HOUSTON -- Despite dealing away a bevy of prospects in recent trades for pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and catcher Brian McCann, the Astros' farm system remains stocked with some high-end talent.
That list is led by right-handed pitcher Forrest Whitley, the No. 9-ranked prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, outfielder Kyle Tucker (No. 17) and right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas (No. 76), the team's first-round Draft pick a year ago. They are the three Astros ranked among MLB's Top 100 Prospects.
The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLB Pipeline Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2018 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 25 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
• MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 100 Prospects list
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The Astros ranked 17th among the 30 teams with 201 prospect points, in terms of players ranked in the Top 100, with each prospect on the list being assigned a point value as follows: 100 for No. 1; 99 for No. 2; 98 for No. 3, etc.
Tucker, who has earned a trip to Major League camp this year, hit .274 with 70 runs, 33 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 21 steals and an .874 OPS in 120 combined games between Double-A Corpus Christi and Class A Advanced Buies Creek last season. Despite being one of the youngest position players in both the Carolina League and Texas League at 20 years old, Tucker was one of just 10 players in all of the Minor Leagues to record at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2017.
Whitley dominated at three Minor League levels last year despite pitching the entire season at 19 years old, going 5-4 with a 2.83 ERA with 34 walks, 78 hits allowed and 143 strikeouts in 23 games (18 starts) between Corpus Christi, Buies Creek and Class A Quad Cities. Selected by the Astros with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, the 6-foot-7 right-hander led the Minors in strikeouts per nine innings (13.94).
Bukauskas, 21, was drafted No. 15 overall out of North Carolina in 2017 and barely got his feet wet in the Minor Leagues last year, appearing in three games at Class A Short-Season Tri-City and Rookie-level Greeneville.
Bukauskas has a fastball that sits at 93-94 mph and touches 98 mph and a hard, breaking slider that hits 86 mph. He's also developing a changeup, which he will need to refine because the Astros plan to develop him as a starter. In his junior year with the Tar Heels in 2017, he went 9-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 116 batters and walking 37 in 92 2/3 innings.