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Corpus Christi Hooks Year in Review (and 2012 Preview)

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Corpus finished the 2nd half at 25-45, by far the worst record in the league.

Here's how the players did:

Catcher: Chris Wallace was the primary catcher while he was healthy after his midseason promotion, finishing with 6 HR in 36 games and an OPS of 739. A big year next season could propel the 23 year old all the way to Houston. Non-prospect Emerson Frostad got the most ABs. He may be back next year in a backup capacity. Feddy Hernandez struggled and was demoted. Vet Brian Esposito struggled as well. Finally, Jon Fixler logged 14 ABs before retiring.

1B: Jimmy Van Ostrand, an older player at 27, kept his career alive with a solid showing, hitting 11 homers en route to a 859 OPS; it still may not be enough to keep him moving. He moved to a reserve role once Kody Hinze was promoted. Hinze's power dropped a little, but he still hit at the AA level. A big year in 2012 could move him into elite prospect status after hitting 29 bombs this sesaon.

2B: 10 different players logged time at 2B for Corpus. Jose Altuve made AA his slave before getting promoted to the big leagues. Jimmy Paredes was at 2B before getting moved to 3rd to make room for Altuve. Clint Barmes and Jeff KEppinger made rehad starts for the Hooks. Even OF Brandon Barnes made a stop at 2B. Jose Thompson and Jose Vallejo finished the year at 2nd, but neither excelled. Both may be back, with Thompson the odds-on favorite to get the everyday job.

SS: 20 year old Jon Villar was rushed to AA, and while his #'s weren't stellar, they were solid enough to maintain hope that he will still reach his massive potential. He finished with a .231 average, 10 HR and 14 SB in 83 games. I expect a big jump from him next season and hope to see him populate a few top 100 lists by next year's end. He's still probably 2 years away from making an appearance in Houston. Veteran Vlad Sutil logged significant time at short, but at this point he is a known commodity: an all-glove infielder with a very weak bat. Former 5th round pick Brandon Wikoff, 23, had a very solid 2011 campaign, hitting .308 with 3 HR in 103 games. He profiles as a very good bench infielder as he is versatile and rarely strikes out (47 BB, 33 SO).

3B: David Flores hit 18 HR between A+ and AA, but managed only a .577 OPS in Corpus. He may get another chance next year. Jimmy Paredes played 3B before moving on to the bigs. Andy Simunic also logged time at 3rd and struggled mightily before being demoted.

OF: JD Martinez was the story of they year here, dominating before moving on to Houston, where he also did well. Jon Gaston and TJ Steele, both repeating AA, both struggled and dramatically lowered their prospect value. Neither showed the ability that made them org top 10 prospects 2 years ago. Brandon Barnes did well in a repeat year (he did get some time in AAA) and may get a chance to move up again to AAA. Jake Goebbert did well (823 OPS) before getting promoted to AAA. Adam Bailey had hits in his final 6 ABs to raise his line to .323/.495/.828 in a 93 AB stint in AA to finish 2011. The lefty hit 24 HRs across 3 levels, so there may be more there than people are talking about.

Rotation: The rotation featured a lot of talent, if mixed results statistically. 21 year old Ross Seaton was durable if not effective, pitching to a 5.23 ERA in 155 innings. He'll get another shot in Corpus next year. Dallas Keuchel continued his rapid ascent, going 9-7 (3.17 ERA) in AA before getting promoted to Oklahoma City. Older prospect Erick Abreu, a sign that Houston's system isn't quite where it should be yet, filled in nicely with a solid SO:BB ratio of 76:27 in 127 IP. Jonathan Aristil and Kyle Greenwalt both bombed, although Aristil was able to post a nice K rate. Xavier Cedeno was a feel-good story, as the free agent who thought his career might be over was signed by Houston and posted great #'s on the way to a promotion to AAA.

After the flurry of deadline deals, 3 VERY talented players joined the Hooks' rotation. Jared Cosart, likely the organization's top prospect, posted a 4.71 ERA in 7 starts to end the year. He'll be back again next season and I look for him to post ace numbers. LHP Brett Oberholtzer struggled a bit late, ending with a 5.27 ERA over 6 starts. Since his AA numbers prior to being traded were quite good, I expect him to move on to AAA for 2012. Finally, Paul Clemens, a power righty, dominated the Texas League before moving on to OKC, where he should start next season as the anchor of their staff.

Bullpen: There were TONS of high-upside and interesting young arms passing through Corpus this year; the results were mixed:
Good- Sam Gervacio, Chris Hicks
Mediocre- Henry Villar, Blake King, Arcenio Leon
Bad- Pat Urckfitz, Dan Meszaros, Jason Stoffel, Shane Wolf
Ugly- Mike Perconte, Kyle Greenwalt, Matt Nevarez (released), David Berner (released), Cesar Carillo (released), Josh Zeid.

A TON of talent passed through AA this year, and 3 of the Hooks core players from 2011 (LF Martinez, 2B Altuve, 3B Paredes) will likely form the foundation of the big league team moving forward. AA is a proving ground that separates real future big leaguers from also-rans, and that was borne out this season with the promotions and failures of the various prospects in Corpus. Many of the talented players who ended the year with Corpus will be back, so they should have an improved team with a better record. They'll be fun to watch.

Here's a guess at who we'll see in Hooks uni to start 2012:

C: Wallace/Rene Garcia- Wallace will definitely be the starter; I assume they want to move on from Frostad and Garcia's defense is ready.
1B: Kody Hinze- has a chance to make his stock soar if he can repeat his Lancaster #'s, which is unlikely. If he falters, he can just keep the bag warm until Jon Singleton arrives.
2B: Jose Thompson- an interesting prospect who did well in high A, where he was old for the league. Jose Vallejo will be the backup here.
SS: Villar- another one who has a chance to watch his stock soar with a breakout campaign. I have high hopes for him.
3B: Jon Meyer/Flores/Eric Castro- Meyer has improved at every level and posted career highs in every category this season. He'll be young for the league and is probably Houston's best 3B prospect. Flores showed nice power this season and at 25 time is running out. Eric Castro may see some time here as well; he's an interesting prospect who just needs everyday play.
RF: Gaston- one last chance to put it together.
CF: Steele- see above.
LF: Austin Wates/Bailey- Wates will probably see a lot of time in center. Bailey had an underrated year and may have the tools to end up as a regular in Houston.

Rotation: Cosart, Seaton, Jose Cisnero, Jake Buchanan, Wes Musick, Aristil. A solid group. Cosart could be a future ace, as could Cisnero, who I expect to break out. Buchanan and Seaton have good enough stuff to man the middle of a rotation. Musick finished strong in lancaster and it may be too soon to give up on Aristil. The 1st 4 are set, but Musick and Aristil may not be in the rotation if the decisionmakers feel Oberholtzer, Andrew Robinson, or another prospect would be a better fit. I'd like to see Chris Hicks given a shot as a starter.

Bullpen: Urckfitz, Robinson, Greenwalt, Zeid, Stoffel, Hicks. A lot of experience and talent that will yield several future big leaguers. This is just a guess as it would mean a lot of guys in Lancaster would be cut loose.
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