Season in Review – Corpus Christi Hooks
Record: 50-90 (.357)
Hitting: .258/.320/.388 114HR 1022K 408BB 119SB 52CS 96GIDP
Pitching: 5.01ERA 1.46WHIP 150HR 1034K 506BB
J.D. Martinez – H/2B/HR(13)/RBI/AVG/OBP/SLG/TB/SF
Jimmy Paredes – R/SB/GIDP(tie w/Flores & Van Ostrand)
Jon Gaston – PA/AB(tie)/3B
T.J. Steele – G/AB(tie)/K
Brandon Wikoff – BB
Jacob Goebbert – HBP
Dallas Keuchel – W-L/ERA/SHO/WHIP
Ross Seaton – GS/IP/HB/BF
Jonnathan Aristil – BB/K/WP
Danny Meszaros – GF/SV(tie)
David Carpenter – SV(tie)
Arcenio Leon – G
As the season progresses
April: 9-13 (.409)
May: 9-19 (.321)
June: 10-17 (.370)
July: 14-15 (.483)
August: 8-26 (.235)
AA is where the real prospects typically separate themselves from the suspects. It is also where actual stats start being a better reflection of capabilities. It is still a developmental league, but the focus of development at this level is on making adjustments. This is especially evident in smaller leagues like the Texas League, where 7 opponents and 140 games translates into a lot of opportunity to face the same guys. Those who adjust well typically put up decent numbers and advance; those who do not typically top out at AA or become career minor leaguers. For those repeating the level, it is especially important to show year-over-year improvement if they are going to keep playing professionally. With this in mind, I will try to go into a little more detail about individuals here than in my reviews of the lower level teams.
April LF: Martinez; CF: Steele; RF: Gaston
May LF: Goebbert; CF: Steele; RF: Gaston(Simunic)
June LF: Martinez; CF: Steele; RF: Goebbert
July LF: Martinez; CF: Steele(Gaston); RF: Goebbert(Gaston)
August LF: Bailey/Barnes; CF: Steele(Barnes); RF: Gaston(Barnes)
Brandon Barnes played all three OF positions plus 2B and DH at the start of the season, hitting .293/.317/.483 with a team-high 3 HR in 63 PA, earning a promotion to AAA, where he mostly disappointed. He was returned to CC in late July, ending up at .286/.335/.453 with 7 HR in 224 PA. At 25 he is nearing his peak, and his failure to stick in AAA does not bode well.
J.D. Martinez tore up the league in April hitting .341/.394/.553. Limited to 14 games in May by a minor injury, he cooled off to .275/.420/.375 but also hit is first HR of the season. At this point he apparently was coached to focus more on power, and he responded well, racking up a .338/.414/.546 line with 25 doubles, 13 homers and 72 RBI (all team-highs even at season’s end) in 370 PA before getting the call to Houston at the end of July.
T.J. Steele was the regular in CF all season, his second in the TL. He finished April with a .244/.269/.411 line, tied for the team lead in both HR (3) and SB (9), but it was downhill from there. He finished at .214/.249/.354 with 11 HR, 20 SB and a team-high 114 K in 415 AB. This is pretty much in line with last year’s .229/.259/.315 line, calling his prospect status into question.
Jon Gaston was another “repeater” having spent all of 2010 in CC, but he actually slipped some compared to last year (.236/.287/.359 in 446 PA for 2011 vs. .245/.337/.406 in 520 PA for 2010). He lost playing time and prospect status with a miserable May in which he hit .187/.253/.242 and struck out a team-high 30 times in 91 AB.
Jacob Goebbert joined the team in May when Martinez was injured, and impressed; eventually earning a second promotion to AAA in early August. He started well (.299/.400/.506 in May) and remained fairly consistent, ending at .305/.368/.456 in 304 PA. At 23, he is definitely on the “prospect” radar after this season.
Adam Bailey replaced Goebbert on the roster earning his own second promotion of the year, and hit .323/.333/.495 in 97 PA. Another 23-year-old, his rapid move through the system and impressive power totals (24 homers and 95 RBI in 533 AB across three levels) make him a guy to watch next year.
Andrew Simunic played 17 games in the OF (along with 13 in the IF) before being sent back to Lancaster at the end of May leaving a .187/.315/.242 AA line behind. There is not much of a future for a 25-year-old who rakes in Hi-A but struggles against AA competition.
