There have been a few bumps in the road this season, but Jeff Luhnow believes the player development-paved path he mapped out to rebuild the Astros organization is leading Houston in the right direction.
In Davenport this week to sign a two-year extension of the organization’s player development contract with the Quad-Cities River Bandits, the Astros general manager sees things working the way he envisioned.
“The scouting and development components that are at the core of what we are doing are working,’’ Luhnow said. “They are identifying and developing players that are getting to the major leagues and competing there. We’re on the right track.’’
Luhnow joined the Astros in 2011 after spending eight years in the Cardinals organization, the last six as vice president of scouting and player development.
He said he feels fortunate that Houston owner Jim Crane had an appreciation for the development-based solution Luhnow presented to turn around the Astros organization.
“There are a lot of ways to build a major-league team and reach a certain level of success, but our objective has been to secure and develop our players through our organization and build it for long-term success,’’ Luhnow said.
Coming off an appearance in the American League Division series a year ago where Houston’s season was ended by eventual World Series champ Kansas City, the Astros have been hovering around the .500 mark recently after a slow start to the season.
“We’ve tasted success and we want more,’’ Luhnow said. “We’re still a very young team in a lot of respects and with that, we expect a few struggles, but we expect to learn from them and continue to move forward and with the good, young people on our team I’m confident that will happen.’’
Houston is only in its fourth season of an affiliation with Quad-Cities but when pitcher Jandel Gustave was promoted to the Astros’ major-league roster Wednesday he became the 10th former River Bandits player on Houston’s active roster.
He is also the eighth former Quad-Cities player to make his major-league debut this season.
“Those are pretty high numbers for the short period of time that we have been here, but that illustrates that the system is working,’’ Luhnow said.
The Astros had a choice of where to locate their low Class A franchise when they signed with Quad-Cities prior to the 2013 season and Luhnow said the River Bandits and the Midwest League are uniquely positioned to fill the needs of the Houston organization.
He said that extends beyond the facilities at Modern Woodmen Park which provides the team with what it needs from a developmental standpoint.
“It’s also the community and the fan base that shows up, buys tickets and not only supports the team, but sends a message to them that what they do and how they perform matters,’’ Luhnow said. “That’s part of development.’’
He appreciates the growing host family program the River Bandits provide to pair players up with families in the community and believes that a Midwestern affiliate gives players a solid place for their first full-season assignment in professional baseball.
“This is the critical step in the development process and this is a great place for our guys to learn and grow as players,’’ Luhnow said. “Culturally, it is a great experience for them. We’ve sent players from a number of countries and every corner of the United States here and as they adjust to being out on their own, Quad-Cities fills an important role for us beyond the confines of the ballpark.’’