The Oklahoma City RedHawks and Houston Astros have announced the RedHawks preliminary roster for the 2014 season.
After going 82-62 and capturing an American Southern Division title, the RedHawks are primed for another successful season. Seven players on the roster are ranked among the Astros top 30 prospects ranked by Baseball America: Outfielder George Springer (#2), pitcher Mike Foltynewicz (#4), first baseman Jon Singleton (#7), outfielder Domingo Santana (#8), catcher Max Stassi (#12), pitcher Nick Tropeano (#18), and pitcher Jake Buchanan (#21).
Overall, 15 players on the preliminary roster spent time with the RedHawks in 2013. Six logged time with the Astros last season, and three others suited up for different Major League teams.
The RedHawks open the season Thursday in Round Rock at 7:05 p.m. The preliminary roster does not include players on the disabled list and is subject to change before the official roster must be submitted.
Arguably the most exciting player in the Minor Leagues, Springer will try to follow up a historic 2013 campaign in which he hit 37 home runs and stole 45 bases between the RedHawks and Double-A Corpus Christi. He'll be joined in the outfield by Santana, who hit 25 home runs with Corpus Christi last year.
Adron Chambers, who was a member of the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, will start his first season in the Astros organization in Oklahoma City. Other outfielders include Austin Wates and Oklahoma City University product Ruben Sosa. Both Wates and Sosa spent time with the RedHawks in 2013.
The infield will be anchored by Singleton and Japhet Amador, who was signed by the Astros from the Mexican League last August. In his seven-year career in Mexico, the hulking 6-foot-4, 311-pound Amador hit .330 with 112 home runs and 400 RBI. He appeared in 10 games with the RedHawks near the end of the 2013 and batted .302.
The middle infield will consist of Ronny Torreyes and Gregorio Petit, who spent the 2010 season with the RedHawks. Petit still holds the distinction of being the only RedHawk to ever hit two grand slams in one game. Jonathan Meyer and Erik Castro fill out the infield at the corners.
The RedHawks will feature a trio of catchers: Max Stassi, Carlos Perez, and Ryan McCurdy. Stassi spent most of 2013 with Corpus Christi, setting careers high across the board. He initially bypassed Triple-A and made his Major League debut in late August, but in just his second game with the Astros, he was hit by a pitch in the head, effectively ending his season.
Perez spent the majority of last season with the RedHawks, and he led all Pacific Coast League catchers with a 46.7% caught stealing rate.
The pitching staff will once again begin the season in a modified eight-man, four-day tandem system. The starting pitcher will go five innings or 75 pitches, and the designated piggyback pitcher will go four innings or 60 pitches. The eight pitchers in the rotation are Jake Buchanan, Paul Clemens, Bobby Doran, Mike Foltynewicz, David Martinez, Collin McHugh, Rudy Owens, and Nick Tropeano.
Martinez is the reigning Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and according to Baseball America, no minor league pitcher touched 100 mph more frequently than Foltynewicz in 2013. Buchanan, Clemens, Doran, and Owens have all previously suited up for the RedHawks. McHugh was claimed off waivers by the Astros in December, and he has Major League experience with the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies.
Owens and Foltynewicz make up the tandem slated to pitch Thursday night.
The bullpen features four players with big league service time: Jose Cisnero, Darin Downs, Chia-Jen Lo, and Josh Zeid. Lo and Zeid each recorded saves for the Astros last season, and prior to his promotion to Houston, Zeid tied for the RedHawks team lead in saves.
2013 PCL All-Star Jason Stoffel and fellow returner Patrick Urckfitz round out the relief corps.
After an eight-game road trip to start the season, the 2014 home opener at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark will be Friday, April 11 against the New Orleans Zephyrs at 7:05 p.m.