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Gulf Coast League Season Review

The GCL Astros concluded a mediocre season record-wise, but hosted a few high-upside prep draftees and international signees moving up the system.

If you look at the standings, the GCL Astros completed a fairly disappointing campaign this summer, finishing 19-41, good for second-to-last among all Gulf Coast teams. However, it's important to remember what the GCL really is. It's high school draftees getting their first taste of life away from home playing pro ball with a bunch of unknown people. Latin American bonus babies also being away from home for the first time, a few years younger than their prep counterparts, and overcoming an incomprehensible language barrier. In the Astros' case, it's also a place for other international prospects, like the two Australian positions players on the roster, adjusting to American life (or Floridian life, which seems like it's own foreign country at times).

It's easy to look at Gulf Coast stats and make judgements on players. That happened a lot on this forum when checking in on Daz Cameron and Kyle Tucker, who each didn't exactly light central Florida on fire with their offensive numbers. Even making small judgements on GCL players is misguided; case in point, this GCL statline from three summers ago:

AST GCL ROK 39 155 23 36 55 11 1 2 9 7 0 36 5 1 .232 .270 .355 .625

Those numbers belong to one Carlos Correa, a then-17 year old making his pro debut in Florida. That .232/.270/.355 slash line isn't pretty, but he starting heating up with the summer weather upon his promotion to Greeneville later that summer. That's exactly what happened to Tucker and Cameron this year, and it goes to show that the GCL might as well be glorified spring training. Or, a poor man's spring training, as they don't even play at Osceola County Stadium, but instead in back fields at the Astros complex. The GCL is all about instruction, so the numbers really don't matter.

Well, numbers have to matter at some point and I want to use some cool graphs, so I'll just throw these out there.

Here's the GCL offense sorted by OPS, which is a pretty encompassing offensive stat. Keep in mind that the GCL is pretty roster-volatile. That is, many players either begun or finished their short-seasons in the GCL, so the offensive stats collected don't show the whole story for that player over the course of the season. In a way, a better stat for GCL ball might be just simply games played, showing the consistency of certain players who were actually receiving instruction over the course of the summer.

Wander Franco, Connor MacDonald and Nestor Muriel were in the top five for games played, so we could reasonably expect those guys to start next season at Greenville or Tri-City, adding in their interesting backgrounds as well. Speaking of backgrounds, here's a quick rundown of a few intriguing position players from the GCL roster this past season.

Wander Franco, 3B- 2013 international signee, played a lot of games in the GCL and was subsequently promoted for a stint in full-season ball at Quad Cities. If you remember, he's the nephew of the brothers Aybar (Erick, the Angles shortstop, and Willie, who was a utility guy for the Rays and hit a few postseason homers I believe). Not sure what we can expect from him next season, but the aggressive promotion could mean the front office is high on him.

Connor MacDonald, 1B- Australian first baseman who was signed in 2014 out of Brisbane. Has only played in the DSL and GCL to date, but a lot of games in Florida could mean an aggressive promotion next season.

Nestor Muriel, CF- Interesting high-ish draft pick this past season in the sixth round out of the Beltran Academy in Puerto Rico. One of the youngest guys in the system at age 17, should spend next season in GCL after only 80 at-bats in Florida.

Joan Mauricio, SS- Dominican infielder out of the hotbed known as San Pedro de Marcoris in the Dominican Republic. Signed in the same year as Franco, so after 100 at-bats in the GCL could be on pace to start next year at a similar level.

Michelangel Sierra, SS- The 17-year old Venezuelan is one of my favorite international prospects in the system, and not just because his name literally translates to "Michelangelo Fountain" in English. He tore up the DSL this summer, and didn't do much in the GCL, where he'll probably repeat next season.

On to the pitching: there weren't as many exciting young guys on the GCL staff this season. Here are the GCL pitchers sorted by innings pitched.

Two of the more noticeable players at this level, Thomas Eshelman and Patrick Sandoval, each threw less than 15 innings and for good reason. Eshelman was working his way back from a high workload at Cal-State Fullerton, who made it to the College World Series in June, so his cameo appearance was just a little game action at a lower level. Sandoval, a prep pitcher from California who signed late, threw 13.1 innings in Florida and should probably begin next season at a short-season club like Greeneville.