2015 Sleepers and Breakouts Revisited; Part One

Time to begin finishing and posting some of the many draft articles I have started.  I decided to begin with a look at our preseason predictions for breakout and sleeper prospects during the 2015 season.

Back in February, I checked our archives to come up with a working definition for both terms.  The article containing the process and definitions is here if you are interested.  As a refresher, the definitions were –

A sleeper prospect is a player from outside the top 15-20 (we are deeper this year, after all) who you expect to have a bigger year than we should expect for a player at his level, both in the organization and as a prospect.

A break out prospect is a player who is expected to perform well but who does so with a much better year than anticipated and comes from the upper tier of prospects, say from within the top 15-20.

These definitions were only guidelines and were not intended to be hard and fast rules.

I collected and published our predictions in an April article.  You can find it here if interested.

In a marked contrast with the Reader Top 30, there was very little consensus on our predictions.  Among the 25 responses I received before I wrote the article, you suggested 21 different players as breakout candidates ans 20 different players as sleeper candidates. Only one player was picked as many as 4 times to put up a break out season. Six others were picked twice.  Two players were picked 3 times and another 2 were picked twice as sleepers.

I’ll start with the sleepers.  The two top selections were non-factors.  Samuel Hiciano suffered a season ending injury during spring training.  He broke his ankle sliding into second and spent the entire summer in rehab.  I saw him walking gingerly around the Complex with Carlos Alonso as they both tried to bounce back.  early in the season.  and Chris Oliver posted a 4-5, 4.04 with Lakewood before he and Josh Taylor were traded to Arizona for their #1 International Pool slot to obtain the money to sign Jhailyn Ortiz without going over their allotment.  Ultimately, he may turn out to have provided the most benefit to the organization this season.

Tommy Joseph and Brandon Leibrandt were each selected twice, and had disappointing outcomes to their seasons.  Joseph went down with another concussion early in Lehigh Valley’s season and never really recovered.  He was hitting .123/.135/.178 (9 for 73) when he went down.  His days as a catcher are over.  He returned to LHV as a first baseman in August and posted .247/.272/.397 in 93 at bats.  Hard to blame his poor season on just his injuries.

Brandon Leibrandt pitched very well early in the season.  After a couple of rough, mid-season starts, he went onto the DL for a month.  Leibrandt came back and appeared to have returned to form, but was shut down again after his August 2nd start.  For the season, he posted a 7-3 record and a 3.11 ERA.  He’s a crafty lefty with an excellent pickoff move.  The infusion of new harder throwing pitchers will likely push him down the prospect polls.

Other suggested sleepers were –

Lewis Alezones struggled at Williamsport before demotion to GCL.

Drew Anderson spent the 2015 season on the DL.

Carlos Duran put up a .247/.303/.340 slash as Williamsport’s 5th outfielder.

Luis Encarnacion – the 17-year old put up a .271/.313/.370 slash and a .977 Fld% at first base.  He looked much improved at the plate, but his glove has lots of room for improvement.

Jan Hernandez started quickly and topped out with a .326/.354/.587 slash in early July (after 11 games). Two months later he finished the season with a .211/.258/.413 and 10 HR.

Rhys Hoskins split time between Lakewood and Clearwater.  His slash for the season of .319/.395/.518 pretty much mirrored his lines at both levels.  His 17 combined HRs led all our affiliates.  In spite of his solid numbers, Hoskins doesn’t garner as much attention in prospect rankings as some people think he should.

Colin Kleven began the season in Clearwater and continued to pitch well.  He posted a 5-3 record with a 2.89 ERA, starting and winning the first-half clinching victory over Daytona in the FSL.  He withdrew from a Canadian National Team commitment to accept a promotion to Reading.  Unfortunately, his season came to an end after his July 23rd start and he elected free agency after the world series.

Sam McWilliams started 7 games before he was shut down in August as a precautionary move due to a twinge in his arm and missed 3-4 starts.  He showed solid improvement across the board, 1.4 BB9 and 4.2 SO/W.

