Though they're off to a slow start, the Astros might have the most talented roster in the Major Leagues. They've retained most of the players who did the heavy lifting when they won 101 games and a World Series championship in 2017 and encored with a franchise-record 103 victories last
Though they're off to a slow start, the Astros might have the most talented roster in the Major Leagues. They've retained most of the players who did the heavy lifting when they won 101 games and a World Series championship in 2017 and encored with a franchise-record 103 victories last season.
Houston also has a strong farm system that includes a club with the most talented roster anywhere in the Minor Leagues. The Round Rock Express, its Triple-A affiliate, features four members of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list: right-handers Forrest Whitley (No. 7) and Corbin Martin (No. 79) and outfielders Kyle Tucker (No. 8) and Yordan Alvarez (No. 43). No other team in the Minors has more than three Top 100 guys.
Whitley is the best pitching prospect in baseball, while Tucker returns to the Pacific Coast League after leading the circuit in slugging (.590) and OPS (.989) as its second-youngest regular (age 21) a year ago. Round Rock features lots of depth behind its headliners as well.
Left-hander Cionel Perez has a feel for four pitches and had success in a brief stint as a reliever with the Astros last year. Garrett Stubbs is a better athlete than most catchers and also stands out with his hitting and throwing ability. Outfielder Myles Straw topped the Minors in batting (.358) in 2016 and steals (70) in 2018, and he played his way onto Houston's postseason roster last October.
Pairing a mid-90s fastball with a mid-80s slider, right-hander Dean Deetz logged a 0.79 ERA in 21 Triple-A appearances last season. Righty Rogelio Armenteros is more about polish than stuff, but he has gone 16-2 in Triple-A during the last two years.
After the Express, these are the Minor League teams with the most impressive Opening Day rosters:
2. Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers, Double-A)
Catcher Keibert Ruiz (No. 34 on the Top 100), right-hander Dustin May (No. 68) and middle infielder Gavin Lux (No. 69) are back in Tulsa after helping the franchise win the Texas League championship last September. So are righties Mitchell White and Yadier Alvarez and outfielder D.J. Peters (the TL home run leader last year with 29), all of whom have been Top 100 Prospects in the past. Yet another returnee is righty Marshall Kasowski, who led all Minor League relievers in strikeouts (111 in 64 2/3 innings) last year. Middle infielder Omar Estevez and corner infielder Cristian Santana were two of the hottest hitters in the Minors in the final six weeks of 2018 and led Rancho Cucamonga to the Class A Advanced California League title.
3. Mississippi Braves (Double-A)
The Braves aren't afraid to promote their prospects aggressively, and Mississippi features three Top 100 guys who have big ceilings and rank among the youngest players in the Southern League at age 20: right-hander Ian Anderson (No. 32) and outfielders Cristian Pache (No. 36) and Drew Waters (No. 84). Left-handers Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller aren't too far removed from the Top 100 and they're just 21. Third baseman C.J. Anderson, a 20th-rounder who signed for $500,000 last June, begins his first full pro season in Double-A after batting .352/.429/.495 between three levels in his debut.
4. Indianapolis Indians (Pirates, Triple-A)
Indianapolis has one of the top pitching prospects in the game in right-hander Mitch Keller (No. 19) and also will roll out one of the deepest lineups in the Minors. The Indians have an all-prospect infield with third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes (No. 45), shortstop Cole Tucker, second baseman Kevin Kramer and first baseman Will Craig. Outfielders Bryan Reynolds and Jason Martin also are accomplished hitters.
5. Gwinnett Stripers (Braves, Triple-A)
Only four Minor League clubs can lay claim to three or more Top 100 Prospects, and two of them belong to the Braves. Gwinnett already has a strong rotation with right-handers Mike Soroka (No. 24) and Touki Toussaint (No. 49) and left-hander Kolby Allard, and it will get stronger when Luiz Gohara recovers from shoulder tightness and comes off the injured list. Third baseman Austin Riley (No. 37) powers the Stripers offense.
6. Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals, Class A Advanced)
All three of Kansas City's first-round picks from the 2018 Draft open the season in Wilmington: right-handers Brady Singer (No. 53) and Jackson Kowar plus left-hander Daniel Lynch. They're joined by four more of the Royals' top prospects in catcher M.J. Melendez, first baseman Nick Pratto and outfielders Seuly Matias and Kyle Isbel. Matias ranked first in the Minors in homers per plate appearance (one every 12.1) a year ago.
7. El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres, Triple-A)
The Padres have baseball's best farm system and an MLB Pipeline-record 10 Top 100 Prospects, two of whom they've sent to El Paso: infielder Luis Urias (No. 23) and left-hander Logan Allen (No. 73). Outfielder/first baseman Josh Naylor, right-hander Cal Quantrill and catcher Austin Allen are three more talented players on the cusp of the big leagues. The Chihuahuas would have ranked No. 1 on this list if shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 2) and righty Chris Paddack (No. 33) hadn't forced their way to San Diego with strong Spring Training performances.
8. San Antonio Missions (Brewers, Triple-A)
After leading the National League with 96 wins a year ago, the Brewers not only have another strong club but also several prospects waiting in the wings in San Antonio. Second baseman Keston Hiura (No. 20) is one of the best pure hitters in the Minors and outfielder Corey Ray is coming off a 27-homer, 37-steal season in Double-A. A loaded Missions lineup also includes middle infielder Mauricio Dubon, third baseman Lucas Erceg and outfielder Troy Stokes, while right-hander Zack Brown fronts the rotation.
9. Erie SeaWolves (Tigers, Double-A)
The Tigers system is deeper than it has been in years, with much of its talent concentrated in Erie. Right-handers Matt Manning (No. 51) and Alex Faedo and infielder Isaac Paredes all could be poised for breakout years, while Jake Rogers might be the best defensive catcher anywhere in the Minors. The SeaWolves will be even more formidable when righty Casey Mize (No. 17), the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 Draft, gets promoted from Class A Advanced later in the season.
10. Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers, Class A Advanced)
Down East doesn't have a single Top 100 Prospect, though middle infielder Anderson Tejeda and outfielders Bubba Thompson and Leody Taveras have lofty ceilings and could play their way onto the list this year. Infielder Diosbel Arias paced the Short-Season Northwest League in batting (.366) and on-base percentage (.451) in his 2018 pro debut. As for pitchers, Tyler Phillips is a control specialist with solid stuff, and fellow righties A.J. Alexy and DeMarcus Evans get a ton of swings and misses with high-spin fastballs and curves. Evans topped Minor League relievers in strikeout rate (16.6 per nine innings) a year ago.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.