Triple-A playoffs sometimes can be influenced by players that have spent the bulk of the season in Double-A, but the RedHawks figure to have a lineup and a starting rotation similar to what manager Tony DeFrancesco used throughout August.
Major League teams promote players when rosters expand in September that can leave holes in minor league playoff lineups and force pitching rotations to be shuffled.
But the only two players the Astros promoted were reliever Jorge De Leon and veteran outfielder Trevor Crowe. Losing De Leon hurts. De Leon was 6-for-6 on save opportunities in August.
OKC's bullpen will be a wild card entering the Pacific Coast League playoffs. In addition to losing De Leon, dependable RedHawks bullpen arms such as Josh Zeid, Kevin Chapman, Paul Clemens and Phillip Humber have been in the majors a while.
But when Oklahoma City opens a best-of-5 series by hosting Games 1 & 2 Wednesday and Thursday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, star center fielder George Springer and highly touted first baseman Jon Singleton should be in the lineup.
“It's important some of these guys stay here to try and win a championship,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said during a recent stop in OKC. “Guys like Jon Singleton and George Springer have a chance to do something special.”
Singleton, one of the top 30 prospects in preseason according to Baseball America, served a 50-game suspension to start the season. He's hit better late in the season to raise his average to .227 with 11 homers, 16 doubles, 43 RBIs and a .352 on-base percentage in 88 minor league games.
Springer is a candidate for Minor League Player of the Year. Splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, Springer is hitting .305 with 37 homers, 108 RBIs, 106 runs, 44 stolen bases and a .412 on-base percentage.
“It's going to be a lot of fun,” Springer said. “The playoffs are sort of like the NCAA Tournament in college. You're playing to go as far as you can. The goal is to get a ring.”
Pitching usually is the key in a short playoff series. DeFrancesco hasn't announced his starting rotation for the first-round series, but Asher Wojciechowski is expected to start Game 1.
A 24-year-old right-hander out of the Citadel, Wojciechowski has an 11-8 record with a 3.32 ERA this season. The first-round pick is 9-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 21 starts in Oklahoma City.
David Martinez figures to start Game 2. Jake Buchanan is a candidate to be the Game 3 starter.
A 26-year-old right-hander out of Venezuela, Martinez was dominant in Double-A, posting a 14-2 record with a 2.02 ERA. He also made two appearances in the majors. But with OKC, Martinez is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts.
It's interesting the RedHawks' first-round opponent probably will be Memphis. If Martinez gets a start, as expected, how will he respond facing the same team that roughed him up for six runs in the first inning?
Buchanan, a 23-year-old right-hander, has split the season between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. Buchanan was 7-2 with a 2.09 ERA with the Hooks. He's 5-5 with a 3.89 ERA in 12 starts with the RedHawks.
The Astros could still make some moves, but major league teams not in playoff contention prefer to call up players already on the 40-man roster.
RedHawks that fit that criteria include: ultra-talented but erratic utility man Jimmy Paredes, outfielder Marc Krauss and pitchers Hector Ambriz, Jose Cisnero, Rhiner Cruz and Martinez.
Memphis lost speedy center fielder Adron Chambers and former Oklahoma State left-hander Tyler Lyons, who was reassigned to Double-A but is expected to rejoin the Cardinals.
Another variable in the playoffs is a Triple-A team sometimes lands a bonus player when their Double-A affiliate doesn't qualify for the playoffs. But all four of Houston's full-season teams advanced to postseason.
“You never know when the Astros might call up one of our guys or send someone else here,” DeFrancesco. “We've lost some really good players to Houston. The one thing I've liked about this team is whoever has been here has helped us win.”