Elite Astros have reinforcements ready
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.There is such a thing as a good problem, and the Astros have plenty
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.
There is such a thing as a good problem, and the Astros have plenty of them. The organization's Triple-A affiliate in Fresno featured as much Major League-ready talent as any team in the Minors, but the 2017 World Champions had one of baseball's toughest rosters to crack. Plenty of familiar faces posted gaudy numbers that could not go unnoticed and other up-and-comers forced their way to the doorstep of the Major Leagues.
Beyond the Pacific Coast League and this list of All-Stars remains a deep prospect pool.
Astros Organization All-Stars
At 5-foot-10 and 175-pounds, there are some concerns about Stubbs' size and durability, particularly as a backstop. He played 75 games behind the plate, making five errors and throwing out 19 of 42 would-be basestealers. Despite any doubts, he's shown he has the skill set to stick at the position.
First baseman --
Astros manager A.J. Hinch told MLB.com before the season that Reed hadn't "been given full opportunity to show what he can do," but a similar situation again denied a September callup for the 25-year-old. But the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder persevered, batting .255/.344/.506 with 72 runs scored, 64 walks and 24 doubles, his fifth consecutive season with at least 20 two-baggers.
"There are 29 other teams out there and they're always looking. You've got to keep playing hard and doing what you can do for those other teams," Reed told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star in October. "I'm a guy who's going to hit home runs and have RBIs. The goal is just have as many as those as possible. That's how I'm going to help a team the most."
Organization All-Stars by MLB affiliate »
Second baseman --
Third baseman --
"It's the longest [streak] I've seen in person," Corpus Christi hitting coach Troy Snitker told MiLB.com. "It's been really impressive over such a long period of time. A lot of things have happened. He's battled multiple injuries, gone down to the wire multiple times.
"He also started off the year as kind of maybe the guy teams are not going to target as far as a guy pitchers are going to stay away from, and now he's the guy they say, 'We're not going to have him beat us.'"
Cesar batted .391/.428/.627 with 66 hits, including eight homers, two triples and 12 doubles, 30 RBIs and 28 runs scored during the streak. He split time almost evenly between third and first base, with the bulk of his time coming at the hot corner.
"His bat-to-ball skills are second to none. He's really impressive to watch," Fresno manager Rodney Linares said. "You can see him hit in a game and it looks like he had never hit in his life -- he can get fooled by three breaking balls in a row. But if he comes back up again, that breaking ball better be in the dirt. Because if not, he's going to hit it out of the park."
The 21-year-old had a hard time translating his success to the Majors and was 9-for-64 (.141) with four RBIs in 28 games over three stints in Houston. A terrific August help him force his way back onto the Major League roster after the Pacific Coast League season ended. He led the PCL with a .471 average, .542 OBP, .943 slugging percentage and 1.485 OPS and added 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 17 games.
"He dominated the Minor Leagues," Hinch told MLB.com, insisting that Tucker has a shot at the Astros' Opening Day roster next year. "I think he's got to come up with a 'B' swing that will allow it to be more adjustable to different styles of pitches and different ways that guys attack them. We talked a little about his mechanics, about what he's learned, the different pitches he's seen in the big leagues. I told him to come win the job next year as an outfielder."
"It's all about creating a swing path that allows him to make the most of that power," Corpus Christi manager Omar Lopez told MiLB.com after Alvarez's second-career multi-homer game on May 2. "It's just about getting his reps, and that's exactly what he's doing. He's physically stronger, too, and seems like he's working more on cardio and his lower half. It's coming together well."
Alvarez batted .325/.389/.615 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in the Texas League. Houston's third-ranked prospect had a one-game stint in Fresno in June and came back up for good on July 6, sporting a .259/.349/.452 in his final 166 at-bats of the season. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder is rather spry for his size and has the athleticism to be an effective corner outfielder.
"It's the same as it's been ever since Rookie ball," Straw told MiLB.com. "They want me to go when I get the chance. Deep down, I know that's my talent. If I can steal a lot of bases, that's what is going to get me my shot at the Major Leagues, which is the main goal for anyone in this game. I'm going to use it in any way I can to make that goal happen."
The 24-year-old batted .291/.381/.353 with 24 extra-base hits and 31 RBIs across both levels, totaling a career-best 150 hits and 95 runs scored.
Designated hitter --
Right-handed starter --
James' arsenal is led by a fastball that used to top out in the low 90s but can now reach triple digits. He says the reinvigorated pitch is the result of a medical treatments for sleep apnea, a discovery he made prior to last season. The 2014 34th-rounder made six appearances, including four starts, at Double-A, posting a 2.49 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.
He was used exclusively as a starter with Fresno and registered a 3.40 ERA over 92 2/3 innings in the PCL before earning a Sept. 1 callup. A 2 2/3-inning scoreless performance in his second Major League start tipped Hinch to an idea for the near future.
"We started talking a little bit about what he could do maybe in the 'pen," the skipper told MLB.com. "And then we had a spot start available and he came up and did exactly what he had been doing in the Minors -- struck out guys, calm demeanor, plus stuff across the board. And he stuck."
Left-handed starter --
"I obviously have things I need to fine-tune; if I didn't, I'd be in the big leagues right now," the University of Michigan product told MLive.com before the season. "I'm just trying to make myself 1 percent better each day. If I can do that, hopefully, I can end up in the right place."
The 23-year-old showcases a low- to mid-90s fastball with two breaking pitches that grade out above average. He was incredibly tough on left-handed hitters at both levels, holding them to an .041 average in the Carolina League and a .143 mark in the Texas League.
Relief pitcher --
"It was tough," the Astros' No. 18 prospect told MLB.com. "I wasn't ready for it at all. I got a call literally three or four days after I got put on the [40-man roster]. I went from being really excited to the toughest news I ever heard. My family helped me get through it. Just working in extended [spring] through my suspension and working with everyone helped me get through it."
Deetz pitched three innings for the River Bandits and 3 2/3 frames for the Hooks before returning to Fresno in late June, allowing three runs over 34 innings (0.79 ERA) while notching 50 strikeouts in the PCL. An injury to reliever Hector Rondon in early September created the opportunity for Deetz's first call to the Majors.
Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @GerardGilberto4.