Frisco, Texas —— Listed at 5’10” and maybe a bit shorter than that in person, Corey Toups won’t fool anyone into thinking he’s a basketball star — but what he’s been able to do on the baseball field at his size and through his career has been eye opening. The Kansas City Royals second baseman is holding his own in a first shot at Triple-A with the Omaha Storm Chasers after spending the last several months down in Double-A with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, and it’s his surprisingly consistent bat that’ll turn heads before most anything else.
I first saw Corey Toups during the Arizona Fall League last October, and he stood out (pun intended?) among the game’s best prospects. All AFL season, he put great swings on good pitches and sprayed line drives all over the field. Who is this little Mighty Mouse, I kept thinking the more I saw him hit seeds and gappers, and what do the Royals that nobody else does?
A fifteenth-round draft pick back in 2014 out of Sam Houston State University, Toups has never been a top-line prospect in the way so many of his AFL opponents. But he keeps his head above water with a knack for getting the barrel on the ball and exceeding expectations at the plate, no matter how undersized he may be relative to his opponents.
“I take pride in that,” Toups told Baseball Census earlier this summer. “People see me as a small guy, I’m sure, but I just happen to have some power in the tank that they don’t know about, and balls fly out of the park for me that wouldn’t for other people. I’m thankful for that.”
Corey Toups has 27 career minor league homers in 354 games, including 12 last summer across a 127-game slate. Add 35 doubles in 2016 (96 for his career) and an OPS of .814 across his entire professional slate, and his diminutive frame plays much bigger when you put the bat in his hands. The owner of a very compact stroke with good bat speed and great balance at the plate, Toups is looking to do damage at the plate, and he’s thus far been able to balance his intriguing raw power with the mature approach that now has him on the doorstep of the big leagues.
“You don’t have to be a big guy at all as long as you pick the right pitch,” he said. “Most of the time, swinging at strikes leads to good things. It’s just about getting a good pitch to hit. And honestly, half the time I hit a home run, I’m not even trying to do that. I’m not trying to pick my spots there, it just kind of happens.”
If home runs are a relative surprise for a guy looking to hit line drives, then so too was the past calendar year a surprise for Corey Toups—and likely many people outside the Kansas City Royals’ organization—in his ascension from High-A, to Double-A, to the Arizona Fall League, and now to the Pacific Coast League and just a phone call away. The AFL alone did wonders for Toups’ position within the organization: small stature or not, he stands tall after playing with the game’s best young talent.
“That’s the best talent in all of minor league baseball there, but I couldn’t get too intimidated by any of those guys because I was right up there with them,” Toups remembered about the AFL. “I think the biggest thing for me was going out there and having fun, knowing it wasn’t really about results but rather developing as a player facing the best talent. [The Royals] gave me the honor of playing in that league, so I took it full stride.”
That’s over now, though, and Corey Toups is on to the biggest goal of his career: working to make the jump from Omaha to Kansas City.
“I have to prove myself once again,” he said of a new year, a new level, and new challenges yet again. “So I’m just coming to the ballpark every day being ready to play, and having fun.”