Texas League Week in Review: First-Half Recap

[Photo Credit: Sam Hodde]

Texas League North (Affiliate, First-Half Record)

Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals), 41-29; North Division First-Half Winner

Tulsa Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers), 37-32

Arkansas Travelers (Los Angeles Angels), 32-38

Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals), 29-41

Texas League South (Affiliate, First-Half Record)

Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros), 47-23; South Division First-Half Winner

Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers), 38-31

Midland RockHounds (Oakland A’s), 33-37

San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres), 22-48

Leading Off, Corpus Christi Hooks

The first-half winners of the South Division in the Texas League are the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Houston Astros affiliate won 18 of 21 games to hold of the Frisco RoughRiders and secure a spot in the 2016 Texas League playoffs. The Hooks pitching staff compiled a sparkling 2.95 team ERA in the first half of the season. Only Northwest Arkansas (595) came close to their league-leading 613 strikeouts.

2015’s 2nd overall pick and MLB.Com’s 18th ranked prospect, shortstop and sometimes second and third baseman Alex Bregman played just 66 games in A-ball before debuting 2016 in Corpus. Double-A pitching has not slowed down the former LSU Tiger as Bregman hit .304 with 14 doubles, 14 home runs, collected 44 RBI, walked 34 times to just 23 strikeouts. Third Baseman J.D. Davis was the Texas League player of the Month for June, when he hit .306 with nine home runs and almost had as many RBIs (25) as he did strikeouts (26).

As if they needed another league leader, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez stole 29 bags, 12 more than the next closest player, his teammate Derek Fisher. Fisher led the league with 55 walks. Hernandez and Bregman tied for the league lead in runs scored with 51. Bregman and Fisher had OBP’s over .400 (.408 and .403 respectively).

6’7″ pitcher David Paulino was excellent in the first half, posting a 1.86 ERA, striking out 66 batters and was the only qualifying Texas League pitcher with a sub-1 WHIP of 0.93. TeammateKeegan Yuhl‘s 1.02 WHIP was second lowest and Yuhl also went 7-1 in the first half. Brendan McCurry led the Texas League in saves with 13.

 

Photo Credit: Sam Hodde

Batting Second, Springfield Cardinals

We go North to find the Springfield Cardinals as champions of that part of the Texas League. It came down to the wire between the Cards and the Tulsa Drillers. Springfield won 10 of their final 11 games in the first half to fend off the Drillers and their stud rotation.

The Cardinals weren’t dominant on the stat sheet for a Division winner but avoided falling down the line with a team average of .258, ranking third in the Texas League and a club ERA 3.64 coming in fourth. They weren’t at the top but were in the top half in almost every category, balancing out a first half that resulted in a division win by 3.5 games.

The St. Louis Cardinals have always had well regarded prospects, but it’s a deep system that they were known for and take pride in. Rated 10th in the organization by MLB.Com, outfielderHarrison Bader — who turned 22 on June 3rd and homered to lead off that game — led all of the Texas League in the first half in hitting.

He racked up a .303 average with a .370 batting average on balls in play. He hit 13 home runs, stole seven bases and was also hit eight times, attributing to a .368 OBP.

Pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon was tied for second in the Texas League with 72 strikeouts and had a sub-three ERA of 2.97.

In the Hole, Frisco RoughRiders

Things were looking rosy for the RoughRiders early on. They won their first five games of the year, eight of their first 10 and 22 of their first 30. Unfortunately, they got cold at the end of May heading into June and Corpus went red hot.

Despite falling from first, the RoughRiders have their sights set on the postseason in the second half and will be lead by Ryan Cordell. The versatile Cordell hit .292 in the first half with a .893 OPS. He had a league best 17-game hit streak and 37-game on base streak. He tied for the lead in RBI with 51, tied for second in home runs with 14 and also stole seven bases, earning Player of the Month honors in April. Cordell also led the league in total bases with 146. He certainly had a breakout first half.

