HOUSTON -- The Astros' ascent to being considered Major League Baseball royalty, culminating with the 2017 World Series championship and including a club-record 103 wins last year, hasn't stopped them from having one of the game's top farm systems.As the Astros prepare to head to Spring Training next month with
HOUSTON -- The Astros' ascent to being considered Major League Baseball royalty, culminating with the 2017 World Series championship and including a club-record 103 wins last year, hasn't stopped them from having one of the game's top farm systems.
As the Astros prepare to head to Spring Training next month with a star-studded roster that includes homegrown stars like José Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer, the next wave of Astros stars is on the come. Houston has six players ranked in MLB Pipeline's preseason Top 100 Prospects list, led by pitcher Forrest Whitley (No. 7) and outfielder Kyle Tucker (No. 8).
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The other four Astros ranked are outfielder Yordan Alvarez (No. 44) and right-handed pitchers Josh James (No. 62), Corbin Martin (No. 81) and J.B. Bukauskas (No. 97).
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 2019 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.
The Astros have the fifth most prospect points (307) for teams with prospects ranked in the Top 100, with a slotted system in which the No. 1-ranked player gets 100 points, the No. 2-ranked player gets 99, etc. Only the Padres (10 players) and Braves (eight players) have more players on the Top 100 than the Astros, who, along with the White Sox and Rays, each have six.
Whitley, 21, will be in Major League camp for the first time this year after an abbreviated 2018 season in which he served a 50-game suspension to start the year and then battled injury problems toward the end. He made eight regular-season starts at Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.76 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings, before striking out 36 in 26 innings in the Arizona Fall League.
Tucker, 22, made his Major League debut in July and hit .141 in 72 plate appearances, before being sent back down. At Triple-A Fresno last year, he hit .332 with 27 doubles, three triples, 24 homers, 94 RBIs, 20 steals and a .989 OPS in 100 games, and he will push for a spot on the big league club this year.
Alvarez, 21, hit .293 with 21 doubles, 20 home runs and 74 RBIs in 88 games combined between Fresno and Corpus Christi in 2018. The left-handed-hitting outfielder primarily played left field last year, making 63 starts at the position, but also appeared in five games at first base.
James, 25, was named the Astros' Minor League Pitcher of the year after going a combined 6-4 with a 3.23 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 23 games (21 starts) between Fresno and Corpus Christi. He was called up Sept. 1 and dazzled with his 101-mph fastball, striking out 29 batters in 23 innings in six games (three starts) with the Astros.
Martin, 23, posted a 9-2 record and a 2.51 ERA in 25 games (21 starts) between Corpus Christi and Class A Advanced Buies Creek last season. He struck out 122 in 122 innings, while allowing a .199 opponent batting average.
Bukauskas, 22, combined to go 4-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 14 regular-season starts across five levels last year, topping out at Corpus Christi. A first-round pick in 2017 out of North Carolina, he struck out 71 batters in 59 combined innings, posting a 2.14 ERA in 14 starts.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow <ahref="http: twitter.com/brianmctaggart"="">@brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.</ahref="http:>