Monday, August 17, 2009

Interview with Greg Rajan

Today we're featuring an incredible interview with Greg Rajan, sports writer for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. He has covered the team since its inception, and we've done these e-mail interviews with a number of people - this is, by far, the most extensive. Captip to Greg for taking the time to answer these questions thoroughly. Let's get to it:

AC: Who are the players that stand out for the Hooks that we can expect to see in an Astros uniform in 2010/2011?

GR: I would say the two players on the current Hooks roster who have a shot to make it to Houston next year are Jason Castro and Chia-Jen Lo. Both are guys on the fast track, as you can see by how little time they spent in the A-ball ranks before coming to Corpus Christi. I would be surprised if Castro isn't given every opportunity to be the starting catcher in 2010. As for Lo, he has a nice arm and certainly given the Astros' bullpen woes of recent years, would be a welcome addition if he can continue to improve. Drew Locke is an intriguing guy, but it's hard to gauge his standing in the organization right now. You usually don't see many guys with 100-plus RBI still in the Texas League in mid-August. Other than those three guys, the prospect pool is rather thin at Double-A right now.

AC: How does Jason Castro look - his stats certainly indicate that Double-A hasn't been much of a problem for him.

GR: Castro has made pretty much a seamless transition to Double-A. Given the demands of the catcher position and having to learn a new staff at near the midpoint of the season, he's done remarkably well. I've covered the team since its inception and it's safe to say Castro is among only a handful of guy where you know that it's not a matter of if they make it to the majors, but when. A couple of other guys who had that trait were Hunter Pence and Ben Zobrist. When J.R. Towles was here two years ago as part of his rocket-like ascent through the system, I don't think anybody thought "catcher of the future" when they watched him. You immediately think that with Castro. While he hasn't put up the power numbers yet in Double-A, that should come. His defense is pretty impressive.

AC: Has Drew Locke's season been as unbelievable as it looks? What is his approach to the game?

GR: Locke's season really has been remarkable. When the year started, he was the fourth outfielder behind Collin DeLome, Josh Flores and Mitch Einertson. In hindsight, that seems almost ridiculous. Locke has been pretty consistent, but to me the most impressive part of his season was how he rebounded from hitting .238 in June. A lot of guys during their second turn through the Texas League will be exposed. Locke, however, made the necessary adjustments and regained his early season form. I'm not sure if there's anything all that unique about his approach to the game. He's a pretty patient hitter who will look for his pitch and hit it. He has a plan and he sticks to it. It'll be interesting to see what happens with Locke after this season. The Astros will have to protect him because he surely would get taken in the Rule V draft this winter. But where do they play him with an entrenched Lee-Bourn-Pence outfield? I wondered if they might try Locke out at second or third in the instructional league this fall, but I'm not sure how well he'd take to those positions. If he keeps hitting like he has this year, they will find a place to play him.

AC: What effect has Mitch Einertson's suspension had on the team?

GR: Honestly, I'm not sure if it's had any effect. From talking to people when the suspension went down, they were sad for Einertson, but nobody seemed to dwell on his absence. The thing a lot of people don't realize about minor league baseball is that it's essentially an individual sport within a team framework. Everybody in the minors is there to move up, from the players to the trainers. So in that respect, there's a degree of selfishness involved. So while Einertson will be missed because he's a genuinely nice guy who everyone liked, his absence creates an opportunity for somebody else.

AC: What has been the reaction - team and fan - to Aaron Boone's rehab return?

GR: I think it's a great story that he's returned so soon after open heart surgery, but it's not quite like Jeff Bagwell being here in 2005 or Roger Clemens' tuneup start in 2006. Had Boone hit his memorable ALCS homer last fall instead of six years ago, maybe there's more of a buzz about his presence here. But other than polite applause every time he comes to bat, I can't say the fans have been particularly captivated by Boone's presence. As far as the team, I'm sure they like having a big leaguer around because those guys usually spring for the postgame spread during rehab assignments. Boone has been a professional and I think any leadership he provides while he's here is by example more than words.

Unreal insight from Greg.