AAA: Fresno Grizzlies
RISING - Tyler White, 1B
While Derek Fisher has all but locked up the spot as the Astros top outfield prospect of the present, the corner infield positions remain up for grabs. A.J. Reed and Colin Moran are both in the running, but so far Tyler White is the first one to step up and grab the competition by the reigns.
The man who was the Astros Opening Day starting 1st-baseman last season has had something of a revival season, as a recent hot-stretch has given him a .307/.378/.480 slash line on the season. He has added 9 homers and owns a 124 wRC+.
White isn’t dominating the Minors quiet like he used to, when he rapidly climbed through the Astros farm system after being drafted the Astros' 33rd-round pick in 2013. White hit .362/.467/.559 in 57 games of AAA ball in 2015, but 2016 was a year to forget, both at the Major-League and Minor-League level. He’ll need to make up additional ground to re-insert himself in the “Astros of the future” discussions, but his solid season has likely risen him to the top of the short-list of Astros call-ups incase of injury. White is mainly a 1B/DH type, but he played 3rd and even some 2nd base for the Astros last season.
FALLING - Preston Tucker, OF
It’s been a pretty rapid decline for Preston Tucker, as his solid contributions to the 2015 playoff Astros seem like a hazy memory at this point. He helped the Astros reach their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade, but since then has fallen almost completely off the Astros’ big-league radar.
Tucker is having his worst of four seasons for the AAA Fresno Grizzlies, and for the first team in his Minor-League career has a sub-100 wRC+. He is slashing .266/.310/.467, and hasn’t been overly impressive in terms of power or discipline at the plate.
Tucker was once considered a likely candidate to become the Astros’ left-fielder of the future, but unless he can turn things around quickly, he’ll become an after thought to the other out-fielders progressing through the Astros’ farm system. The clock is ticking for the 26-year old.
AA: Corpus Christi Hooks
RISING - JD Davis, 3B
Its been a good season for the former 3rd-round pick, as he has show-cased his offensive skills all season for the Corpus Christi Hooks. He is batting .290/.353/.556, and has mashed 17 homers for a 149 wRC+ on the year.
So far Davis has excelled at both the A and AA levels, and he may soon be in line for a promotion to see how he handles AAA competition.
Davis lacks speed, but has good power and has good offensive potential overall. He’ll need to earn a couple more walks and be more disciplined in avoiding strike-outs, but the 24-year old is on the right track. He has mashed at every level of competition he has faced, and if he can work out the minor parts of his game, he could get a big-league chance sooner than expected.
FALLING - Ramon Laureano, OF
I feel bad for including Ramon Laureano on this part of the list two times in a row, but it really has been a year to forget for Laureano.
At the time of that article, Laureano was batting. 209/.288/.282; now he is sitting at .191/.267/.278. He has only added 2 extra-base hits in that time-frame, and his ice-cold bat has taken him firmly off of the Astros’ big-league radar.
This is far from a make or break year for the 22 year old, but its a disappointing turn. Laureano entered the Astros farm system as an under-the-radar 16th-round pick in 2014, but he immediately over-achieved once he was given an opportunity. He has taken a step backward from his breakout season last year, in which he led the entire Minor-Leagues in OBP. He currently has a paltry wRC+ (52) and OPS (.545), and has been one of Hooks worst bat all season.
With the season almost half-way over, Laureano will need to seriously turn it around offensively to salvage the year.
High-A: Buies Creek Astros
Rising: Yoanys Quiala, SP
After falling off the Astros radar with a shaky 2016 performance for Low-A Quad-City, the 23-year old signee out of Cuba is enjoying a great season for the Buies Creek Astros.
He has a 2.31 ERA on the season, a 5-1 record in seven starts, 59 K's, and just 13 BB’s in 58 innings pitched. When he was originally signed in 2015, it was reported he had elite velocity, with a fast-ball that regularly sat between 96-98. A scouting report last season reported that his speed had dipped to the mid-low 90’s, but it appears he has regained the arm-strength that once made him an exciting prospect.
A lack of reliable secondary pitches may limit Quila’s upside to the bullpen, but he has proven he has the stamina to start games. It shouldn’t be long until the 23-year old is promoted to the next level to see how his stuff fares against stiffer competition.
Falling: Osvaldo Duarte, SS/OF
For the second straight year, Duarte has made the jump to from Single-A to High-A ball, and for the second straight year has had a little trouble sticking.
He is batting .190/.250/.260 in 108 plate appearances for Buies Creek, and is striking out in 35% of his at-bats.
Duarte’s best skill is his speed, and he has racked up 60 steals over his 4-year Minor-League career. He plays decent defense at short-stop, but has the speed to play multiple outfield positions. He’s never been much of a power hitter, but the Astros are hoping he can get back to putting the bat on the ball consistently.
Low-A: Quad-Cities Bandits
Rising: Yordan Alvarez 1B/DH
Alvarez, an international signee for the Dodgers who was acquired last season through a trade for Josh Fields, has been raking at the Single-A level since being assigned. He is batting .360/.468/.658 on the season, and has belted 9 homers in just 111 at bats.
Ranked as the Astros 14th best prospect, he is considered to have perhaps the highest offensive ceiling of any Astros prospect. He has a smooth left-handed swing, yet was knocked early for having raw power that didn’t necessarily translate to games. Thats changed this year, as his 9 homers have given him an unreal 201 wRC+.
If the 19-year old from Cuba keeps it up, he’ll have a chance to soar through the Minors and climb-up the Astros’ prospect rankings.
Falling: Ronnie Dawson, OF
A decorated college player for Ohio State, Ronnie Dawson has not yet taken the next step at the big-league level. In his first full Minor-League season, the former 2016 2nd-round pick is batting just .217/.312/.345 for a 89 wRC+.
Dawson has an interesting mix of power, speed, and good instincts, and has a strong enough arm to play out-field at the Major-League level. Dawson doesn’t project to be a superstar, but could be a solid secondary player for the Astros.
That is, if he ups his production. Dawson isn’t expected to bat above .300, but .217 just isn’t cutting it. The good news is Dawson is still walking at a decent rate, adding steals, and many of his hits are dropping for extra-base hits. He has plenty of time to develop, but the Astros hope some of their 2016 draft class begins stepping up.