One year after not having any of their Minor League affiliates finish the season with a winning record, the Astros have four clubs pushing for playoff berths as the season enters its final two weeks of action.
Double-A Corpus Christi (34-21 in second half) appears to be in good shape, with a five-game lead in the Texas League South Division over first-half champion Frisco (seven games over San Antonio). The Hooks need six wins in their remaining 15 games to set the regular-season club record, which was 76 wins in 2006.
In the California League, Class A Lancaster is leading the Wild Card chase in the South Division by one game over Rancho Cucamonga. The JetHawks actually trail Lake Elsinore for best Wild Card record, but Lake Elsinore is in line to get the No. 2 seed for finishing second behind the first-half champ.
Meanwhile, short-season Tri-City should clinch a playoff berth this week. The ValleyCats, where many college players the Astros drafted in 2012 are competing, have a 15-game lead in the Stedler Division of the New York-Penn League.
Rookie-league Greeneville of the Appalachian League is 32-27 and in third place in the West Division, 8 1/2 games out of first. But the Astros trail second-place Johnson City by one-half game for the Wild Card spot in the West.
Astros director of player development Fred Nelson said winning a championship is an invaluable part of progressing young talent.
"That's part of development," Nelson said. "It's pretty cool when you have a chance to play for a championship and if you play well and win a championship. There are guys on our staff that have been in professional baseball a long time that have never won a championship. That's a special moment."
The Astros haven't had one their Minor League affiliates with a championship since Tri-City won the New York-Penn League in 2010.
"It's new to an awful lot of guys in the organization," Nelson said. "From a personal standpoint, I really appreciate the work the field staffs at each club has done -- and also our roving instructors and Paul Runge, the field coordinator, and Jon Matlack, the pitching coordinator. They've done a great job through the year keeping things in a positive direction and helping make adjustments when necessary."
Triple-A Oklahoma City has some work to do to reach the playoffs. The RedHawks entered Monday with a 68-60 record and in third place in the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division, 5 1/2 games behind first-place Albuquerque.
Class A Lexington (28-27) is in fourth place, 7 1/2 games out of first place and the Wild Card spot in the South Atlantic League Southern Division.