Astros' Talent Could Coalesce In Corpus Christi





HOUSTON — The whispers began when the ingredients became evident around the middle of last season, and they will grow louder until the first pitch of the minor league season on April 8.

For the first time in recent memory, the Astros will have an exciting team at the proving ground level of Double-A.

The Astros are considering bringing up the top of their rotation from Class A Lexington, and if they do, that staff will merge with a host of young position players who raked in high Class A Lancaster last season.

Jordan Lyles (19 on opening day) and Ross Seaton (20) will have their fate determined in spring training, and if they do jump over the hitting paradise of Lancaster to Double-A Corpus Christi, they will be a welcome sight to the team that had the oldest pitching staff in the Texas League and the second-oldest in all of Double-A baseball.

The surer bets will be in the field as outfielders Jon Gaston (23), T.J. Steele (23) and J.B. Shuck (22) and utility man Koby Clemens (23) will get the chance to prove if their outstanding 2009 seasons at Lancaster were the beginning of promising careers.

Shuck led the California League in hits (175), while Clemens won the batting title (.345) and Gaston the home run crown (35). Steele hit .345/.385/.562 in a 50-game season hampered by a persistent hamstring injury.

Wes Clements, who managed the foursome at Lancaster and was promoted to Corpus Christi to take over for Luis Pujols.

In an organization that has seen no success in the standings the last two years at any minor league level, Clements says it's not the pursuit of a title that has him ready for April.

"My philosophy is to develop players," Clements said. "Teach them the game, teach them the fundamentals, teach them the right way to play. When you get 25 players on the same page, the winning will follow."

SPACE SHOTS

• Pitching coach Travis Driskill was promoted from Class A Lexington to Double-A Corpus Christi. Rick Aponte was promoted from the Gulf Coast League to fill the position at Lexington, and no appointment has been made for the GCL job.

• Reports have come in strong this offseason on outfielder Drew Locke. Locke, playing both corner outfield spots, hit .266/.345/.391 in the Venezuelan League.