One year after not having any of their Minor League affiliates finish the season with a winning record, the Astros have four clubs pushing for playoff berths as the season enters its final two weeks of action.
Double-A Corpus Christi (34-21 in second half) appears to be in good shape, with a five-game lead in the Texas League South Division over first-half champion Frisco (seven games over San Antonio). The Hooks need six wins in their remaining 15 games to set the regular-season club record, which was 76 wins in 2006.
In the California League, Class A Lancaster is leading the Wild Card chase in the South Division by one game over Rancho Cucamonga. The JetHawks actually trail Lake Elsinore for best Wild Card record, but Lake Elsinore is in line to get the No. 2 seed for finishing second behind the first-half champ.
Meanwhile, short-season Tri-City should clinch a playoff berth this week. The ValleyCats, where many college players the Astros drafted in 2012 are competing, have a 15-game lead in the Stedler Division of the New York-Penn League.
Rookie-league Greeneville of the Appalachian League is 32-27 and in third place in the West Division, 8 1/2 games out of first. But the Astros trail second-place Johnson City by one-half game for the Wild Card spot in the West.
Astros director of player development Fred Nelson said winning a championship is an invaluable part of progressing young talent.
"That's part of development," Nelson said. "It's pretty cool when you have a chance to play for a championship and if you play well and win a championship. There are guys on our staff that have been in professional baseball a long time that have never won a championship. That's a special moment."
The Astros haven't had one their Minor League affiliates with a championship since Tri-City won the New York-Penn League in 2010.
"It's new to an awful lot of guys in the organization," Nelson said. "From a personal standpoint, I really appreciate the work the field staffs at each club has done -- and also our roving instructors and Paul Runge, the field coordinator, and Jon Matlack, the pitching coordinator. They've done a great job through the year keeping things in a positive direction and helping make adjustments when necessary."
Triple-A Oklahoma City has some work to do to reach the playoffs. The RedHawks entered Monday with a 68-60 record and in third place in the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division, 5 1/2 games behind first-place Albuquerque.
Class A Lexington (28-27) is in fourth place, 7 1/2 games out of first place and the Wild Card spot in the South Atlantic League Southern Division.
Final moves set Minor League rosters for home stretch
The Astros are done moving players between affiliates for the season, which ends in two weeks for most Minor League clubs. In addition to recently moving infielder Rio Ruiz and 2012 No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa to Greeneville, the club has moved switch-hitting catcher Jobduan Morales from Tri-City to Lexington.
Andrew Aplin, a center fielder drafted out of Arizona State who had a great debut at Tri-City, was recently jumped to Lancaster of the California League, along with left-handed specialist Kenny Long. They both skipped Lexington.
"We project Aplin to play out there next year, and with the movement of [George] Springer to Double-A, it created an opportunity to where he's not blocked," director of player development Fred Nelson said. "It would make no sense to send him out there if Springer was there, because somebody would suffer at-bat-wise."
Aplin, 21, led the New York-Penn League with a .348 batting average, and was hitting .242 through his first nine games in the California League. Long was drafted in the 22nd round from Illinois State.
"It's not only going to be a challenge for [Aplin], but it will give him an opportunity to get a feel for the environment he's going to be in next year and the league and the ballpark," Nelson said. "We drafted Kenny Long as a left-handed specialist and he's performed very well in Tri-City [1.88 ERA in 17 appearances], and is a little bit older than the other guys, so we decided to run him out there to see if his ability and talent could survive at that level."
• Class A Lancaster second baseman Delino DeShields Jr., who spent most of the season at Class A Lexington, entered Monday with 87 stolen bases, which tied him with Lou Frazier (1988) for the Astros' Minor League record. DeShields stole 83 at Lexington, and now has four for Lancaster.
• After going 6-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his first nine starts at Tri-City, right-hander Aaron West was roughed up for seven hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings Saturday. The five earned runs allowed matched his total from his previous 50 innings.
• Top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart, who was working out in Florida while trying to cure his blister problems, returned to the mound Saturday at Double-A Corpus Christi for the first time in three weeks and threw two innings in relief.
• Corpus Christi first baseman Jon Singleton has six hits -- including a homer -- in his last 10 at-bats, with four runs scored. In his last eight games, he's 13-for-35 with four homers and 12 RBIs. He's hitting .282 with 18 homers and 75 RBIs this year.
• Entering Monday at Triple-A Oklahoma City, infielder Angel Sanchez was hitting .415 (22-for-53) in his last 15 games. Infielder Matt Downs was hitting .364 (12-for-33) with two homers and nine RBIs since joining the RedHawks on Aug. 11.