Entering the 2023 Spring Training, no one probably would’ve thought that a low-profile prospect named Corey Julks was on his way to making the Opening Day roster. “That’s why you have to come in with an open mind, and you have to allow the players to play”, Astros GM Dana Brown said when he announced that Julks was going to begin the season in the MLB.
And he has done just that. The Astros have let Julks play, and he has not disappointed the team by any means.
In 17 games, the 27-year-old outfielder and U of H alum has provided fire and an electrifying game to Houston. He’s hitting for a .305/.311/.458 slash line with 18 hits over 59 at-bats, along with three doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs, ten runs, and a .769 OPS.
Two of the three doubles and his two homers have come in Julks’ last nine games, a span in which he’s averaging .333/.355/.600. He’s also been delivering clutch hits to help the Astros win.
For Julks, everything began after there was no MiLB season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That off-year was a game-changer for him as he returned with the best offensive version of his career in the minors.
In 2021, he established a season-high for home runs, hitting 14 out of the park in Double-A. Julks obliterated that personal best a year later and smacked 31 long balls in Triple-A. If you combine his home runs from 2017 to 2021, you’ll get fewer four-baggers than what he got in 2022 (29 against 31).
Despite having that kind of year, where he posted an .854 OPS in Sugar Land, there were no takers for Julks in last year’s Rule 5 Draft. Now, the Astros celebrate that.
Determined to make it to the MLB, Julks had a notable Spring Training with the Astros this year. The 28th-best prospect in the organization had a .868 OPS in 18 preseason games along with 12 ribbies, which caught Brown’s attention.
“I think he earned it”, Brown, director of scouting in Atlanta before coming to Houston, said of Julks. Brown was a key man in building one of the best teams in the MLB almost from zero as part of the Braves, creating a strong core of young, promising players that are stars today.
Giving Julks an opportunity in his 27-age season has something to do with what he did back in Atlanta. He gave a chance to a man that no one had given a chance to before. That man is averaging an exit velocity of 90.4 miles per hour, and hitting line drives 41.5 percent of the time.
As one of the Astros’ most exciting stories in 2023, Julks has served as an alternative for the team in left field. Will that continue once the club gets back veteran Michael Brantley? The truth is, Julks is making a strong case to remain in the big leagues no matter what.