From Grassroots to World Champions

November 29, 2017


Photo by: Photo Courtesy of AXS

The 2017 Houston Astros ended their season with a miraculous title run that brought a World Series trophy to the city of Houston, that was a few months ago ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, for the first time ever. But the World Series champions’ win hit closer to home when a number of players on that championship roster passed through Fresno while playing for the Grizzlies, who are the highest level farm affiliate of the Astros.

There was a lot of buzz going around when the Astros made it to the World Series after a 2014 Sports Illustrated cover article predicted that they would win the 2017 World Series with a roster that was stacked with young talent. That year the Astros had the number-two ranked farm system, according to Bleacher Report, with players rapidly developing leaving Houston with high hopes for the near future.

In 2014 it was rumored that the San Francisco Giants, who were the Major League affiliate of the Fresno Grizzlies for more than 15 years, were ready to up and leave to Sacramento due to low attendance amongst other complications with the city of Fresno. By the end of that season, the Giants were gone and Fresno had received a new affiliate with a treasure trove of talent in the form of the Astros.

That treasure trove of talent thanked their new hometown by bringing the 2015 Pacific Coast League title and also the Triple A National Championship in only their first year in Fresno. During that season two of those players who appeared on both the PCL championship roster and 2017 World Series roster were shortstop Carlos Correa and pitcher Chris Devenski.

Correa would go on to become the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year and a 2017 All-Star and Devenski won game two of the World Series for the Astros and won the National Championship game for the Grizzlies.

But the hometown ties do not stop there. Of the 25 players on the official World Series roster, 11 of those players had worn a Grizzlies uniform and this is excluding players that helped the Astros get to the World Series throughout the season.

The workload of former Grizzlies not only included Correa and Devenski, but numerous other players who received accolades in their own right. Pitchers Lance McCullers and Will Harris are former AL All-Stars, with Harris becoming an All-Star in 2017.

The duo of Third baseman Alex Bregman, the 2016 Minor League Player of the Year, and First baseman Yuli Gurriel helped power the Astros past the Dodgers quite literally by both players accounting for two World Series homers a piece, along with Correa who also had two homers of his own.

In fact, former Grizzlies accounted for seven out of fifteen of the home runs in what was a homer laden and record-setting World Series when both teams combined for the record-setting number of 22 home runs in a series.

Hitting was not the only thing former Grizzlies accounted for. All four of the Astros wins came from the arms of former Grizzlies and the save in game three by Brad Peacock. The W in the box scores only tells half of the story.

All former Grizzlies accounted for 64 percent of innings pitched in that series with Pitcher Charlie Morton carrying a workload of 10.1 innings pitched and also getting the win in the decisive game 7.

The Astros have been able to turn around a franchise that is a cellar dweller for years into a World Series champion through drafting and developing players in their farm system where players make one last stop in Fresno before they hit the big leagues.

Much of the roster is full of young talent and of the former Grizzlies eight of them are 30-years-old and younger. Add that age to a team that includes 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve who himself is entering his prime at the age of 27.

The 2017 World Series was won with a blue-collar approach to building a team with hard work and effort. They did not just buy a championship like many others in the league try to do, including the $244 million payroll of the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom they defeated in the World Series. So it is fitting that their winning approach is more or less the same as the people in Fresno, blue-collar and hard working.

Houston’s future will continue to look bright for years to come and there no telling how many World Series will be on the horizon for the Astros and Fresno will be connected to that success thanks in large part to the Astros’ grass roots approach.

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