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.