Hoby Milner began the season on the DL and returned in May to put up non-descript numbers in his first season as a reliever in Reading

Adam Morgan didn’t look particularly good in 13 starts at Lehigh Valley (0-6, 4.74), but when the Phillies had a need for a starter, Morgan got the call.  He took advantage of the opportunity and posted a remarkable 5-7, 4.48 in Philadelphia.  although his HR9 went from 0.9 to 1.5, he cut his BB9 in half from 3.8 to 1.9.  And, he placed himself in the discussion for a slot in the Phillies’ 2016 rotation.

Colton Murray pitched well enough at Reading to earn a promotion to Lehigh Valley and ultimately a call up to the Phillies.  He was consistent in the minors, posting a 2.52 ERA in Reading and a 2.79 in LHV.  He spiked up to a 5.87 ERA in 8 appearances with the Phillies, but his peripherals were in line with what he had shown in the minors.  The big difference was a couple oh HR balls that drove his HR9 from a combined 0.3 in the minors to 2.3 in the majors.

Ricardo Pinto started out strong in Lakewood and was rewarded with a promotion to Clearwater when injuries hit the staff.  He responded with even better numbers across the board except for a drop in his SO9 from 8.1 to 5.2 in the FSL.  Pinto caught some people unawares.  While he showed up on some early 2015 rankings (Law #9, FanGraphs #14, PMT #20, PP #25), he was left off others (BA, BP, Sickels).  After the season, he was recognized by people who follow the organization in Readings post-season poll, coming in at #9.  And this was after all the new prospects the Phillies had added through the draft and via trade.

Jose Pujols carried a .280/.352/.378 through the end of July.  Five weeks later he finished the season with a .238/.311/.359 and 4 HR.  Still teasing observers with his power projectability.

Cord Sandberg competed his first year of full season ball.  He recovered from a horrid April and May to post some seriously good numbers in June and July.  His slash of .255/.303/.345 for the season was an improvement over his short season numbers the year before except for his SLG which remained the same.  Posted 13 outfield assists.

Jiandido Tromp played full season ball at Lakewood.  His .216/268/.354 and 9 HR is probably a disappointment after the success he had at Williamsport in 2014.

Tyler Viza showed moderate improvement over his 2014 season with a 5-10 record and 3.38 ERA.  He nudged most of his metrics in a positive direction.

David Whitehead made the jump from Williamsport to Clearwater.  Most of his peripherals took a turn for the worse, most notably a rise from a 1.0 BB9 in 2014 to 3.4 in 2015.  He did post a 9-11 record in 25 starts with a 4.44 ERA.

There are a few good candidates above for sleeper of the year.  Personally, Pinto didn’t surprise me.  I had seen him and talked with people down here and we all thought highly of him.  The performances that caught me off guard were Murray’s ascendance to the majors and Morgan’s performance when he was promoted.  Any of these or few of the others above would be a good candidate for sleeper of the year.

Oh, I guess full disclosure requires that I reveal that my sleeper pick was Chase Harris.  I selected him based on a 7-day period in spring training where he hit, ran, and fielded spectacularly.  A few weeks into the Threshers’ season, it dawned on me that a player can’t be a sleeper if he doesn’t start.  Duh.  An injury to Aaron Brown. got Harris some early exposure, but he was the fourth outfielder on a team that would welcome Carlos Tocci in June and was sent to Lakewood where he didn’t perform as well as he did at Clearwater.

This has run kind of long, so I’ll do the break out performances in a day or two.


52 thoughts on “2015 Sleepers and Breakouts Revisited; Part One

  1. I was president of the Brandon Leibrandt bandwagon. And I’m still bullish on him. He started the season el fuego then the injury bug caught him, unfortunately. (Maybe good for the board, because had he continues his outstanding play, I would have become that annoying guy, “See, I told you! I told you so!”)

    He doesn’t have great stuff, but he knows how to pitch. And because his success is determined more from being a technician rather than a pure thrower, hopefully the injury won’t have a devastating impact on his career.

    That said, as much as I still like him, I think he’d have trouble breaking into our Top 25. More of reflection of our newfound depth than anything he has done. But I’d still have him in the 25-35 range.

