CORPUS CHRISTI – Rhett Kouba, Ryan Gusto, and Joey Loperfido represent the Corpus Christi Hooks on the 2023 Texas League Postseason All-Star Team, as announced today by Minor League Baseball. Votes were cast by league managers, with final decisions determined by the Commissioner’s Office.
Kouba, the 24-year-old right-hander from El Reno, OK, is the fourth Corpus Christi Hook in 18 seasons to be named the Texas League’s top pitcher, joining David Martinez (2013), Matt Albers (2006), and Jason Hirsh (2005).
A 12th-round pick in 2021 out of Dallas Baptist, Kouba went 7-5 with a 3.27 ERA in 23 games (21 GS) for Corpus Christi before earning a late-August promotion to Triple-A Sugar Land. He struck out 118 batters against 23 walks, 95 hits and 12 home runs in 110.0 innings. Kouba exited the Texas League as the circuit leader in ERA and WHIP (1.07). He also ranked among TL standouts in strikeouts (3rd), batting average against (.231, 4th), IP (4th), and starts (21, 5th). Kouba, who pitched scoreless ball in each of his last two Hooks starts (9.0 combined IP), authored five of Corpus Christi’s 12 quality starts in 2023.
Prior to posting a 2.29 ERA in four August outings, Kouba won TL Pitcher of the Month acclaim for July, going 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA in five starts. He blanked Midland over personal best 7.0 innings for a victory July 22, becoming the second Hook to record 21 outs in a game this year. Kouba went 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five assignments Apr 20-May 16, striking out 33 without issuing a walk in 27.1 frames.
The valedictorian of his class at El Reno (OK) High School permitted one run or none in three of four April games for Astros MiLB Pitcher of the Month honors. Kouba struck out a personal best 10 batters while holding Midland to solo homer in six innings for first Double-A win Apr 27.
Despite joining the Hooks at the end of June, Gusto won a pair of Texas League Pitcher of the Week awards, in addition to being among the four starters recognized as a postseason all-star. Following 12 outings at High-A Asheville, Gusto went 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA in 14 games (eight starts) for Corpus Christi, striking out 62 against 25 walks while holding opponents to two home runs in 61.1 innings.
An 11th-round pick of the Astros in 2019, Gusto responded to a rocky Double-A debut by going 5-1 with 2.15 ERA & 0.95 WHIP in his remaining 13 Hooks assignments.
Gusto won three of his final five appearances, including Sep 8 when he held Wichita to one run while matching his pro best with 6.0 innings pitched. Two outings prior, the 24-year-old from Charlotte, NC struck out eight over 5.0 shutout innings at Frisco, dispatching 15 of 18 batters faced. Gusto, who permitted one run or none in seven of nine games Jul 4-Aug 16, breezed a career-best 11 batters through 5.1 hitless IP Aug 10 vs. Frisco. It marked his second TL Pitcher of the Week Award in a six-week span. The first nod came following his two appearances July 3-9, when Gusto retired 24 of 25 San Antonio Missions, striking out nine against only one single in 8.0 combined frames.
Loperfido batted .296 with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 19 home runs, 57 RBIs, 47 walks and 20 stolen bases (23 ATT) in 84 games for Corpus Christi. The offensive production came along with elite defense at all three outfield positions. Loperfido also played second base (21 GM) and first base (17 GM).
During his time in the Texas League – Apr 20 to Aug 12 – Loperfido ranked among the circuit leaders in home runs (3rd), total bases (172, 2nd), extra-base hits (40, 2nd), slugging (.548, 3rd), OPS (.940, 4th), hits (93, 6th), doubles (7th), batting average (8th), and runs scored (60, 9th).
A seventh-rounder from Duke in 2021, Loperfido owned four of the seven longest hitting streaks for the Hooks, with a pair of 10-gamers (May 17-27 & July 25-Aug 5) and two nine-gamers (Apr 20-May 2 & June 14-24). He boasted the fourth-longest Corpus Christi on-base streak, reaching safely in 18 consecutive contests May 13-Jun 3. Loperfido homered in three straight games twice for the Hooks, including Apr 21-25 when he racked up four home runs and eight RBIs as part of a torrid first week in the Texas League. He opened the year by batting .348 with 11 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs, 10 walks, and six steals in 16 April games for Astros Player of the Month recognition.
2023 TEXAS LEAGUE POSTSEASON ALL-STARS
Position | Name | Team | MLB Affiliate
First Base | Chandler Redmond | Springfield | St. Louis
Second Base | Thomas Saggese | Springfield | St. Louis
Shortstop | Jordan Lawlar | Amarillo | Arizona
Third Base | Yunior Severino | Wichita | Minnesota
Catcher | Pedro Pagés | Springfield | St. Louis
Outfield | Joey Loperfido | Corpus Christi | Houston
Outfield | Evan Carter | Frisco | Texas
Outfield | Caleb Roberts | Amarillo | Arizona
Designated Hitter | Ryan Bliss | Amarillo | Arizona*
Utility | Luisangel Acuña | Frisco | Texas**
Starting Pitcher | Emmet Sheehan | Tulsa | Los Angeles (NL)
Starting Pitcher | Pierson Ohl | Wichita | Minnesota
Starting Pitcher | Rhett Kouba | Corpus Christi | Houston
Starting Pitcher | Ryan Gusto | Corpus Christi | Houston
Reliever | Prelander Berroa | Arkansas | Seattle
Reliever | Antoine Kelly | Frisco | Texas
Manager of the Year | Mike Freeman | Arkansas | Seattle
Most Valuable Player | Thomas Saggese | Springfield | St. Louis
Pitcher of the Year | Rhett Kouba | Corpus Christi | Houston
Top MLB Prospect | Jordan Lawlar | Amarillo | Arizona
*- Bliss was traded from Arizona to Seattle on July 31. **- Acuna was traded to New York (NL) on July 30