Top Prospect List

Jim Bowden of the Athletic just released his top 50 prospects. Whitley came in at #20: $$()

Whitley has an overpowering high-90s fastball with heavy sink and three above-average secondary pitches in his curveball, slider and changeup. He had a poor regular season last year due to mechanical issues, but those were corrected in time for the Arizona Fall League, where for the second straight year he dominated. He profiles as having the potential of a No. 1-type starter.

Fangraphs list their top 40 Astros prospects:

The top 5 are:
Freudis Nova
Bryan Abreu

So 3 of the top 5 have made their MLB debut. Numbers 8 to 12 are all at A ball or lower. No AA level names in the top 12, only 3 in top 30. (13 - Enoli Paredes - RHP, 14 - Tyler Ivey - RHP, 20 Luis Santana - 2B, 35 Brett Conine - RHP, 38 Bryan De La Cruz -RF)

Breakdown by level
MLB - 6
AAA - 6
AA - 5
A+ - 7
A - 7
A - (Short Season) - 5
R - 3

We need Whitley to be who we thought he was.

Whitley would change things dramatically.

Tucker needs to do good stuff as well.

That would change things dramatically if he could pitch up to his potential. I hope he earns his shot soon.

BA’s top 100 is out, and Whitley (#25) is the only Astro.

Whitley drops from 13 last year, and now sits behind 6 other RHP.

would be a nice boost…The Astros need one.

I am not holding my breath for Whitley. He regressed quite a bit last year.

Whitley comes in at #15 on the FanGraphs list; Urquidy at 101

Whitley comes in at 14 in Keith Law’s list at The Athletic. No other current Astros listed.

Former Farm Hand Corbin Martin (DBacks) comes in at 96.

Keith Law is out with his Astros top prospects: $$$

He goes 20 deep plus 5 more to watch. Here are the top 10.

  1. Whitley - RHP
  2. Urquidy - RHP
  3. Luis Garcia RPH (also his break out choice)
  4. Freudis Nova - SS
  5. Cristian Javier - RHP
  6. Jose Rivera - RHP
  7. Hunter Brown - RHP
  8. Bryan Abreu - RHP
  9. Toro - 3B
  10. Tyler Ivey - RHP

The big quote:

The Astros’ system has been gutted not just by trades, but by the inevitable results of trying to draft without scouts, which has filled the system with a lot of very low-ceiling college performers. The strength here now is the international class, including a slew of hard-throwing right-handers from Latin America.

Edited to make them Right Handed Pitchers (RHP), not registered pharmacist (RPH). Sorry, I have a bit of lexdysia

Keith Law released his org rankings. Astros 27th

27. Houston Astros

It’s funny, but when you get rid of all of your amateur scouts, your drafts get a whole lot worse. If it weren’t for the work of the international scouting department, helmed by Oz Ocampo (now with Pittsburgh), this would absolutely be the bottom system in the majors.

Do we know for sure that his scouting angle isn’t horseshit? Obviously the system’s ranking can be explained by depletion via trades and a lower draft position in the second half of the decade. The Astros were supposedly lauded for combining scouting with analytics. Is this just Law grinding an ax and/or piling on, or is this more of the Luhnow veneer peeling off?

Keith Law really has a thing for scouts, and to me, his tweet-length opinions feel undercooked and out of date. I can’t claim to know whether the Astros’ use of scouts is better or worse than the alternative, but I feel like Law does a lot of jumping to conclusions, with pithy putdowns replacing actual analysis and argument. Maybe he’s made the argument in long-form somewhere, but I havent’ seen it. Anyway, here are five thoughts from me. Sorry for the length.

  1. Law characterizes the Astros as having fired “all” of their scouts. When the Astros cut back on scouting, most of that was on the pro and advance scouting side of things. And that makes sense–what value does an advance scout give you that you can’t get from a recent college grad with an account and access to Trackman data? Is that high-value, actionable information that justifies the overhead? And do you really need that info for all 162 games? Or can you get by with a focused contingent of advance scouts once the playoffs roll around (which is what the Astros did)? Law, who knows the difference between pro and amateur scouts, deliberately conflates the two from time-to-time in order to exaggerate his point and disguise the fact that this is likely simply a matter of degree.

