Normally, when one thinks about teams debuting prospects at the major league level, the thought is that having a lot of debuts is a sign of a rebuild or low performing team. Now truthfully, the Astros did struggle in 2020 due primarily to injuries. Still, the bottom line is the last couple of seasons have featured a boatload of prospects making their debuts for a team that made it to the ALCS and the World Series consecutively.
The crazy pandemic season of 2020 with illness and injury led to the debut of the following prospects (mainly on the pitching side):
Taylor Jones – after the Jack Mayfield and Abraham Toro debuts in 2019, Jones was the only position player to debut in 2020. In a tiny sample (21 ABs), he hit poorly in 2020 but improved with more exposure in 2021. Is he the heir apparent to Yuli Gurriel, or will some other/younger prospect eclipse him?
Cristian Javier – Javier made a quick run through three minor league levels as the Astros’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019. He did a great job in 2020, starting 10 of his 12 appearances, and in 2021, he started 9 times but then moved back to the bullpen as a multi-inning weapon for the team. The Astros have said they see him long term as a starting pitcher. When will the long term begin?
Blake Taylor – Taylor arrived from the Mets with young OF Kenedy Corona in the Jake Marisnick trade. He debuted with the Astros in 2020 and settled in as a solid left-handed option out of the bullpen. And currently, he is the last lefty standing in the current bullpen configuration after Brooks Raley moved down the line. He has a penchant for putting too many guys on base but often works out of it. He needs to take another step forward in 2022.
Andre Scrubb – Scrubb came over in the Tyler White trade in 2019 and was one of the relievers who jumped from AA to the majors to assist in 2020. He pulled a Houdini act in 2020, somehow pitching to a 1.90 ERA despite walking 20 hitters in 23.2 innings. Only giving up 1 homer in those 23.2 innings helped. His act wore thin in 2021 as he still walked a ton (14 in 19.2 innings), but 5 homers ballooned that ERA to 5.03. A shoulder injury shortened his season, and he was taken off the 40-man in December, but after clearing waivers, he was outrighted to AAA Sugar Land.
Enoli Paredes – Like Scrubb, Paredes made the jump from AA in 2019 to a major league bullpen in 2020. And like Scrubb, he overcame a relatively high walk rate to pitch significant innings with a sound 3.05 ERA. This came undone in 2021. He struck out an impressive 15 hitters in 8.2 innings but unfortunately walked 17 in the same amount of innings, resulting in a 6.23 ERA that landed him back in the minors. At 26 years old, he is at the crossroads in his career heading into 2022.
Brandon Bielak – An 11th round pick in the 2017 draft, Bielak was one of the few pitchers here that had pitched significant innings at AAA in 2019 before his callup. In 2020, his first 5 appearances, including 3 starts, were outstanding, going 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA. The wheels came off in his next start as he gave up 7 runs in 1.1 IP. In his last 7 appearances, including 3 starts, he only went 10.2 innings. In those 10.2 innings, he gave up a whopping 26 hits, including 7 home runs and pitched to a 16.88 ERA. He was better in 2021 as he made 28 appearances and went 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA. He feels like the kind of guy the Astros will trade-off at some point.
Luis Garcia – Garcia is the best of all these “debuters” to date. He had not pitched beyond A+ ball when he debuted in 2020. In a short sample in 2020, he had a 2.92 ERA in 5 regular-season appearances, but his most impressive effort was a 2 inning scoreless stint during a spot start in the ALCS against the Rays. He picked up where he left off in 2021 as he was the best rookie pitcher in the league. The Astros are undoubtedly hoping he fills a rotation spot here through 2027, when he would first become a free agent.
Humberto Castellanos – After good numbers in a short tour at AAA in 2019, Castellanos got the callup for a quick tour in the majors in 2020. He was lit up a bit with the Astros and was released in December and picked up by the D’Backs.
Nivaldo Rodriguez – Rodriguez had two short stints with the Astros. The one in 2020 did not go well. The one in 2021 went better, but they waived him in August, and he was picked up by the Tigers.
Brandon Bailey – Bailey is an interesting story – he came to the Astros in a straight-up trade with Oakland for Ramon Laureano, who has carved out a spot in the A’s OF rotation. Bailey was then taken from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft by Baltimore (folks who were involved when the Astros traded for Bailey from Oakland) but then returned. He was called up by the Astros, pitched well in five games, was sent back to the Astros’ minor league camp in August and then sold to the Reds after the 2020 season.
Carlos Sanabria – Sanabria had a shot glass worth of a cup of coffee with the Astros in 2020. The team apparently saw enough as they waived him after the season, and he was picked up by the Royals. He pitched in two games for two innings and two runs allowed.
