Ramon Laureano can spit out pretty easily the name of perhaps the most famous junior college product to reach the Major Leagues.
"I know about Pujols," said Laureano, now in his first full season with Corpus Christi. "But Pujols is Pujols."
Beyond Albert Pujols, who played at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City before starring with the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels, Laureano doesn't know much about the path from a junior college to the big leagues. He's not interested in knowing more, either. For Laureano, the journey from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M -- which has produced four MLB players, including D-backs pitching coach Mike Butcher -- has never seemed that daunting.
"My goals are higher than my mind-set," he said. "They're higher than anybody's, I believe."
His performance is starting to match those lofty thoughts, too.
Drafted in the 16th round by the Astros in 2014, Laureano took so well to the early stages of pro ball that he played the final six weeks of last year, his second full season, in Double-A.
Laureano hit .319/428/.528 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs between Class A Advanced Lancaster and Corpus Christi in 2016. Nicknamed 'The Machine,' he followed that up with six extra-base hits in 12 games in the Arizona Fall League before his first stint in big league Spring Training. A full year of consistent hitting at multiple levels and leagues helped him enter this season ranked fourth among Houston's position-player prospects and the team's No. 8 prospect overall.
Now he's back in Corpus Christi for what he expects to be a full season at the Double-A level. Does he feel pressure to follow up last season's success with even more this year? Hardly.
"Last year is over," he said. "It happened. I don't remember anything from last year. That's my thought process."
It's a mind-set Laureano said has helped him make a smooth transition from junior college to where he is now so. The key to moving so fast, he said, is trying not to hurry.
"Be patient and trust the process," he said. "It's going to show over a long period of time. It's not going to show in a couple of weeks. You just have to stay patient."
Video: Corpus Christi's Laureano blasts first homer
That's been needed already this season. He was 2-for-21 and went 13 consecutive at-bats without a hit through the first five games. But he hit safety in seven consecutive games entering Thursday -- a 10-for-34 stretch that includes his first homer of the year -- showing the look of a player comfortable with his surroundings.
"I don't want to say I'm a little bit more relaxed, but yeah, I'm a little bit more relaxed," he said. "I'm just working on the things I need to do to get to the next level, which is the big leagues."
Starting off right: The Seattle Mariners are new to the Texas League this year after affiliating with the Arkansas Travelers in the offseason, and two of their top prospects have had no trouble adjusting. Right-handers Andrew Moore (0.47) and Max Povse (0.48) rank second and third, respectively, in the league in ERA. Moore, the Mariners' No. 4 prospect, is 1-0 with 16 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched, while Povse, ranked fifth, is 3-0 with 18 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
Solid return: The highest-ranked prospect to start the season in the Texas League has lived up to his lofty rankings so far. Yohander Mendez, a left-handed pitcher for the Frisco RoughRiders, is 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. Mendez ranks second in the Rangers system and No. 52 overall. The 22-year-old played for four teams last season, including two appearances with Texas in which he gave up six runs in three total innings.
Rios rolls along: Edwin Rios hit a combined 27 home runs on three different teams last year, and now he's turning his attention to Texas League pitching full time. The Tulsa Drillers' corner infielder, ranked 22nd in the Los Dodgers' system, is among the league's hottest hitters to start the season. His three home runs and 17 hits entering Thursday are tied for the team lead, and he's hitting .340 with a .365 on-base percentage and .600 slugging percentage.