Austin Wates is putting his foot down. Literally.
To combat his bad habit in the batter's box -- he tends to drift while loading up his swing -- the Astros' No. 13 prospect
cleated dirt in Frisco on Saturday night and success soon followed.
Wates smacked his first Double-A homer, collected four hits and drove in a career-high five runs as the Corpus Christi Hooks cruised past the Frisco RoughRiders, 10-1.
"My body moves too far forward," Wates said of the since-corrected hitch in his giddy-up. "While I'm traveling forward, the ball is coming at 90 mph, so I'm tying myself up a little bit. So pitches that shouldn't beat me are beating me. That's always something I'll have to revisit throughout my career."
The 23-year-old outfielder's mechanics at the plate seem on point at the moment. He singled home two runs with two outs in seventh inning, then lifted a three-run homer off reliever Trevor Hurley with two outs in the ninth.
"He threw a first-pitch slider. I figured he'd come back with it, I saw it up in the zone and got it," said Wates, who also singled in the first and fourth over six at-bats. "We ran into a lot of guys with sinkers. Our manager [had] gathered up everybody in the dugout and said to get their pitches up in the zone."
Wates is batting .352 with 14 RBIs through his first 21 Texas League games.
"I'm seeing the ball well," he said. "This is definitely something I want to build on."
A 2010 third-round Draft pick out of Virginia Tech, Wates established single-game career bests in hits and RBIs during his banner season at Class A Advanced Lancaster in 2011. Wates plated four runs on three occasions last year, most recently in a July 7 victory over Rancho Cucamonga. On that day, like so many others, he was batting third. Wates has assumed the leadoff position in his first Double-A action and said he has enjoyed coming back into the dugout, even after unsuccessful at-bats, to tell his teammates what is working for the opposing pitcher. His speed also suits him for the role: He stole 26 bases in 132 games in 2011 and has five in 2012.
"Someday, I hope to be a big league table-setter," said Wates, who also wasn't slotted atop the lineup as a collegian.
The Hooks also received a strong outing from starter Ross Seaton (1-2). The right-hander gave up a run on top prospect Jurickson Profar's third-inning single and five other hits over six innings. From his vantage point in left field, Wates said Seaton was spotting his fastball and keeping the RoughRiders off-balance with his changeup.
Frisco starter Carlos Pimentel (2-1) yielded three runs on seven hits and five walks over 4 2/3 frames.