Double A is the crucible for many minor league players. Many of the best prospects in baseball spend a significant amount of time at AA ball, then after a brief stint at triple A, find themselves in the Major Leagues. Compare this to Triple A where many of the players have actually seen MLB action, but washed out and found themselves in the purgatory between the highest level of the minor leagues and the majors. You'll find more polished competition at the next level, but Double A may well be the level with the most raw talent.
The competition level is a significant step up from any lower level in the minors, so many prospects flame out at Double A. It's a great test for whether a young player has a big league future. Does he produce at this level? If he's prospect age and he does, he has a good chance of seeing at least some time in the big leagues.
Double A Corpus Christi had a poorer season than I anticipated at the beginning of the year. This was primarily due to a horrific losing streak stretching from the end of June through the beginning of July. They actually had a winning record in the first half, but due to that losing streak, went 27-43 in the second half of the season.
The Astros recently extended their player development contract with Corpus Christi, and will be sending minor league players to its South Texas crucible for years to come.
Koby Clemens, first base. Clemens played solid defense at the other hot corner, coming close to Hunter Pence's Hooks home run record with 26 long balls. He batted .246/.350/.476 in his time with Corpus Christi, displaying prodigious power but striking out far too much to post a solid batting average.
Team Cy Young
Jordan Lyles, right-handed pitcher. This award could just as easily have gone to Douglas Arguello, who posted a 2.55 earned run average with 100 strikeouts and 47 walks in the same number of innings as Lyles. But I chose Lyles for his better strikeout-to-walk ratio--115 to 35--as well as his relative youth and lack of experience, which made his 3.12 ERA more impressive to me than Arguello's lower mark. You could go either way, though, depending on which statistical categories or qualifiers you value higher.
Players To Watch
Clemens and Lyles will both be players to watch next season, as will Arguello. Other interesting solidly-performing Hooks include left-handed pitchers Fernando Abad (now with the major league club) and Dallas Keuchel. Outfielder Jack Shuck performed well throughout the year, earning a late promotion to Triple A Round Rock. Left fielder J.D. Martinez and catcher Ben Heath joined the team in the second half of the season and posted good numbers in their brief time with the club. All of these will be players to follow next season.
Players Who Disappointed
Perhaps the most disappointing prospect performance of any Astros minor league player was that of T.J. Steele, who played 67 games before getting injured--again. He batted just .228/.259/.315 in that time, and his prospect stock has plummeted as a result. Another former Lancaster Jethawk who came into the season with high expectations was Jon Gaston. His performance was not as disappointing as Steele's, since he stayed healthy and performed well in the second half of the year, but his overall .245/.320/.399 batting line was not good for a corner outfielder. Disappointing pitchers included power relief arms Chia-Jen Lo and Matt Nevarez, who both struggled with control, and in Lo's case, injury.
Best Outlook for 2011
The organization's top prospect, Jordan Lyles will be expected to have a fantastic year in 2011. His sparkling command could get him to the majors at some point next season.