You read that right.
The Houston Astros have had hold of first place in the American League West since late April, going on well over a month now.
At the end of April, the Texas Rangers were a woeful 7-14. Yu Darvish was hurt. Derek Holland out. Shin-Soo Choo ailing. Ryan Rua gone. Josh Hamilton not even an afterthought. Joey Gallo just started his AA season and it seemed like 2014 all over again.
My, how things have changed.
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The Astros are still in first, but their lead on first keeps on dwindling down. It was supposed to be to either Seattle or the Angels, but instead it’s the Rangers who sit back of their in-state rivals by just 3.5 games.
Before a loss in Kansas City yesterday, Texas was winners in 14 of 17 games, starting this season changing stretch of baseball off with seven straight victories through Boston, New York and Cleveland.
Just like that, the surprising Texas Rangers presented the even more surprising Houston Astros with the biggest threat to their even more surprising than all the previous surprises in this sentence…*gasp for breath*… first place.
It’s June 8th now, and the Astros are calling in the reinforcements.
As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle explains (recommended Twitter follow), the Super Two deadline has passed which opens the door for shortstop Carlos Correa to be promoted to the Major Leagues.
According to MLB.com (and yours truly), Correa is the top infield prospect in baseball. Jonathan Mayo ranked him behind only Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, who he has since passed due to a combination of Buxton’s continued injury problems and Correa just tearing up the Minor Leagues.
On top of bringing up the 20-year old –who was also the first overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft (Buxton 2nd)– the Astros also called up starting pitcher Vincent Velasquez, who Mayo ranked 4th in the system and 74th overall (Baseball America ranked him 3rd) to take the rotation spot of Roberto Hernandez, AKA “Don’t Call me Fausto” Carmona.
Both moves immediately make Houston better, as Correa fills the shortstop void left by Jed Lowrie, who suffered a thumb injury right as Houston took over as the American League West leaders.
Velasquez and Correa join an already expansive group of rookies who have trekked to both Houston this season as the Astros continue to rebuild, and also Arlington as the Rangers find themselves in the running for the AL West title.
Delino DeShields (who was coincidentally selected from Houston in the Rule 5 Draft), Keone Kela, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Hanser Alberto, Gallo and as of today Spencer Patton have made the journey from either Frisco or Round Rock to the Texas Rangers active roster.
Jun 3, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers designated hitter Joey Gallo (13) walks to the on deck circle during the game against the Chicago White Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
As someone who primarily covers the Minor League portion of Baseball, I admit to the extreme excitement in seeing all these players getting the call.
Joey Gallo, a top ten prospect, was recalled due to the injury to Adrian Beltre. As a top 10 prospect, he was the highest rated of all the names above to join their respective contending big league clubs until Correa.
Where Gallo presents an opportunity to be a total stud, Carlos Correa is expected to be a surefire stud.
Whatever way you look at it, this unexpected American League West race is heating up, and like the weather, reinforcements are just making it even hotter.