You’re seeing the Astros’ future today…in Corpus Christi

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?


35 comments on “You’re seeing the Astros’ future today…in Corpus Christi

  1. I want to see how Hernandez does this year. This is the first time in his career he will start the year at a level he achieved the previous fall, so it’s really the first chance he has been given to adjust, and it happens to be in AA. His strikeout rate is not as high as some people like to make it out to be, considering his age.
    I want to see Kemp and see if he has leveled out in the minors or if he continues to play like a MLB caliber player on the way up.
    I want to see if Hader and McCullers can adapt and pitch well against much older competition and can their bodies hold up in a starter’s role with the deliveries they have. I want to see if Westwood has made the jump from maybe to yes.


  2. By the way, one of the players the Astros might have considered taking with one of their top 5 picks this year, Matuella, had TJ Surgery this week, to go with his already diagnosed back problem. That definitely thins the herd at the top of the heap in the draft.
    AA starter Kyle smith of the Hooks underwent TJ Surgery sometime recently, too. He is a top 20 prospect that we got for Maxwell if I’m not mistaken.


  3. 1. Yes. I think it’s more important to the development of the pitching staff though. What do you do when your team gives you a lead? When they add insurance runs to pad it, do you lesson your focus and give some back or bear down and slam the door?
    2. All of them. I’m in the segment who are not convinced Kemp, Gregor, and Fontana can become major league starters. I think Kemp has the best chance because, despite his size, he is versatile and proves everyone wrong along the way. If he tries to be Willie Harris, I think he could be a great addition some day. If he tries to be Marcus Giles, he is probably not getting past AAA. Gregor just needs to keep hitting, but may never have enough power to satisfy the team. Look, Mark Grace was one of my favorite players…if Gregor can ramp up to that level of production in the big leagues then I could absolutely see him with a long career as a starter in Houston. As for Fontana, he has a ton of work to do to leap frog guys or force them be moved out of his way. Ultimately, it will come down to whether he can hit the first pitch with authority enough to keep pitchers honest and not be hitting behind in the count as the level of competition increases.
    3. Emanuel and Lambson to start, but hopefully Brunneman gets a promotion at some point.
    4. Hmm, I’m going to say not that many…maybe 5 will get at least a cup of coffee. The problem is there appears to be depth at Fresno and I expect the service time / cost control game will force the non-bonus babies to really bust out to get advanced that quickly. Remember, we all wondered if they would cut guys like Hoes and Presley…but they need to have those types of players as insurance. Cutting one for a two week look at a backup outfielder makes little sense.


  4. How many of these guys will be in Houston by mid 2016?
    I’m going to go with 2. Appel, because I think we will need him, and Correa, because I think we will want him.


  5. Who besides me will be rooting for the 2017 Astros tonight? I assure you, it is nothing personal, 2015 Astros. Indeed, I will pull for you to win every other game you play this year. But tonight, we rumble.


  6. Nice job – BT –
    1. Do you think a history of winning will help these players get to and help Houston?
    I sure hope so – you have to think that winning begets winning – players learn to expect, learn to do what it takes and most importantly do not accept other outcomes easily.

    2. Other than Correa, what position player for Corpus will you be paying the most attention to tonight?
    Phillips intrigues me at 20 years old – has been super solid on the rise – I really want to see what comes from him at sea level.

    3. Other than Appel, which pitcher are you most excited to follow in Corpus in 2015?
    Hader – Again a very precocious pitcher who has been outstanding. McCullers is second for me to watch – he had been outstanding until he got “Lancastered” which did not seem to slow down Hader.

    4. How many of these guys — or others I didn’t even mention — for Corpus will be Astros by mid-2016?
    I’m going with 3 – Correa – Appel and a PTBNL – could be anyone, but more likely one of the older guys like Kemp or Gregor.


  7. ASTROS vs. division rival LA Angels:
    2 Ianetta v. Castro
    3 Carter v. Pujols
    4 Giavatella v. ALTUVE
    5 Frees vs. VALBUENA
    6 Aybar vs. Lowrie
    7 Joyce v. Rasmus/Grossman
    8 Trout vs. Marisnick
    9 Calhoun v. SPRINGER
    DH Chron [subbing for Hamilton] v. GATTIS
    SP Weaver, Shoemaker, Wilson, Santiago & Heany
    vs. Keuchel, McHugh, Feldman, Wojo, & Hernandez
    closer: Street v. Gregorson

    So, who wins the season series – and by how many games?


    • With Pujols aging, I almost give first base to Carter. Trout kills JFSF. Really it boils down to the rotations. If Keuchel and McHugh don’t regress much, I like Houston’s chances.


