The Colorado Rockies will have a new affiliate in the California League for the first time in 12 years. The Lancaster JetHawks will be the new home to the club’s Advanced-A level team.
After the JetHawks spent the last eight years as an affiliate to the Houston Astros, they will now be a stepping stone for one of the deepest farm systems in the league.
As young players develop in hopes of one day reaching the majors, they will now have the chance to play for the Lancaster JetHawks. For the last 12 years, former Rockies passed through Modesto, which will now host future Seattle Mariners.
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The JetHawks have a very lengthy history that dates back to 1955. Before officially becoming an Advanced-A level club, they were known as the Reno Silver Fox. The organization stayed in Reno until 1993, and temporarily changed names to the Padres. In 1993, the team moved to Riverside and became known as the Pilots. After just three seasons, the team moved once again.
In 1996, the Lancaster JetHawks were born, and a new era of minor league baseball began in California. The team joined the Southern Division in the California League, and finished the season in third place.
After 20 years and two California League Championships, the JetHawks have been solidified as a perennial competitor. This year’s team will be no different. Many players will advance from the Rockies’ Single-A affiliate, the Asheville Tourists. Two years ago, the Tourists fell one game short of a third league championship in five years.
The list of former JetHawks is impressive and includes plenty of household names. Current Astros players Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Dallas Keuchel made a stop in Lancaster along the way. Former Diamondbacks All-Star and Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb graced the mound during the 2001 season.
Even a few Rockies called Lancaster home for a year. Juan Pierre, Brian Fuentes, Mark Reynolds, and Carlos Gonzalez made a big enough impact during their respective times with the team to be inducted to the Lancaster Hall of Fame. Former Rockies outfielder Brandon Barnes is also one of just eight players to hit for the cycle in Lancaster history.
To start the 2017 season, three of the Rockies top-15 prospects will play for the JetHawks. Dom Nunez, Ryan Castellani, and Forrest Wall will start the season in Lancaster with hopes of moving up to Double-A Hartford before season’s end. The Rockies top prospect, Brendan Rodgers, could also start the season with the team after finishing last season in Asheville.
With the combination of great talent and a storied franchise such as the JetHawks, the 2017 season will be an exciting and important year for many players, as they move on in their young careers.