OKC Redhawks Preview: Players on the Cusp or Hanging by a Thread


While the start of the 2014 baseball season over at Minute Maid is of great interest, it is possible that the start of the season in Oklahoma City and Corpus Christi could easily be of more importance to the future of the Houston Astros team. The first preview will be of those players who will start the season “one heartbeat away” from the big club – the 2014 AAA Oklahoma City Redhawks.

The Roster

You can see the OKC roster for opening day yourself.

I will split the players up into easy to understand categories built from my own imagination.

Top Shelf

There are a handful of players at OKC who are considered top prospects and likely to be part of the Astros bright future.

  • George Springer – 2013 Minor League Player of the Year, no point in making a point because the point has been made. He is in the minors for monetary reasons only.
  • Michael Foltynewicz – I think we often forget that he was a first round pick (2010 – 19th overall).  He is only 22 and his numbers say stud all over them. Good work at hitter’s paradise Lancaster led to a strong stay at Corpus last season. Whether his future is as a starter or closer – his ERA barely above 3 the last two seasons points to a young man close to the bigs.
  • Max Stassi – In his last 160 minor league games over the last two seasons – this young catcher had 32 HR and 105 RBI including a .863 OPS at Corpus in 2013. Biggest queston with him is health related – he seems to average about a 1/2 season per year throughout the minors.
  • Domingo Santana – 20 year olds who crank out 25 HRs in 112 games at AA and reportedly run like a gazelle and throw like Clemente ( OK hyperbole on my part) have to be considered top prospects and Santana is already on the 40 man roster.
  • Jonathan Singleton – His young age and his performance prior to 2013 have this first sacker on the top prospect list – but he needs to shake off the substance abuse dark clouds and a half season at AAA last year that showed he was not “ready for his closeup, Mr. DeMille”.

Under the Radar

These players are folks who are not part of the top prospects group – but may get a shot at the majors soon.

  • Nick Tropeano – Most of us have heard the name, but he rarely gets talked about as one of the top pitchers in the system. He is only 23 and had put up very good numbers including an impressive 3.31 ERA at pitcher-eater Lancaster until struggling a bit at Corpus last season (4.11 ERA). He has been pretty steady with about 9 K/ 9 IP throughout the minors. A solid season at OKC might thrust him into the conversation with the big club.
  • Austin Wates – Wates has been a very consistent player in the minors – good BA (.306), good OBP (.377) and little power. He only played 38 games last season, but was 15 for 16 in SBs. He could be a leadoff guy in a solid lineup or a #4 OF – but he has some value in a Greg Gross kind of way.
  • Jake Buchanan – After a poor 2012, Buchanan put up a solid 2013 split down the middle between Corpus (7-2, 2.09 ERA) and OKC (5-5, 3.89 ERA). He showed amazing control last season only allowing 1.3 BB/9 IP but the rumor is that he has AAA stuff and his pitching to contact will not translate to the majors.
  • Rudy Owens – Part of the Wandy Rodriguez trade – Owens had pitched pretty well in his minor league career until an injury held him to 17 innings last season. At 26 and with all the young pitching studs rolling up the system – he needs to make a statement now. He would seem to be primed to be part of a package trade for more talent.
  • Ronald Torreyes -This 21 year old picked up from the Cubs in a trade for international pool money may be the next, better version of Marwin Gonzalez. He is not likely to ever be a starter, but plays 2B and SS, hits for a good average and strikeouts very little (also walks very little).

The Injured

  • I’m not sure how to look at Asher Wojciechowski and Alex White who are on the 40 man roster and begin the year on the 15 day DL – but I guess I will consider them AAA guys until / if they get the call. They have both shown flashes of talent – it will be interesting to see where they go to pitch when cleared and who they displace. They could both ptich some time this year with the big club or not at all – always tough when pitchers start the year on the DL.

On Call

These are the guys who may be next in line if someone on the big club goes down – but not likely in the long term plans.

