Two more Astros in TCB’s all-player review.
Alex McKenna is a six-foot-two, 204 lb. outfielder from Lancaster, CA. Born on September 6, 1997, McKenna was initially taken by the Minnesota Twins out of high school, in the 38th round in 2015. Three years later, the Astros chose him out of California Poly Tech in the fourth round, 132nd overall for $432,500. Historically, the 132nd pick has produced 21 major leaguers, led by Devon White (47.3 WAR), Ray Durham (33.8), and Chone Figgins (22.0)
Ranked prior to this season by Baseball America as Houston’s number 17 prospect, the MLB Prospect Pipeline had McKenna 22nd on the team. He played his first two pro seasons between the Tri-City ValleyCats and the Quad Cities River Bandits. After splitting 2021 between the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks and the High-A Asheville Tourists, McKenna opened the 2022 campaign at the Triple-A level with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.
According to the Pipeline:
He creates solid raw power with his bat speed and strength and is tapping into it more often as he launches more balls in the air with his right-handed swing.
McKenna struggled a bit in Triple-A, slashing .217/.316/.299 through 53 games. After going two-for-four in a 6-5 win against the Round Rock Express on June 17, the Astros sent him back to the Hooks. He played an identical 53 games for Corpus Christi, slashing an improved .246/.358/.404 with 10 steals in 13 attempts. On August 28, he hit a triple and two homers, totaling four RBI in a 6-5 win over the Amarillo Sod Poodles.
Overall, McKenna banged out a .232/.337/.352 line with six home runs, 51 RBI, and 16 stolen bases in 22 attempts. He struck out 128 times in 430 PA, a 29.8 percent whiff rate, while drawing 53 bases on balls, a 12.2 percent walk rate.
Defensively, McKenna profiles as a center fielder, but spent a lot of time at each outfield position. He played 346 innings in center field (1.000 fielding percentage), 271 1⁄3 in right (.964) and 257 1⁄3 in left (.981). McKenna is currently on the IL, but should open next season as organizational depth with the Cowboys.
Devin Conn is a five-foot-11, 169 lb. right-handed reliever from Plantation, FL. Born on April 3, 1997, the Astros selected him in the 19th round of the 2018 draft with the 582nd overall pick out of Nova Southeast for $125,000. Major league alum who have been taken at the spot include nine players, led by Rick Wilkins (14.0 WAR) and Josh Hader (9.5).
Conn opened his career with the Tri-City Valleycats in short-season-A before splitting 2019 between the middle-A Quad Cities River Bandits and the then High-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers. In 2021 he played for the High-A Asheville Tourists and the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks. He appeared in 34 games overall, with a 3.46 ERA, a 1.058 WHIP, and 53 K’s in 52 innings.
The 2022 season would open for Conn still with the Hooks. On April 20, he struck out four over 2 1⁄3 perfect innings in a 2-0 win over the Arkansas Travelers. He appeared in 25 games for Corpus Christi, pitching 37 innings and allowing a 0.946 WHIP, a 2.19 ERA, and a promotion-worthy .156/.265/.242 opposing slash line. On June 28 he made his Triple-A debut with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.
Conn played in 11 games for the Cowboys, giving up 10 walks versus six strikeouts in 14 innings. A 1.643 WHIP and .271/.383/.396 opposing slash were not what he was used to. He did hold the opposition scoreless in eight of his 11 appearances. Sent back to the Hooks to close out the season, he finished with another 10 games, a 4.70 ERA, a .271/.333/.441 line and a 1.435 WHIP. Conn was 7-3 with a 2.92 ERA overall for Corpus.
Conn sparkled in early season action with the Hooks, but needs more exposure at Triple-A to really see what he’s made of. He should presumably open the 2023 campaign with the Cowboys.