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Astros Spring Training Prospect Standouts Part 1

Mar 2, 2023; Jupiter, Florida, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Will Wagner (90) follows through on his ground rule double in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.
Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball season is back, and spring training is in full swing. With that, there has been plenty of opportunities for prospects to play with the Major League club and show what they can do. Below are a few prospects that stood out to Jimmy Price and Kenny Van Doren.

Hitter – Justin Dirden

Justin Dirden made quite the rise over the last few years. After going undrafted in 2020, which was only five rounds, the outfielder signed with the Astros and has hit at every stop along the way. After a breakout 2022 season, which saw him slash .302/.384/.558 with 41 doubles, 24 home runs and 101 RBI, he came to spring training ready to contribute.

He played in four games so far and is 3-for-6 with two home runs and three RBI. One of the homers was an opposite field shot; the other was pulled out to right field. Dirden has shown the power to all fields we have seen at the minor-league level the last two seasons. He also made a diving catch and threw a runner out at the plate. With continued solid performance, he could make a push for a major league spot at some point in 2023. -Jimmy Price

Honorable Mention: Marty Costes

Hitter – Will Wagner

Will Wagner quickly made noise in the spring training opener Saturday. The third baseman went 2-for-2 with one double, following a sixth-inning substitution. The lefty is now 3-for-7 with two doubles and a pair of strikeouts in the Grapefruit League. The power Wagner displayed in the Arizona Fall League is bleeding into the spring, flashing 104.7 mph exit velocity on a 327-foot double Thursday.

The Astros player development staff once thought to move Wagner to the right side of the infield permanently, but the “Athletic Max Muncy” proved he had the arm and the range to stick at the hot corner. Wagner gloved four difficult plays at third base, turning heads not only for his bat this week. -Kenny Van Doren

Honorable Mention: Cesar Salazar

Pitcher – Jayden Murray

Jayden Murray was acquired in the three-team deal last year with Tampa Bay, which saw the Astros ship out Jose Siri. Murray was a 23rd-round pick in the 2019 draft but has put together a strong career to this point. The 25 year old posted a 3.50 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 108 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022.

So far this spring training, Murray has been dominant. The right-hander leads the team in innings with four and has yet to allow a hit or a run. He has also racked up three strikeouts and ran the fastball up to 95 MPH. Given his age, stuff and proximity to the majors, he has a chance to debut in 2023. -Jimmy Price

Pitcher – Ronel Blanco

Following a consecutive scoreless Dominican Winter League campaign this offseason, Ronel Blanco entered spring training, battling for the last spot in the Astros bullpen. Blanco made his 2023 Grapefruit League debut Saturday in the spring opener, striking out the side in a perfect frame with eight swing and misses.

Everything clicked for Blanco in his first start that it caught the eye of general manager Dana Brown. Brown hinted on an AT&T SportsNet Southwest broadcast and an ESPN broadcast he’d like to see more of Blanco in an extended role, sarcastically asking why Blanco isn’t a starter.

Blanco pitched two innings in his outing Wednesday, striking out a trio of batters and allowing two hits. Blanco made three two-inning appearances in Triple-A Sugar Land last season. Becoming a multi-inning reliever will better Blanco’s chances of making the Opening Day roster. –Kenny Van Doren

Honorable Mention: Matt Ruppenthal

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