The loss of free agent George Springer coupled with players missing time with injuries and due to Covid led to the majority of the debuts in 2021:
Chas McCormick – Chas was considered the most major league ready outfielder heading towards 2021. With Springer gone, he broke camp with the team and was the 4th outfielder for the first half of the season until the trade of Myles Straw. He then shared the CF spot with Jake Meyers down the stretch taking it back full time when Meyers was hurt in the playoffs. McCormick did a solid job in his first exposure to the majors, his 14 HRs and 50 RBIs in only 280 ABs, particularly standing out. He is set up to be the CF starter in 2022 until the next man returns…..
Jake Meyers – Meyers got his callup after the Straw trade. Before 2021 Meyers had been considered a great glove, light hitting OF prospect, but McCormick’s call up to the majors allowed Meyers and his reworked swing to show off newfound power at AAA Sugar Land. Meyers flashed his great glove and solid bat (6 HRs and 28 RBIs in 146 ABs) with the big club, and it was a disappointment when he suffered the shoulder injury during the ALDS that kept him out of the rest of the playoffs and apparently will delay his start to the 2022 season. The hope is that Meyers and McCormick will push each other to greater heights as they grow and mature.
Jose Siri – Normally, a player putting up a .304 BA/ .347 OBP/ .956 OPS slash in his first 46 ABs would be a cause for celebration and anticipation for the home crowd. In his first major league appearance, Siri did some good things, but a few things bother the home folk. One was his over the top theatrics after every home run, single, or whatever that made some of us old-timers uncomfortable. The other thing was that he exploded in a 4 for 5, 2 HR, 5 RBI performance against the Rangers in his 6th major league game, and then he steadily slid down after that. Could he help this team going forward? Yes. Will he? That’s the tricky question.
Alex DeGoti – DeGoti got his major league shot on the tails of the early season Covid attack on the team. He had a couple hits in a couple games and went back to the minors. He is considered a major league ready filler for the infield.
Ronnie Dawson – Dawson has been about as low profile a high pick as you could imagine as he was the 2nd round pick behind Forest Whitley, who has gotten all the attention (good and bad). Though he has some speed and some power, he never was really more than mediocre on his rise through the minors. He had a tiny cameo at the major league level in 2021, and then he was released ahead of the Rule 5 draft and the Ohio St man was picked up by the nearby Reds.
Kent Emanuel – Emanuel was one of those names that fans had heard about for a very long time as he had been drafted in the third round in 2013 and slowly climbed the ladder, finally premiering in 2021. And what a debut it was as he threw 8.2 of 2 run relief in a bullpen saving effort. He pitched well in 9 other appearances but blew his arm out at the end of May. He was waived after the season and picked up by the Phillies.
Peter Solomon – A 4th rounder out of the 2017 draft, Solomon had been pretty terrific in his time in the minors, struggling a little bit at AAA after skipping AA ball (where he should have pitched in 2020). His 6 game stint with the Astros left us hoping to see more of him as he went 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings.
Ralph Garza – The 26th rounder from 2015 had a lot of ups and downs on his meandering through the system and finally got the call in 2021. He pitched “ok” for the Astros but got squeezed out and released in the middle of summer and picked up by the Twins.
Tyler Ivey – The former Aggie was picked in the third round of the 2017 draft by the Astros. He worked his way up the system and was brought up to make a spot start for the team, where he started off well, retiring the first 7 batters he faced but ended up giving up 4 runs in 4.2 innings. Arm problems sidelined him in 2021, and his future is uncertain.
Seth Martinez – The Astros pulled Martinez out of the Oakland A’s in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft (which meant he did not have to be put on the 40 man roster). He continued a long string of good minor league seasons with the Skeeters. His short stint in the majors – three-game and a 15.00 ERA did not clear the vision of whether he will ever hook on permanently or be a AAAA type pitcher.
Ryan Hartman – Since really shining in a stint at AA in 2018, Hartman had struggled mightily in the subsequent time, which was interrupted with the 2020 cancellation of the minor league season. He was brought up for one appearance in the majors, which he pitched decently and was then sent back down. The Astros released him last summer, and the Orioles swooped in to scoop him up.
There you have it…. Two seasons of debuts by players in the system. Some stuck around. Some have been moved elsewhere. Some are waiting for their next call up.
- Off this list ….Astros Top Prospects | MLB.com, who do you think will debut in 2022? Who would you like to make a debut?
- Is there anyone not on that list you think will debut? (There are always non-top prospects who get a shot).
- Of the players who debuted in the last two years, who do you think will get the call back up and stick?
- Is there anyone the Astros sent elsewhere you wished they held on to?