produced, there’s been a Chas McCormick, a Jake Meyers and a J.P. France -- unheralded prospects who became starters in Houston.

So while the Astros don’t have a player currently ranked in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list -- though outfielder Jacob Melton certainly had a case to make the list -- the team remains bullish on its Minor League talent. Who could be the next impact prospect to make his way to Minute Maid Park? Here’s a look at the top prospect at each full-season affiliate:

Triple-A Sugar Land

Player to Watch: OF/1B Joey Loperfido (No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline).

Loperfido nearly made the club out of the spring with a great performance across the board in Grapefruit League play, and he’s off to a hot start in Triple-A. He has four homers in his first five games for the Space Cowboys, with five hits in total.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Spencer Arrighetti (No. 3).

Arrighetti impressed the Astros with his spring performance. He struck out five and gave up five walks and two hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings in his first this season for Triple-A.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: RHP Rhett Kouba (No. 14), IF Will Wagner (No. 15), OF/2B Pedro León (No. 26) and RHP Misael Tamarez (No. 30).

Double-A Corpus Christi

Opening Day: Friday, 7:05 p.m. CT, vs. Midland.

Player to Watch: OF Jacob Melton (No. 1).

A 2022 second-rounder from Oregon State, Melton slashed .245/.334/.467 with 23 homers and 46 stolen bases in 99 games between High-A Asheville and Double-A during his first full pro season, and his underlying metrics were even better than his raw numbers. His best tool is his plus speed, and he could be solid or better across the board.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP A.J. Blubaugh (No. 8).

Working in a piggyback system in his first full pro season, Blubaugh notched 112 strikeouts in 100 innings while earning a promotion to Double-A, where he logged a 1.26 ERA in four outings. He continued to impress in the Arizona Fall League and looks poised for a breakout 2024 season.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: RHP Jose Fleury (No. 9), OF Kenedy Corona (No. 12), OF Colin Barber (No. 20), RHP Miguel Ullola (No. 21), C/1B Miguel Palma (No. 24).

High-A Asheville

Opening Day: Saturday, 5:05 p.m. CT, vs. Winston-Salem.

Player to Watch: OF Luis Baez (No. 2).

Baez, who received the largest bonus in the Astros’ 2022 international crop ($1.3 million), clubbed seven homers in 17 games in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League last summer, earning a promotion to Single-A Fayetteville, where he batted .239/.324/.413.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Jake Bloss (No. 11).

Bloss, the 99th pick in last year's Draft, played baseball for three years at Lafayette before transferring to Georgetown to pursue a master’s degree. He threw 19 innings last year between Rookie level and Fayetteville and will be pitching his first full pro season in 2024.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: SS Brice Matthews (No. 4), OF Zach Cole (No. 7), RHP Andrew Taylor (No. 17), LHP Trey Dombroski (No. 22), OF Cam Fisher (No. 23).

Single-A Fayetteville

Opening Day: Saturday, 6:05 p.m. CT, at Myrtle Beach.

Player to Watch: 3B/OF Waner Luciano (No. 18).

Luciano could be a quick mover through the Astros' system. He played in the States in 2023 for the first time and slashed .247/.345/.476 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 166 at-bats in the Florida Complex League while playing mostly third base and right field as an 18-year-old.

Pitcher to Watch: RHP Alimber Santa (No. 25).

Santa, who’s a stocky 6-foot-1, 225-pound pitcher, throws a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s. He returns to Fayetteville, where he was 3-9 with a 5.98 ERA with 119 strikeouts and 74 walks in 87 1/3 innings last year.

Other Top 30 prospects on the roster: SS Chase Jaworsky (No. 29).