2014 Hooks: CC (and I don’t mean Sabathia) Preview
While the OKC Redhawks have plenty of potential major league players on the doorstep of the big club – not far down the block are those players starting the season in Corpus Christi with the Astros AA franchise – the Hooks. Many times teams have their very best prospects at AA, while AAA is reserved for more experienced players who could be called up in an emergency. This is not necessarily true with the Astros who have a lot of potential major leaguers at both levels.
Here is the roster for the Corpus Christi Hooks.
The following players would seem to be best bets to be on an arc to the majors.
- Luis Cruz – And the answer to who is the only AA player on the Astros 40 man roster is Luis Cruz. Now part of that is because he was eligible to be cherry picked in the Rule 5 draft after being signed at 17 out of Puerto Rico in 2008. But a big chunk of it is that he is a lefty who struck out 10.4 batters / 9 IP last season at Lancaster (mostly) and CC (4 games).
- Brady Rodgers – 3rd rounder from 2012 his ERA was over 5 at Lancaster (most are) but he had an 8.4 K / 9 IP and a 1.9 BB / 9 IP. This year will be a good test for him under normal conditions.
- Tyler Heineman– Another in a nice set of solid catchers working their way to the top of the system. The 23 yr old has shown a solid bat – over .800 OPS and the ability to throw out around 40% of the runners. If he stays healthier than Max Stassi – he may pass him somewhere along the line.
- Nolan Fontana – Fontana continued his OBP blitz last year and has spent more time at SS than any other position. He better not get too comfortable at that position with stud Carlos Correa only one stop behind him – but having help at the middle infield positions is a luxury this organization rarely has seen. He has gotten on base 43% of the time in the minors but his BA has been below.250.
- Joe Sclafani – one of our loyal readers (daveb? Steven? Devin? Oldpro?) has been a big proponent of Sclafani, who brings a better bat along with a Fontana-ish fetish for getting on base. He seems to be spending more time at 3B and could be a consideration in 2015. He has gotten on base a little less often than Nolan but has kept his BA around .300 which is impressive. (Note: Joe is shown on the CC’s roster but has played for the OKC Redhawks this season. Not sure if that is temporary).
- Delino Deshields Jr. – Yes I know he fell off the top 10 prospects list and may have some attitude issues. But he had big numbers at Lancaster (100 runs scored / 51 SB) and he is the youngest guy on the Hooks roster.
These players all have some big positives and a few question marks some due to age, some due to the Lancaster effect …CC gives them a chance to kick it in gear.
- Preston Tucker – Last year the 2012 7th rounder put up excellent numbers at A+ Lancaster (74 RBIs in 75 games .928 OPS) and OK numbers at Corpus when brought up. Not much speed here – his career will be tied to his batting success.
- Andrew Aplin – Picked two rounds ahead of Tucker – his 102 runs scored and 107 RBIs in only 128 games stand out from 2013 at A+ ball. Like a lot of players – his ability to produce at sea level CC will probably tell the tale.
- David Rollins – A piece picked up in the J.A. Happ trade – Rollins is a 24 year old lefty who will turn 25 in June. If he were a little younger he might be higher on the prospect list – but he had a 3.98 ERA / 1.161 WHIP and a 8.9 K / 9 IP at Lancaster – all impressive numbers. If he can build on that at AA – he might make it all the way up as a late developing lefty.
- Jordan Jankowski – Picked late (34th round in 2012) from a small college (Catawba) – this RHP pitched great at Quad Cities (A) ball (2.61 ERA / 1.071 WHIP) – but he was 24 years old. He pitched 16 innings at A+ Lancaster – so they are pushing him quickly to Corpus to test him out before he gets too old.
- Rene Garcia – Typical good field / not so good hitting catcher. His ability to throw out 40% or so of runners may help him be a backup somewhere in the majors.
- MP Cokinos – 31st round of the 2012 – local product (Memorial HS/ St. Mary’s) – he hit great at A- Tri-Cities and even better (not surprisingly) at Lancaster – .313 BA / .395 OBP / .870 OPS. There may be a question about where he plays – but he may be ready to settle into 1B and there certainly could be room for him at the top at that position if Singleton falters.
Going the Wrong Way
These are players who seem to be slipping away….
- Jiovanni Mier – Since being picked as a 1st rounder in 2009 – Mier has played like one only in his initial year in rookie ball. The Astros gave him every chance in the world last season at CC – in 400+ ABs – he had a .195 BA and a .558 OPS. Yuck. I think 2014 is his last chance with the organization.
- Jorge DeLeon – Have to figure a 26 year old who pitched a bit with the big club last season but starts at AA is not on the fast track back….
- Ross Seaton – Back in 2009, Seaton was putting up numbers very similar to Jordan Lyles at Lexingon A ball. Lyles flew up to the majors – Seaton has struggled mightily ever since (like Lyles did once he got to the majors). At 24 Seaton is at the cross-road – he needs to put up solid numbers before he ends up out of baseball.
Proof will be in the pudding
A lot of these players do not have a big or consistent set of work to fall back on – but Corpus is a place where they could firm up their spot in the organization.
- Travis Ballew – Texas State grad – “Not sure why they like him – pitched OK at Lancaster – 4.42 ERA was fine, 1.396 WHIP was so-so. 3.7 walks per 9 IP was a bit high….wait a minute – the righty struck out 78 guys in 53 IP…. now I get it”.
- Colton Cain – The third piece with Rudy Owens and Robbie Grossman in the Wandy trade with the Pirates – the young lefty has been a bit inconsistent – but seemed to improve last season when sent to Lancaster of all places. Not huge numbers anywhere – but heck he seems to be a decent lefty….
- Matt Heidenreich – A White Sox farm hand sent over in the Brett Myers trade – Heidenriech was really bad last season with a 7+ ERA at CC. Brent Strom worked with him in the off-season on his delivery and we will see what comes from it.
- Aaron West – Another mid-round 2012 draft choice – he pitched great at A- Tri-Cities and mediocre at Lancaster. So again things come down to proving it at sea level.
- Enrique Hernandez – Typical minor league 2B – middle of the road BA – not great at getting on and little power.
- Leo Heras – Like his bigger “brother” from the Mexico League – Japhet Amador – Heras needs to prove that dazzling numbers from that other league mean anything on this side of the border.
When a guy is like 25 years old and playing at AA – they may have more talent than 99.99% of the population, but the other .01% is standing between them and the majors.
There is a lot of talent at AA Corpus and a lot of question marks to answer. This should be a fun team to follow in 2014.