  8. ASTROS vs. division rival Seattle Mariners:
    2 Zunino v. Castro
    3 Morrison v. Carter
    4 Cano v. Altuve
    5 Seager v. Albuena
    6 Miller vs. Lowrie
    7 Ackley v. Rasmus/Grossman
    8 Jackson vs. Marisnick
    9 Smith v. Springer
    DH N. Cruz v. Gattis
    SP Sir Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Walker & Happ
    vs. Keuchel, McHugh, Feldman, Wojo, & Hernandez
    closer: Rodney v. Gregerson

    So, who wins the season series? And by how many games?


    • Houston’s lineup looks better to me. As long as we don’t draw King Felix every time — and even then, match him up against Keuchel — we could beat the Mariners more often than not.


    • Seattle is actually one of the favored picks to win the World Series. Lots of people are putting money on the Cubs as well. Personally, the only player I would prefer straight up over the guy in our lineups is King Felix.

      The rest of them I’m not sure of. Spring training has made me a Valbuena fan and I saw lots of Seager at UNC. I’m a bit surprised with how well he did the last two years.

      I’m probably wearing orange colored glasses.


    • Good looks Bill.

      I think the offensive matchups are going to be less about matchups and more about each lineups ability to have synergy and scratch out runs against good pitchers. I think we will struggle against Weaver and Hernandez, and both teams bullpens. We should fair well against Happ I think.

      To me the most optimistic is the way our rotation not only matches up to the rotations of the other teams, I like the way they matchup to the lineups. Wojo is the only guy that I am bit worried about giving the power of both lineups, the rest of the rotation looks like they can keep good pitches on the corners and out of the danger zone.


  9. This one should be all about the pitching match-ups – and whether Seattle’s hurlers can keep the few balls we are likely to hit off their guys inside the stadium. I suspect the Mariners pitching staff will expose our Achilles’ heel – and that as a result, this particularly series won’t be pretty. They have significantly better OBP potential up and down the line-up and several pitchers who rack up strikeouts against free swinging power guys like we tend to trot out. As much as I wish it weren’t so, I am afraid I have to say “Advantage Mariners”.


  10. I mentioned Mitch Lambson the other day. He looks like a major league pitcher out there. Three beautiful innings in relief so far tonight. At his age I don’t see him being very far from being a part of the Astros bullpen.


  11. Wow! Correa is in on the infield grass to try and cut off a run. Fontana hits a shot that bounces once and is headed to CF and Correa dives and fields the ball after it has passed him. He gets up and runs the runner down going to third. Amazing!


  12. I struggle with cheering against the today Astros – not wanting bad things for the tomorrow Astros in this game, but I’m glad today’s Astros won and that some of tomorrow”s Astros played well…


  13. It won’t be a big move but even today Roberto Hernandez is not on the 40 man roster. Are they going to trade someone off – put someone on the DL – or try to pass someone – Alex White, Jake Buchanan, LJ Hoes through waivers?


  14. When I started watching the Astros play the Hooks I was so curious about how I would feel about the teams. In the first inning I realized there was no way I wanted the Astros to lose.
    When you pour your heart into a team you don’t want to see them lose, especially to a minor league team. I was proud of the way CC played, proud of their players doing well but happy as hell that our major league team whipped them like they were supposed to.
    Valbuena is a good fix at 3B over Dominguez.
    Lowrie is a good fix over the Villar we saw last season.
    Carter is a good fix for Guzman/ Kraus.
    Springer is a good fix in RF
    Rasmus is a good fix in LF
    Gattis is a real good fix at DH
    Hernandez/ Wojo is a real good fix over Williams/Harrell
    Neshek/Gregerson is a real good fix over Crain/ Albers.
    Hinch is a good fix over Porter.
    Our bench is a real good fix over last year.
    Correa, Kemp, Appel, Moran Hader, McCullers, Velasquez and Hernandez are all in AA instead of A ball. Tucker is in AAA instead of AA
    The Astros have four picks in the top 50 of the draft.
    In four days the season begins. I’m ready.


    • I remember 2004, OP, when the Astros of the glory days of Biggio, Bagwell, Berkman, Oswalt, et al played Round Rock in an exhibition like last night’s. I absolutely hated that game. Not one of our highly-touted, talented, high-paid superstars could touch anything dished out by this puny looking little Dominican-born lefty. It was strikeout after strikeout, pop-up after pop-up, weak grounder after weak grounder. The little lefty was absolutely amazing. He painted the black on the inside, then he painted it on the out. His hook was both tantalizing and devastating at the same time. Who IS this guy? I suddenly started asking. Well, you probably know. His name was – or would be – Wandy Fulton Rodriguez [sorry, Becky, I can still see that box of purple hair dye in your shopping cart!]. In later years, when I saw Wandy wearing an Astros jersey and doing the same thing to the superstars of other teams, I realized that rooting for our current major leaguers against our prospects is as silly as trimming your fingernails 1/4 inch into the quick. Oh, and by the way, since then I’ve played in a lot of father-son ballgames from the father’s side. It’s more fun to root for the young guns.


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