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Former Houston Astros Prospects Find New Homes

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

A handful of Houston Astros prospects elected free agency in November, but not one oof them re-signed. With general manger James Click out of the picture, owner Jim Crane didn’t put forth an effort to bring back the farmhands lost.

“My contract was up, and there was no general manager to negotiate anything with the minor leaguers,” former Astros prospect Colin McKee told the Butler Eagle. “The owner tried getting some things done with players at the Major League level, but that was it.”

As of Saturday, McKee is still a free agent, but two of his former teammates — Nick Hernandez and Jon Olczak — found new employers. Agreeing to minor-league contracts, Hernandez signed with the San Diego Padres and Olczak signed with the Atlanta Braves.

Hernandez, a Houston graduate, was selected by the Astros in the 2016 MLB Draft. After his contract expired in November, he departed for the Dominican Winter League to further his chances of signing with another franchise. For the Aguilas Cibaenas, the righty posted a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 relief innings, striking out 18 batters.

“I’m excited for a different setting,” Hernandez said. “I need to get to the show.”

The Padres assigned Hernandez to the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas on Friday. Although he didn’t received a non-roster invite, Hernandez will be an early arrival at spring training in Arizona. The Sugar Land Space Cowboys start the 2023 season in El Paso against the Chihuahuas. Hernandez will return to Sugar Land on May 9.

Olczak signed with the Astros in May 2021, sticking around for two seasons in the system. The 29-year-old right-handed pitcher made 47 appearances — two as an opener — for Triple-A Sugar Land this season. Olczak found a role as a clean up man in 2022, sporting a 4.66 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 65.2 innings.

Prior to two years in Houston’s system, Olczak played five minor-league seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers. The Braves assigned him to Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.

Quick Hits

  • Houston assigned right-handed pitching prospect Jank Pichardo, who signed Dec. 15, to the Dominican Summer League Astros Blue on Friday.
  • Single-A Fayetteville and High-A Asheville will face-off in an exhibition game April 4 at Segra Stadium in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
  • MLB Pipeline named Yainer Díaz the Astros’ best prospect that missed top-100 list, dubbing him “the most underrated catching prospect in baseball.”
  • Baseball America ranked Astros pitcher Hunter Brown and Díaz at No. 41 and No. 91, respectively, on its fantasy top-100 dynasty prospect list.

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