  • Jonathan Meyer – This 23 year old 3B has risen through the system by putting up consistent unspectacular numbers (.272 BA / .343 OBP / .742 OPS are his best in any season) at a position where there was no one really blocking his way. Unless Matt Dominguez completely collapses or sustains a long term injury it is hard to see him being anything more than a fill-in at 3B prior to folks like Rio Ruiz or Joe Sclafani competing for the mlb job.
  • Gregorio Petit – 10 year minor leaguer with 54 ABs at the major league level – he would get the call if Jonathan Villar or Marwin Gonzalez go down.
  • Adron Chambers – 7 seasons in the Cards system with three cups of coffee at the majors – he would be a likely call-up if there was a need with the Astros before they are ready to bring up Springer. Decent speed, BA and OBP – a fourth OF type.
  • Raul Valdes – 36 year old lefty reliever – was very good with the Phillies in 2012 and very bad with them in 2013. Consistently has had great K/9 IP numbers. If Kevin Chapman falters or Bo Porter needs another lefty in the pen – he would seem to be a likely option.
  • Jason Stoffel – Stoffel has always been a minor league reliever coming over from the Giants in the Jeff Keppinger trade. There is nothing spectacular in stats – ERA, saves, K/ 9 IP – but he would seem to be someone they would not hesitate to start the clock on if they need bullpen help.
  • Pat Urckfitz – Similar to Stoffel – he might be in the Under the Radar group – his numbers have been all over the place, but he had a very good 2013 at AA and AAA that might make him the first reliever up. A big drop in K/ 9 IP last season may be the biggest question mark with Urcalphabet.

Jury’s Out

  • The Redhawks have a covey (flock? clowder? colony?) of pitchers between 25 and 29 years old that all have some mlb experience. It is not clear whether any of this group – Josh Zeid, Jose Cisnero, Colin McHugh, Paul Clemens, Chia-Jen Lo, David Martinez and Darin Downs – have a future with the organization other than to be called up as needed or be traded off to make room for the younger more studly pitchers moving up the ladder.
  • Carlos Perez – Part of the JA Happ trade with Toronto – he has shown a solid bat with no power and good catching skills. Could easily slide into Carlos Corporan‘s spot, or could be a Rule 5 loss.
  • Ruben Sosa – Maybe he is likely to never be seen on the radar – but I am intrigued by a OF who is built like Jose Altuve‘s slightly bigger brother (5’-7″ / 170 lbs.) and acquitted himself fine in 2013 after jumping from A ball to AAA. He’s 23 and does not hit for power, but has decent walk numbers and a good BA.

Flotsam and Jetsam

The title of this is probably a little harsh – but these are generally folks who are very good ball players, but at XX years old have not made it to the majors and are likely never to get there.

  • Andrew Simunic – 28 year old OFs with 10 total career HRs after 6 years in the minors are just filling space. Hits for good average, plays some infield along with the outfield and that is about it.
  • Erik Castro – This is a cusp guy – if he was not 26 years old, I would put him in the jury’s out spot. He hit well at both A+ Lancaster in 2012 and AA Corpus in 2013. If 1B turns into a black hole they might give him a shot based on how he is doing at OKC.
  • Japhet Amador – Maybe if this was a made for TV movie a 300+ pound 27 year old from the Mexican League would charge forward like Roy Hobbs and become a story. But I ain’t feeling it…..
  • Ryan McCurdy -McCurdy is a 26 year third string catcher at AAA – who has not shown that much either hitting or throwing out runners. Maybe he is a calming mature influence to the younger C’s.

Back in 2011 – the Astro minor league system was in such disarray that Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes and JD Martinez jumpbed from AA to the majors and 20 year old Jordan Lyles was promoted because there was no better pitching prospect in the high minors. This OKC team though seems to be loaded with likely future major leaguers and even with likely player movement and promotions during the season, this should be a contending team this year.

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91 comments on “OKC Redhawks Preview: Players on the Cusp or Hanging by a Thread

  1. Great take. I’m not sure “Nitro” Nick Is under the radar.

    When you combine these Top Shelf guys with Correa, who could be pushing for a job in Houston next spring, I think 2015 could be awesome.

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  2. Great insight on all of these guys. You help make it easier for a guy in rural Iowa to stay in step with all things Astros! Thanks.

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  3. I’m no scout but you may be underrating Jonathan Meyer. Every year since 2009 he has played at a higher minor league level than his age called for. Even last year in AA he only had 50 plate appearances against younger pitchers.
    This is his age 23 year and he is starting in AAA where the average age is 26. He has never played at an age appropriate level because he was never a high prospect and there was nobody in the entire system worth a crap when he was drafted, so they just kept moving him up because he never failed to deliver good numbers.
    If he hits 275 this year at AAA he just might do better next year at AAA and turn into something. At any rate, with some power and a huge arm at 3B he is valuable to us or to somebody who doesn’t have a young 3B like Matt and a prospect like Rio down in high A

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    • OP – all good points – all I’m saying is that usually the guys who are going to be big hitters show a flash of excellent at some level even if they are on the younger side coming up. He has had OK numbers all the way along. He certainly could improve with a couple years at AAA.

