Houston Astros: It’s time to meet Blake Taylor and Kenedy Corona

The Houston Astros were able to successfully trade Jake Marisinick for prospects Blake Taylor and Kenedy Corona. What do they bring to the table?

You have by now heard that the Houston Astros dealt Jake Marisnick to the New York Mets for two guys named Blake Taylor and Kenedy Corona. Sowho are these guys, and what can the Houston Astros expect from each player down the line? Here at House of Houston, we go the extra mile to give you more than the surface layer. Get ready to know your new Houston Astros’ organization ballplayers like you’ve already seen them suit up at the Juice Box.

Astros addressing the lefty pitching issue with Taylor

Taylor, a left-handed pitcher with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, was drafted out of high school in the second round, 51st overall, in 2013 by Pittsburgh—the same draft in which Mark Appel went as the first selection to Houston. The 6-2, 220-pound lefty spent most of his 7-year minor league career as a starter experiencing spotty success, but his chances for a career in the big leagues were waning rapidly.

Usually, if a player is seven years in, his minor league career is hanging by a thread. Sure, the occasional comeback ensues after accepting an opportunity to play independent ball stateside or even in a professional league outside of the US; however, most minor league careers in affiliated baseball reach their natural ends.

But Taylor is a late bloomer proving himself an exception. Only in his sixth season in 2018 did he reach any level past Class A-Advanced. In short, Taylor is a 24-year-old grinder with a legitimate shot to reach the majors.

The Mets’ front office did not take trading Taylor lightly, as evidence indicates they were seriously considering debuting him in the majors, perhaps within the next season. In November, New York quietly added Taylor to the Mets’ 40-man roster to protect him from Rule 5 draft eligibility.

His minor league career featured a number of changes, including being traded in his second season to the Mets from the Pirates in a player to be named later situation, as well as receiving Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm in 2015. However—perhaps the biggest change of all remains the lefty’s 2019 transition from a starter to a relief pitcher.

Following successful Tommy John’s surgery and rehabilitation, the left-hander turned in a solid performance while representing Great Britain in a World Baseball Classic qualifying match against Brazil in 2017. In an interview with Gabriel Fidler of Extra Innings UK, Taylor touted fastball command and working on changeup consistency as major areas of his game plan.

In addition to his changeup and fastball, Taylor features a curveball with a spin rate regarded by Baseball America as high. However, his fastball velocity has remained elusive. Various accounts have him reaching 97 miles per hour as a reliever all the way down to cruising in the high 80s and low 90s as a starter before Tommy John surgery.

Between three levels of minor league play over the last season—culminating with one September appearance in AAA for the Mets’ organization—Taylor boasts an impressive 2.16 ERA. Additionally, against all minor league batters faced in 2019, the Orange, California native averaged over a strikeout per inning of work, and featured a WHIP of 1.10, indicating an area of strength that the 2019 Houston Astros sorely lacked—a left-handed bullpen prospect exhibiting plus control. Also, as an added bonus, in 7 seasons pitched in the minors, Taylor has only committed 5 errors as a fielder—that’s right, just 5.

Over this last season in his new role as a minor league reliever, Taylor found the best production of his career by a significant margin. How good was Taylor’s 2019 improvement? In 2019, the lefty caught lightning in a bottle, pitching to the tune of a 2.16 ERA over 66.2 innings. Only the last three seasons featured Taylor throwing at least sixty innings per season, and his next closest ERA when pitching that many frames was 4.94 in 2017. To translate, the Houston Astros think Taylor found himself.

The numbers indicate that the Houston Astros likely do not envision Taylor as a 200 inning per year starter—or even a starter, in general—but want to develop him into a left-handed relief specialist for the 25-man roster. While Taylor stands a solid chance to receive a 2020 spring training invite with the Houston Astros, he will most likely start the season in Double-A Corpus Christi or Triple-A Round Rock, as the 24-year-old has pitched in only 3 games at the AAA level throughout his entire career.

The safe bet for an opening season landing spot is Double-A with the Hooks unless Taylor just wows his way to the Express with his effectiveness in major-league spring training. As for debuting in Houston, if Taylor continues to show off his less-than-one WHIP (0.95) and sub-2.00 ERA—as he demonstrated in his 18 appearances in Double-A last season—he will force Luhnow’s hand into calling him up for a cup of coffee to face big-league batters before postseason baseball most likely commences once again in Houston next year.

Meet Kenedy Corona

Corona, first and foremost, is only 19. It’s not clear at this point what the native Venezuelan’s primary position is—even to the Mets’ organization—where he spent roughly 23 percent of his time in LF, 42 percent of his time in RF, and 35 percent of his time in CF. Likely, the Mets were

allowing the 5-11, 185-pound, right-handed prospect an opportunity to come into his own by trying him in different defensive configurations. Additionally, players that young are often still growing into their developing bodies.

How did the young rookie fare defensively? Corona threw out five baserunners from the outfield in less than 60 games, a detail that surely caught the Houston Astros’ attention.

What is clear is that Corona is a threat in the batter’s box, achieving a .301 batting average and .398 on-base percentage in his first season of the minors between three separate team assignments in lower level play. In 63 games, he averaged slightly more than a hit per contest, slightly less than an RBI every other game, and struck out only 36 times in 219 at-bats.

On the base paths, the outfielder stole 19 bags, while getting caught 5 times, good for averaging nearly a stolen base every third game he played. Speed comes naturally to Corona, who as a batter slugged 4 triples, 14 doubles, and exhibited traces of power, leaving the yard 5 times in his rookie campaign.

Next: Astros: The impact of the Jake Marisnick trade

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Unpolished, and still developing, Corona’s 2019 contributions as a first-year minor leaguer hint at a chance for a tremendous upside on the horizon. Look for Corona to receive a promotion to High-A ball before the end of the 2020 season. Reaching Double-A in 2020—if Corona sustains such a high on-base percentage—is not entirely out of the question.

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