Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Corpus Christi Season Preview and Preliminary Roster

The minor league rosters have been slow to come out, but yesterday evening Greg Rajan of the Corpus Christi Caller Times tweeted out the PRELIMINARY Corpus Christi roster. There are 27 players listed so there will still be a couple of moves to be made, but we can now see the general make-up of the team. The preliminary roster is shown below.

We are starting to see the cream rise to the top of the system with the talent at Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City and it's easy to get excited about future possibilities with players such as Brady Rodgers, Andrew Aplin, Tyler Heineman and Delino DeShields getting their first taste of AA.

Four of the pitchers who I assume will be a part of the tandem rotation have experience at AA and four will be new to the level. Luis Cruz made a splash in his four appearances in Corpus, tossing a two-hit complete game shutout in only his third appearance at the level. Fellow lefty David Rollins was also promoted from Lancaster to Corpus Christi late in the season. In six starts, Rollins had a 4.36 ERA and a 1.455 WHIP. He will definitely improve upon those numbers in 2014. Matt Heidenreich struggled on and off with injuries and ineffectiveness during the 2013 season, but he seemed to right the ship in his excellent work in the Arizona Fall League. Reports are that he has re-claimed some lost velocity. The group is rounded out by grizzled veteran Ross Seaton who struggled at Oklahoma City and ended up back in Corpus Christi for his final 10 appearances of the season in which he managed a 4.77 ERA and a 1.226 WHIP.

They will be joined by right-handers Brady Rodgers and Aaron West, and lefties Colton Cain and Tommy Shirley. Rodgers and West are both better than their California League stats would indicate (as is normally the case). After pitching in those very tough environs, I think the transition to AA for these two control pitchers will go very smoothly. Rodgers only walked 23 batters in 112 innings. West was even stingier, issuing only 17 free passes in 108+ innings.

[UPDATE: The tandems have been set according to Greg Rajan of the Corpus Christi Caller Times. They will be Rodgers/Cain, Rollins/West, Cruz/Seaton, Shirley/Heidenreich.)

Brady Rodgers - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I'm not sure what to predict for Colton Cain because of the unusual season he had last year. He started the season in Quad Cities and struggled badly at first, but ended up dominating there prior to his promotion to Lancaster. In five starts at Lancaster to end the season, he had a 3.24 ERA and a 1.260 WHIP, excellent numbers for that league. Tommy Shirley quietly went about having a great season in Lancaster. In 27 appearances (nine starts), he had a 3.35 ERA and a 1.195 WHIP.

Four of the bullpen pitchers have experience at the level. Andrew Robinson (who dominated late in the season last year), Jorge de Leon and Alex Sogard should all be solid out of the 'pen. T.J. Geith was somewhat inconsistent in his 13 appearances, but he has had success at every level and will likely make the necessary adjustments. Travis Ballew and Jordan Jankowski will join them from Lancaster. Ballew has a wicked slider which he used to accumulate 21 saves last season. He had 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Jankowski started the season in Quad Cities as a part of a tandem rotation, but ended up working solely out of the 'pen from mid-July on. He had a 3.05 ERA and a 1.082 WHIP for the season.

The cumulative team ERA for Corpus in 2013 was 3.84 and the WHIP was 1.295. Despite the talent on the 2014 team, this group will be hard-pressed to match those marks unless a few of them have the kind of dominant seasons that Asher Wojciechowski, Jake Buchanan, David Martinez and Mike Foltynewicz had last season at that level. However, I think they could come close.

The cumulative 2013 batting line for Corpus Christi was .255/.331/.417. The 2014 group of players as a whole is going to CRUSH that on-base number if they even come close to their 2013 output. They should also beat that batting average pretty handily and should be able to nudge the slugging percentage up a bit as well. This team may not be quite as dominant in pitching as the 2013 squad, but they should more than make up for it at the plate.

