Drew Gilbert turning heads in Minors

May 10th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

There have been some notable cases in Astros history of players jumping from Double-A to the Major Leagues, bypassing Triple-A.

Perhaps the most notable were future stars Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez, who did that within 10 days of each other in 2011. That was when the Astros were beginning their rebuild and dealing away any veteran players with value. Altuve took the place of Jeff Keppinger after he was traded, and Martinez replaced Hunter Pence after he was traded.

So, when it was announced Monday that Astros’ No. 1 prospect Drew Gilbert was being promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi, it begged the question: how close is he to the big leagues? Gilbert, last year’s first-round pick out of the University of Tennessee, hit .360 with six homers, 18 RBIs and a 1.107 OPS in 21 games in High-A Asheville and will make his Double-A debut in a Wednesday doubleheader.

Astros general manager Dana Brown is bullish on Gilbert, but the Astros have a glut of outfielders. Michael Brantley appears close to returning from the injured list, and Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez and Corey Julks are the other outfielders on the active roster.

“When you take a college player from the SEC, that’s where most of the Major League players come from in the college ranks,” Brown said. “If he’s on top of his game, he’s got a chance to be in the big leagues quick. He’s off to a good start. I’m not ready to say he’s Major League ready right now, but we’ll continue to watch him progress, but we love what we see. He’s a really good hitter. [He] is going to get to some power, good defender, can really throw, exciting energy. There’s a lot to like.”

Michael Harris II, last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, was drafted by Brown when he was Atlanta’s vice president of scouting in 2019. Harris started last year at Double-A, and was promoted to the big leagues after 43 games (196 plate appearances), skipping Triple-A. That was a special scenario, Brown said.

“We needed to get better defensively, and we knew whatever he gave us with the bat would be great,” he said. “So that’s why we made the move. We have good defense in center right now, but at the end of the day if [Gilbert] continues to progress, we’ll keep an eye on him. If he goes to Double-A and plays well, we may see him at Triple-A [this year]. We’ll take one step at a time.”