The Astros are at a bit of a crossroads. They made the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons in 2020, but they also finished with a losing record for the first time since 2014.
And after constructing one of the game's best farm systems in the middle of the decade -- sparking three 100-win seasons, two pennants and a World Series championship -- Houston's cupboard of Minor League talent is now relatively bare. Years of graduating talented youngsters to the big leagues and trading prospects for veterans has left the Astros with a system ranked 28th among baseball's 30 organizations in MLB Pipeline's midseason talent evaluations. Losing their first two Draft picks in both 2020 and 2021 as a penalty for sign stealing didn't help.
After producing a unanimous American League Rookie of the Year in Yordan Alvarez in 2019, Houston used a whopping 15 rookie pitchers this season (most notably Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy) while coming within a victory of another pennant. The only prospect who looks like he could play a significant big league role next year is right-hander Forrest Whitley, who's supremely gifted but also has worked just 86 innings in the last three seasons because of a series of minor injuries, a drug suspension and command issues.
The Astros' alternate camp and instructional league programs did raise the profiles of some previously unheralded youngsters who could play large roles in the franchise's future. Outfielders Colin Barber and Zach Daniels, fourth-round picks in the last two Drafts, have some of the best all-around tools in the system. Right-hander Hunter Brown, a fifth-rounder in 2019, has developed a promising curveball and could succeed Whitley as the organization's best mound prospect.
FARM SYSTEM RANKINGS
2020 Midseason: 27 | Preseason: 28
2019 Midseason: NR | Preseason: 6
2018 Midseason: 9 | Preseason: NR
2017 Midseason: 9 | Preseason: NR
2016 Midseason: 3 | Preseason: 10
2015 Midseason: 8 | Preseason: 8
Only the top 10 systems were ranked from 2015 to 2019 preseason; the top 15 systems were ranked 2019 midseason.
TOP FIVE PROSPECTS
1. Forrest Whitley, RHP (No. 17 on Top 100)
2. Freudis Nova, INF
3. Bryan Abreu, RHP
4. Jeremy Pena, SS/2B
5. Korey Lee, C
Draft: Alex Santos, RHP, supplemental 2nd round (No. 7); Tyler Brown, RHP, 3rd round (No. 17); Zach Daniels, OF, 4th round (No. 21). Complete Draft list »
Though the Astros forfeited their top two selections and didn't make their first pick until No. 72 overall, they were pleased with their haul. Santos is the best teenaged pitching prospect in the system, Brown could move fast as a reliever and Daniels offers a tantalizing combination of power and speed.
2021 IMPACT PROSPECT
Forrest Whitley, RHP (No. 1): He has become something of an enigma but he can still hit 98 mph with his fastball and owns five different pitches that grade as plus or better at their best.
2022 TOP PROSPECT
Freudis Nova, INF (No. 2): A potential 20-20 shortstop with the best arm in the system, he has drawn comparisons to Hanley Ramirez and Edgar Renteria.
Hit: Grae Kessinger
Power: Zach Daniels
Run: Jordan Brewer
Arm: Freudis Nova
Field: Jeremy Pena
Best athlete: Zach Daniels
Fastball: Jojanse Torres
Curveball: Bryan Abreu
Slider: Forrest Whitley
Changeup: Brett Conine
Control: Brett Conine
Five of the Astros' 11 best prospects came from the 2019 Draft: catcher Korey Lee (first round), Hunter Brown (fifth), Colin Barber (fourth), outfielder Jordan Brewer (third) and shortstop Grae Kessinger (second).
TOP 30 BY POSITION
Houston tied the Cubs for the most pitchers (18) on its Top 30 list among all organizations despite being just one of three without a single left-hander.