TROY, NY - The Houston Astros are World Series champions for the first time in their 56-year franchise history, and 12 former ValleyCats contributed to their unforgettable 2017 season. The list includes MLB All-Stars, a Cy Young Award winner, three-time batting champion, and World Series MVP. The ValleyCats are the longest tenured minor league affiliate of the Astros (17 years), having begun their affiliation in 2001, one year prior to the team moving from Pittsfield to Troy.
George Springer , a member of the 2011 ValleyCats, earned the 2017 World Series MVP honors after going 11-for-29 with three doubles, five home runs, and seven RBIs. It is the second consecutive year that a former ValleyCats player was crowned World Series MVP, with Ben Zobrist (2004 'Cats) earning the award in 2016 with the Cubs.
Springer became just the third player in Major League history to hit five home runs in a single Fall Classic, joining the Yankees' Reggie Jackson in 1977 and Chase Utley in 2009. He set records for extra-base hits (eight) and total bases (29), and became the first player in World Series history to homer in four straight games within a single World Series.
A first round draft pick of the Astros in 2011 (11th overall), Springer made his professional baseball debut with the ValleyCats on August 26 in Lowell. His first pro hit and home run came three days later in front of the home crowd at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. Springer played in eight games that year, going 5-for-28 with one home run, three RBI, and four stolen bases.
Jose Altuve, a favorite to win the 2017 American League MVP Award, captured his third AL batting title with a career high .346 batting average. He is a five-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and a gold glove second baseman. In 2009, Altuve played in 21 games for the ValleyCats, batting .250 with five doubles, seven RBI and seven stolen bases. He made his MLB debut in 2011.
A teammate of Altuve's with the ValleyCats in 2009, Dallas Keuchel made his pro debut with the 'Cats that year. In 11 games, he posted a 2-3 record with a 2.70 ERA, allowing just 17 earned runs while striking out 44 batters in 56.2 innings pitched. Keuchel made his MLB debut in June 2012, and has gone on to become a two-time All-Star (2015, 2017), AL Cy Young Award winner (2015), and three-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award recipient (2014-2016).
Winner of World Series Game 5, Joe Musgrove was a fan favorite with the ValleyCats in 2014. That year, he was named a Baseball America Short Season All-Star after ranking tied for second in the New York-Penn League in strikeouts (67), third in innings (77) and WHIP (0.96), and eighth in ERA (2.81), while going 7-1 in 15 games. He was named the ValleyCats team MVP in a season that saw the 'Cats capture their third straight Stedler Division title.
Video: 2014 ValleyCats MVP pitcher, Joe Musgrove
Derek Fisher entered as a pinch-runner in that epic World Series Game 5, and scored the winning run on the walk-off hit by Alex Bregman. Fisher, the first round draft pick of the Astros in 2014 (37th overall), played in 41 of the 76 ValleyCats games that year, hitting .303 with two home runs, 16 RBI and 17 stolen bases. He was named a New York-Penn League All-Star, and batted .375 (6-for-16) with 1 HR and 3 RBI in the NYPL playoffs.
That covers the former 'Cats who were members of Houston's World Series roster, but seven others were also part of the Astros' 101-win season. Three of them were members of the ValleyCats 2013 New York-Penn League Championship team.
Michael Feliz pitched in 46 games for the 'Cats in 2013, posting a 4-2 record with a 5.63 ERA, but his most memorable performances came in the NYPL playoffs. Given the ball for Game 1 of the Semi-Finals vs. Aberdeen, Feliz showcased a dominate performance as he struck out eight batters in seven shutout innings. He then came back and earned the victory in Game 2 of the Championship Series with the ValleyCats on the brink of elimination. Feliz made his Major League debut with the Astros in 2015, and as a reliever this past season struck out 70 batters in 48 innings.
Tony Kemp was the Astros fifth round pick in 2013, and made his pro debut with the ValleyCats. He spent the first half of the season with the 'Cats before being called up to Class-A Quad Cities. In 48 games with the ValleyCats, Kemp batted .282 with seven doubles, two triples, one home run and 13 RBI. He made his MLB debut in 2016, appearing in 59 games for the Astros. Kemp appeared in just 17 big league games in 2017, spending the majority of the season with Triple-A Fresno.
Tyler White was a late addition to the ValleyCats in 2013, joining the team about the same time as Kemp departed. In 28 games, White batted .286 with three home runs and 25 RBI. He made his Major League debut for the Astros on Opening Day 2016 in New York against the Yankees. He collected his first big league hit on a pinch-hit single to center in the 7th inning.
Two members of the 2014 ValleyCats, A.J. Reed and J.D. Davis , also saw game action with the Astros this season.
Reed was a second round draft pick (42nd overall) of the Astros, and was sent to Troy to begin his pro career. In his first 36 games, Reed hit five home runs with 30 RBIs to go along with a .306 batting average. He was promptly promoted to Quad Cities following a grand slam, four RBI performance on July 26. Reed twice led all of Minor League Baseball in home runs (2015, 2017), and made his MLB debut on June 25, 2016.
Davis had a solid year with the ValleyCats, batting .279 with seven doubles, five home runs and 20 RBIs in 30 games. He became the 51st former 'Cat to reach Major League Baseball when he made his big league debut on August 5 of this year.
David Paulino (2015) and Dayan Diaz (2011) round out the former 'Cats to play for the Astros in 2017.
Paulino started two games for the ValleyCats in 2015, striking out 10 batters in 9.1 innings pitched. He made his MLB debut on September 2016. Diaz was a dominant reliever for the ValleyCats in 2011, allowing just 27 hits in 50 innings pitched, while striking out 70 batters. He made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2016, and was re-signed by the Astros as a free agent in 2017.
On June 15, 2018 the ValleyCats kick-off a new season at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, as the next round of future stars begin their journey to the big leagues. Ticket plans are available now by calling the ValleyCats box office at 518-629-CATS (2287).
Former ValleyCats to play for the Astros in 2017:
Jose Altuve* (2009)
Dallas Keuchel* (2009)
George Springer* (2011)
Dayan Diaz (2011)
Michael Feliz (2013)
Tony Kemp (2013)
Tyler White (2013)
J.D. Davis (2014)
A.J. Reed (2014)
Derek Fisher* (2014)
Joe Musgrove* (2014)
David Paulino (2015)
* - Was part of the World Series roster
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.