The Royals selected two players in the 2014 draft from Sam Houston State, a school with a little more than 20,000 enrollment about an hour north of Houston. The first name from that school to put his name on the map was Ryan O’Hearn after the first baseman slugged his way through the lower levels to a spot on the Double-A roster and a likely Top 10 spot in the next Baseball Prospectus organization ranking. But there is another name that you should also be paying attention to, a smaller second baseman who maybe short of stature but doesn’t lack in work ethic or heart.
Corey Toups hails from The Woodlands, a baseball factory north of Houston that has produced Paul Goldschmidt, Jameson Taillon, Brett Eibner and quite a few other baseball draftees and college athletes in the last 20 or so years. Despite growing up in that area with scouts littered at his games to watch others didn’t put Toups on the map for bigger colleges or a spot in the MLB Draft, sending him to the Sam Houston State, a university just 45 minutes from his Woodlands home.
Once at Sam Houston, Toups endured a sketchy freshman campaign and an injury during his sophomore season. His college coach told me of Corey’s drive while there and how he was the hardest working player he had at that school. Transforming his smaller frame to one as strong as any on the team and helping him have his best season during his junior campaign. The following his what I wrote about Toups during my ’14 Royals draft review:
The best athlete in our time at Sam Houston State while being the pound for pound strongest kid on this year’s team – Coach Allen
While some in the scouting community believed Corey’s speed will force him to the right side of the diamond his coach believes that to be overstated, and he’s seen his speed in the 6.38 range on turf and believes he can handle shortstop if he can learn to control his big arm (90-93 mph from mound) when moving to his right.
With athleticism through the roof, Toups fast twitch muscles, pull side power and plus range at short could lead him to a chance at becoming a utility player in the bigs. It’s a long trek between drafted player in the 15th round and the majors but from the sounds of it he has plenty of tools with a plus arm, ability to possibly play on the left side of the infield, athleticism and some pop at the plate.
In the System
Since joining the organization Toups has played like the prototypical two-hole hitting keystone combo the Lonnie Goldberg and his scouts likely envisioned. Providing a solid on base percentage (.386), speed (56 stolen bases) and some surprising pop (102 extra base hits), Toups has been a key cog in the Idaho Falls, Lexington, Wilmington and NW Arkansas lineups that he’s played in. Listed at 5’10 and 170 lbs., Toups gets everything possible out of his size with his workout warrior mentality. Using the fact that he was overlooked during high school and then in the draft Toups uses that as motivation to succeed.
A lot of coaches told me my size was an issue to being overlooked from high school and on but I keep playing hard and try to prove people wrong.
Using the gym as a way to blow off stress, Toups has added the muscle necessary to envision that he could still hit 5-10 home runs in the major leagues with plenty of doubles mixed in.
On the defensive spectrum Toups has the quickness and arm strength needed to play second at a plus level with footwork and hands with the double play being the big thing that he thinks he needs to concentrate on currently. While most doubted him prior to college and the draft the Royals coaches currently think quite highly of him as Vance Wilson praised him. “What a player, what a ball player, the kid can hit but he’s really stepped up his defense and taken pride into that part of his game. He’s making himself and interesting player.”
ETA to the Show
At 23 years old and currently performing well at Double-A, Toups is likely two years away from dipping his toe into the major league pool. That can always change with injuries and a change in perception at the major league level but I would expect a call up sometime in 2018. Once there and comfortable in his skin, I see Toups as the Royals version of Jose Altuve. He could possibly even team with Raul Mondesi not only up the middle defensively but at the top of the Royals order. Toups could surprise many in the scouting and prospect community for passing on this gamer with some pop and an even bigger work ethic and heart.