SUGAR LAND — This time last season, Corey Julks was a month through Double-A with only one home run to his name in over 60 trips to the plate. The Houston Astros‘ 2017 eighth-round pick was slashing .286/.328/.429 but was nearing a slide in offensive production, ultimately leading to a trip to the development list.
Julks entered Thursday writing a different script. The right-hander found a stroke of power during the later half of the 2021 season and in his first two months of Triple-A play. His 12 homers on the year currently leads the Sugar Land Space Cowboys and is tied for third in the Pacific Coast League.
Eleven of those 12 home runs have been struck in the past 19 games, while finding a total of 17 extra-base hits in the same stretch. With a new-found power in his approach, Julks is turning heads, moving to third in OPS (.856) on the team.
With a league-leading .769 slugging percentage in May, Julks is showing glimpses of immortality from his best streak of professional baseball. But sitting off a packed 40-man roster, will his offensive prowess be enough to force a major-league debut with the Astros in 2022?
While Corey Julks continues to tear the cover off the ball, can the regular outfielder find a spot on the Astros’ 40-man roster?
Julks plays the corner outfield positions and third base. The righty hasn’t seen a single inning of center-field action in Triple-A Sugar Land, after playing his largest sum of innings in center with the Corpus Christi Hooks in 2021.
This offseason, Julks picked up an infielder’s glove, adding third base to his repertoire during instructs and spring training. With 95 innings at the hot corner in Triple A, the 26-year-old has committed two errors in 24 chances.
Julks’ résumé is growing, but the Astros don’t have a roster spot for him this season. Aledmys Diaz and Mauricio Dubón are only leaving the active roster this year if injury strikes, leaving little opportunity for others like Taylor Jones, Niko Goodrum and J.J. Matijevic to make the active roster again.
Although a roster spot isn’t vacant, Julks furthered his domination against Triple-A pitching Thursday in Sugar Land’s 5-3 loss to Albuquerque, launching a 385-foot homer with an exit velocity 107.6 mph. The righty reached base an at-bat before on an infield single, while his 55-graded speed is his best tool according to MLB Pipeline.
By his fourth trip to the plate in the seventh, Julks showed a glimpse of human nature, striking out on three pitches with two runners in scoring position. Taking the first strike, Julks whiffed on the second two in a moment to put the Space Cowboys ahead.
As Julks continues to force himself onto the roster, he is also building trade value for a farm system not-highly ranked by prominent publications. But if the Astros deal one of the three center fielders rostered, Julks should be atop the club’s list of possible 40-man additions.