    Am curious to see where he’ll start next season. I’d really like to see how he fares at Reading. He’ll be 23 next season, with 100 innings of High A ball under his belt. I say push him up.

    1. I really liked Brandon Leibrandt too – but the problem is that his injuries may have further decreased his velocity and, frankly, I don’t think he has/had much velocity to begin with. If he’s healthy and he can throw as hard as he once did (sitting around 90 and touching the low 90s when needed), he could end up surprising us – probably not right away, but perhaps in a couple of years if he continues to make progress. But if his FB is sitting like 86-89, it’s going to be very hard for him to make the majors unless he somehow turns into another Jamie Moyer or Mark Buehrle – but those guys are extremely rare.

      On Hoskins, again, I don’t think people full appreciate how good his season really was because the leagues and parks he played in seriously depress hitting statistics. To give you an idea of just how well he did, the highest qualifying OPS among FSL batters was .792. Hoskins’ OPS in the FSL was .904!! And he had a half season of at bats, so I think it’s fair to say that this was not a SSS issue. If he played in the California League, his statistics would have been gaudy and people would be raving about him.

      I expect Hoskins to kind of go nuts this year in Reading; I doubt he’ll still be in the league by mid July. The real test will be when he has to face good breaking pitches in AAA – if he can rake against AAA pitching in that tough hitting league and ballpark, we’ll know we have a real prospect on our hands. But don’t be surprised if Hoskins takes over as the Phillies’ first baseman sometime in 2017 – it’s more than possible.

    2. fritz…..Brandon Leibrandt still could be the guy who mayl have a long MLB career…not so much as the superstar ace pitcher but someone like a soft tossing LHP like a Jamie Moyer, Mark Buehrle (his last ten years vs his first 4/5 years), type pitcher. I guess a back of the end rotation lefty that can come in handy with effective command and control.

    3. I show Liebrandt as my 6th starter in Reading (Lively, Piveta, Pinto, Imhof, Richy) but things could certainly still move in different directions.

      1. I was wondering about the Imhof vs. Pinto vs. Liebrandt placement as well.

        Imhof and Pinto are both younger than Liebrandt, by a year; and have each logged around 75 innings in High A, whereas Liebrandt has 100.

        I can see it going any way, really.

        1. If certain guys get shut down bc of innings and or bc they are coming back from injury (which would be the case for 2 of these guys right? Imhof and Piveta) why not go with a 6 man rotation? Easier on the guys coming back from injury and also limits innings to a degree. I realize it’s usually at the lower levels that innings are limited but it also happens as high as the MLB level (Nola). I’ve always been a fan of 6 man rotation (if you have the arms to do it) at the minor league level.

          1. I like what the Houston org is experimenting with, at least at the lower levels: having ten “starters.” Starter goes 4 innings, then “2nd starter” goes 4 innings. Let’s them evaluate more pitchers, keeps pitch counts down, etc.

      2. “A good sleeper would be someone like Tyler Viza . . . I’m going with Viza and Hiciano for the sleepers. And Biddle and Sandberg as the breakout guys”

        Guess I swung and missed on my sleepers although Viza wasn’t terrible. Sandberg’s second half was very much so a break out. I def hit on Biddle because he Broke and may soon be Out of the org.

  2. I chose Morgan although I didn’t put in an official vote. I liked how he finished the year. He definitely took his game to a new level after call up. I hope he’s working hard during the off season to improve or at least strengthen himself.

  3. I’m fairly certain that Cozens was my breakout but I’m not 100% certain who I chose as my sleeper. I think it was Pinto. I don’t think he was a consensus Top 15 at this point last year. I’m sure I could find the original poll if I put in some effort, but that sounds like work, and I’m off today as we celebrate our Veterans.

    While Pinto was certainly a good selection as last year’s sleeper, the prize goes to those who selected Hoskins. I remember seeing Hoskins’s name as someone’s sleeper pick but I cannot recall the name of the poster (again, if not for lack of motivation I would go find the original poll). Great choice in Hoskins

    1. I thought Jimmy’s original post summed it up pretty well: “In spite of his solid numbers, Hoskins doesn’t garner as much attention in prospect rankings as some people think he should.”

