Astros system blossoming at the top

Tucker, Toro reach Majors while Javier rises to Triple-A

Cristian Javier was named the Astros' Minor League Pitcher of the Year after reaching the PCL. (Julia Price/Round Rock Express)

By Rob Terranova / MiLB.com | October 30, 2019 10:20 AM

Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

The Astros went all-in on their quest for another World Series title at the July 31 Trade Deadline when they traded away three of their top five prospects -- Seth Beer (No. 3), J.B. Bukauskas (No. 4) and Corbin Martin (No. 5) -- as well as then-22nd-ranked Joshua Rojas to the D-backs for ace Zack Greinke. The deal did not completely deplete Houston's system, which still boasts right-hander Forrest Whitley, MLB.com's No. 16 overall prospect.

The organization's domestic affiliates combined for a .537 winning percentage as Triple-A Round Rock, Class A Advanced Fayetteville and Class A Quad Cities reached the playoffs in their respective leagues. The Express and Woodpeckers made it to the Championship Series before falling short, while the River Bandits were knocked out in the Midwest League quarterfinals.

Astros Organization All Stars

Catcher -- Lorenzo Quintana, Corpus Christi (43 games), Round Rock (31 games): It was a rocky start to the season for the 30-year-old, who spent three stints on the injured list and made three trips between the Hooks and Express. However, Quintana caught fire in July and rode the momentum through the end of the year. The Cuba native posted a .348/.366/.710 slash line with eight dingers and 20 RBIs in 16 games with Corpus Christi in July and returned at the beginning of August to Round Rock, where he produced a .304/.351/.536 slash line with four taters and 13 RBIs in 20 games that month. He finished with a career-best 17 long balls in 74 games and improved his defense with a .990 fielding percentage.

"His power started to show and he really just put together a great year," Express manager Mickey Storey said. "He showed up with us kind of raw early on, but every time he came back he was better; and that last time, he really opened some eyes. He came back very motivated. He put in a lot of work, always looking at his numbers, wanted to know the data and info we had and was just really focused, and it showed. He really improved his catching and he hit well for us down the stretch."

First baseman -- Taylor Jones, Round Rock (125 games): The 2016 19th-round pick quietly ascended through the system -- no easy task for someone who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 225 pounds. However, there was nothing quiet about the season the organization's 28th-ranked prospect put together in the Pacific Coast League. After getting a taste of Triple-A last year, Jones opened the season with the Express and proved he moved beyond the adjustment period. The 25-year-old posted a .291/.388/.501 line with an .889 OPS and career-highs in RBIs (84), homers (22), runs scored (86) and walks (68).

"Taylor has kind of been under the radar but I just spoke with a coach in our league who said Jones was the guy they feared the most as an an opponent, the guy that would beat them," Storey said. "He's just an all-around good player. Good clubhouse guy, good guy to have on your roster, he can just do so much. He's athletic, a big guy, and really just did it all well. We should be looking out for him the next couple years to get his chance in the big leagues."

Video: Jones delivers walk-off RBI

Second baseman -- Alex De Goti, Round Rock (125 games): De Goti played 53 of his 125 games at second base, more than any other position, but he did appear at five different spots in the field throughout the season. The versatile 25-year-old lined up at short 46 times, third base 14 times, in left field six times and also made three appearances on the bump, where he threw 3 2/3 hitless innings. De Goti posted a .982 fielding percentage across the board while providing value with his bat. The 2016 15th-rounder hit .277 with 15 taters, 29 doubles, 70 RBIs and 83 runs scored.

"I had Alex two years ago in A-ball, so this is my second go-around with him," Storey said. " He's a solid player who put together a good year and really showed his value with his versatility. He can do so much and he plays hard every time he goes out there and, sneakily, he put together great numbers on offense. He really made us good all season."


