Astros’ AAA affiliate Round Rock Express kicks off season
By Brian Murray
Round Rock Express, the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate, begin their 20th season tomorrow against the New Orleans Baby Cakes after today’s rain-out.
The Astros and the Round Rock Express reached a 4-year agreement last September to once again become their AAA affiliate. The Express served as Houston’s AA affiliate from 2000-2004 and was their AAA affiliate from 2005-2010. They were founded as a AA franchise by Ryan Sanders Baseball, a group made up of Nolan Ryan and Don Sanders along with their sons.
Their Home Opening Day is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9 at Dell Diamond against the Nashville Sound, the Texas Ranger’s affiliate. The Express is loaded with talent with four of MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects and nine of Houston’s top 30 prospects.
Forrest Whitley, Cionel Perez and Corbin Martin head up an impressive pitching staff. Martin and Whitley, along with Reymin Guduan, saw plenty of action with the Astros in Spring Training this season. Whitley was rumored to be one of the prospects fighting for that 5th spot in the Astros’ rotation and Guduan was one of the finalists for the final opening in the bullpen.
Whitley, MLB’s #1 pitching prospect, had a decent showing this Spring appearing in five games and ending up with a 3.00 ERA. He struck out 17 batters in his 15 innings of work. Guduan pitched 11 innings of relief work in 11 games, striking out 15 while keeping his ERA down at 1.64.
The outfield is packed with talent and familiar names like Kyle Tucker, Myles Straw and Yordan Alvarez. Straw surprised everyone as one of the top performers at Spring Training. In 21 games and 45 plate appearances, he had a .378 batting average, scoring 16 runs and swiping four bases. These three outfielders could easily be starters in the Majors somewhere but were victims of an overcrowded Astros’ outfield.
The infield has its own share of talent anchored by Nick Tanielu. He was also one of Spring Training’s surprise players with a slash line of .353/.411/.804, knocking in 18 runs in 21 games. Tanielu racked up 12 extra base hits, five of those were home runs.
The Round Rock Express is going to be an exciting team to keep tabs on this summer with all of the talent they have on hand. I’m sure we’ll see a few of these prospects get the call-up to the Big Leagues before the season is out.