      I’m not going to pretend that I know why people much smarter than me figure that his success won’t translate into big league success, but that does seem to be the consensus, unfortunately.

      1. I just posted on this above. Perhaps there is some flaw in Hoskins’ game, but that flaw is definitely not apparent from the statistics, which show him to be a very fine hitter with strong contact skills, more than moderate power and plate discipline. Now, again, there may be weaknesses in his game that will show up at higher levels. For example, he may be one of these hitters who knows how to identify breaking pitches and simply won’t swing at a breaking ball (that was Cam Perkins’ issue a couple of years ago – he basically admitted that the ONLY pitch he would look to hit was a fastball and, of course, when he made it to AAA, he fell flat on his face). He may also have the type of swing that simply doesn’t translate at a higher level (it’s unusual but it does happen). By the way, like clockwork, Hoskins is posting a .933 OPS in the Australian league – it’s not AAA, but he certainly is consistent.

        1. His “Flaw” is that he is a R/R Collegiate Firstbaseman. Prospect evaluators seem to hate them. They have a very high bar to cross like hitting .330/.400/.530.

          1. Agree about the strong negative bias by evaluators, but if you adjust for league factors, Hoskins is still right there on that curve.

        2. J64, Hoskins posted virtually identical numbers at Lakewood and Clearwater. In about the same PA and AB at each level. I would expect, and normally see, some drop off in productivity when a player moves from one level to the next. I remember being excited that Crawford suffered only about a 20 point drop when he moved up from Lakewood (from .29x yo .27x, I think). As you point out, Hoskins is just consistent. He may have to put up another .310/.390/.500 at Reading to get noticed.

      2. fritz……BA guys already have mentioned quite often…righties (RHBs) have to have both plus hit AND power tools at first base to ‘even sniff the majors’. They were off on Paul Goldschimdt of the D-Backs in their assessment a few years ago, but for the most part on the average they hit it right. Hoskins, compared to Ruf is ahead of the game. Three years vs four years of college….and k rate and BB rate better…younger by a year, and every level outperformance.
        Reading should be fun to watch him barring injuries. He is one of the leaders in the poor pitching ABL in a lot of power categories early on.

      1. That’s two very good choices. Nice! Hoskins and Pinto will make Reading a nice destination next season, although with Quinn and JP to start.

  4. My breakout is romus. I think his post will get better. I think the guy I like to breakout is viza. he has taken a beating, yet they continue to start him. There has to be something there that they like. I know he is mentally tough.

    1. rocco……where you been?….scouting Lucas Williams, ha…you do know he and Jan Hernandez are now, one, two respectively, the leading third baseman in the Phillies farm system since Maikel Franco has graduated and Zach Green is trying to come back form setbacks.
      BTW….I like the Viza pick, but thought you would go with Nick Fanti as your breakout pitcher!
      You seem to have a legitimate bromance with him. 🙂

  5. Here were my picks from last year – I was 4 for 6 (Morgan ended up in the major league rotation and held his own, so I think that qualifies as a “hit” although he was awful in AAA). Hoskins and Knapp were among the picks.

    From early April:

    “My picks are (I have a few): Biddle, Knapp, Joseph, Quinn, Morgan and Hoskins.”

    1. to be fair, all of those dudes have been in our top 20 for a while besides Hoskins i dont think any of them qualify as sleepers

  6. As many of you know, I spoke of Hoskins early and often while questioning why he wasn’t moved up to CLW sooner and shifting the 1st basemen in the org up a level to see what they could do. Can’t hack it then get out was the motto to be blunt. You all may recall my disdain for Chris “The Irish Stout” McGuinness as equally high as my lauding of Rhys Hoskins.

  7. I think I had Hoskins for 1 (Sleeper or Breakout) and Hoskins for the other. I think Hoskins could fit pretty well in either and Leibrandt was not bad as a sleeper. As mentioned above, Pinto for breakout was good but he was not much of a sleeper since most had him in their top 20’s or 30’s.

