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State of the Farm: A Houston Astros special

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The Astros’ system remains in good shape despite trades and promotions

Maryland Tobacco Farm Begins Harvest Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Astros’ farm system has experienced a lot of turnover in the past year. Between trades for Ken Giles and Brian McCann and the promotion of multiple prospects to the big leagues, much of their current top prospect list only vaguely resembles one from a couple years. For most organizations, this is bad news. For the Astros, it is very much just a “next man up” scenario. While the system now lacks the ceilings of a Bregman or an Appel (2015 and prior Appel, to be more specific), an abundance of quality depth prevented the system from having much of a drop off, if any.

Here’s a brief rundown on some of the more intriguing players in the system:

Pitchers

Francis Martes, RHP – Isn’t it fun that the Astros picked up their best overall prospect because of the Jarred freaking Cosart trade? Martes is a legitimate Top-50 prospect in all of baseball, boasting a mid-90s fastball, stellar curveball, and above average command of both. He posted a 2.73 FIP in 125.1 innings in Double-A in 2016.

David Paulino, RHP – Paulino was acquired when the Astros shipped Jose Veras off to Detroit back in 2013. Once Paulino was fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery, he proceeded to tear his way through the system, pitching in Low-A, Class-A, and High-A ball in 2015 and Double-A, Triple-A and eventually the big leagues in 2016. He struggled in his brief, seven-inning stint with the Astros, but the talent is evident. Paulino’s combination of a high-90s fastball and vicious curveball make him dangerous and the command should be good enough for him to eventually emerge as a mid-rotation starter.

Forrest Whitley, RHP – Similar to Paulino, Whitley is a 6’7 righty with an impressive fastball-curveball combination. Whitley, a prep arm taken in 2016, is still a long ways off from having the pedigree of Paulino, but both pitchers have similar, sterling ceilings. I wouldn’t be shocked if Whitley is the number one prospect in the Astros’ system at this point next year.

Franklin Perez, RHP – Another big righty with a stellar fastball-curveball combo in his arsenal. Perez is only 19, but has made big strides during his time in the organization. In 2016, he posted a 2.36 FIP across 66.2 innings in Class-A. Doesn’t have the same fanfare of the Martes/Paulino/Whitley trio, but has a mid-rotation ceiling all the same. If he has another big year in 2017, his stock could skyrocket.

Cionel Perez, LHP – Smallish lefty signed out of Cuba for a cool $2 million in 2016. Perez is yet to pitch as a member of the Astros’ organization, but he can reportedly run his fastball up to the mid-90s with a decent slider to go along with it. His frame will present a few question marks, but we’ll get a much clearer picture of Perez in 2017.

Jandel Gustave, RHP – Gustave is a power reliever who can run his fastball up as high as 102 mph. The command leaves much to be desired and he lacks consistency with his slider, although it can be a serious weapon when he’s on. Figures to be a member of the Astros’ bullpen in 2017 in some way, be it as a frequent call up/send down candidate or a permanent presence.

Position Players

Kyle Tucker, OF – Impressive, high-ceiling outfielder with an advanced plate approach. The 20-year-old Tucker has nearly everything you want out of a position prospect: a shiny hit tool, good athleticism, and above-average defense. The power hasn’t come along quite yet, but that figures to develop over the next couple years as he grows into his lanky frame. He will likely be the last top-ten draft pick the Astros have for a very long time, and they didn’t miss.

Daz Cameron, OF – You can see plenty of Mike Cameron in his son, Daz. Between the masterful defense and easy athleticism, it’s hard not to imagine Cameron eventually manning center field for a major league team at some point in his career. The hit tool has dragged down his ceiling a bit, but he still profiles as a quality bat moving forward. Posted a 134 wRC+ across 89 plate appearances in Low-A ball last year.

Derek Fisher, OF – I’ve never been as high on Fisher as most, but there’s no denying his intriguing blend of speed and power. If Fisher can find a way to make contact more often, he could establish himself as a middle of the order bat sometime in the next two to three years. Fisher posted a 124 wRC+ in a brief stint with Triple-A Fresno last season. Poor defense will drag his value down some, however. I won’t be shocked to see him join the Astros at some point in 2017.

Teoscar Hernandez, OF – Hernandez doesn’t have quite the speed and power of Fisher, but he makes up for it with a better defensive presence. Hernandez put up a 93 wRC+ and -0.3 fWAR in a brief, 41-game stint with the Astros in 2016. I expect we’ll see plenty of him in 2017.