Hinojosa Rewards Giants

Few players see their draft stock ebb and flow from high school to college quite like C.J. Hinojosa.

A star shortstop at Klein Collins High in Spring, Texas, Hinojosa drew some early-rounds draft buzz in 2012. But he was so determined to attend Texas and play for Longhorns coach Augie Garrido that he tried to graduate a semester early.

Overwhelmed by an intense course load, Hinojosa abandoned his plan, but when Klein Collins coach Miguel Castro got wind of it, he kicked Hinojosa off the team.

Hinojosa mended fences with Castro and finished his prep career, but his senior season was largely a washout after he elected to have surgery on his left shoulder, saying too many dives for ground balls left the shoulder weak.

An Astros team doctor performed the surgery on Hinojosa, and not surprisingly, the Astros drafted the Houston native in the 26th round in 2012, knowing he probably would not turn pro so that he could honor his commitment–and to be drafted much higher three years later.

That did happen, but it wasn’t a feel-good story. Hinojosa was a star for the Longhorns in their 2014 College World Series run, but his offensive production and defensive reputation suffered during his three seasons at Texas.

He led the Longhorns with 17 errors in 2014, and his .242/.321/.403 batting line in 2015 was worst among Texas regulars. Scouts were bearish about Hinojosa’s pro future, projecting him as a below-average hitter with just fringe-average range.

Still, the Giants–who have had success with undervalued college players and Texas position players, such as Brandon Belt–liked the athleticism and selected Hinojosa in the 11th round of the 2015 draft. After a solid pro debut in which he hit .296 with power at short-season Salem-Keizer, he has rewarded the Giants with a breakout 2016 at high Class A San Jose.

Through 32 games, Hinojosa batted .339/.428/.466 with as many walks (19) as strikeouts (19). He ranked second in the California League in average and on-base percentage, while his strikeout rate (14.8 percent) stood as one of the lowest in the league.

Giants general manager Bobby Evans said the team was comfortable with where it took Hinojosa.

“When you’re in the middle of the draft, clubs are offering projections, but they’re also looking at guys in comparison to one another,” Evans said. “We liked him pretty good if we took him in the 11th round, and certainly it was a great pick for us.

“His athleticism and arm strength . . . from the day we got him, we felt like this was a guy who could move quickly.

Evans applauded Hinojosa for refining his hitting approach.

“Even though he’s not one of the fastest guys, his athleticism and tools, as well as the ability to make adjustments . . . that’s reflective of the athlete he is,” Evans said.

Hinojosa’s performance doesn’t completely surprise San Jose manager Lipso Nava.

“The profile doesn’t quite fit for a pro,” Nava said of the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Hinojosa. “But Dustin Pedroia was an underachiever type, and look what’s he done in the big leagues.”

Rumors about Hinojosa’s makeup dogged him before the 2015 draft, but Nava said that’s not the player he’s seen in his clubhouse.

“I think so,” Nava said when asked if Hinojosa had matured. “He’s pesky, a grinder–that type (of player). He’s a guy who will play hard and never complain. He’s been a great citizen.”

The major difference for Hinojosa, Nava said, was that the he has shown great aptitude.

“He can quickly apply what he learns on the field,” Nava said. “He understands the game and can translate that to what’s going on right now.

“He looks like a guy who’s been in the game for a while. He’s been able to recognize pitchers’ weaknesses and apply the adjustments.”

Another evaluator who saw Hinojosa said the shortstop projects as a tick above-average hitter with a line drive-oriented swing. There’s some pop in his bat, but he has a tick below-average power. He profiles as a utility player, but the evaluator believes he could reach the majors that way.

“He still has to go out and prove what he is,” he said.

Nava is optimistic that Hinojosa will.

“Life gives you chances and opportunities,” Nava said. “Life teaches you lessons every day. He goes about his business and his main goal is to make it big.”

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