Chinooks in the Minors: Pitching Update (Part I)
A look at how Lakeshore Chinook alumni performed throughout baseball in 2016
Grafton, WI – With twenty former Chinook pitchers now pitching in the minor leagues, today’ summary includes those who have climbed the highest in the minor leagues since being drafted. To navigate through the minor league system, pitchers must often fight through injuries, improve or change their mechanics, and for some, just get a lot of innings to make enough improvement to be promoted. Here are the highest climbing Chinook pitchers and how they ended the 2016 season:
Chris Cotton (AAA): A 14th round pick of the Houston Astros out of LSU in 2013, Cotton (LAK 12) has made appearances with the Fresno Grizzlies in each of the past two seasons. As a left-handed reliever in 2016, Cotton fought through injury to pitch 65.2 innings combined between Fresno, Double A Corpus Christi, and Class A Tri-City Valley. He posted a solid 3.70 ERA and struck out 37 while walking only 17. With a healthy spring, Cotton hopes to have a breakthrough season.
Travis Hissong (AA): Since signing a free agent contract with the Yankees during his Chinook season of 2014, the former Wright State reliever has made steady progress through the minors, finishing 2016 with the AA Trenton Thunder where he posted a 2.70 ERA, a 3-0 record, and 32 strikeouts in 33.1 innings. With a lively arm, Hissong will get plenty of chances to move up this spring.
Josh Uhen (AA): The Oshkosh native and former UW-Milwaukee hurler (LAK 12) has had a solid minor league career and in 2016, advanced to the Brewers’ AA squad, the Biloxi Shuckers, after striking out 47 batters in 49.2 innings for Brevard County (Adv. A). Uhen made four late appearances for Biloxi and was awarded an opportunity to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League for top minor league prospects. Uhen will look to build off that experience and improve his consistency in 2017.
Eric Hanhold (Adv. A): The 2015 sixth round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers was a workhorse for the Brewers’ Advanced A team in Brevard County pitching 101 innings in 19 starts. Despite a 2-12 record for the Manatees, the former Florida Gator was given every opportunity to prove himself. With the Brewers affiliate transitioning to the Carolina Mudcats, Hanhold (LAK 13) will have to cut down on the 120 hits he allowed to take the next step.
Jason Hoppe (Adv. A): A mainstay on Lakeshore’s first team in 2012, the Minnesota State pitcher and 27th round pick of the Texas Rangers was traded to the Angels and made good progress in 2016 for the Inland Empire 66ers despite undergoing an appendectomy. Hoppe posted a 4.22 ERA in 49 innings and made five starts. With 47 strikeouts and only 18 walks, Hoppe must continue to improve over the coming year.
Karch Kowalczyk (Adv. A): Always known as a feisty competitor, the Valparaiso product and 37th round pick by the Dodgers in 2014 battle his way to six saves at the Advanced A level in Rancho Cucamonga before injury set him back. Kowalczyk (LAK 13) went a combined 2-2 in 21.1 innings in 2016. If he can regain his form, the right-hander will push to move up to AA Tulsa in 2017.
David Lucroy (Adv. A): While the Brewers traded away his brother, David got plenty of experience with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, pitching 59.2 innings and striking out 60 before a late season promotion to Brevard County. Like Hanhold, the East Carolina (LAK 2013) product will need to cut down the hits he has allowed and continue to improve his craft to move up from the Advanced A level in Carolina.
Keaton Steele (Adv. A): Steele topped all former Chinooks with 132.1 innings of work in a complete season with the Fort Myers Miracle, the Advanced A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The 8th round pick in 2014 (LAK 13) posted a solid 3.60 ERA and won 8 games in 23 starts with 85 strikeouts against 40 walks.
Alex Young (Adv. A): The 43rd overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks is knocking on the major league door as the club’s #3 rated prospect. After a combined 118.2 innings of work at Kane County and with Advanced A Visalia, the hard throwing lefty is primed to make a move in 2017. With a 3.56 ERA and 93 strikeouts the former TCU star (LAK 13), Young has spent an important off-season in Fort Worth working out former Horned Frogs. Battling through injuries in 2016 taught the rising star to stay focused and to never underestimate the value of good nutrition and healthy sleep habits. With focused determination, Young could be on the move in 2017.
To follow the progress of any of the Lakeshore alums who are playing professional baseball, click on the Alumni tab under the Team section at the top of this page. Click on a specific player’s name to open a link to view their MiLB bio page.
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