To celebrate 25 years of Triple-A baseball in New Orleans, we are taking a look back at the best players at each position over the last quarter-century. This week, we look at the top 10 players to roam the outfield.
Troy O'Leary was the first All-Star in franchise history, earning American Association honors in 1993 by batting .273 with seven home runs and 59 RBI. His 32 doubles ranked sixth in the league that season, when he also made his major league debut with the Brewers.
O'Leary spent half of the 1994 campaign in New Orleans and was even better, hitting .329 (third-best in the league among players with at least 200 plate appearance) in 63 games with 18 doubles, five triples, eight homers and 43 RBI to help the Zephyrs to their first postseason berth. He began a seven-year stint with the Boston Red Sox the following season, during which he collected double-digit home runs each year, peaking in 1999 with 28 homers and 103 RBI.
Richard Hidalgo was the Houston Astros' top prospect when they became the Zephyrs' parent club in 1997 and he did not disappoint, leading the Z's in hits (147), runs (74) and RBI (78). Playing at the Shrine before the fences were moved in, Hidalgo was limited to 11 home runs but piled up 37 doubles, still the third-best total in team history.
Also an excellent defender patrolling a spacious center field, Hidalgo recorded four seasons with at least 20 home runs and 80 RBI for Houston, and garnered MVP votes in 2000 when he finished with 44 homers and 122 RBI. He also led all National League outfielders in assists in 2003 and 2004.
No player in New Orleans history made a more immediate impact than Lance Berkman. Barely more than a year after being drafted in the first round, Berkman was promoted to Triple-A late in the 1998 season and crushed three home runs in his second game on August 22. His running, back-handed catch for the final out in the eighth inning to snuff out a Calgary rally preserved a one-run lead in the winner-takes-all fifth game of the PCL championship, and he punctuated an MVP performance in the Triple-A World Series - during which he batted .467 - by slugging three homers in the Game 4 clincher.
Berkman fine-tuned his skills during a 64-game stint with New Orleans in 1999, batting .323 with 20 doubles, before going on to be one of the most feared sluggers in the National League during the 2000s. He finished his career in 2013 with 366 home runs, six All-Star nods and six top 10 finishes in MVP voting.
Jason Lane was the offensive leader of the 2002 Zephyrs, pacing the club with 15 home runs. His 36 doubles led the Pacific Coast League at the time of his early-August promotion to the majors, and his 83 RBI - tied for the sixth-highest single-season total in club history - included a July 11 outburst where he knocked in seven runs on a grand slam and a three-run triple.
In his first year as a starter at the big league level in 2005, Lane helped propel the Astros to their first World Series with career highs in doubles (34), home runs (26) and RBI (78) and caught the pennant-clinching out in St. Louis. He was never able to replicate that season's success, returning to New Orleans to play in 47 games in 2010, his last year as an outfielder. Lane transitioned to pitcher in 2011, eventually getting back to the bigs with the San Diego Padres in 2014.
There was nothing flashy about Jesus Feliciano, but all he did was hit during his two seasons in New Orleans. Playing on teams littered with former big league stars such as Fernando Tatis and Sandy Alomar, Jr., the unassuming Feliciano amassed a .310 batting average. His versatility - comfortably being slotted anywhere in the lineup and mashing southpaws as a left-handed bat - made him a mainstay for manager Ken Oberkfell.
Despite racking up 157 hits to place second in the PCL in 2008, Feliciano did not reach the majors until 2010, when the New York Mets finally gave him the call in his 13th professional season.
The 2008 outfield also included the franchise's career home runs leader, Chris Aguila, who blasted 29 that year. Aguila stormed out of the gates with a .341 batting average in April, and snapped out of a May slump by going deep in four straight games from May 30-June 2, totaling six home runs in all. He ended the year in style, hitting two home runs in the season finale, including the walk-off two-run shot in the 11th inning.
Aguila returned to New Orleans at the tail end of 2010, then added 22 home runs to his total in 2011 and six more in 2012, surpassing J.R. Phillips for the title with a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning on July 26 against Omaha.
Cameron Maybin spent the equivalent of one season in New Orleans, playing in 115 games spanning the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, and compiled a .325 batting average to rank third on the club's career chart. After struggling in his audition to be the Marlins' starting center fielder in '09, Maybin caught fire with the Zephyrs in June by hitting .382, third-best in the league. He finished with eight triples, tied with Adam Everett and Henri Stanley for the most in a season in team history.
Maybin again joined New Orleans at midseason the following year and was arguably even better, hitting .338 in 33 contests, before establishing himself as an everyday major leaguer in 2011 with San Diego. Maybin won a World Series ring with the Astros last October, then returned to the Marlins this spring.
The only player to go from New Orleans to wining one of the MLB postseason awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year), Chris Coghlan was actually a second baseman when he hit .344 through the first month of the 2009 season with the Zephyrs, then batted .321 with 31 doubles, six triples, nine homers and 47 RBI with the Marlins to be named the National League's top rookie.
By the time Coghlan came back to New Orleans in 2011, after suffering a serious knee injury, he had converted to the outfield but retained his superior batting eye. In 127 games with the Zephyrs, he drew more walk (62) than strikeouts (59) and added 23 stolen bases to his ledger. Coghlan has spent parts of nine years in the majors, and netted a World Series ring with the Cubs in 2016.
The career hit king in New Orleans, Bryan Petersen piled up 386 knocks over parts of four seasons from 2010-13. Originally part of a young core which included Logan Morrison and Scott Cousins, Petersen established himself as a PCL All-Star in 2011 when he batted .351 with 21 doubles and 11 home runs in 67 games.
Petersen came back in 2012 to hit .321 across 64 contests, then spent all of 2013 in New Orleans and added 33 doubles, tied for eighth-most in team history. Among franchise leaders, he ranks first in hits, doubles (75) and walks (155), and second in runs scored (200).
Once committed to play football for Nick Saban at Alabama, Destin Hood signed with the Marlins in 2016 after eight years in the minors with the Nationals and blossomed into a PCL All-Star after hitting .267 with 29 doubles, three triples, 15 home runs and 80 RBI. Hood drilled a grand slam in his first at-bat of the season in Omaha and never slowed down, becoming the team's first position player in six years to be named to the Triple-A All-Star Game.
After finally reaching the majors in September, Hood opened 2017 back in New Orleans and crushed 10 home runs in May, shortly before having his season cut short due to a wrist injury.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.