This one will be a whole lot more fun to write than Lancaster. Let's just start with the fact that nine players (including all 5 starting pitchers) on the Corpus Christi opening day roster made an appearance on Baseball America's top 31 list in the 2012 prospect handbook. Two other players who were not included on that list were on the most recent Top 20 prospect list from Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com. Can we just stop there and imagine the possibilities? No? OK, just be that way.
Let's start with the pitching, shall we? If you based a 2012 projection strictly on what these pitchers, as a group, did in 2011, they would win 8 additional games but do so with a higher cumulative ERA and WHIP. I actually think that 8 additional wins for this staff may be low.
I've already projected an improved season for Seaton due to his second half improvements last season and the fact that, at 21, he was young for the League. I think Oberholtzer will also benefit from a second year at AA. Cosart only got a taste of AA last season, but he's the least of my worries (I think he may start a little slow but end strong). Buchanan and Cisnero (winners of 2011 Survivor: Lancaster edition) should benefit from the more forgiving Corpus Christi confines. And as most of the 2012 relief staff spent large chunks of 2011 at AA, there is definite potential for improvement among those ranks as well.
The offense has a couple of question marks, but let's start with the positives. If you based the 2012 offensive projections on what this group of players did in 2011, the 2012 staff would be an upgrade across the board. Chris Wallace should benefit from more time facing AA pitching. Kody Hinze and Adam Bailey already showed they were up to the task in call-ups last season. I expect Singleton and Wates to make a smooth transition to AA. The questions? Can Thompson and Simunic succeed at AA or were their numbers inflated by the Lancaster effect? Also, will T.J. Steele be taking AB's away from Barnes, Bailey and Wates? Entering his third season at AA, Steele has yet to show that he can succeed there.
The Hooks finished with 50 wins and 90 losses in 2011. That will not happen again in 2012, but I've still got to take into consideration that the Texas League is a tough league in order to rein in my expectations. I'm hedging my bets by making two predictions. My head tells me that they will end the season 65-75, but my heart tells me 75-65. Just knowing some of the individuals on this team makes me think that they will outperform everyone's expectations, except their own. Adam Bailey told me that they would finish 98-42, and while I appreciate his exuberance, I do think that may be a tad on the high side but at least it makes my prediction look a little more reasonable.