April 1B: Van Ostrand; 2B: Paredes(Wikoff); 3B: Flores(Simunic); SS: Sutil(Wikoff)
May 1B: Van Ostrand; 2B: Paredes(Wikoff); 3B: Flores(Wikoff/Sutil); SS: Sutil(Wikoff)
June 1B: Van Ostrand; 2B: Altuve; 3B: Paredes; SS: Villar(Wikoff)
July 1B: Hinze/Van Ostrand; 2B: Wikoff/(Paredes/Altuve); 3B: Paredes(Wikoff); SS: Villar
August 1B: Hinze; 2B: Wikoff(Thompson); 3B: Flores(Wikoff); SS: Villar
Jimmy Van Ostrand was the regular at 1B until Hinze was promoted in July. A brief August audition at 3B was cut short by an injury, but he returned to hit .375 in limited August chances and finished at .306/.382/477 with 11 HR in 346 AB. This was a substantial improvement over last year (.244/.284/.327 with 3 HR in 312 AB), but at age 26 he is running out of time … even without being passed on the depth chart by Hinze.
Kody Hinze joined the team in early July, hitting .350/.418/.600 with 5 HR in 80 July AB. As opposing pitchers found the holes in his swing, though, he tapered off to .235/.319/.303 with 2 HR and 29 K in 119 August AB. He will be 24 next year when he presumably will start in AA, which is neither young nor old for the level, but he will need to show thathe can adjust better than he did in 2011.
Jimmy Paredes started the season at 2B before moving to 3B when Altuve joined the team in June. He hit at a very consistent .270/.300/.426 clip with 10 HR and a team-high 29 SB in 385 AB before getting the call to Houston. At 22, he is still rough, but has likely climbed to the top of the 3B depth chart in Houston.
21-year-old Jose Altuve spent about 5 weeks in Corpus Christi (mostly at 2B) on his meteoric rise from Lancaster to Houston, hitting .361/.388/.569 and only 14 K in 144 AB.
David Flores started the season at 3B and struggled, batting .211/.256/.329 in April and .214/.318/.339 in May before being shipped out to Lancaster to make room for Altuve. He worked his way back in August, but his .189/.235/.284 line probably seals his fate as a 24-year-old “suspect”.
Brandon Wikoff made the roster in April as the “extra” infielder, taking a spot many thought might go to Villar or even Mier. He made the most of his limited April opportunities (.474/.512/.605 and only 1 K in 41 PA) and eventually saw regular playing time at all three infield positions as the surrounding cast changed. His overall .308/.398/.353 line earned him a late-season call-up to AAA, and probably an opportunity to play regularly somewhere in 2012.
Wlad Sutil returned for a second season as the semi-regular SS and led the team in AVG (.418) and OBP (.480) in April. He spent some time on the DL in May and slumped badly to .229/.314/.286, but still got moved to AAA with the First Great Convulsion. Sent back to AA in August, he again disappointed (.167/.211/.222 in only 22 PA) and finished the season on the DL. At 26, this may be the end of the line for him.
Jonathan Villar was promoted in early June and installed as the regular SS for the duration. He hit only .231/.301/.386 with his best month being July (.245/.323/.518 with 7 HR but 33 K in 110 AB). At only 20 he has plenty of time to continue to develop as a potential “SS of the future”. My guess is that he opens 2012 in Corpus Christi, but I doubt he finishes the season there.
Cuban signee Jose Carlos Thompson got into a few games in April/May and returned to get some regular playing time at 2B in mid-August after Wikoff was promoted to AAA. He struggled at the plate, hitting only .115/.164/.135 with 18 K in 52 AA AB. This is his first year as a pro, but I doubt this kind of performance will engender much patience among those who make personnel decisions.
After getting a taste of AA last year, Federico Hernandez was given every chance to solidify his prospect status as the regular in 2011. As a receiver, he handled the position well, but at the plate he struggled. Mightily. He followed up a horrible April (.095/.123/.190) with a marginally better May (.172/.221/.266). After a .179/.314/.214 June, he was shipped off to Lancaster to make room for Wallace. He looked totally overmatched, and did not really recover his batting form in Lancaster. At 23 and playing a premium defensive position, he will probably get another shot to prove himself, but he needs to make the most of it.
As the veteran backup and insurance catcher, career minor leaguer Brian Esposito pretty much fulfilled expectations. He hit .155/.190/.190 in 126 AA PA’s and also spent substantial time in AAA due to the fluid situation at catcher.
Emerson Frostad was signed in June to provide additional veteran insurance at catcher, and also split time between Corpus and Oklahoma City. He ended up with a .239/.333/.340 line in 184 AA PA’s.
Chris Wallace was promoted from Lexington in late June and continued to split time between receiving duties and DH. He hit .275/.339/.461 with 5 HR and 35 K in 102 AB after his promotion, but spent most of August on the DL returning for 7 games to hit only .095/.208/.238. Offense is his ticket to continued progress, and he should probably start in AA next year.
