Today’s post emerged from a bit of exercise your loyal writer assigned himself. In this new era of Astros’ baseball — let’s say since the beginning of the deep, dark bottom in 2011 — who are the best players that the team developed itself?
This led to a little soul searching about who would be included or excluded. A couple guys like Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh had backgrounds in other organizations, though they didn’t do “Jack Squat”, as Chris Farley/Matt Foley used to say until they joined the Astros. Yuli Gurriel was a consideration, but let’s face it, he was a developed long term pro when he signed with the Astros. No, these are guys who are all Houston all the time in their drafting or signing and development.
- Jose Altuve – Number one must be Altuve, who famously went back for a second chance at a tryout camp in Venezuela and showed that size meant little, except when it comes to the size of the heart. He was, of course, signed by the team, leapt from AA to the majors in the first 100 loss season of 2011, became a 7 time All Star, an MVP, World Champion and the greatest 5’-6” baseball player of the modern era.
- Carlos Correa – This number 2 could be argued to be other players like those just behind him on the list. But what can’t be argued is that the player they drafted first overall in 2012 has been the best shortstop in club history (as dismal as that shortstop history has been) since making the majors in 2015. He combined a top-notch glove with one of the best arms in the game and added a solid bat with some very clutch playoff hits.
- George Springer – Though Altuve beat him to the majors, he was the one fans were awaiting after being drafted 11th in the 2011 draft. He tore up the minors while his call-up was artificially suppressed by a team wanting to delay his debut until a few weeks into 2014. He redefined the leadoff spot as a power bat and, of course, exploded as the MVP of the 2017 World Series.
- Dallas Keuchel – Keuchel, a 7th rounder back in 2009, did not look like much as he struggled through 5+ ERA seasons in 2012 and 2013. But he turned it around in 2014 and his Cy Young season in 2015 spearheaded an unexpected playoff run as the team emerged from the franchise’s darkest days. He was the first real nationally known player of this bunch with that CY award.
- Alex Bregman – The consolation prize for the failed Brady Aiken pick, Bregman was the second player drafted in 2015 (behind current World Series Champ Dansby Swanson) and was in the majors by 2016. Since joining the big club, his numbers have been super solid, even with recent injury setbacks. He just needs to come back like he was in 2018 and 2019, and he will climb this list in a hurry.
- Kyle Tucker – Tucker was picked three spots behind Bregman in that 2015 draft at 18 years old, and after a few years of being an untouchable prospect, he finally made the team for good during the pandemic tainted season of 2020. He had a quietly brilliant season in 2021, putting up a 5.7 WAR. It will be a fun competition to see whether he rises the most or will be surpassed by the next youngster on this list.
- Yordan Alvarez – Alvarez did start out in Cuba as a teen and spent a few moments with the LA Dodgers organization before being traded to the Astros for Josh Fields. He was brilliant in the minors and Rookie of the Year when he was brought up. After sitting out the 2020 season due to surgery on both knees, Alvarez returned and was very good in 2021, but not quite as good as in 2019. Can he climb past Tucker, who is also a very good fielder? Like I said – fun to watch.
- Lance McCullers Jr.– If you moved him up to #6 on this list, you wouldn’t get arguments from me on this. He was picked in the supplemental round of the “Correa” draft and made his way to the majors in 2015, same as Carlos. He has been a solid producer, except…. when injured. In 2021 he made a leap forward as the team’s ace until another injury sidelined him in the playoffs. If he can stay healthy, he could move up this list, but it is the question that still haunts LMJ.
- Framber Valdez – Framber was signed as a 21-year-old out of the Dominican in 2015. Two relatively short stints in 2018 and 2019 showed he had stuff that was hard to hit and even harder to control. But, he was the Astros best pitcher in 2020, and after breaking a finger in 2021, he was a solid pitcher for them the last two-thirds of the season.
- Luis Garcia – Like Altuve, he was signed out of Venezuela, and in his case at 20 years old in 2017. He quickly made his way to the majors for a short dip in 2020 but grabbed the bull by the horns in 2021. He came in second in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2021 after an excellent season in the Astros rotation. The future looks bright for the guy with the Texas two or three-step.
- Do you agree with the ten shown above?
- Who would you add or take off the list?
- Would you change the order of the ten? How?