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  4. Ronald Torreyes just turned 21 and had 427 PA at AA last year. Only one of those plate appearances was against a younger pitcher and Torreyes doubled.
    How does a guy who hit .270 at age 20 in AA ball and only strike out 29 times in 427 PAs show you that he will likely never be a major league starter? I wish Santana had hit .270 and only strike out 29 times at AA.
    This kid is a 150lb 21 year old and fixing to be in AAA baseball. What if he adds 20 lbs and hits .290 next year as a 22 yo in AAA without striking out much. There are a ton of teams who would want a middle infielder like that. I don’t think Weaver would even call him a scrub with those stats.
    Both Meyers and Torreyes are way younger than where they are playing this year. Torreyes just passed Mier like he was standing still.

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    • Torreyes at his age could become a better and more powerful hitter. Like I said he has a good BA and does a good job not striking out. In this organization he might have a shot at 2B along the way – doubt he will be any threat to Correa.

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    • If I recall, Luhnow stated they picked him up precisely because he was the hardest K in the minors last year. They see some potential…

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  5. ‘ 28 year old OFs with 10 total career HRs after 6 years in the minors are just filling space.’

    JB Shuck was kind of the same way, except he actually was a starter in the minors (this guy was a backup) . His 2 homers last year were his first since 2010. All things considered, he did pretty well last year. You never know!

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    • Well – yeah and Shuck was playing full time in the majors when he was 26 – not starting the season in the minors at 28.

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      • Oh yeah…this guy will likely never make the majors. Guys who are career backups in the minors usually don’t.

        Not sure why McCurdy even has a spot on a minor league team. Career BA below .240 in the minors along with mediocre CS numbers like you said…but to tell you the truth, guys who can’t hit over .300 in college with an aluminum bat don’t deserve to play pro ball. Real talk. But, better him than bringing Brian Esposito out of mothballs. Played that long in the minors and was needling towards the Mendoza line?! Ummm…no.

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      • Hey Billy C – as far as McCurdy goes – not even sure why you need a 3rd catcher at AAA – I mean you can always call somebody up if someone gets hurt or someone goes up to the Dance.

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  6. I would also like to say – that these are just my opinions on these guys taken from many minutes of thorough study of each of them – I totally concede that I could easily miss on some of them.

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  7. Speaking of OKC, they opened up with a win and Springer had two hits and 2 rbi’s.
    Chambers had a good night and Torreyes had three hits and no K’s.
    CC opened up with an extra inning loss and DDJ’s fielding error in the 11th led to that. Sogard blew the save and got the loss. Winning run scores on a Ballew wild pitch. Aplin and Tucker each with two hits and Brady Rodgers with five strong innings.
    Correa’s first game at High A was great as he had three hits and four RBI’s Velasquez pitched great and Lancaster won. Correa had a part in four different scoring innings.
    Quad Cities lost their opener as Andrew Thurman got hammered as a starter.

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  8. Notes on yesterday’s box score – since I can’t “see” the game – I like playing Carter and giving him a chance to improve – but hopefully he is on a short leash. The strikeouts are piling up already.

    Good notes on the guys. Only comment I really have is on Folty – I know people like to look at Lidge and Wagner as predecessors – but I think its a bad comparison. Lidge and Wagner were both two pitch guys, Folty is not from what I have read.

    To make him the best he can be at whatever they decide to do – the Astros should make the decision while he is down there to close or start. If they choose to use him as a closer – switch him and let him become a specialist, limit him to two – or maybe three – types of pitches – and let him develop those into lethal pitches. If he is going to start, let him work on his full contigent of pitches. I really don’t know enough about the guy to know what pitches he throws, but I do know he throws bullets for fastballs. Should succeed at whatever they hand him.

    Most of the best closers in the game were put there because they had at least one very good pitch and offset that with another above average pitch. Even Mariano came up as a starter.

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    • Steven –
      I’m of the mind that it is easier to find a good closer than a good starter – so I would do everything in my power to let Mr. Folty develop as a starter and move him to closer if it is not working out. In the tandem starter system they are using at OKC – I think he pitched 3 scoreless innings last night.

