Farm system's success bodes well for Astros
Six of Houston's Minor League affiliates qualified for the playoffs this season
HOUSTON -- If success in the Minor Leagues is any indication, the Astros' rebuilding process appears to be coming along nicely.
The Astros became the first organization in 10 years to qualify six domestic Minor League affiliates for the postseason in the same year after short-season Tri-City clinched its division in the New York-Penn League on Tuesday.
The six playoff clubs is a franchise record and makes the Astros the first team to accomplish the feat since the Pirates in 2003.
While the Astros are on pace for a third consecutive 100-loss season at the Major League level, the success in the Minors suggests the club's massive rebuilding overhaul could soon start to pay dividends in Houston.
"It's a positive sign that what we're doing is moving the organization in the right direction," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It's not the end goal to win at the Minor League level; it's a step towards winning at the Major League level. But the fact we've been able to accomplish it so quickly suggests the hard work the front office is putting in doing all the trades, and the hard work the scouts are doing bringing in players and the coaches developing players, it's all starting to show results. That speaks well for the future of the organization."
What's really promising to Luhnow is that the Astros are winning throughout the Minor Leagues with players who are at the typical age for the league they are competing in -- or even younger. A good example is 19-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa, the 2012 No. 1 overall Draft pick and the team's top prospect, who hit .320 with nine homers and 86 RBIs as an 18-year-old in the Class A Midwest League.
"What that says to me is these are Major League prospects moving their way through the system," Luhnow said. "The ones that are in A-ball are going to take longer to get there, but the ones that are in Triple-A should continue to arrive next year."
At the top of that list is center fielder George Springer (No. 3 prospect), who hit a combined .303 with 37 homers, 108 RBIs and 45 stolen bases this year at Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City. First baseman Jon Singleton (No. 2 prospect) and pitcher Asher Wojciechowski (No. 13 prospect) also figure to contribute in the Majors next year after finishing the year in Triple-A.
Here's a breakdown of what's next for the Astros' six playoff teams:
• Oklahoma City: The RedHawks won the Pacific Coast League Southern Division with an 82-62 record and were scheduled to open the best-of-five American Conference Finals on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City against Omaha. If the RedHawks advance to the PCL Finals, they will meet the Las Vegas 51s or Salt Lake Bees in another best-of-five series.
• Corpus Christi: The Hooks, who won the first and second halves of the Texas League South Division, will face San Antonio in a best-of-five series that begins Wednesday at home. The Hooks have the home-field advantage for the series. The winner will face either Tulsa or Arkansas for the Texas League title.
• Class A Lancaster: The JetHawks finished the regular season with an 82-58 record, their best since going 83-57 in 2007 as a Boston Red Sox affiliate. Their 43-27 second-half record was tied with Modesto for the best in the Cal League this season. Rancho Cucamonga will host Inland Empire in Game 1 of a best-of-three South Division mini-series on Wednesday, with the winner heading on the road to take on the JetHawks in Game 1 of the South Division Finals on Saturday.
• Quad Cities: The River Bandits (43-26 second half, 81-57 overall) won 13 of their final 16 games and took the final five series in order to tie for the third-most single-season victories in the 54-season franchise history. They will play host to Cedar Rapids in Game 1 of a best-of-three Western Division semifinal series on Wednesday in Davenport, Iowa.
• Tri-City: The ValleyCats became the sixth Astros affiliate to clinch a playoff spot when they beat Brooklyn, 6-3, on Tuesday to lock up the Stedler Division for the second consecutive year. Tri-City will open a three-game series against Aberdeen on the road on Friday before returning home for Game 2 and possibly Game 3.
• Rookie League Greeneville: The Astros rallied for five runs in the ninth inning for a 7-3, come-from-behind win at Kingsport to advance to the Appalachian League finals on Tuesday. They will play Pulaski in the best-of-three Appalachian League Championship Series on Wednesday in Greeneville, Tenn.