Want another sign that 2015 may be an improved year for the Astros, no matter what they do in free agency?
The Oklahoma City RedHawks had the best offensive production of any Astros Triple-A affiilate in 15 years. They did this despite the youngest lineup in the PCL.
If that doesn't scream, "Good things lay ahead," I don't know what does.
There aren't many caveats you can put on such superlative terms. Taking into account age, on-base percentage and runs scored, this RedHawks team excelled.
The last Triple-A affiliate to post an on-base percentage as high as OKC's team .356 was the '98 New Orleans Zephyrs. That Zephyrs team had an average age of 27.5, too.
The RedHawks had an average age of 23.7 years old in 2014. That was by far the youngest set of batters in the Pacific Coast League. Despite that youth, Houston still managed to post more runs scored and a higher OPS than eight other PCL teams.
OKC also scored over 50 more runs than it managed in 2013. In four years in the Brickyard while affiliated with the Astros, the RedHawks scored over 700 runs in a season twice, including in 2014.
So, it was an overall positive year at the plate for OKC.
The bad news? Going by wRC+, five of OKC's top six offensive players graduated to the majors. Some of those five were just making pit stops in the minors on the way back, like Jesus Guzman and Robbie Grossman. That leaves Joe Sclafani as the most effective offensive force for OKC and he only posted 226 plate appearances there.
Still, eight players had more than 300 plate appearances for OKC and only three of those were worse than league average in wRC+. Those three included two catches (Carlos Perez, Max Stassi) and a utility infielder (Ronald Torreyes) who are all considered great defenders.
OKC's only problem came in hitting home runs. By that fact, they were one of the worst teams in the PCL at hitting the ball out of the park. The Brickyard also has a pretty favorable home run factor, so the RedHawks' struggles there get amplified a bit.
But, by any other measure, the team performed much better. As more of Luhnow draft picks circulate through the system, that focus on patience at the plate seems to be paying off.