Many tuned in last night to see who would make the list of the Top 100 prospects in all of major league baseball. Some fanbases knew that their team would not have many young players on the list, while most Astros fans would have been stunned if their prospects were left out.
When Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow took over the baseball operations department on December 7, 2011, he knew that the Astros would have to rebuild the organization through the farm system. He insisted that Astros ownership as well as the fanbase remain patient throughout the process, as he knew that this plan would bring winning baseball back to MInute Maid Park.
As the Astros head in to the 2017 season, Luhnow's plan is in full swing and showing some results as well. While the major league team is certainly poised for a postseason run, the minor league system is stocked with great young talent. This farm system has been the key to the Astros' success, and this will remain the case as the team hits its competitive window.
This is why, as Astros fans tuned in last night, they knew that the club would be featured prominently on a list of the Top 100 prospects in baseball. It was just all about where the young players would fit in the large ranking. With that said, let's dive in and examine how the top Astros prospects stacked up in the MLB Top 100 prospects ranking:
#84 - Forrest Whitley, RHP
Getting on the Top 100 list as a 19 year-old kid is an accomplishment, no matter how talented you are. The Astros 2016 first round pick Forrest Whitley received quite an honor by making the cut, and should be humbled and determined to work harder and climb this list.
Whitley is a very tall kid with a 6'7" frame, and already has a mid 90s fastball in his arsenal. He should progress steadily through the Astros farm system and is on track for an MLB debut in 2019. Astros fans should be excited to see Whitley improve as he starts the third decade in his life.
#83 - Derek Fisher, OF
Houston Astros fans were certainly excited to see two of their top prospects go back to back on this list with Whitley entering at #84 and then Fisher filing in next at 83rd in the ranking. The two certainly are very close in proximity in the Top 100 ranking, but they could not be further apart in their major league "readiness".
Fisher could help the Astros in the second half of this season if he progresses well through Fresno, while Whitley will not suit up in an Astros uniform for a few years unless he makes an unprecedented climb through the system. Fisher is an outfielder with a solid power-speed combination, but will need to work on his plate discipline before making the jump to Houston.
With Nori Aoki, Jake Marisnick, George Springer, and Josh Reddick ahead of him, Fisher will need to impress a lot of people before he suits up at Minute Maid Park.
#54 - David Paulino, RHP
Not counting his MLB debut, Astros fans have many reasons to be excited about David Paulino's future in the organization. Plucked from the Detroit Tigers as a PTBNL in the Jose Veras trade, Paulino has greatly improved in the Astros farm system through the last three years.
His fastball has improved from the mid 80s to the low to mid 90s, and his 6'7'' frame gives him a solid downhill plane when he pitches the ball. Paulino finished ahead of 17 right-handed pitchers on this ranking, so Astros fans should feel excited about his future and the respect that people around major league baseball have for his ability as a pitcher.
I would expect Paulino to pitch a little bit in AAA and then come to Houston either in the bullpen or perhaps in the starting rotation if complacency begins to brew among the five pitchers that start in the Astros 2017 rotation.
#35 - Kyle Tucker, OF
Kyle Tucker made significant strides in 2016, helping him raise his ranking in this list by almost 20 spots in one whole year. Many Astros fans are excited to see Tucker develop through the system and prove to be worth the Top 5 pick that the Astros used to draft him.
This past winter, the Astros were involved in many trade talks with the White Sox for Jose Quintana, and at many points the clubs were just too far apart in their talks and Tucker had a lot to do with that. Many clubs know the value of Tucker, but the Astros are not going to send away their top outfield prospect for a deal that does not benefit them.
Tucker will probably start the 2017 season at High Class A Lancaster and hopefully progress to AA Corpus Christi from there. His ETA to make his Astros debut is probably 2019, but if he continues at this pace that debut may be sooner rather than later.
#20 - Francis Martes, RHP
The Astros are hoping that their top prospect, Francis Martes, replicates the fast track that Lance McCullers went on just a couple of seasons ago. Last night, Martes was given the honor of being named one of the top 20 prospects in all of baseball.
Many forget that the only reason the Astros were able to acquire Martes was from the Jarred Cosart trade with the Marlins a couple years ago. The main pieces in that trade were Cosart, Jake Marisnick, and Colin Moran. The Astros scouted the lower levels of the Marlins' system very well, and were able to discover Martes and get him in the deal.
Now, it seems as if Martes is almost a lock to make his debut in Houston some time in 2017. He'll probably start the season with AAA Fresno, although I would not be shocked if the Astros front office wants him to get a few more outings under his belt in Corpus Christi. In any case, Astros fans should look forward to seeing Martes pitch at Minute Maid Park in the near future.