Ten years. Ten years Astros fans have watched their club languish. Sure, 2005 was great. But the roster was old and was starting to smell fishy by late 2006. Since then, fans have endured the indignities of:
- Jason Jennings
- Woody Williams' $14 million
- Shaun Chacon punching out General Managers
- Bill Hall
- restrictive contracts to Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and Wandy Rodriguez
- Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz
- Matt Dominguez, Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace, Jeff Keppinger, Geoff Blum, and Mike Lamb
- Kaz Matsui's anal fissures
- Bud Norris, Jarred Cosart, Lucas Harrell and their crummy attitudes
- Two of the worst bullpens in the history of organized baseball
- The sale of the team
- The move to AL
- The loss of TV coverage and the move of the radio coverage to a weaker signal station
- Prolonged national mockery
- Bathroom snow cones, data leaks, lunch with a dead pitcher, and "the Aiken debacle".
But all that is coming to an end, and the new era of Astros baseball has officially dawned. The era you will tell your kids that you witnessed from the beginning.
Check out what has happened over the past couple months, and try to think of a comparably hopeful time for any club, at any time, during the history of major league baseball:
May 6, 2015: Astros recall Left Fielder Preston Tucker to replace an injured George Springer. Springer turned out okay, and Tucker has stuck with the major league team by posting a 115 wRC+ in his first 102 plate appearances. If he qualified, it would place him 4th-highest among AL left fielders. Tucker was ignored by the national prospect media, but the Astros thought highly of him, as did the fan base. Since his recall and especially since the drafting of his younger brother Kyle by the Astros, Tucker has been mentioned even by the national media as one of the Astros' "top prospects" and is spoken of as an everyday player on a good team, not just a temporary fill-in. The fun is just beginning for Astros fans though.
May 18, 2015: Astros recall starting pitcher Lance McCullers. McCullers was frequently mentioned among Top 100 prospect lists for the past two seasons. He destroyed the minor leagues this season and earned a call-up to fill a void in the starting rotation brought about by injury to Scott Feldman. As a 21-year-old, he has posted a 2.00 ERA in six starts, with ten strikeouts for every nine innings pitched. He has pitched like an ace.
June 7, 2015: Astros recall shortstop Carlos Correa. Who? Only the number one prospect in baseball according to most sources. Correa manhandled AA as a 20-year-old and then held his own in AAA with ease. This, along with an injury to Jed Lowrie and lack of any sort of production from fill-ins Jonathan Villar and Marwin Gonzalez, earned the budding superstar the beginning of his major league career. But that wasn't enough for the Astros...
June 8, 2015: Astros recall starting pitcher Vincent Velasquez. Why call up one Top 100 prospect in a 24 hour period when you can call up two? Veteran Roberto Hernandez just wasn't getting the job done, and so the Astros called on their 2010 2nd-round pick, who at age 23 was making mincemeat of Texas League batters. During his first start, Velasquez fanned five batters in five innings and didn't allow a run.
June 15, 2015: Astros recall corner outfielder Domingo Santana. Santana is yet another consensus Top 100 prospect who embarrassed his minor league colleagues. In the PCL as a 22-year-old, he hit .320/.444/.584 with an enormous walk rate and reduced strikeout rate. His tools have drawn comparisons with Giancarlo Stanton and Nelson Cruz, giving fans the moon to dream on. It remains to be seen if he will stay in the majors, since reportedly Colby Rasmus has been placed on the bereavement list. But he certainly has earned some playing time.
So how about it? Have you ever heard of an organization calling up four Top 100 prospects and another one just outside all within a month and a half? Ever? In the history of Major League Baseball? We are watching something unprecedented - a grand experiment that so far seems to be bearing fruit.
What's really wild is it still seems just the beginning. 1B Jon Singleton is raking at AAA, ranking 10th in the PCL in wRC+ and third among players younger than 25 years old (Santana being number one on that list). 2B/OF Tony Kemp ranked 2nd in the Texas League before his promotion. Lancaster boasted the top two offensive players in the CAL league: 1B A.J. Reed and CF Brett Phillips, and that doesn't include recently-promoted CF Derek Fisher, who was fifth in the Midwest League. That doesn't even count the myriad of interesting pitchers floating around the system.
Nor does it include a major league roster that already has the youngest lineup in the major leagues, and a rotation that is growing younger with each call-up of a Top 100 prospect. Or that starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel is currently the favorite to win the AL Cy Young award. And the recent 2015 draft that added likely three new Top 100 players to the fold.
What can we say? Is the waiting paying off? Is it fun being fans of a first-place team that has the deepest farm system in baseball and a smart front office?