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From an innings limit to Triple-A, Logan VanWey flies up the system

Houston Astros' Logan VanWey
Logan VanWey | Credit: Asheville Tourists

Stepping into the clubhouse Sunday, Logan VanWey took a risk. On a table lay a box of donuts, a gesture Corpus Christi Hooks manager Joe Thon made to his players with the Double-A season coming to a close.

With none of his teammates taking one, VanWey jumped on the opportunity to be first. Right after VanWey took a bite, Thon called him into the manager’s office at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma. VanWey, who thought the meeting was in regard to the donuts, tried to lighten the mood.

“I walked in and was like, ‘Is this a test? Did I fail it or something?'” VanWey chuckled.

With pitching coach John Kovalik also in the room, Thon said no, offering news to his reliever. The Astros promoted him to Triple-A Sugar Land. VanWey, whose season ended in rookie ball last year, walked into a clubhouse 24 miles from Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, one stop away from the major leagues.

“It didn’t really hit me until I think I got here yesterday,” VanWey said Wednesday. “You never know what’s going to happen, who’s the next guy up, but I’m just going to keep doing my thing and just keep trying to prove myself.”

After signing with the Houston Astros in July 2022 as an undrafted free agent, VanWey took his first assignment by storm. The righty struck out 16 batters in eight innings in the Florida Complex League, putting him in contention to be a quick riser to Single-A, until he didn’t.

VanWey reached a limit, combining for 131 innings between Missouri Southern, the Glacier Range Riders of the Pioneer League and the FCL Astros Orange. With such an effective start to his professional career, the 24 year old set himself up to move quickly the following spring.

“He’s real advanced for his age,” said Astros scout Jim Stevenson, who signed VanWey. “We knew his stuff was good. We just didn’t know how good. … As we showed confidence in him, he felt more confident in himself.”

When Stevenson showed up to Missouri Southern last year, two or three scouts passed him on the way out. They told Stevenson that VanWey’s am action was bad, but it was just what the Astros wanted. Coming from a lower slot, VanWey placed balls into the zone with a unique spin.

“That low vertical approach angle, that stuff that we, the Astros, and other teams are starting to learn has a lot of effect,” Stevenson said. “A lot of guys have big arms and big stuff, but I think he’s got some special talent, special ability.”

After one appearance in the Grapefruit League, VanWey took his first stop to High-A Asheville. The righty appeared in 15 games, posting a 3.71 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 17 innings. He went back and forth to Double-A Corpus Christi twice before finding a permanent stay with the Hooks on July 7.

His time with in Corpus Christi consisted of more strikeouts. VanWey spun 30 innings with a 3.00 ERA, striking out 42 batters. He saw his most outings this season with the Hooks, setting personal bests in velocity across his final three outings.

“He’s at his best he’s been all year right now,” Stevenson said. “He’s got about 10 pounds heavier now, has confidence in himself. He realized that he belongs.”

VanWey averaged 91-93 mph on his four-seam fastball at the midway point of the season with his sinker at 90-92 mph, but in the last month, it ticked up. The righty pumped 94-96 mph on his heater and then reached back for 98 mph in his last outing.

“I think it’s more of just trying to be more quick,” VanWey said. “I was watching video of myself, and I was moving a little slower off the rubber. … I knew I had more in me, but I think the last couple of outings I have been finding my rhythm a little bit more.”

VanWey added a sinker this spring, but the addition of a cutter became his priority over the last month and a half. While the sinker puts him ahead in counts early to right-handed hitters, the cutter does the job against lefties.

“I usually learn pitches pretty quick,” VanWey said. “I think I have a pretty good feel for that, but the cutter, I’d say I was able to implement it after two or three weeks of throwing it.”

With five games left, VanWey expects to pitch in one or two out of the bullpen. Sunday concludes his first full season, though, and given a quick rise through the system, another thought has creeped into his mind for this spring: an invite to major-league camp.

“When I got to Double-A, I heard some guys say, ‘Don’t be surprised if that might happen,'” VanWey said. “You always want to keep trying to prove yourself and try to earn every outing, but if that happens or not, I’m still pretty excited being here in Triple-A, but if I do (get invited) that will be just icing on the cake after how I’ve ended the season.”

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