About twelve months to the date I last saw the Corpus Christi Hooks play the San Antonio Missions, I made it back to Wolff Municipal Stadium for their final regular-season series of 2015. This time I arrived having read even more scouting reports of the prospects who’d be playing for the Hooks, as well as more primers on scouting in general. (This time the Hooks won again, as well.) I walked away with a clearer sense of some players’ talents, both present and future. As every MLB team would attest, there’s simply no substitute for "getting eyes" on them.
So, with that progress as a backdrop, here are my eyewitness takes on five Hooks who stood out on September 6.
A.J. Reed, 1B/DH
1/4, R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, SO
Reed's the real deal. He drove the ball with authority to both sides of the field, most notably on an RBI double down the right field line. As MiLB videos illustrate, he keeps his hands quiet and high, allowing him to swing a bit downward on the ball, a trajectory that creates some serious contact. Most scouts have rightfully tabbed Reed as filled-out, but there’s still time for him to add more functional fitness, resulting in a bit more power and a bit more bat speed. The ceiling is a more athletic Matt Adams, one who also hits lefties better.
Conrad Gregor, 1B/DH
1/4, HR, 2 RBI, BB
Gregor, another polished bat, will always show less power than Reed, but the tools of a major-league role player are there. He has a compact swing that results in some John-Olreud-esque hits. The home run he pulled in the ninth inning, for example, was more of a rising line drive than a booming, majestic shot.
The overall impact, though, is just not huge. It’d be a stretch to tab him as a young J.T. Snow or Doug Mientkiewicz. After watching Gregor in person, I see him having more value to a team that could deploy him as a platoon option at first, DH, left field—the dude better start shagging some flies during BP—and as a pinch hitter. With Reed and Tyler White in front of him on the organizational depth chart, I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston used Gregor to seal a trade this winter or next summer.
2/5, R, 2B, SO
It’s tempting to envision Vasquez as an MLB leadoff hitter; he possesses a smooth, short swing built for contact. But as some reports point out, he lacks plate discipline (5.4 BB% in 296 AA plate appearances), playable speed (three stolen bases in ten AA attempts), and arm strength, limiting his value offensively and restricting him to left field. The profile might inspire comparisons to a less athletic, less speedy Nori Aoki, a depressing comp considering almost all of Aoki’s value comes from his athleticism and speed.
Like Gregor, Vasquez might bring more value to Houston as a trade chip (albeit a tarnished one) than as a future asset. But hey, half a season of Jose Veras, right?
Colin Moran, 3B
1/4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, SO
It was an experience watching Moran play a year after I’d seen him before. The changes in his game stood out even more. Whereas last season he had an excessively arm-sy swing, seeming to kiss the bat on the ball, this time he drove pitches with his whole body. This change stood out most when he aggressively lined an outside pitch to left field. Though the line drive was caught, I thought, "Wow—last year he would’ve just flicked that to short." Even if the doubles, and there are a lot of them, never turn into homers, I still like the comp of Bill Mueller, a guy who rode his bat-to-ball skills all the way into contending teams’ lineups. If the doubles indeed turn into homers, then offensively he'll be Hank Blaylock with fewer strikeouts and more longevity.
When it comes to Moran’s defense, the profile precedes itself: fringe average at best. But after seeing him up close, I’m convinced he can stick at the hot corner for at least the first few years of his career, especially given Houston’s mastery of shifts. (Heck, if the Pirates’ shiftiness allowed Pedro Alvarez to play a few seasons at third, the Astros could do the same with Moran.) Though he lacks range, the first-round pick has sure hands and an accurate arm—skills, fittingly, that encompass what the current-day Astros are getting from Jed Lowrie.
Kyle Westwood, RHP
7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO, 9/4 GO/FO (W)
For better and worse, Westwood is another sum-of-his-parts, pitchability guy in Houston’s system, one whose highest ceiling would be as a back-end starter. In him I saw a dude with the confidence to spot his off-speed stuff in any count, at times getting whiffs, but whose fastball didn’t create a large contrast in MPH. As the stat-line shows, though, Westwood's pitches played heavy, inducing more than twice as many groundouts as flyouts. I’d like to see the batted-ball profile maintained as he adds speed to his fastball in the bullpen, making him a Seth Maness or Matt Albers.