Hooked on Us


I apologize for the gap between posts. I went to Rome and got a stomach virus because, well, U-S-A baby!

Since I’ve been gone…

The Los Angeles Clippers decided that Deandre Jordan and 2 first round picks isn’t worth sacrificing for Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and pretty much a guarantee that Chris Paul (their franchise) re-signs.

The Miami Heat won back to back championships after the Spurs squandered a 5 point lead with just over 20 seconds to go.            *since 1998 when a team has been trailing by 5 with 28 seconds left, their record is was 0-122. It is now 1-122* (tip of the cap to @SLFTW23 for the stat)

Jason Garrett finally told us he won’t be calling up 8-8 plays and Aaron Hernandez might have killed a guy.

But above all else, since my last piece the Astros are 14-10!! Winning baseball is fun. They also drafted and signed first overall pick, Houston’s own, pitcher Mark Appel, who projects as the front of an ongoing organization rebuild with this sect concerning the starting rotation.

First baseman and top prospect Jonathan Singleton also returned from his 50-game suspension and swiftly moved through A and AA to be called up last Monday for his first taste of AAA baseball for Oklahoma City.


During Singleton’s brief stop at AA Corpus Christi he was part of the Hooks’ first half clincher which I saw live thanks to the club being on location in Frisco. Which brings me to the title.

Since his takeover in December of 2011, Jeff Luhnow’s “Project Astros” organizational retooling has been as fun as rebuilding can be. And this can be easily personified with the 2013 AA Corpus Christi Hooks. Excuse me, the 2013 AA Texas League First Half Champion Corpus Christi Hooks.

The night they clinched, there was an array of talent all over the field, leaking into the dugout and oozing into the bullpen. But I didn’t see players in jerseys as much as I saw hope in reality. While the Astros are inevitably putting together a losing season at the Major League Level in 2013, it is widely known around baseball that if your stud prospects — at least in greater numbers (and not Sand People) — reside at AA. And boy was there a lot to be excited about.

Before the game I got autographs from pitching prospect Michael Foltynewicz, outfielders George Springer and Domingo Santana then finally the “only visiting” future first base machine Jonathan Singleton — in that order. I could have left a giddy camper at that point when a pitch hadn’t even been thrown.

Whenever I think of the Astros ever growing minor league system, my mind immediately decodes if the player is a pre or post Luhnow addition, whether it be via draft, trade or signing. When Luhnow arrived there were some names, but very few and generated from departments you expect your organization to hold some high level prospects. 2009 supplied first round picks Delino Deshields Jr., Mike Foltynewicz and Michael Kvasnicka, pick #33 overall — who kick started a super talented supplemental first round that featured…get ready… Aaron Sanchez (Jays), Noah Syndergaard (Mets via Jays), Anthony Ranaudo (Red Sox), Asher Wojciechowski (Astros via monster 2012 Jays package), Taijuan Walker (Mariners), Nick Castellanos (Tigers) and Mike Olt (Rangers).

Really that list wasn’t necessary but above all those now elite prospects was catcher Michael Kvasnicka, selected by the Astros, who had invested in Jason Castro two years earlier. I realize I’m nitpicking and this is one heck of an aside but yeesh, the ‘Stros really failed to use the depth of the draft to their advantage in the winding years of Ed Wade and Drayton McLane’s influence. (Kvasnicka, catcher turned attempted outfielder and finally tried at third base, was dealt to the Twins this Spring for a minor league pitcher) Since Luhnow and new ownership headed by Jim Crane have been at the operating board of Houston Astros baseball, the two drafts they have overseen (’12 ’13) have been great successes.

Of course rebuilding the system starts and ends with the Major League Baseball Draft but the middle is stuffed with trades, particularly your proven quality for promising talent in quantity. Before Luhnow arrived in late 2011 the Astros were busy that summer and I’m sure I speak for most fans saying that Ed Wade went 1/2 in his final hoorah as General Manager.

That, friends, is George Springer

He dealt Hunter Pence to the familiar trading partner in Philadelphia for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zied and Domingo Santana – that’s the positive portion of the fraction.

However, as good as that deal was, Wade then dealt Michael Bourn – who still had another year on his contract as opposed to Pence – to the Atlanta Braves for Jordan Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu. Negative. Jordan Schafer was the headliner of this deal and aside from being awesome and having “Call Me Maybe” as his 2011 walk-up music, he was a complete bust. Negative.

The Astros were bad and didn’t have one of the better farm systems — in terms of depth or higher ceiling athletes — a combo built for failure in professional sports. Coming from the St. Louis Cardinals where he had built the antithesis — an elite big league club with one of the league’s better, deeper, stronger MiLB systems.

So while the Hooks, especially when Jon Singleton stopped by to say hello, are packed to the edge of the 25 man roster with talented prospects, the Astros AA squad is just part of the bigger product. First half champions in the Texas League (each half champion makes playoffs) and home to Springer, Santana, Foltynewicz and fellow pitchers Jake Buchanan and Nick Tropeano as well as catcher Max Stassi, the levels that both precede and proceed AA are stuffed as well.

Below AA you can find recent draftees of 2012 and 2013 Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Nolan Fontana (12) and soon enough Mark Appel, Andrew Thurman (13) and more.

Above in AAA is first-timer and recent call-up Singleton as well as Cosart, Asher Wojciechowski, Oberholtzer, starter Brad Peacock, the always intriguing shortstop Jonathan Villar (2010 Roy Oswalt trade) and many more on a roster “depleted” by big league promotions this year.

The new wave of youngsters at all levels in Houston’s organization  is certainly a constellation of potential stars, or, an Astro. Go us.