Two members of the Quad Cities River Bandits team that won the 2013 Midwest League championship title made their major-league debuts for the Houston Astros this week.
Houston’s top prospect, shortstop Carlos Correa, made his MLB debut Monday, and heralded pitching prospect Vincent Velasquez made his first big-league appearance Wednesday. Both games were against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Correa’s debut came against White Sox ace Chris Sale, who struck out 14 Astros in eight innings. Correa went 1-for-4 with an infield hit that drove in a run, and he managed to be one of two hitters Sale didn’t strike out. (George Springer, who did a three-game rehab stint with the River Bandits in 2014, was the other.)
RHP Lance McCullers, who also played for the 2013 River Bandits, made the start for Houston in Correa’s debut. It was the fifth start of his MLB career; he struck out seven and walked none, but gave up three runs on four hits in seven innings. Correa and McCullers were Houston’s top two draft picks in 2012, taken at No. 1 and No. 41 overall, respectively.
(Side note: Thanks to a rainout in South Bend, the current River Bandits team was able to watch Correa’s debut in person. Quad-City Times reporter Steve Batterson wrote about it here.)
Correa collected two more hits in his second game, including his first MLB home run in the 9th inning. He went 1-for-4 with a double in his third game, which was started by Velasquez.
Velasquez pitched well in his MLB debut, scattering three hits and four walks in five scoreless innings. He struck out five and left the game with a 1-0 lead. He ended up getting a no-decision.
In addition to Correa and Velasquez, three other ex-River Bandits made their MLB debuts this year. McCullers first pitched for the Astros on May 18, the same day when 2011 River Bandits catcher Cody Stanley made his MLB debut for the St. Louis Cardinals. RHP Michael Feliz made his debut for Houston on May 31.
Their Midwest League statistics:
Correa: .320 BA, 9 HR, 86 RBI in 117 games
Velasquez: 9-4, 3.19 ERA, 3 saves, 123 strikeouts, 33 walks in 110 IP; started 16 games in 25 appearances
McCullers: 6-5, 3.18 ERA, 117 strikeouts, 49 walks in 104.2 IP; started 19 games in 25 appearances
Stanley: .264 BA, 12 HR, 68 RBI in 103 games (includes two games with 2010 team)
Feliz: 8-6, 4.03 ERA, 111 strikeouts, 37 walks in 102.2 IP; started 19 games in 25 appearances
I bought a box of 2015 Bowman baseball cards this week. Among the many cool cards I found inside were these two, a regular Carlos Correa card and an autographed Josh Hader card:
Hader started five games for the River Bandits during the 2013 regular season, going 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 12 walks in 22.1 innings, after the Astros acquired the left-hander from the Baltimore Orioles. He also pitched for Quad Cities during the team’s playoff run, and delivered a clutch performance in the title-clinching game of the Midwest League Championship Series.
He is 1-3 with a 3.07 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 14 walks in 44 IP for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks this season. He started seven games and made 11 appearances total, and earned a save in one of the two games he finished.
Future Bandits with familiar names?
Depending how things shake out after this week’s draft, the River Bandits could eventually get a few players with familiar names.
Among Houston’s draft picks this year are outfielder Kyle Tucker (No. 5 overall), brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker; outfielder Daz Cameron (37th overall), son of former major-league outfielder Mike Cameron; outfielder Conor Biggio (34th round), son of Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio; and shortstop Kody Clemens (35th round), son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.
If Daz Cameron is assigned to the Midwest League, he will follow the footsteps of his father, who played in 157 games for the 1992-93 South Bend White Sox during his climb to the big leagues.