Fresno Grizzlies

Fresno Grizzlies: No elite Astros prospects yet but opening roster armed with big-league experience

The Fresno Grizzlies will have to wait for the elite talent of the Houston Astros’ farm system to work its way to Triple-A.

Shortstop Carlos Correa and starter Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall picks in the 2012 and 2013 drafts, will begin their seasons at Double-A Corpus Christi, the parent club announced Wednesday as it unveiled its minor league rosters.

Yet with the Grizzlies expected to begin the season with a collection of young players with major league experience and others who’ve at least succeeded at Triple-A, the Fresno club could immediately challenge for a Pacific Coast League title in its first season as an Astros affiliate.

First baseman Jonathan Singleton, third baseman Matt Dominguez and outfielder Domingo Santana headline a Grizzlies opening day roster that projects to be armed with power hitters and a rotation anchored by ex-Oakland A’s starter Dan Straily. Fresno hosts Las Vegas on April 9 at Chukchansi Park.

“Absolutely this is one of the best teams on paper that I’ve probably ever broken camp with,” said Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco, who has won three PCL titles. “I’m really happy. Got a good mix of veterans and young talent.”

The Astros closed their stay at Oklahoma City with three straight winning Triple-A seasons. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, as a former San Francisco Giants affiliate, have had just five winning seasons since 1998.

As players move up and down the Astros organization, Grizzlies fans could still get a glimpse of Correa and Appel this summer.

“It’s just a matter of time,” DeFrancesco said. “We’re always trying to help out the big league club. You could see guys move quickly through the system.”

The Grizzlies, with the roster subject to change up to opening day, are set to start with 11 players with major league experience — six position players and five pitchers.

Among them is Singleton, who hit .168 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs in 310 at-bats for the Astros after a call-up last year. Singleton, 23, received a $10 million extension before he made his big league debut.

Rated a Top 100 prospect in all of baseball in each of the past four seasons, he struggled again this spring batting .213 with no homers in 47 at-bats.

The Grizzlies also will suit up two former first-round picks in Dominguez (No. 12 by the Marlins in 2007) and pitcher Alex White (15th, Indians, in 2009).

Dominguez, 25, was the Astros’ starting third baseman last season, batting .215 but with 16 homers and 57 RBIs in 564 at-bats. White, 26, two years removed from Tommy John surgery and playing in the majors, will try to work his way back after sporting a 15.75 ERA in four innings this spring.

The status as the Grizzlies’ top prospect, meanwhile, goes to the Santana, 22, rated No. 3 in the Astros farm system by MLB.com and No 10 by Baseball America.

Santana is already familiar with Triple-A, hitting .296 with 16 home runs and 81 RBIs for Oklahoma City last year. He earned a late call-up to the Astros but went hitless in 17 at-bats.

Another prospect to watch is Max Stassi, whose scouting report labels him as a potential power-hitting catcher with strong defensive ability. Stassi is 20th in the Astros’ prospect rankings, according to Baseball America.

“Another thing that’s nice about this team and the organization is every player has either come through our system or we’ve traded for,” rather than signed as veteran minor league free agents, DeFrancesco said. “We’ve invested in them and want to see them develop and help the team. I think we’ve got a lot of talent to work with.”

• Hanford High graduate Tyson Perez, a 17th-round pick in 2011, will start the season with Double-A Corpus Christi.



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