GREENEVILLE, TN - As a new baseball season begins, many former Greeneville Astros have progressed to higher levels in the Houston Astros minor league system. Forty-one former Greeneville Astros are on the Opening Day rosters of the Astros four full season affiliates. Fans in Greeneville have seen and cheered for many of these players when they began their professional baseball careers at Pioneer Park. Now, after a grueling Spring Training, they are all at least one step closer to realizing every baseball player's ultimate dream of playing in the big leagues.
Since the inaugural season for the Greeneville Astros in 2004, there have been sixteen players, at least one from every team through 2009, go on to play in Major League Baseball. Looking ahead, it seems like a strong possibility that several players from the last four seasons will also have a shot to join that exclusive list and keep the streak alive.
Currently, MLB All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve is the lone former Greenville Astros player on the active roster for the Houston Astros. However, five other former Greeneville Astros players are on active rosters for different big league organizations. Outfielder Brandon Barnes and right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles were both traded to the Colorado Rockies this offseason. Meanwhile, three other former Astros' pitchers also found new homes. Fernando Abad is on the Oakland A's, Juan Gutierrez is across the bay with the San Francisco Giants, and Felipe Paulino is now with the Chicago White Sox.
Each of these players will serve as great examples for the 2014 Greeneville Astros once their roster is set following the First-Year Player Draft in June. However, the top four affiliates in the farm system for the Astros, Triple A Oklahoma City, Double A Corpus Christi, Class A Advanced Lancaster and Class A Quad Cities, got their rosters set this week and will open their seasons on Thursday, April 3rd.
Upon the release of the Opening Day rosters for the full season clubs, Greeneville Astros general manager David Lane said, "We are very excited for our former players that are working hard and advancing up through the Astros' system. Just last season, we had three of our former players get the call to the big leagues. It's a lifelong dream for these guys and we are looking forward to seeing who will be the next one to get that call."
Potentially, the players closest to making that next step will begin in Triple A Oklahoma City. In fact, right-handed pitchers Jose Cisnero and David Martinez are both beginning this season in Oklahoma City after each got a taste of the big leagues last season. However, five other former Greeneville Astros are on the RedHawks' Opening Day roster as well. Right-handed pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, a 2010 first-round selection, is one of the top prospects in the Astros system and a lot will be expected of him following a breakout season in 2013. He will be joined by third baseman Jonathan Meyer, infielder Ruben Sosa, catcher Ryan McCurdy, and left-handed pitcher Pat Urckfitz.
At the Double A level, seven former Greeneville Astros will suit up for the Corpus Christi Hooks to begin the season. One of those, right-handed pitcher Jorge De Leon, already made his Major League debut last season. He will be joined by fellow right-handers Jordan Jankowski, Ross Seaton and lefty Luis Cruz. Meanwhile, catcher Rene Garcia, infielder Jiovanni Mier, and one of the Astros' top outfield prospects in Delino DeShields, Jr. are also on the squad.
In Class A Advanced Lancaster, there will be thirteen former Greeneville Astros. They will be led by a pair of former first-round draft selections in right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers and shortstop Carlos Correa. In 2013, that pair helped lead the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits to the Midwest League Championship and are both considered among the top prospects in the organization.
Other former Greeneville Astros players that will be joining the JetHawks will include eight other pitchers and three other position players. Right-handed pitchers on the squad include Jamaine Cotton, Michael Dimock, Mike Hauschild, Daniel Minor, Tyson Perez and Vincent Velasquez. The left-handers are Mitchell Lambson and J.D Osborne. Meanwhile, catcher Roberto Pena, third baseman Rio Ruiz and outfielder Jordan Scott complete the position players.
At Class A Quad Cities, there will be fourteen players that previously played in Greeneville. This includes ten players that were in Greeneville as recently as last season. Among those players is last year's team MVP, outfielder Tanner Mathis. Moving up with him will be Tyler Brunnemann, Jandel Gustave, Chris Lee, Gonzalo Sanudo, Brian Holberton, Jack Mayfield, Chase McDonald, Tyler White and Brett Phillips.
Among the River Bandits players that were on the Greeneville Astros prior to last season include Michael Feliz, Adrian Houser, Andrew Walter and Chan Moon.
Fans can keep track of the progress of each of these players throughout the season under the "Where are they now?" section on www.greenevilleastros.com.
The Greeneville Astros will begin their season at home for just the second time in club history this year with Opening Day set for June 19th against the Elizabethton Twins. Season tickets, half-season tickets, and ticket books are now available for purchase at the Astros Administrative office located at Pioneer Park on the campus of Tusculum College. The office is open Monday-Friday from 9:00am-5:30pm.
For more information on the Astros, call (423) 638-0411. For all the latest news and updates, follow the Astros on Facebook and Twitter.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.