Sunday, February 25, 2024

Houston Astros top prospects 2024: Top players have high-power upside, but plenty of question marks

Major League Baseball’s offseason is underway, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You’re either selling wins or you’re selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team’s farm system.

Of course, that doesn’t mean every team has an equally good farm system — some, as you’ll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next couple of months examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define “prospects” as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2024 season, so if a young player is missing that’s likely why. 

These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There’s also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it’s fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future. You can check out our winter top 25 list by clicking here.

With that in mind, let’s get to it by dissecting the Houston Astros.

1. Brice Matthews, SS (22 years old)

  • The short version: Power and speed from an up-the-middle player, but will it work at the highest levels?
  • MLB ETA: Late 2025

Matthews, Houston’s first first-round pick under Dana Brown’s guidance, enjoyed a breakout spring at Nebraska that saw him launch 20 home runs and post a 1.204 OPS. Matthews has the athleticism to remain at a middle-infield position, though his arm could force him to the other side of the bag in due time. At the plate, he’s capable of both walking and rocking thanks to a good eye and fast bat. He is prone to swinging-and-missing, however, and it’s at least somewhat concerning that he struck out more than 26% of the time in A-ball. 

2. Zach Dezenzo, 3B (23 years old)

  • The short version: Strength and on-base skills overshadow deficiencies.
  • MLB ETA: Summer 2024

Dezenzo spent four years at Ohio State before the Astros plucked him in the 12th round in 2022. He’s since made a quick ascent up prospect lists, only in part because of Houston’s weakened system. Dezenzo has big-time strength, allowing him to clear the fences from pole to pole. He launched 14 home runs in 63 games at Double-A last season, finishing fourth in the affiliate despite ranking 10th in games played. Dezenzo is also adept at drawing walks, though his willingness to work deep counts is likely to result in him striking out at least a quarter of the time in the majors. The Astros have tried to find a suitable spot for him on the diamond, tasking him with action at each of the non-shortstop infield positions and even a few games in the outfield. For now, the most realistic path forward might see him split time at the infield corners.

3. Jacob Melton, OF (23 years old)

  • The short version: Power and speed from an up-the-middle player, but will it work at the highest levels? (Ahem.)
  • MLB ETA: Late 2024

Melton, originally a second-round pick from Oregon State, is a strapping outfielder with above-average power despite unusual swing mechanics. He also possesses good footspeed, something the Astros have leveraged by primarily deploying him in center field. The bee in his bonnet is that he’s demonstrated little ability to hit left-handed pitching. Should that continue to be the case, he’s likely to serve as a platoon bat. For now, scouts want to see if Melton’s swing can pass the Double-A test.

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