You ready? Astros' No. 1 prospect is coming

August 31st, 2022

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.

Are you ready for the Hunter Brown experience? Brown, the Astros’ top-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, will be added to the big league roster on Friday, one day after teams can expand rosters from 26 to 28. He joined the Astros on Tuesday in Arlington as part of the team’s taxi squad in advance of being activated.

“I’m just really excited,” Brown said Tuesday from Globe Life Field. “This is obviously a dream come true, but I’m ready to go to work.”

Brown was informed after Sunday’s game for Triple-A Sugar Land at Las Vegas that he would be joining the Major League team for the first time. It was quite a birthday present for Brown, who grew up in Detroit idolizing Justin Verlander. Brown turned 24 on Monday as he hopped on a plane to meet the Astros in Texas.

“A lot of emotion,” he said. “Just happy and excited. There was a lot of work, even back to high school and college, especially this year and last year in the Minor Leagues and stuff like that.”

It’s expected that the Astros will employ the hard-throwing Brown out of their bullpen, at least initially, before perhaps giving him a start. Brown, the No. 71 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, has nothing left to prove at Triple-A, where he dominated Pacific Coast League hitters all season.

Brown had a 2.55 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, a .186 opponents' batting average and 134 strikeouts in 106 innings in 23 games (14 starts) for Sugar Land. In preparation for his role with Houston, Brown was brought into Sunday’s game in relief in the middle of an inning for the Space Cowboys. He came out firing at 99-plus mph and threw 3 1/3 hitless innings.

“They told me I was coming out of the ‘pen and it was probably unlikely I would get a clean inning,” Brown said. “Luckily, Jon Olczak was rolling in his first Minor League start. I came in with nobody on. It was the first mid-inning [relief appearance] of the season for me. It was a little different, but it was cool.”

Despite losing their ace Verlander to the injured list Tuesday, the Astros still have five quality big league starters with Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers Jr., José Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier, who was moved to the bullpen temporarily last week to pitch behind McCullers. Javier will start Wednesday’s series finale in Arlington.

Brown’s future remains as a starter, but his 99 mph fastball, devastating curveball and ability to pitch multiple innings could give the Astros an added dimension in the postseason.

“He has the stuff,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s just a matter of, 'Can he command the strike zone?' -- which is always the question with young pitchers. How they get the command of their fastball and if they can throw their secondary pitches.”