With the first full week of Spring Training games underway, we conclude our seven-part series previewing the seven American Conference teams in the Pacific Coast League the Colorado Springs Sky Sox will play this season.
With the recent realignment of the PCL, the Sky Sox switched back to the American Conference after nine years in the Pacific Conference.
The seventh and final featured team will be the Oklahoma City RedHawks — the Triple-A affiliate for the Houston Astros.
Oklahoma City Baseball
The current Oklahoma City franchise dates back to 1962 when they were a team in the American Association. OKC only played a season in the AA before the league disbanded and then went to play in the Pacific Coast League for six seasons, before becoming a charter member of the new American Association in 1969. The 89ers, as they were called, played in the AA until the league eventually disbanded once again in 1997 and made the switch back to the PCL and were renamed the RedHawks.
With the recent struggles of the major league squad, the Astros organization has had a chance to stockpile some of the best young prospects in the game through the draft, including seven players who appear on this year’s Top 100 Prospects list by MLB.com. In the past six seasons, the Astros have selected within the top 11 five times, including the No. 1 pick in both 2012 and 2013.
Although Houston’s two No. 1 picks from ‘12 and ‘13 — IF Carlos Correa and RHP Mark Appel — might not see action in Oklahoma City in 2014, a few other top prospects in the organization might enjoy some time with the RedHawks.
The Astros’ first-round pick in 2011, OF George Springer, could see playing time with the RedHawks, as well as the Astros in 2013. Split between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City, Springer saw action in 135 games. An all-around player he had a terrific year with 37 home runs, 108 RBI and scored 106 runs. Springer’s speed is also a factor as he stole 45 bases last year. He also walked 83 times, but struck out 161 times.
1B Jonathan Singleton will be fighting for a shot at the starting job at the big league level, but could see time back in Oklahoma City as well. Singleton was originally selected by the Phillies in the 2009 draft but was traded along with three other players to Houston for OF Hunter Pence in 2011.
Singleton had a poor season in 2013 when he hit just .230 with 11 homers and 40 RBI in 90 games between Low-A Quad Cities, Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City. In his first full season with the Astros organization in 2012, the Long Beach, Cali., native hit .284 with 21 home runs and 79 RBI in 131 games at Double-A Corpus Christi.
RHP Mike Foltynewicz was the 19th pick in the 2010 draft for the Astros and has shined the past two seasons between Low-A Lexington, High-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. A power pitcher who can hit 98 MPH on a radar gun, the 22-year-old was the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher in 2012 compiling a record of 14-4 and a 3.14 ERA in 27 starts. In 152 innings, he struck out 125 batters. In 2013, he pitched in 30 games (21 starts) at High-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. He went 6-3 with an ERA of 3.06 and struck out 124 batters in 129.1 innings.
Tony DeFrancesco will begin his fourth season as the manager of the RedHawks, and his 20th as a minor league manager . In 2013, the RedHawks had a PCL-best 82-62 record under his tutelage. He has also won three PCL championships in his 10 seasons managing in the PCL. In addition, he served as the interim manager for the Houston Astros for the final 41 games in 2012.
Notable Alumni: 1B Adrian Gonzalez has been one of the top players in the league over the course of the past eight seasons. In eight full big league seasons, Gonzalez has compiled 1,472 hits, 235 home runs, 850 RBI, and a batting average of .294. He is also a four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. But before he was finding success in the majors, Gonzalez spent two seasons with the RedHawks when they were affiliated with the Texas Rangers. In 207 games with OKC, Gonzalez hit .318 with 30 home runs and 153 RBI. He also scored 122 runs and smacked 45 doubles.
OF Juan Gonzalez was a two-time MVP in the 1990s and had a very successful big league career that saw him hit 434 homers and drive in 1,404 runs while hitting .295. The former All-Star played one full season with OKC in 1990 when he was rated the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball. That season, Gonzalez hit .258 with 29 homers and 101 RBI.
2B Ryne Sandberg had a Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Cubs, but came up through the Philadelphia farm system when OKC was affiliated with the Phillies. In 1981, his lone season with OKC, Sandberg hit .293 with 62 RBI and 32 stolen bases in 133 games. In his 16-year big league career, Sandberg hit .285 with 2,386 hits, 282 homers, 1,061 RBI and 344 stolen bases. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
2014 meetings: Home from April 15-18; at Oklahoma City from May 10-May 13; home from June 30-July 3; at Oklahoma City from August 2-August 5
Sky Sox head-to-head record vs. Oklahoma City: 48-64 overall, 30-26 at home, 18-38 on road
Recent match-ups: The Sky Sox are 3-9 against the RedHawks since 2011.
Total elevation in Oklahoma City: about 1,200 feet
Distance from Security Service Field to Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark: 598 miles
Memorable game – On August 18th, 2009, Sky Sox pitchers Jhoulys Chacin, Joel Peralta, Juan Rincon and Randy Flores combined for the fourth no-hitter in franchise history. Chacin got the start and pitched 5.1 innings striking out three batters, but also walking three. Peralta finished out the sixth, striking out one. Rincon then tossed a scoreless 7th and 8th while punching out three, and Flores finished the game with a scoreless ninth striking out two.
Part One – Iowa Cubs
Part Two – Memphis Redbirds
Part Three – Nashville Sounds
Part Four – Omaha Storm Chasers
Part Five – Round Rock Express
Part Six – New Orleans Zephyrs
Below you can find the realigned divisions for the 2014 season. The teams who changed divisions are italicized.
Pacific Northern: Fresno, Reno, Sacramento, Tacoma
Pacific Southern: Albuquerque, El Paso, Las Vegas, Salt Lake
American Northern: Colorado Springs, Iowa, Oklahoma City, Omaha
American Southern: Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Round Rock
Nashville will go to American Southern, and Colorado Springs will take Nashville’s spot in the American Northern.
Albuquerque will go to Pacific Southern and Fresno will take Colorado Springs’ spot in the Pacific Northern.
Oklahoma City and Memphis switched divisions. Previously in the American Southern, OKC will move to the American Northern and Memphis will move to the American Southern.