The Corpus Christi Hooks used a 20-hit attack to apply an 11-1 shellacking to the San Antonio Missions Saturday night. I had a great vantage point for the game, sitting in the third row of section 102 at Wolff Stadium. It was my first time to see Jonathan Singleton and George Springer play up close and in person, and I was thoroughly impressed with both young players.
What a difference a year makes. The Hooks 180 degree turnaround from a dismal 2011 season is solid evidence that the Astros front office has things headed in the right direction. Last season Corpus Christi was a last place team, winning only five of 28 games against the Texas League Champion San Antonio Missions. The 2012 Hooks are headed to the playoffs and last night’s win improved their record against San Antonio to 17-9. After going 0-14 at Wolff Stadium last year, the new and improved 2012 version of the Hooks currently boasts a 7-4 record in the Alamo City.
This Hooks team is stacked with promising youngsters and several of them played a key role in last night’s win. But the biggest performance of the night came from an unexpected source. Hooks catcher Jair Fernandez stepped into the batter’s box five times and reached base all five times. Fernandez scored the Hooks first run of the game after reaching on an error to lead off the second inning. He then stroked four straight singles in his next four plate appearances and came around to score three more times.
Fernandez was temporarily shaken up after absorbing a foul tip in the bottom of the seventh. But the 25 year-old native of Columbia would not be deterred, staying in the game to collect his fourth hit in the top of the eighth. Fernandez, a veteran of seven minor league seasons, is in his first year with the Astros organization. Known more for his defense, Jair has a career 39% caught stealing rate to go with a rather modest .239/.326/.343 slash line.
Singleton went 2 for 5 with a walk in Saturday’s game. He also stole a base, scored a run, and made a nice leaping catch of a line drive at first base. The 20 year-old is listed at 6′ 2″ and 235 pounds. He has probably grown some since those measurements were taken, because he looks even bigger. What surprised me most about Singleton was his speed. Singleton’s lengthy strides allow him to move quickly along the basepaths in a graceful and seemingly effortless manor. Viewed as more of a power hitting prospect, Singleton will never lead the league in stolen bases but looks like a guy who could consistently be around 20 steals per season. Singleton exhibited some of his power as well, hitting deep drive to the warning track in center that was hauled in by Reymond Fuentes just in front of the 402-foot sign.
Coming into the 2012 season Baseball America rated Springer as the 59th best prospect in all of baseball. I can see why. The Hooks centerfielder looks like the real deal. After tearing up the California League for 106 games, Springer was recently promoted to Corpus. It has taken a little while to adjust but George now seems to be finding his groove at the AA level. Springer clubbed his first AA homer Thursday in Frisco and stepped things up with a 3-hit performance last night in San Antonio. Springer also scored twice and drove in a pair of runs in the contest.
What impressed me most about Springer was his defense. George showed excellent outfield instincts and range on a couple of balls hit deep into the gaps, making nice running catches on both. Springer has quickly forced his way into an already talented AA outfield and should start the 2013 season at Corpus. I fully expect George to continue his rapid advancement through the Astros system, ultimately becoming a fan favorite in Houston for years to come.
Other items of note
All-Star outfielder Austin Wates returned to the Hooks lineup, leading off and going 1 for 5. Wates had missed two games with a sore wrist after being hit by a pitch in Frisco.
Erick Abreu picked up his tenth win of the season with 2 & 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Abreu allowed only one hit and struck out three in relief of Ross Seaton. A veteran of nine minor league seasons, Abreu used a nice mixture of big-breaking curveballs and a mitt-popping heaters to keep Missions hitters off balance.
Outfielder Jake Goebbert had three hits, including a pair of doubles. Goebbert scored twice and also drove in a run.
The Hooks are using a six-man starting rotation as they position themselves for their upcoming playoff run. Asher Wojciechowski gets the start tonight against the Misions’ Robbie Erlin.