So, today we’re seeing the future of the Astros right over there in the home team dugout at Whataburger Field.
Oh, sure, Jose Altuve and George Springer are the future, too. But neither of them is a two-time defending champion. And that’s what a bunch of those guys for the Corpus Christi Hooks are. A big core of those Hooks players won a championship in Quad Cities in 2013, and again took home a big trophy in 2014 in Lancaster.
And that, folks, is what the Astros will need to become the 2017 World Series champions.
Those teams fielded players such as:
- Teoscar Hernandez (OF, 22 years old, enjoyed a 23-game cup of coffee in CC last year) who has a career .817 MiLB OPS and posted a combined (A and AA) OPS of .897 in 2014. He Ks a lot, but comes with decent power.
- Tony Kemp (2B, 23 years old, played 59 games thus far in CC) who has a career .809 OPS in the minors and posted a combined .859 OPS in AA and A last year. Kemp is an on-base machine who generally walks more than he strikes out.
- Conrad Gregor (1B-DH, 24 years old and who was not part of that 2013 QC team but did go from Iowa to California to CC in 2014) has a career .857 OPS in the minors and posted a combined OPS of .913 in 2014. Gregor, whose power is developing, whiffs less than 20 percent of the time and walks nearly as often.
- Brett Maverick Phillips (OF, 20 years old, and who played partial seasons with both championship teams) has a career .828 OPS but posted a whopping .905 OPS in 2014 stints at QC and Lancaster. He’s young and strikes out too much, but he walks a decent rate and is developing his power.
Oh, and that doesn’t even include Carlos Correa (SS, 20 years old, who missed his AA promotion with a broken leg) who, in case you were wondering, holds a career MiLB OPS of .853 and posted a .926 OPS in 2014. He whiffs less than 20 percent and his walk rate is increasing … as is his power.
And all this doesn’t even cover the pitching staff. With former #1 pick Mark Appel starting in Corpus, the Hooks will have an amazing staff to start the season, including:
- Kyle Westwood — throws right, 23 years old — has a career WHIP of 1.17 and posted a 4.23 ERA in Lancaster. Oh, he skipped QC altogether. Not a high K guy, he also walks just about no one.
- Josh Hader — throws left, 20 years old — has a career WHIP of 1.17 and a career BAA of .202. Hader walks a few too many but Ks more than a batter an inning. Oh, and while I won’t bore you with too many stats, he posted a 2.70 ERA in 103 inning in LANCASTER! Oh, and he was the Cal League pitcher of the year. At age 20 (he turns 21 on Tuesday).
- Lance McCullers Jr. — throws right, 21 years old — has a career WHIP of 1.42 thanks to a huge number thanks to pitching in Lancaster last year. He whiffs more than a man an inning and walks fewer than half of what he Ks.
And perhaps the gem of the bunch not named Appel, Vincent Velasquez — 22 years old, throws right — whose 1.15 career WHIP goes nicely with 309 Ks in 263.2 IP. A career .221 BAA is also nice. It’d just be nicer if he could stay healthy.
And then there’s Appel. Thanks to a bad appendix, his 2014 is a little hard to judge.
With these guys finally hitting the high minors in 2015, we’re looking at players who’ll be knocking on the door late in 2015 or by mid-2016. By spring training of 2017, I’d expect most of these guys to be in major league camp in March fighting for roster spots. … If they haven’t been traded.
By 2017, the Astros could be looking at an outfield of Springer, Preston Tucker, Hernandez and/or Phillips. Houston’s infield might have Gregor, Altuve, Correa and Moran. The pitching staff could include Appel, Hader, Westwood and Velasquez in some shape or form.
And let’s not forget, I’m not even looking at the guys who will start this year at AAA (Nolan Fontana, Brady Rodgers) or the guys who will litter full-season A ball in QC and Lancaster (A.J Reed, J.D. Davis, Derek Fisher, Daniel Mengden).
So, as nice as it will be to watch or listen to tonight’s game and cheer for the Astros, the real champions may be waiting in and playing for Corpus Christi. After all, most of those guys are already proven winners.
1. Do you think a history of winning will help these players get to and help Houston?
2. Other than Correa, what position player for Corpus will you be paying the most attention to tonight?
3. Other than Appel, which pitcher are you most excited to follow in Corpus in 2015?
4. How many of these guys — or others I didn’t even mention — for Corpus will be Astros by mid-2016?