The Astros have gone all-in to win during the last three seasons, and it's impossible to argue with the results. They won their first World Series championship, two pennants and an MLB-best 311 games, becoming the sixth team to post 100 or more victories in three consecutive years.
Houston's farm system has played a huge role in its resurgence from a club that finished with MLB's worst record for three years running from 2011-13. Its lineup is built around first-round picks (George Springer, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman) and international signings (José Altuve, Yuli Gurriel). The system also spawned the fodder to trade for Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke -- a total of 12 youngsters, including eight present or former MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects (Seth Beer, J.B. Bukauskas, Daz Cameron, Michael Feliz, Corbin Martin, Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Franklin Perez) and three others who have reached the big leagues (Jason Martin, Jake Rogers, Josh Rojas).
All the graduations and trades have left the Astros system thinner than it has been since it was one of the game's worst at the beginning of the decade. Unlike then, they aren't about to string together a slew of last-place finishes. Their lone Top 100 Prospect, right-hander Forrest Whitley, should be ready for the big leagues in 2020, but they lack other impact talents who can make a difference in the next couple of seasons.
That said, Houston has excelled at using analytics and technology to create pitching prospects out of unheralded signees, with Bryan Abreu, Cristian Javier and World Series hero Jose Urquidy three prime examples currently looking to stick in the big leagues. The Astros attempted to replenish their supply of position players by using their top four 2019 Draft picks on hitters, starting with surprise first-rounder Korey Lee.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
HITTING & PITCHING PROSPECTS OF THE YEAR
Abraham Toro, 3B/2B (No. 5): Scouts kept thinking his hitting ability and power would translate into production, and it finally happened in 2019 as he batted .324/.411/.527 with 17 homers in the upper Minors and went deep twice during a September callup.
Cristian Javier, RHP (No. 9): His invisible fastball and solid breaking stuff helped him lead the Minors in ERA (1.74), strikeout rate (13.5 per nine innings) and opponent average (.130) while rising from high Class A to Triple-A. More »
Jose Urquidy, RHP (No. 11): He went from not making our preseason Astros Top 30 to winning Game 4 of the World Series, thanks to a plus changeup and control to match.
Jayson Schroeder, RHP (No. 24): One of just four high school arms inked out of the top 10 rounds in general manager Jeff Luhnow's eight Drafts at the helm of the Astros, Schroeder signed for an over-slot $1.25 million as a 2018 second-rounder and completely lost the strike zone this year.
Draft: Korey Lee, C, 1st round (No. 3); Grae Kessinger, SS/3B, 2nd round (No. 12); Jordan Brewer, OF, 3rd round (No. 7); Colin Barber, OF, 4th round (No. 20); Hunter Brown, RHP, 5th round (No. 22); Matthew Barefoot, OF, 6th round Complete Draft list »
International: Dauri Lorenzo, SS
Trade: Cal Stevenson, OF
Though most teams considered Lee a second- or third-round talent, Houston loved his raw power and arm strength and took him at No. 32 overall.
2020 IMPACT PROSPECT
Forrest Whitley, RHP (No. 1): A suspension, minor injuries and mechanical issues have waylaid his last two seasons, yet he's still just 22 with the makings of four plus pitches and consecutive Arizona Fall League strikeout crowns.
Hit: Abraham Toro
Power: Taylor Jones
Run: Jordan Brewer
Arm: Freudis Nova
Field: Jeremy Pena
Best athlete: Brewer
Fastball: Forrest Whitley
Curveball: Bryan Abreu
Slider: Jose Urquidy
Changeup: Brett Conine
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
Houston has been cost-effective on the international market, with top foreign prospect Freudis Nova garnering a $1.2 million bonus and their next four (Abreu, Javier, Urquidy, right-hander Enoli Paredes) signing for a combined $160,000.
TOP 30 BY POSITION
The Astros lead all organizations with 16 right-handers on their Top 30, and they join the Pirates as the only system without a single lefty on their list.