  8. I THINK the breakout player will be Scott Kingery. The Phillies seem to have a knack for finding advanced college bats that blossom their 2nd year in the system.
    I HOPE the breakout player is Alberto Tirado. If he could figure out how to control his wicked stuff, for 7 innings, they’d have their #2.

    My sleeper bat is Lucas Williams. My sleeper arm is Sam McWilliams. I think they’ll be big topics of conversation next year, along with Arauz.

  9. I seem to recall I picked Chris Oliver for sleeper and Nefi Ogando for breakout. That was pretty horribly wrong on my part. I’ve posted very little on this site of late in part because there’s an increasingly large sample size of statistics to suggest I have very little idea what I am talking about when it comes to prospects. Still enjoy reading it though!

    1. i don’t have a chance to pick last year, but i’m always high on Edubray Ramos (so he’s my sleeper) and i thought this will be Biddle’s (my breakout) year.

      For next year, Jairo Munoz will be my Edubray Ramos and Sam McWilliams will show a #2/#3 potential. My breakout prospect will be Zach Eflin which I can see improving his Ks rate and will finish in Top 3 ERA in the farm.

      As for batters, Hoskins will continue his sleeper to breakout prospect while Josh Tobias and Austin Bossart will continue to hit they way up CW without much attention.

      1. I was so impressed with Ramos this year, I really look forward to seeing what he can do for the Phillies. Bossart seems like a good pick but there’s so many it’s hard to choose, perhaps I would go with Tyler Gilbert and Herlis Rodriguez. Then there’s the injured prospects that missed most of the year, you never know how they are going to do upon return. I had high hopes for Zach Green, was looking forward to seeing more of Samuel Hiciano.

        I liked what I saw from Kyle Martin and Brendon Hayden, interested to see how they do next year. Lucas Williams is another I’m interested in seeing how he does. Would be great if Jan Hernandez could break out. Juan Luis is another that I haven’t seen that I hope to next year since I’ve heard good things about him, same for his teammate Jesus Alastre. Jesmuel Valentin I don’t know much about as I’ve never seen him play but we badly need a 2B prospect to breakout, he’s one I hope to finally get to see play next year.

        I don’t know where Andrew Pullin ranks but assuming he’s in Reading next year I hope to see him breakout. Greg Pickett since I seem to recall some buzz at the draft, I am looking forward to seeing how he does now that he’s healthy and knows what to expect.

        The pitchers though are hopefully where we see some guys breakout. As much as I like Ramos, another guy that impressed in a short time was Jimmy Cordero. I’m very interested to see how it goes with Alexis Rivero and Alberto Tirado if they are moved to SP’s. I also liked what I saw from Manny Martinez and one guy I’m interested to see how he does is Elniery Garcia. So many other interesting names from the GCL and Crosscutters that I will be looking forward to seeing how they do next year.

    1. Correct…….you can check your predictions from this past season from 9 months ago.
      Posters were trying to recall who they had previously selected for the 2015 season.
      The 2016 season predictions are starting earlier then this past season’s predictions.

  10. Trying to pick next years sleeper and breakout guy should be as easy as using a dart board. As the system improves in quality and quantity, there are a lot of guys that could be chosen. Based on Winter League numbers, there aren’t a lot of guys who would be part of that list. Arano has had impressive numbers and this could be his year. Sandberg, on the offensive side, has been very good but it is the ABL. Might as well be college ball. A guy, that every other week I change my mind on is Quinn. His K rate is alarming. The fact that he has zero doubles in 72 ABs is very weird. He has more triples (2) and HRs (2). I know that he’s working his way back into shape but in his last 10 games he’s been hitting .175 with 13 Ks. That’s not enticing to me.

    I know this post is about last year’s sleepers and breakouts but there are only so many times you can write, “I got it right.” or “Wow, was I wrong.” So don’t slam me for that.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong but guys in the Dominican r older major league guys and to my survey Quinn is the youngest there I think he is doing good with the kind of pitching that he is facing!

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