OKC finished the year with a 68-75 record, 18.5 games out of 1st place. They were, however, only 1.5 games behind the 2nd place team.
AAA is always a mix of up and coming prospects and middling veterans who serve as backups to the big league team. OKC was no different; although there weren't a lot of prospects in the infield. Here's how everybody fared:
Catcher: No real prospects here, as JR Towles, Carlos Corporan, and Robinson Cancel got the majority of the innings. All 3 had time in Houston. Towles has settled in as a player who can hit really, really well in the minor leagues, but just hasn't been able to put it together in the bigs. He may be back in AAA next year and serve as the emergency catcher in case of an injury to Jason Castro or the backup. At this point it's doubtful he ever becomes a major league regular.
1B: Koby Clemens didn't raise his stock enough to be considered a future big leaguer. He hit 16 HR, so the power is there, but he simply strikes out too much to be counted on to hit well in the majors. He will likely get another shot next season, although it may be in a utility role. Brett Wallace mashed after his demotion from Houston, hitting a 917 OPS.
2B: veteran Anderson Hernandez did about what you'd expect, posting a .366/.400/.766 line. He may be in the mix for a backup role in Houston next spring but will likely be back in AAA if he is not released. He is what he is, a classic AAAA infielder.
SS: Tommy Manzella was released after another year of less than stellar hitting.
3B: Ozzie Navarro posted a 681 OPS; not much to get excited abotu for a 26 year old. Chris Johnson posted an 879 OPS after his demotion.
OF: Drew Locke, Collin DeLome, Luis Durango, Brandon Barnes, and JB Shuck all posted solid if unspectacular #s. It's hard to distinguish them. Shuck appears to have a future as a reserve at the next level, while the others may end up a AAAA or AAA players. Brian Bogusevic middled in AAA but has done really well in his most recent stint in Houston; he may be the everyday RF next season. Jake Goebbert got 106 ABs and didn't do much to change what was thought of him. He's facing a big year next season, as his performance in 2012 will probably define whether he is seen as an eventual everyday player or a bench guy.
Rotation: Underdog Andy Van Hekken somewhat resurrected his career, going 9-6 with a 3.40 ERA in 19 starts. He may get a shot in spring. Former 2nd round pick Sergio Perez seems to be a forgotten man, but he posted a respectable 4.25 ERA in 21 starts. Vets Ryan Rowland-Smith and Nelson Figueroa didn't do anything to reverse their downward career trajectory. Jordan Lyles lived up to his billing before moving on to the bigs. Lucas Harrell also had a good year, earning a trip to Houston to finish September.
Bullpen: Wes Wright was a bright spot. He may finally have found a groove that will keep him in the majors long term. Mickey Storey did well in a late inning role, strking out 28 in 29 innings. Many of the bullpen arms that are now in Houston (F Rod, Carpenter, Abreu, Escalona) paid their dues in OKC before getting called up.
Next year's AAA roster should feature a heavier dose of prospects as opposed to AAAA veterans. Of course this is just conjecture, and many things will change as a result of moves made in Houston, but here's a guess as to who could be in OKC to start 2012:
C: Towles/Cancel- I'm hoping Q and Corporan are replaced by a better hitting free agent (Ryan Doumit?), but no matter what Towles is my bet to be the everyday catcher in OKC.
1B: Wallace- Until something is done with Carlos Lee, Wallace will try to work on his power stroke in AAA. Koby Clemens will likely be moved to a utility role, splitting time DHing and spelling starters at 1B, LF, and 3B.
2B: Hernandez- assuming Barmes is re-signed in Houston, Anderson probably gets another year in AAA. He's a good insurance policy incase of injury or performance collapse on the part of Altuve, Barmes, Downs, Paredes, or Sanchez.
SS: Brandon Wikoff/Wladimir Sutil- I'm hoping Wikoff gets a shot to replace Angel Sanchez, but it's more likely he's destined to go to OKC next season. Sutil has been in AAA before and is a solid defensive SS, but he probably doesn't have a major league future. Jose Vallejo and Ozzie Navarro are options here as well.
3B: Chris Johnson- Paredes appears to have cemented himself as the 3B of the present and future, and Matt Downs has earned his big league roster spot. That leaves CJ waiting to get another chance. I think he could make a decent player for a team that doesn't ask a lot of it's 3B.
RF: Brandon Barnes/Drew Locke- Barnes is a plus athlete with the tools to make some noise. He got off to a really good start in AAA this year before falling apart. He could be a 20/20 guy if he puts it all together. Locke is a AAA+ guy at this point and I don't expect much from him. This assumes Bogusevic, Bourgeois, Shuck, Martinez, and Schafer are the OFers in Houston. I could see Jon Gaston getting the nod here too.
CF: Luis Durango- Still young enough to improve a bit, he's a great AAAA outfielder.
LF: Jake Goebbert/Collin DeLome- Goebbert is probably the highest upside "prospect" player on this list. Next year is big for him. DeLome is an older player who flashed some solid power and LF ability but probably was just a victim of bad luck and not being in the right place at the right time, not to mention his injury history affected his stock.
Rotation: Andy Van Hekken, Paul Clemens, Dallas Keuchel, Sergio Perez, Brett Oberholtzer. There's a lot to be decided here with the 4,5, and 6 slots yet to be determined in Houston. I've slotted the top 6 in Houston as Sosa, Norris, Harrell, Happ, Lyles, and Anuery, but if Myers and Wandy aren't traded, it's likely 2 of those players will be in AAA, leaving Perez and one other guy (Van Hekken or Obie) the odd men out to the bullpen or AA rotation. Either way, it's a pretty salty group.
Bullpen: Xavier Cedeno, Henry Villar, Fernando Abad, Sam Gervacio, Arcenio Leon, Blake King, Mickey Storey. Also a lot of ifs here. Among those who could populate this list instead are Wes Wright, Escalona, Juan Abreu, Enerio Del ROsario, Alberto Arias, Dan Meszaros, Erick Abreu, Hyphen, Ross Wolf, and Jose Valdez. No matter, the bullpen should be solid.
The team should be pretty good if the position players do what's expected of them. Having Wallace and CJ in the heart of the lineup complemented by Towles, Goebbbert, and Hernandez should be enough for an improved record.