Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lancaster JetHawks Season Preview

The JetHawks won their second California League Championship in three years in 2015, ending the season with a 78-62 record. 14 players on the opening day roster were on that Championship team, including MVP Tyler Brunnemann, Astros Top 10 prospect Brett Phillips and Danry Vasquez, among others. They will be joined by another Top 10 prospect, Michael Feliz, as well as highly touted prospects J.D. Davis, A.J. Reed and Adrian Houser.

Brett Phillips - September 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

In looking at the lefty pitchers, Brian Holmes will likely anchor the rotation until a presumed promotion to Corpus Christi at some point later in the season. He pitched the entire 2014 season at Lancaster with good results. Evan Grills got his feet wet at the level last season and should improve on his mostly solid results. Randall Fant, who struggled somewhat in 2014, and Blaine Sims, who as a knuckleballer is predictably unpredictable, will be making their Lancaster debuts. Chris Cotton struggled out of the bullpen for Lancaster after his promotion at the very end of the season, but did well in the postseason.

Righthanders (and presumed starters) Michael Feliz, Adrian Houser, Troy Scribner and Edison Frias will all be new to the level and and will all likely have to make adjustments to California League conditions. There may be some ugliness for a couple of these players in April, but I think they are all capable of adapting. On paper, Houser should be helped out by his high groundball rate. They will be joining Gonzalo Sanudo and Zach Morton, both of whom spent a good chunk of 2014 at Lancaster, both of whom spent time in both starting and relief roles and both of whom showed vast improvement at the end of the season. Brunnemann, who had a phenomenal 2014 at Quad Cities and Lancaster, will be joined in the bullpen by Frederick Tiburcio who converted to relief in 2014.

As to the position players, 2014 draft picks J.D. Davis and A.J. Reed are being fast-tracked because of their advanced bats and should enjoy the hitter-friendly confines of The Hangar as well as road trips to High Desert. They will be joining Chase McDonald, who was promoted to Lancaster at the end of 2014, in manning the corner outfield positions. That trio looks to provide a lot of fireworks. The middle infield will be held down by returning players Chan Moon and Jack Mayfield who will be joined by Jose Fernandez who is new to the level. Marc Wik is listed on the roster as a third baseman, but he is actually a utility player who can also play the outfield and second base as well.

All four listed outfielders spent time at Lancaster last year. Look for Danry Vasquez to have a breakthrough season. Look for Brett Phillips to get a mid-season (or earlier) promotion to Corpus Christi. Look for Ronnie Mitchell to continue to surprise people. And look for James Ramsay to continue showing off his excellent defense; the only question is whether or not his bat can catch up on a consistent basis.

Behind the dish, Jobduan Morales will provide solid defense with an emerging bat and Brian Holberton will provide a solid bat with emerging defense.

The Advanced A Lancaster team has the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels), Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres), Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, (Dodgers) and High Desert Mavericks (Rangers) as division rivals. High Desert changed affiliations from Seattle in 2014 to Texas in 2015. Baseball America has organizational talent rankings for these five teams as Dodgers (#3), Rangers (#11), Astros (#14), Padres (#24), and Angels (#28).

I honestly don't know what to expect from this team. I think the offense will be strong, but not quite as strong as last year's ridiculously talented team. But, for me, the pitching is a huge question mark at this point. It will be a matter of how quickly the pitchers who are new to the level will adjust to the level and to the conditions. The team will need someone to step up like Kyle Westwood did in 2014 and provide a steady nucleus to the rotation. Omar Lopez, Quad Cities Manager last season, will be taking the reins at Lancaster and will have the luxury of having already worked with most of these players. Lopez inherits a solid coaching staff and, together, they will undoubtedly field a very competitive team.

The JetHawks will host the San Jose Giants on Thursday, the 9th at 8:30 p.m. CST to open the season. If you are a new JetHawks fan, I guarantee that you will enjoy listening to Jason Schwartz bringing you the action! He is an excellent broadcaster and has become a fan favorite.

You will find more detailed information on virtually every player in the Astros minor league system in the 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook. Purchase your copy today!

PRELIMINARY JETHAWKS ROSTER (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

PITCHERS

RHP Tyler Brunnemann
LHP Chris Cotton
LHP Randall Fant
RHP Michael Feliz
RHP Edison Frias
LHP Evan Grills
LHP Brian Holmes
RHP Adrian Houser
RHP Zach Morton
RHP Gonzalo Sañudo
RHP Troy Scribner
LHP Blaine Sims
RHP Frederick Tiburcio
RHP Andrew Walter (Restricted list)

CATCHERS

*Brian Holberton
#Jobduan Morales

INFIELDERS

J.D. Davis
Jose Fernandez
Jack Mayfield
Chase McDonald
#Chan-Jong Moon
*A.J. Reed
*Marc Wik

OUTFIELDERS

*Ronnie Mitchell
*Brett Phillips
*James Ramsay
*Danry Vásquez

*Left-handed hitter
#Switch-hitter

For more information on where these players came from, see Dustin's post from last week.

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AA Corpus Christi Hooks Preview

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