CORPUS CHRISTI — The Houston Astros have announced the Hooks Opening Day roster, and it's loaded with veteran leadership.
Of the 25 players slated to begin the season with Corpus Christi, all but four have experience at the Double-A level.
Infielders J.D. Davis, Mott Hyde, Antonio Nunez, and Jack Mayfield all spent time with the Hooks last year. They are joined around the diamond by 2012 Hooks Player of the Year Jon Singleton and newcomer Bryan Muniz.
Davis, 23, spent the entire spring in big league camp as a non-roster invitee. The former third-round pick from Cal State Fullerton batted .388 with a .926 OPS in 26 Grapefruit League contests. Last season, Davis paced Astros farmhands with 81 RBIs and tied for the system-lead in home runs, launching 23 in 126 games for Corpus Christi. His 34 doubles ranked first in the Texas League and was the third-highest single-season total in Hooks history. Davis also became the first Corpus Christi player to receive four TL Player of the Week awards in a single campaign.
Outfielders returning from 2016 are Drew Ferguson, Alejandro Garcia, and Ramon Laureano.
Laureano, who started last season at High-A Lancaster, led Minor League Baseball with a .428 on-base percentage. A native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the 22-year-old speedster swiped 43 bags in 57 attempts for a 75 percent success rate.
Ferguson hit .315 with 84 runs, 29 doubles, 17 home runs, 76 RBIs, and 30 steals in 105 games between Lancaster and the Hooks. The 24-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn., reached base safely in 45 of his final 47 games.
Garcia played at the top three tiers in the Houston system last year. The 25-year-old Cuban batted .333 in 21 Grapefruit League games this spring.
Garrett Stubbs, who finished last season in Corpus Christi, is back behind the plate. Catchers Jamie Ritchie and Trent Woodward are also set to begin the year with the Hooks.
Stubbs, considered by Baseball America as a top 10 Astros prospect, began 2016 by playing in 55 games for the JetHawks. An eighth-round pick in 2015 out of USC, he owned the longest on-base streak in the California League, reaching safely in 32 consecutive games. Following a July promotion to the Hooks, Stubbs hit .325 with 23 runs, nine doubles, four home runs, 16 RBIs, and five steals in 31 assignments.
Right-handers Rogelio Armenteros, Dean Deetz, Brock Dykxhoorn, Joshua James, Trent Thornton, Cy Sneed, Kyle Smith, and southpaw Kent Emanuel fill out Corpus Christi's starting pitching staff.
Sneed was a mainstay in the Hooks rotation last season, going 6-5 with a 4.04 ERA. The Dallas Baptist product logged a 2.08 ERA in his final seven starts, striking out 32 against five walks.
Thornton won 10 of 15 decisions between Corpus Christi and Lancaster in 2016, averaging nearly six strikeouts per free pass. Selected by Houston in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of North Carolina, the 23-year-old booked a 2.35 ERA in seven starts with the Hooks to close the year.
Deetz, who spent the bulk of 2016 with the JetHawks, struck out 17 and walked two in 12 shutout innings over a pair of Texas League starts to finish the season.
The bullpen features Texas A&M Corpus Christi alum Jacob Dorris, Kevin Comer, Ryan Thompson, Eric Peterson, and lefty Michael Freeman.
Led by third-year manager Rodney Linares, the Hooks open their 13th season of play Thursday night at Arkansas' Dickey-Stephens Park. The road trip concludes with a three-game stop at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, home of Kansas City's affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.