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2021 Houston Astros: Five Prospects to Watch

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The 2021 Houston Astros will be looking to return to the American League Championship Series for a fifth straight year. According to general manager James Click, the Astros will remain optimistic during free agency. Still, it will be more than likely the Astros head into Spring Training with the roster they have with a couple of additions to the bullpen, and of course, Michael Brantley

The 2021 Houston Astros will be moving forward this year, looking to contend for another AL West title and a deep postseason run. With that, the Astros will have a few key prospects that might contribute in 2021. Here is a look at five of those prospects.

2021 Houston Astros: The Prospects

Forrest Whitley – Right-Handed Pitcher

As the only Top 100 Prospect within the Astros farm system, Forrest Whitley will be looking to FINALLY get an opportunity to contribute to the 2021 Houston Astros. With ace Justin Verlander out this season due to Tommy John surgery, Whitley was added to the 40-man roster, which protected him from the Rule 5 Draft. Drafted out of high school in the first round (17) in 2016, Whitley has been the organization’s best pitching prospect.  

Along the way, Whitley has had his fair share of struggles. In 2018, Whitley was suspended for 50-games for violating the Minor League drug policy. Throughout Whitley’s young career, injuries have been an issue that has ultimately led to his consistency issues on the mound.

Even though he has had problems with the command, Whitley has five pitches to choose from that will keep batters off-balance. Whitley has a fastball that ranges between 92-97, with a late cut or sink movement. Playing off the fastball, Whitley can use his changeup, which has depth and fade that keeps hitters honest. His curveball stays down with a late bite, a mid-80s slider with a high spin rate, and he can turn those pitches into a low-90s cutter. 

Aside from the struggles, the Astros were able to hold onto their prized prospect as the organization made trades to acquire top-flight pitching during their postseason runs. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done before Whitley can make it into this Astros rotation, but now that he is on the 40-man roster, look for Whitley to finally breakthrough in 2021 and be on the roster at some point this season.

Jeremy Pena – Shortstop / Second Base

Rising through the farm system, Jeremy Pena is one that is hoping to get an opportunity to make an impact at the big league level in 2021. Drafted in the third round (102) in 2018, Pena is a young infielder that can cover a lot of ground. In his first full season between two Class A levels, Pena had a batting average of .303 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs. Although not much on the power as of right now, as he continues to develop strength and technique, the power will not be far behind.  It can also be noted that Pena stole twenty bases that season. 

The only issue with Pena right now is determining where Pena will play when he is called up. With Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve currently playing in the two positions Pena is best at, it will be interesting to see how Dusty Baker will use Pena. 

Tyler Ivey – Right-Handed Pitcher

Tyler Ivey will be one to watch coming into 2021. Drafted in the third round (91) back in 2017, Ivey will be hoping to get an opportunity to contribute in some way this season. In three seasons in the Minors, Ivey has a career 3.07 ERA, 247 strikeouts, and a 1.08 WHIP. All of this while working out of the bullpen. Ivey has a good spin rate on his pitches that will keep hitters off balance. His fastball tops out around 95 with late-life, to which he will follow with a mid to upper 70s curveball. Ivey also has a cutter/slider that he continues to improve upon, along with a pretty effective changeup. 

With all the strikeouts, the Astros may have the option to put Ivey in the starting rotation if the opportunity arises, but look for Ivey to work out the bullpen early on. That still seems to be the area of most importance for the Astros. 

Ronnie Dawson – Outfield

Ronnie Dawson is one of the older prospects for the Astros. Drafted in the second round (61) back in 2016, Dawson is one of the many power bats within the Astros system. In 2019, Dawson hit a career-high seventeen home runs and had a career-worst .207 batting average and 152 strikeouts in Double-A Corpus Christi. 

As a left-handed hitter, Dawson has the ability and the power to drive the ball to all parts of the field, but this power is not consistent. Dawson will need to continue to develop to become a better, more consistent hitter before being called up. Fielding is another area that Dawson will need to grow in. He spent the first two seasons playing left field before moving over to play center field. Development is vital for Dawson right now, and as he progresses, Dawson could find himself onto the 2021 Astros at some point. 

Chas McCormick – Outfield

With the outfield being the most talked about this offseason, Chas McCormick could be one that will get an opportunity to contribute to the 2021 Houston Astros. After getting a front-row seat during the postseason, McCormick will be looking to get on the field in 2021. Drafted in the 21st round (631) in the 2017 draft, McCormick is a consistent contact hitter. During his Minor League career, McCormick has a .276 batting average with twenty home runs. 

With more development, McCormick can be a hitter that can drive the ball in the air, allowing him to utilize that power. A speedster, McCormick can be a threat to steals bases when the time is right. He is also is a solid defender in the outfield, which means he can be one that can play all three outfield positions. McCormick is a grinder and someone that the Astros will get the most out of once he gets called up. 

2021 Houston Astros: Surprise Prospect

One prospect that 2021 Houston Astros fans will be on the lookout for is Pedro Leon. Leon, an outfielder, was drafted in the 2021 International Draft. The #7 International Prospect, Leon, has been labeled as a five-tool player. It will be unlikely that we will see Leon make his big league debut in 2021, but given his ability and talent, the Astros will want to take their time in developing Leon, and if everything goes to plan, Astros fans can expect to see Leon in the lineup at some point in 2022. 

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Jeff "Rip" Griffin is a current MLB writer covering the Houston Astros. Rip is also the host of The Rip Griffin Show on Apple Podcasts. Rip holds a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology, focusing in Sports Management from the University of Houston - Victoria.