Out of this group, Rene Garcia had the most success at this level in 2013, hitting. 304/.348/.419 in 73 games in Corpus last season. Matt Duffy (.295/.380/.475 career) and Preston Tucker (.303/.373/.506 career) spent limited time at AA in 2013 and I look for both of them to improve quickly as they adjust to the level. (Tucker will likely be the player promoted to Oklahoma City when George Springer gets the call to Houston.) Leo Heras only played in 10 games at Corpus in 2013 with lackluster results, but he is a .316/.380/.480 career hitter in the Mexican League. He may not be able to hit quite that well against Texas League pitching, but if he can make the necessary adjustments, he could be very interesting to watch.

Kike Hernandez was coming on at the end of the season and should be able to improve on his .236/.297/.375 batting line. Jio Mier had a very tough year at the plate (.194/.293/.265). He will never have a gaudy slash line, but he is certainly capable of more than that.

But now let's look at the new blood coming in. This group has some excellent offensive numbers and not all of that can be attributed to the Lancaster effect. In particular, look at the on-base percentage for each; it's pretty impressive. The new players and their stats from the 2013 Lancaster team are: M.P. Cokinos (.313/.395/.475), Tyler Heineman (.286/.361/.476), Nolan Fontana (.259/.415/.399), Joe Sclafani (.302/.396/.474), Andrew Aplin (.278/.376/.424), Delino DeShields (.317/.405/.468) and Chris Epps (.275/.381/.503). Wow! I know that none of these players will start out hitting quite that well, with the possible exception of Cokinos who doesn't appear to be human, but the potential staggers the mind.

To me, it's not a question of whether or not this team will be good. It will. The question is when. There will be a learning curve and adjustments to be made, but I have trouble seeing this group ever really struggle. The nucleus of the team comes from the 2013 Lancaster team, a team that was extremely tight and extremely effective. Add to that the likelihood of Mark Appel and Carlos Correa appearing with the Hooks at some point in the not so distant future, and one can't help but get excited. I'm going to boldly predict that this group will outperform the 2013 Corpus team who went 83-57 and won both halves of the season. I'm saying 88-52 and a trip to the Championship. Make it so!

This is the opening day roster as we know it today. I will update it with any changes that may be made before Thursday's opening game which will be on the road in Tulsa. The schedule can be found here and all games will be available on MiLB.tv.

PITCHERS
Travis Ballew
Colton Cain*
Luis Cruz*
Jorge de Leon
T.J. Geith*
Matt Heidenreich
Jordan Jankowski
Andrew Robinson
Brady Rodgers
David Rollins*
Ross Seaton
Tommy Shirley*
Alex Sogard*
Aaron West

CATCHERS
Rene Garcia
Tyler Heineman#

INFIELDERS
M.P. Cokinos
Matt Duffy
Nolan Fontana*
Enrique Hernandez
Jio Mier
Joe Sclafani#

OUTFIELDERS
Andrew Aplin*
Delino DeShields
Chris Epps*
Leo Heras*
Preston Tucker*

*Left-handed
#Switch-hitter

6 comments:

  1. As usual, you guys rule. Thanks so much for the info. 1oldpro

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  2. Would it be ok if I predict that soon you will take the "C" from after Cokinos's name and insert 1B instead. I just believe his days as a Catcher are done. 1oldpro

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    1. Ha! I already have, but the front office seems to persist in categorizing him that way. When I did my depth series, I had him at 1B/DH. I'll make a note on the post to clarify!

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    2. Cokinos introduced himself as a catcher last night at the meet & greet. But Bodie hit about a 100 fungo short-hops to Cokinos after dismissing the rest of the squad. Yeah, he's opening as our 1B.

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  3. Posted my thoughts on the roster as a Fanpost over at crawfishboxes.com. Thanks so much for your work on this.

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  4. When we were at Spring Training in 2013 M.P. was behind the plate but with the amount of talent at catching it makes sense to convert him to an infield position. I feel Jio needs to have a break out year or he's gone.

    G.A.- there's a reason why Seaton is with the Hooks. He started last season at OKC and opponents BA was .339. He walked 28 and struck out 36. I like Ross because he's a work horse and hasn't missed a start in his pro-ball career. Ross is a pitch to contact guy but the Astros might be wanting him to keep what pitches are hit inside the ballpark.

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