Only Dallas Keuchel (3.81) had an ERA under 5.30 as the Hooks got off to a horrible 9-13 start in April. Keuchel improved to 2.37 in May and Xavier Cedeno notched a 2.94 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Ross Seaton improved to 4.78, but Jonnathan Aristil slipped to 6.33 and Kyle Greenwalt collapsed to 14.43 and a spot in the bullpen as the team continued to slide to 18-32 for the first two months. Keuchel (2.18) and Cedeno (2.89) continued to shine in June, with Cedeno also striking out 48 batters in 37+ innings and Keuchel walking only 8 in 33 IP leading to a 0.97 WHIP. Aristil regressed to 5.96 and was hit hard (1.71 WHIP) while Seaton gave up 6 long balls en route to a 6.92 June ERA. Erick Abreu replaced Greenwalt in the rotation and went 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP as the team “rallied” to a 10-17 record for the month. An offensive surge in July propelled them to a 14-15 record for the month, but the pitchers did not fare as well. Keuchel had a few bad outings but still managed a 3-1 record, a 4.23 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and a trip to Oklahoma. Abreu slipped to 1-3 and a 4.15 ERA, while Seaton (6.44) and Aristil (9.28) continued to struggle. Cedeno earned a brief promotion to AAA before being returned to AA and sent to the bullpen to limit his workload. He managed only a 6.11 ERA in 3 starts and 4 relief appearances. Newcomer Henry Sosa was 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA in 3 July starts before moving up. August saw wholesale changes with Aristil banished to the bullpen, Cedeno rejoining the Redhawks, and newcomers Paul Clemens (2-1; 2.35), Jarred Cosart (1-2; 4.71) and Brett Oberholtzer (2-3; 5.27) all arriving via deadline deals. Seaton seemed to put it together in an up-and-down month going 0-2 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.02 WHOP for the month, and Jake Buchanan was stellar in his single start after being promoted from Lancaster. Seaton, Cosart, Oberholtzer and Buchanan are all only 21 and will most likely form the nucleus of an excellent AA rotation to start 2012. Keuchel & Clemens at 23 along with Cedeno at 24 figure to start 2012 in AAA, while 24-year-old Aristil and 27-year-old Abreu are probably spare parts at this point.
Bullpen – by IP
David Carpenter began the year as the closer, going 0-1 with 5 saves and 17 K in 14 IP before being promoted in early May. Danny Meszaros returned from his PED suspension for one game in April and briefly took the closer role (0-1 with 3 saves, a 2.57 ERA & 16 K in 14 IP) before his own call to AAA. Pat Urckfitz was next, going 0-3 with 1 save and 25 K in 32 IP before his call-up. Henry Villar came down from Oklahoma to take over closer duties in June, going 2-4 with 2 saves, 33 K and only 4 BB (1 intentional) in 37+ IP the rest of the way, though he lost his closer job in late July to newcomer Jason Stoffel. Stoffel finished at 1-3 with 4 saves and 19 K in 16 IP.
In other roles, Arcenio Leon racked up 73 K in 64+ IP and a team-high 47 relief appearances before a late-season promotion. He also walked 48, though, leading to a 1.81 WHIP. Blake King was another one to spend the full season in the bullpen, finishing at 0-2 with a 3.76 ERA and 50 K in 33 appearances covering 40+ IP. Greenwalt spent June & July in the bullpen, pitching 27 innings over 17 appearances, posting a 2-4 record with 2 saves and a 5.00 ERA before earning a trip to California. He returned in late August for one unimpressive appearance and finished a very disappointing year at 4-10 with a 7.86 ERA. Shane Wolf (5.98 ERA in 40+ IP) and David Berner (9.33 ERA in 18+ IP) both started the season in CC before being sent down to Lancaster where Berner was eventually released.
Chris Hicks returned to Corpus after missing 2010 with surgery and pitched pretty well; 3.77 ERA in 14+ IP. Brad James also returned from injury, but fared much worse, allowing 5 runs on 9 hits and 8 walks in 6+ IP and heading back to the DL. Josh Zeid, another deadline arrival, was unimpressive in 14 appearances, logging an 0-1 record and an ERA over 10.
Stoffel, Greenwalt & Urckfitz are all only 22, and at least the first two should expect another shot at AA. At 24, Leon, King, Zeid, Hicks and Villar probably still have a future, too, but they all need to start well in 2012; it is going to get crowded in the CC bullpen next year.
In sum: This was a record-setting year for the Hooks in all the wrong areas … the result of a few years of poor drafts and general mismanagement throughout the minors. And with the vacuum at the major league level sucking up any real prospects, next year may not be any better. However, there should be a solid nucleus of starting pitching here, so if they can put together enough spare parts and “last chance” prospects they may surprise. Or at least make it interesting.