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  9. Just one comment on last night’s game: on an infield pop up in the grass the first or third baseman has the best angle depending on which side of the field. The pitcher should never be near the play unless it occurs on a bunt. The pitcher is responsible for covering an open base. Corporan had to go too far to try to make that play. He should have been called off early and krauss should have taken it. Let’s get to work on the fundamentals Bo!

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    • Krauss seemed to be too far back / Dominguez was closer. But the problem is that Corporan charged out there and set up and then shied away.
      Frankly on this one the pitcher was in the best position. For some reason pitchers are allowed to grab shots up the middle, scramble off the mound and field bunts and throw people out while off balance or race over and step on first base blindly while catching tosses from the 1B – but they can’t be trusted to grab a simple pop-up.

      They also cut-off a throw to the plate that probably would have nabbed a runner. Two scores gift wrapped and handed away. Of course our offense might have gone a lot more innings without scoring if we were tied…..

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    • While I do not want to get on the manager after just three games, our guys made a couple of mental errors in the opener, and two more again last night. I missed the second game, so I don’t know exactly what transpired. But anytime a team makes mental errors, especially four in two games, chances are that you’ll end up losing pretty often.

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      • I can kind of forgive some of the jitters in the first game of the season – but we know this is a pattern that is continuing from 2013 and this team needs to play smart to overcome its marginal talent, not play dumb and emphasize it.

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  10. If anyone is interested, Lyles won his first start for the Rockies Wednesday night, but did not pitch well. Rockies scored a lot for him and Latroy Hawkins got the save.

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    • My gosh a blast from the past – how old is “Hawk” these days?
      I wonder if Lyles will ever really make it – he is still so young – but so few pitchers make it in Colorado.

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  11. One thing we still have a problem with in the pipeline is a lack of left handed pitching, especially out of the pen. If Chapman goes down, we’ve got only Downs at AAA, unless Rudy Owens gets brought up for the pen. Things are much better in Corpus, where we’re got six guys on the roster, including one on the DL.

    I guess my guess for first guy up will have to be Stassi. Castro leaving last night with a sore foot makes me wonder a bit. I know, it was a “precautionary measure”, but a right foot contusion is a sore foot. And a sore foot does not impress me enough to see a guy leave the game.

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    • Another option for a lefty out of the pen is Raul Valdes – if he shows he still can pitch like in 2012 (not like 2013). He is not a long term solution but could fill in this season.

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      • Dan, I noted that you had mentioned Valdes, but he’s not on the 40 man and is listed as reserve status……and honestly I don’t really know what reserve status means.

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  12. How ,many games do you guys think Correa will play in high A before he’s moved to Corpus? My bet is about 25-30…….and I do NOT think the powers that be, should try to make Folty a closer. The kid is a *starter* period. Villar is making it hard on himself, by leaning back on his heels before he throws to first, and it’s causing him to throw on a hop. Only three games so far, but situational hitting (*4* GIDP’s last night)………will burn ya every time. Harrell’s on the bump tonight, and I’ll be going to my favorite beer joint to watch them……#Ihopemyeyeswon’tstartbleedingwatchinghimpitch.

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    • I sure would love to see Correa spend only a month at A+ (where he is not really proving anything) and get him to sea level at AA where a good performance would line him up for a call-up sooner rather than later.

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    • Becky, as I see it Lucas has become the new Wandy Rodriguez – alas, without the flashes of occasional brilliance. You might want to consider pulling out the old purple dye threat. Hey, it worked for Wandy . . . .

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      • Mr. Bill – I wrote this last week – Harrell is going to be a true test of Brett Strom’s coaching ability – if he can unclog that head and get him to pitch like 2012 (11-11 / 3.76 ERA in almost 200 IP) he will be a very valuable 4th man in the rotation. A friggin’ big IF there – I know….

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      • Hey Mr. Bill!!!! Long time no “see”! I had to laugh about my purple hair when it came to Wandy! Funny that you remembered it. No, I doubt Lucas is like Wandy.
        His bad attitude and the shifts Bo Porter had on last year, nearly got him fired, and I think he will be on a short leash this year. Glad to see you back!

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  13. Nunez has a fair amount of experience (with Jeter missing time recently), a decent bat and a glove as BillyC points out that even Villar might not love.

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  14. And to answer my LaTroy Hawkins question and to address Billy C’s contention that he has trees out back younger than Hawk —- If you cut Hawkins in half you would count 41 rings as he enters his 20th season of major league ball.