Now a full time member of the rotation, Connor Sadzeck broke out as well. He finished the first half with a 3.18 ERA and finished third in the league with 71 strikeouts. Teammate Victor Payano tied for second with 72.

Batting Cleanup, Tulsa Drillers

Whereas Corpus Christi ran away with the South, Tulsa hung around until the final days before being eliminated by the Cards. Tulsa’s pitching has been dominant all year. The team’s staff had a flat ERA of 3.00 and three of their starters were top six in the Texas League in ERA. Trevor Oaks (2.14), Chase De Jong (2.64) and Scott Barlow (2.94) all pitched well for Tulsa, combining for 18 of the Drillers’ 37 wins.

Power from the second base spot isn’t common, but Willie Calhoun blasted 14 home runs for Tulsa. He tied for the league league with 71 games played, proving both durable and reliable. Calhoun also tied for the league lead with 51 RBI.

 

Photo Credit: Tony Capobianco

Hitting 5th, Midland RockHounds

The A’s affiliate had a better first half than their MLB counterpart had a first quarter of the season, but the RockHounds would not be satisfied finishing below .500. There were several bright spots, though. The Hounds led the Texas League in team hitting with 637 hits, and it was certainly a team effort. Without a player in the top 14 in the league, they still managed to come out on top.

Viosergy Rosa knocked 66 hits (and a .402 OBP), the team’s top prospect Franklin Barretohad 63, third ranked prospect Matt Chapman had 60 and then aptly-named J.P. Sportman had 59 hits to round out the near-60 club. No other team had four players with 59 hits or more.

On the hill the team left a lot to be desired, giving up a league-high 73 home runs.

Due Up 6th, Arkansas Travelers

The Angels affiliate was a veteran squad for Double-A and played competitive baseball all the way through. They won four straight to wrap up their first half season of play.

The Travelers bullpen was among the best in the league with 31 holds, the most of any club.Tyler DeLoach was tied for the league lead with five, Geoff Broussard and Jose Molina had four each. Starting pitcher Jordan Kipper tied for second in the league with 79.1 IP. The TCU ex registered a complete game shutout on May 17th vs. Northwest Arkansas with eight strikeouts. Arkansas first baseman Eric Aguilera led the league in at bats with 276. Only one player in the Texas League was halfway to 10 in triples and it was Travelers corner infielder and outfielder Cal Towey, who also had a stellar .401 OBP.

7th, Northwest Arkansas Naturals

They say speed kills, and while Northwest Arkansas didn’t have the first half they would have liked, they ran and they ran so far away. With 82 stolen bases, the Naturals were 19 above second place. Simply put, they were stealing a ton of bases and a ton more than any of their Texas League mates. Impressively, they were only caught 29 times, finishing in the bottom half of the league in that category.

Terrance Gore stole 15 bags, Orlando Calixte stole 14 and Raul Mondesi stole 11 in just 25 games. Bubba Starling and Ramon Torres each had nine.

Jake Junis topped the leaderboard in K’s with 82 of them in the first half of the season, finishing double digits above the next competition. Yender Caramo pitched 46 innings of relief for NWA, the most innings totaled for a non-starter in the Texas League.

And 8th, San Antonio Missions

The beautiful thing about the Texas League season format is you can lose every single game in the first half and still be a playoff team. It certainly wasn’t that extreme for the San Antonio Missions, but they’re certainly looking ahead and not at what has been. Outfielder Nick Torreshas gone from fringe prospect to well known name so far this year. Torres — who will turn 23 on June 30– was the hit leader in the first half of the Texas league with 82. Along with five home runs and two triples he also led the whole league with 21 doubles.

The Missions will look to get more innings out of their developing pitching staff in the second half. They gave up a whopping 660 hits — 44 more than any other team — as well as a league worst 347 runs. The back end won’t be a problem for San Antone. Jason Jester amassed nine saves and a minuscule ERA of 1.73 in 26 innings. The Missions just need to get to him in the 9th inning.

Next Week: June 23-29

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