MiLB.com 2019 Organization All-Stars: Team by Team >>


Third baseman -- Abraham Toro, Corpus Christi (98 games), Round Rock (16 games), Houston (25 games): Toro put together one of those video game-like seasons, one that ended with a call to The Show. The 22-year-old opened the year in the Texas League, where he produced a .306/.393/.513 slash line with 16 homers, 22 doubles, 70 RBIs and 65 runs scored. He was promoted to Round Rock on Aug. 1 and improved in 16 PCL games. The 2016 fifth-rounder hit .424/.506/.606 with a 1.112 OPS, 17 runs scored and 10 RBIs for the Express before getting promoted to Houston on Aug. 22. Toro manned the hot corner admirably in the bigs, committing two errors in 53 total chances, and he finished with 17 big-league knocks. The Astros' No. 5 prospect was named the organization's Player of the Year.

"I had Toro a few years ago and he's really the same kind of guy. He does his work, does what he needs to do and is always focused on getting better," Express hitting coach Ben Rosenthal said. "He's always ready to make adjustments, put together professional at-bats, and he's consistent. I was not super surprised to see him have success when he was called up because that's just the type of guy he is -- he's very consistent."

Video: Round Rock's Toro notches fifth hit of game

Shortstop -- Jeremy Pena, Quad Cities (66 games), Fayetteville (43 games): In just his second professional season, Pena worked his way to the Carolina League. The 2018 third-rounder opened the year with Quad Cities and played 66 games before moving up to Fayetteville on June 27. Over 109 games, the Astros' eighth-ranked prospect sported a .303/.385/.440 slash line with seven dingers, seven triples, 21 doubles, 72 runs scored and 54 RBIs. He was named a Midwest League midseason All-Star with the River Bandits.

"I really only saw him more in Spring Training and I think I saw him more than you would normally see a young kid like that," Storey said. "He was sent over from Minor League camp and he looked the part right out of the gate. He's got a pro baseball pedigree, really good looking infielder, strong kid. ... He just looked like he belonged with the big league team, so they kept bringing him over. He's a good-looking prospect. The organization is excited about what he offers for us."

Video: Quad Cities ends game with triple play

Outfielders

Kyle Tucker, Round Rock (125 games), Houston (22 games): Considering how well Tucker has performed since the Astros recalled him on Sept. 2, it's easy to forget that he spent just about the entire season with Round Rock. He also did not get off to a great start, batting .165 in April. But that's completely behind the 22-year-old, who put things together quickly and flourished since May. Tucker finished with a .909 OPS in the PCL and amassed a career-best 34 taters while stealing 30 bags. He also drove in 97 runs and scored 92 times with Round Rock. The Tampa native proved more than capable at the corner outfield spots.

"One of the most talented players I've ever been around," Storey said. "He's got all the tools, he can do everything. He pushed the envelope with the running and got to 30/30 this year, and that's something we talked about. He's a guy that can go 20/20 any season he wants, but this year I said to him, 'Go for 30/30, maybe even 40/40, and he got to 30/30 almost with ease. He had some struggles, but when he gets hot, he's hotter than anybody and it's fun to watch.

"He was with us from day 1 until just about almost the end, and I think that was good for him when he got called up. ... Kyle matured a ton the last couple of months and he's a big piece of the Astros organization. And he's showing that right now with them."

Video: Round Rock's Tucker goes yard

Chas McCormick, Corpus Christi (53 games), Round Rock (57 games): McCormick flashed the leather in a big way this season, seeing time at all three outfield positions and playing errorless baseball in 98 games across Double-A and Triple-A. That spanned 831 2/3 innings and 187 total chances without a miscue. The 24-year-old also became a viral star with an extraordinary catch that sent him flipping over the fence in right on May 6 with the Hooks. But he also was no slouch at the plate, with a .269/.386/.432 slash line, 14 homers, 66 RBIs and 65 runs scored in 100 games.

"I had Chas in High-A, got him right out of the gate at 17, and watching him make some big changes and tweaks and just do some things to improve and buy in and develop has been great," Rosenthal said. "He's coachable, he's a gamer, plays hard, he's a twitchy guy with speed and power, and watching him grow and mold into the player he could be is pretty cool and he's doing it. He's a spark-plug player that gets after it and is fun to work with."