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  15. daveb – On Raul Valdes – the PCL showed that he had been outrighted to OKC on 4-2-14 – the day I wrote this. The reserved designation was not on there the other day.
    As far as the 40 man – I figured they would throw a reliever on the DL and then add Valdes to the 40 man – but then if someone needed to be replaced due to performance they might have to do something different.

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  16. Ok, Lefty pitchers. The two at OKC have been discussed but there are a bunch of lefties in CC and a few are getting closer. Luis Cruz is a Luhnow favorite, Theron Geith is 24 yo, and David Rollins is moving on a decently fast track. I think Heidenreich and Sogard are near the end of their Astros’ carreer, and thomas Shirley is 25 yo and still in AA. At Lancaster, Josh Hader is a top Lefty prospect who is very young and a Luhnow favorite.

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    • oldpro, it illustrates that we’re still pretty thin on lefties in the system, of course rarely does an organization have a surplus of southpaws. I guess that’s why guys like Moyer were able to stay in the game so long.

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      • Jamie Moyer made LaTroy Hawkins look like a slacker – pitching until he was 49!!!
        Of course he coudn’t break a pane of glass when he was 29 or when he was 49.

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      • We are thin at LHP but so is everyone. If you look at minor league stats our players get 3.5 times as many AB’s against righties. Its pretty unreal that we have two lefty starts in our 5-man rotation. Because there are so few lefties pitching that is one of the reasons we have a lot of lefty hitting prospects. We want plenty of lefties to face all those righties in the coming years.
        Rodon was looking so valuable because he was projecting as a hard throwing lefty ace. He is not pitching near as well this year as the last two.

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    • “Good evening sports fans – it is the opening game of the 2044 season and your Uranus Dodgers are taking on the Saturn Giants in ‘US Government has gone Broke Stadium’. I am Clone of Vin Scully and I am joined tonight by Clone of Don Drysdale. Starting for the Dodgers tonight is 59 year old lefty, Wesley Wright….”

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  17. How about that Altuve? He has now walked in 3 out of the 4 games, and has driven in a run in 3 of the 4 as well. This follows on his 32 walks in 152 game performance of 2013.

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  18. Oh LORD!!!!!! I *hate* games like this………..got off to an ugly start, and never got better. Leaving 10 men on base by the 7th. inning, will do NOTHING for your
    karma. GEEZE.

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    • Yes – though there are a number of those guys due to start hitting a bit. (And there are guys in that lineup due to continue to not hit).

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  19. Is there an organizational depth chart somewhere? I’m a visual guy… would like to see these guys by position in likely order of ascension to the ML (even if not with the Astros).
    I believe when a few of these guys are ready, DFAs will be announced and the joy will begin.

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    • YB – I spent some time searching and could not find any such thing. I know what you mean – it would be a valuable thing – it is something the teams themselves would have no doubt.

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    • Buddy, What the heck,bobby blogspot did a minor league version of that over a week’s time in March. You can research there and find it. They did it by position if I remember correctly.

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  20. I am curious what Chip’s followers think the chances are of the AAA team relocating to Round Rock next year. Being a resident of this great city I would be ecstatic, as would both my boys, if the Ryan’s found a way to pull off this coup. What say you Chipsters?

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    • Tim –
      I guess it is more a possibility now that Nolan Ryan is part of the Astros instead of the Rangers.
      I do not know when the present agreement with OKC runs out – but the other possibility is moving the AAA affiliate closer to Houston (the Woodlands has been specifically mentioned by Jim Crane).
      The third thought process is that if the Astros ever get a multi-state agreement on cable having the OKC Redhawks in place might assist in getting more interest from that state in the big club. When I lived in Little Rock – there were a ton of Cardinal fans in the state just because of the AA Travelers.

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      • The OKC contract expires at the end of this season. They won’t have a place to play in the Houston area ready by the start of next season so they will either have to renew with OKC, go year to year or find a new city to play.

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    • Sugarland has never been discussed as an option so I am assuming the park is too small. The most recent info I can find is renewing with OKC, signing a PDC with either New Orleans or El Paso (both cities have their current PDC’s expire at the end of this seaso) or move to Round Rock. The problem with Round Rock is that the Rangers PDC with them runs through 2018, but I am sure there are ways around that since both Reid and Nolan are heavily involved in the ownership of RR and now employed with the Astrros.

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