Castro promoted to Corpus Christi; Heck continues draft preparations
Jason Castro, the Astros’ No. 1 prospect, was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi from High-A Lancaster following Sunday’s game and is expected to join the Hooks on Wednesday against Midland. Castro hit .309 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs for the JetHawks, hitting .328 with four homers and 32 RBIs in May.
“We’re very excited about where he is in his development process,” assistant general manager Ricky Bennett said. “[Minor League field coordinator] Al Pedrique just left Lancaster yesterday and [catching coordinator] Danny Sheaffer has been in there, Mike Barnett, our hitting coordinator, has been in there, and we’re all seeing the same thing.
“He’s handled every challenge we put in front of him. His game-calling is better, his blocking is better, his throwing has been outstanding and he’s ready for another challenge. We are ready to move him through the system.”
Castro, 21, hit .275 in 39 games last year at rookie-league Tri-City after being drafted by the Astros out of Stanford with the No. 10 overall pick. The Astros have said they would like Castro to compete for the starting catcher’s job next year, and his promotion likely keeps him on that track.
When asked if it would be too much to expect Castro at Triple-A Round Rock later this year, Bennett didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate him on a daily basis. But I think realistically he’s going to benefit more from being in Double-A this year with a little bit better pitching staff, where the speed of the game is going to be a little different.”
Castro will also get a chance to work closely with Corpus Christi manager Luis Pujols, a former Major League catcher.
“I think he’s really going to develop under those circumstances and if he stays in Corpus for the rest of the year, that’s fine,” Bennett said. “I think the experience he’s going to get at this level will more more than anything else he’s ever really faced before in terms of competition and speed of the game and those types of things.”
The arrival of Castro in Corpus Christi has forced the Astros to shuffle some other players. Jonathan Fixler, who was the backup to Brian Esposito at Corpus Christi, will go to Lancaster and back up Koby Clemens, who will now be the No. 1 catcher at Lancaster.
“That’s kind of been the through process all along,” Bennett said. “When we started this season, I sat down with Koby in spring training and I told him in the first half of the season it maybe tough to get him time behind the plate, but hopefully at some point during the course of the summer he’ll get more playing time, and that time has come.”
Astros assistant general manager in charge of scouting Bobby Heck met with the media Monday after at Union Station to talk about the First-Year Player Draft. Heck didn’t give any insight on what the Astros might do with the No. 21 overall pick, simply saying the team was going to take the best available player.
Heck said the draft is getting a bad rap for not having much talent. He said it’s deep in high school pitching and lacking some college bats.
Heck’s draft team with the Astros consists of national cross checker David Post, East Coast supervisor Clarence Johns, Midwest supervisor Ralph Bratton, West Coast supervisor Mark Ross, area scouts J.D. Alleva and Joe Graham and coordinator of scouting Mike Burns.
Here are some excerpts from Heck’s comments:
Heck on draft preparations: “This drafted started the day after last draft. Within a week after last year’s draft, we had follow lists due for the players coming up, and we followed them all summer, we followed them all fall. We used those lists to prioritize guys as we attack them in the spring, but we’ve been in here for a week [spending] anywhere from 10- to 14-hour days, and that’s on the heels of last week having three days of regional meetings. Every scout has seen more 100 games and probably spent more than 90 nights in a hotel since the of January. We’re getting after it pretty good.”
Heck on his feelings: “Your nerves are controlled by how prepared you are. Our preparation has been good, but I think we’re tired more than we are nerve-wracked, especially picking at 21. A lot of it is out of our hands. our ideal thing is to have guys in place, guys on our board when it gets to 21 and the first 20 guys go, we better like the 21st guy.”
Heck on taking best player available: “Where we’re at as an organization it’s still adding a depth of quality to our organization. If there’s one thing that we might walk past, all things being equal, is catching. Jason Castro is on his way to Double-A right now and there’s a lot of young catching we like in our system. If I have two players at positions that are side by side and one’s a catcher, I’d opt for another position.”
Heck on the groundwork laid last year: “I need to add a few more classes like that. We’re only going to be as good as that type of depth. Truly, those players have gone out from last year and have performed. It’s very gratifying, but they’ve been healthy.I want to read in the boxscore they played the night before. That being said, some of those guys are going to break our hearts and not be everything we think they are and some of them are going to get hurt so we need to keep adding those types of players to our system to absorb that type of attrition.”
Heck on the draft’s talent pool: “This draft if getting a lot of bad knocks. This is a deep draft. I think more as we work our boards and put our boards together, there’s depth to it. Would I like to be picking 10 this year? No. I think the first half of the first round there’s a bit of decline in that type of talent, but after that the players that went in the second half of the first round last year are similar to this year. After that, there is depth.