Five players ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 Astros prospects are assigned to the Quad Cities River Bandits, including Houston’s top 2016 draft pick.
Forrest Whitley (No. 6), a 6-foot-7 power pitcher drafted 17th overall last year, is the top prospect on the QC roster. The 19-year-old right-hander was drafted out of high school and got into eight rookie-level games as a pro last year. Baseball America says Whitley has a plus-plus fastball that touches 97 mph, as well as three secondary pitches he has confidence in using, giving him the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation starter.
Fellow righty Hector Perez (No. 16) has been named the Opening Day starting pitcher for the River Bandits. He had a Jekyll-and-Hyde season in 2016, posting a 4.60 ERA in seven starts for Quad Cities, but faring much better with a 1.57 ERA in seven games with the short-season Tri-City ValleyCats.
Also on the staff is RHP Jorge Alcala, who did not make BA’s top 30 Astros prospects list, but is ranked 29th by MLB Pipeline. He posted a 2.41 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 18 walks in 56 innings spread over three lower-level Astros farm teams last year.
Quad Cities has three outfielders of note: Daz Cameron (No. 14), the son of former MLB All-Star Mike Cameron; Ronnie Dawson (No. 15); and Stephen Wrenn. Both Cameron and Wrenn struggled during their stints with Quad Cities last year, but fared better with Tri-City. Dawson was with Tri-City all season, and though he batted only .225, he hit 7 homers, drove in 36 runs, and stole 12 bases in 70 games.
Catcher Jake Rogers (No. 20) also split last season between Tri-City and Quad Cities, batting .233 overall. He is considered an excellent backstop with the potential to reach the major leagues, with his eventual place on the big-league depth chart likely to be determined by how much he improves offensively.
Cuban shortstop Anibal Sierra is also worth watching after he batted .316 in the Dominican Summer League last year.
You can see the entire River Bandits roster here.
Quad Cities has an entirely new coaching staff this year. You can read about it here.