Drew Ferguson, Round Rock (115 games): Ferguson was claimed by the Giants in the Rule 5 Draft last December but was returned to the Astros on March 22. The 27-year-old entered a crowded outfield with the Express but was another player who displayed defensive versatility. He appeared at all three outfield positions and worked his way into 115 PCL games. The 2015 19th-rounder also produced at the plate, batting .281 with 36 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs, 27 steals and 83 runs scored.

Honorable mention, Yordan Alvarez, Round Rock (56 games), Houston (87 games): Alvarez did not last long enough in the Minors to warrant an Organization All Star nod, but the time he spent with Round Rock was noteworthy. The 22-year-old absolutely mashed for 56 games with the Express, batting .343, slugging .742 for a 1.184 .OPS with 23 dingers and 71 RBIs. He also produced the Minors' first three-homer effort of the season on April 6.

Utility -- Jack Mayfield, Round Rock (100 games), Houston (26 games): Mayfield spent time all around the infield with the Express, and his versatility proved valuable at the big league level as he played three positions following a promotion to Houston. The 29-year-old played 43 games at shortstop, 33 games at second and 24 games at third for Round Rock while producing career numbers at the plate. Mayfield established personal bests in average (.287), slugging (.566), .OPS (.916), homers (26), RBIs (79) and runs scored (78).

"This was probably the biggest year of his career," Storey said. "A non-drafted free agent, defied all the odds getting called up. But he put together big power numbers -- it was just a big season for him, probably should have been a PCL All-Star, I think. He carried Round Rock in so many different ways. Always top of the order, a three-hole guy. Very solid infielder, makes all the plays, can play him everywhere, he's just a jack of all trades. We needed him bad, and keeping him was very important. Such a heart-and-soul guy and good leader for the clubhouse."

Video: Round Rock's Mayfield rips third homer of game

Right-handed starter -- Cristian Javier, Fayetteville (seven games, five starts), Corpus Christi (17 games, 11 starts), Round Rock (two starts): Not only did Javier work his way through three levels, the 22-year-old put himself on the radar with eye-popping numbers. Over 113 2/3 total innings, the native of the Dominican Republic posted a 1.74 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 170 punchouts and 59 walks. The team's No. 9 prospect was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

"He has been good in the past, always high "K" numbers, but this year was just above and beyond," Astros pitching coordinator Bill Murphy said. "He started in high-A, did well, then in Double-A did even better and then just showed that consistency at Triple-A. He is as good as anyone in Minor League baseball, just an exciting guy to watch. He works extremely hard at what he does and he just keeps trying to get better, which is awesome to watch, and he's really put himself on the map. He's gonna be a legitimate guy at the next level, and it comes down to work ethic. And it was just very cool to watch the year he put together for us."

Video: Hooks' Javier ties career high with 10th K

Left-handed starter -- Parker Mushinski, GCL Astros (three games, two starts), Tri-City (two starts), Fayetteville (11 games, nine starts): After a red-hot start, Mushinski battled through injuries but was able to finish the year healthy. The 23-year-old made a pair of trips to the injured list, and his appearances in the GCL and New York-Penn League were rehab assignments. But he was effective whenever he took the ball for the Woodpeckers. The 2017 seventh rounder posted a 3.76 ERA and fanned 63 over 52 2/3 innings in the Carolina League.

"He started out really really hot in Fayettville but had some issues with health that he worked through," Murphy said. " And it was good to see him put together a solid year. ... He was absolutely lights-out to start the year and we're looking forward to seeing him next year and see him blossom into a really good pitcher. He finished the year healthy, and that was promising, so we're excited for next year."

Relief pitcher -- Willy Collado, Quad Cities (four games), Fayetteville (13 games), Corpus Christi (18 games): Collado took a huge step in his development after appearing in a career-high 35 games and throwing 69 frames. The right-hander whiffed 78 and walked 20 while compiling a 1.83 ERA and 1.10 WHIP across three levels. He did not allow an earned run over 12 1/3 innings in his final five appearances.

"He's a sidearm guy with some really, really good stuff," Murphy said. "He stood out in Quad Cities and went on to finish the year at Double-A and he really put himself on the map as a reliever. It'll be interesting to see how he comes into next year, but a guy with great strikeout numbers. So that'll be exciting to watch -- he's going to be a really good reliever for us down the road."

Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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