  2. While the Astros have gutted the pro scouting side of the equation, they do still employ scouts for amateur drafting. In 2018, on the domestic side, the Astros had 7 field scouts, 2 scouting supervisors, 4 cross-checkers, 2 analysts who basically stay put at MMP, and 2 video technicians. In 2019, they had 18 scouts. Is that insufficient? I don’t know, but Law doesn’t provide evidence that it is. He seems to suggest that the large number of international players on his 2020 rankings is evidence that domestic scouting has failed. But the Greinke trade saw four domestic draftees head out the door, not international prospects: Beer (2018 draft, 28th overall), Bukauskas (2017, 15th overall), Corbin Martin (2017, 56th overall), and Josh Rojas (2017). Those first three are now the No. 4, 10, and 11 prospects in the D-Backs stacked farm system, according to MLB Pipeline. One could read that as evidence that the Astros’ domestic scouting is better than the international scouting, not worse, as Law suggests: they’re the ones finding finding the in-demand players.

  3. My understanding is that most of the Astros’ amateur draft scouts were let go in August 2017 (i.e., after the 2017 draft). So if Law means that the Astros 2018/2019 drafts have declined in quality, there’s a very simple explanation for that: draft position. Your drafts are obviously going to “get worse” when you go from picking in the top 5 slots (2012-2015) to having the 28th (2018) and 32nd (2019) overall picks. Even if the Astros’ re-organization of the scouting department had a negative effect on pick quality, Law’s criticism doesn’t appear to control for draft position.

  4. Law argues that the Astros’ international scouting is doing a good job and is keeping the stat-heads afloat. But the Astros’ international scouting department has been just as thinned as the domestic amateur scouting. In 2019, the Astros international scouting department consisted of a manager, an assistant director, a supervisor, nine scouts, and four tech people. According to Law, this skinny international scouting staff is getting the job done–why can’t a similarly skinny domestic scouting staff get the job done as well?

  5. Scouts used to be the best, and sometimes the only way to get information about amateurs in the hands of decisionmakers. That world has undergone a massive sea change. Almost every Division I ballpark has Trackman installed. Amateur showcase events capture data on prospects too. Perfect Game partners with Diamond Kinetics to track pitches and swings. The Cape Cod League uses BlastMotion to capture similar data. The challenge is no longer getting the data in the door, it’s figuring out how to find meaning in the data you have. At a certain point, the burden has to be on people like Law who argue against changing the structure of scouting departments to reflect this new reality.

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Thanks for this analysis—good reading.

This is pretty much Twitter.

There was a review of the Astros technology in an article or show last year where they discussed that the Astros have replaced scouts in some areas with some other lower skilled person that just ran the high speed cameras. The comment was that the Astros were way ahead of the curve, everyone knew when the Astros showed up because they were the only ones with the cameras, and they had way more investment in this area than anyone else.

They would take this film and send it back to some scouts that were based in Houston and they would be able to do whatever assessment was required (at least initially) from the film.

My close friend is now retired but was a professional scout for the latter part of his career. At one time he was responsible for scouting all 30 teams. I know because I asked him a high percentage of the information he generated was never used. He was not an advance scout; he had both leagues all season.

Law is/was a scout. He places high value on seeing kids in person. An attack on scouting is an attack on him.

MLB gives a different take today as they announce their top 30

Houston assembled one of the game’s strongest systems in the middle of the last decade, then used it to build a formidable lineup around first-round picks (George Springer, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman) and to trade for a trio of aces. The Astros gave up 12 youngsters, including eight present or former MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects (Seth Beer, J.B. Bukauskas, Daz Cameron, Michael Feliz, Corbin Martin, Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Franklin Perez) and three others who have reached the big leagues, in exchange for Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. They also parted with Vince Velasquez, Ramón Laureano and J.D. Davis in smaller deals.

After going all-in at the big league level for several years, Houston has just one prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list: enigmatic right-hander Forrest Whitley. There aren’t any slam-dunk big league regulars among the system’s position players and its pitching stands out more for depth than difference-makers.

Here are the top 10 of the 30:

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It’s behind the paywall, but Kiley McDaniel (formerly of Fangraphs) has his Top 100 up for ESPN:

He’s cautiously optimistic about Whitley at #25, noting a lot of scouts this Spring think he looks overweight again, just like his senior year of high school, and a bit laudatory of Urquidy coming in at #100, whom he feels could have a better career than a number of higher ranked prospects on the list.