This is the second in a series of articles reviewing our sleeper and breakout predictions before the 2015 season started. Earlier, I covered last season’s sleeper predictions. Today, I’ll go over the break out picks.
Four people thought that Dylan Cozens would have a break out year. He put together a real nice season in Clearwater, posting .282/.335/.411 slash, which was an improvement over his 2014 Lakewood campaign. The only concern was the lack of HR power as he only hit 5 long balls in Clearwater. Cozens suffered a leg injury in June and missed the Threshers’ division-clinching series where they came from 3 games back to win the first half. He returned a month later and raised his slash steadily until he was promoted to Reading when Nick Williams went down with a concussion. Cozens took Reading by storm and posted a .350/.386/.625 slash with 3 HR in 11 games and 40 AB. He had 5 OF assists in Clearwater (Andrew Pullin led the team with 10). He led the Threshers with 18 SB in 23 attempts.
The following 6 players were picked by two readers to breakout –
- Aaron Brown posted a .257/.324/.406 slash in Clearwater, not nearly as good as his SSS in Lakewood at the tail end of the 2014 season. But he did place second on the Threshers with 11 HR (behind Andrew Pullin’s 14). And he did show steady improvement at the plate over the last 3-4 weeks of the season. His development suffered a couple hiccups when he visited the DL on 2 occasions. He’s an ultra aggressive fielder and both DL trips took place after defensive plays. He was responsible for a couple web gems early in the season. He got 52 of his 102 starts in CF, 42 in RF where he recorded all 6 of his outfield assists. Carlos Tocci is everybody’s sexy pick for CF, but I think Brown is just as capable there. His closing speed in the OF didn’t translate to the base paths where he was 10 for 18.
- Odubel Herrera doesn’t really qualify as a breakout performer. He wasn’t really a prospect since he was never not on the major league roster. However, he played so well at the major league level that the team never had to approach the Rangers to negotiate a deal that would allow them to send him to AAA to play everyday. He made his own good fortune and pushed Ben Revere into LF.
- Matt Imhof posted an 8-5 record with a 3.94 ERA. He went on the DL after two starts and returned with a FB that hardly ever reached 90 mph. He struck out a season high 7 batters twice. He pitched through a stretch in June/July where he walked 4 batters in 3 consecutive games. In fact, he walked a batter in the first 17 of his 18 starts. His last start was probably his best of the season, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 7 K. His kryptonite all season seemed to be his pitch count and his 4.5 BB9. He just wasn’t able to get enough short-pitch innings.
- Yoel Mecias came off the DL in Clearwater in May and was released after 6 appearances, the final 2 were down in Lakewood as a starter.
- Chris Oliver (as stated the other day) 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.
- Carlos Tocci tore it up in Lakewood with a .321/.387/.423 slash. He went 14 for 16 on stolen base attempts. He held his own in Clearwater, where his is more than 3 years younger than the mean, with a .258/.296/.313 slash. A dreadful .151/.165/.161 put a halt to his season’s fairy tale ending. (In an earlier post, I suggested that opposing defenses adjusted by playing him shallower to take away a lot of his base hits.) FSL catchers also presented a challenge as he was only successful on 3 of 12 stolen base attempts. He does play a nice CF. He glides effortlessly to fly balls in much the same manner as Aaron Altherr did in 2013.
Other suggested breakout performers were –
- Jesus Alastre posted a .268/.326/.329 slash in 24 games (82 AB). Didn’t play after August 1st.
- Jesse Biddle posted a combined 9-6, 4.95 between Reading and Lehigh Valley. His promotion to LHV led to some disappointing stats like his 6.25 ERA and 5.4 BB9.
- Kelly Dugan started yet another season on the DL (surprise!), and returned to Reading in mid-June. He posted a .315/.391/.393 at Reading but no HR. He was promoted to Lehigh Valley at the beginning of August but struggled to a .221/.295/.298 slash with 2 HR. He was subsequently outrighted to LHV at the end of the season and elected free agency.
- Luis Encarnacion 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.
- Miguel Gonzalez, our failed Cuban experiment, was on the DL until mid-August when he came off the DL and dominated in his first 4 appearances … in the GCL. He was sent to Lehight Valley in September to make 2 starts in which he was beat like a bongo drum.
- Andrew Knapp was having a nice season in Clearwater. He posted a solid first half slash of .262/.356/.369 with 2 HR. After the division-clinching series, Knapp was promoted to Reading where he went on a burner and stayed hot for 10.5 weeks. He posted a AA slash of .360/.419/.631 with 11 HR.
- Tyler Knigge began the year at Lehigh Valley and yoyo-ed between AAA and AA until he was traded to Seattle for cash on July 22nd.
- Nefi Ogando posted a 4-5, 2.86 across AA and AAA. His numbers at each level were virtually the same. Called up fo a cup of coffee in September.
- Ricardo Pinto was promoted to Clearwater from Lakewood after a strong start. He was markedly better in after moving up a level. The only big decrease he suffered was a drop in his SO9 from 8.1 to 5.2 in the FSL. He was a combined 15-4 with a 2.97 ERA. He throws a FB, CU, and SL. His fastball is in the 92-94 mph range and he routinely touches 95 and 96 on our “hot” gun. His change runs 82-84 mph. Pinto came out of nowhere for a lot of people, and should vault up the charts in spite of the pitching the organization added during the season.
- Brian Pointer hit 10 HR in Reading and posted a .242/.347/.421 slash. He draws walks in about 13% of his PA, but strikes out at just over 32% of his AB.
- Roman Quinn was having a nice season when a leg injury ended his season on June 12th. Quinn had posted a .306/.356/.435 in 58 games (257 PA/232 AB). He had hit 4 HR (all left-handed). He had 29 SB in 39 attempts. He returned to play ball during Instructs and will be in ST if he survives winter ball in the DWL. He had accumulated 8 outfield assists before getting hurt (and 5 errors for a .966 Fld%).
- Cord Sandberg put up some good numbers in June and July after a rough two months in April and May. 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.
- Ranger Suarez only made 6 appearances before he was shut down as a precaution for a sore arm. in 27.2 IP, he posted a 0.65 ERA. He shutout the competition in 5 of his appearances. He only got hit around once when he gave up 2 runs on 5 hits in 4.2 innings. He walked only 4 batters, never more than one in a game, and he struck out 20 batters. I only got velo on him once, the 2-run game. His FB was 88-89, T90-91.
- Jiandido Tromp posted a .216/.268/.354 slash with 9 HR in Lakewood. He struck out in 28.9% of his AB and only walked 27 times (5.9%).
- One reader suggested Adam Morgan would be the Comeback Player of the Year.
- Another suggested that Maikel Franco would be the runner-up for the ROY. When he went on the DL, I think his power and production numbers were as good or better than the big-name favorites, if you considered his fewer at bats. Without the injury, he might have been considered.
Before the season, I selected Knapp as the breakout candidate with the following reasoning –
“The player I think will have a breakout season is Andrew Knapp. By definition, 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. Knapp was our 20th pick in the reader top 30 (13th by MLB). He came off the DL and spent about 20 games as the DH for the Threshers. He didn’t hit well and went to Lakewood when he was able to catch. He rebounded nicely and slashed .290/.354/.438/.792. During spring training, Knapp looked capable behind the plate (I hadn’t seen him catch when he was with Clearwater). He spent his time during ST with the Advanced A Group so he saw the appropriate level pitching and really performed well with ample power. I see no reason for that to not continue and would expect a big jump on the prospect list at the end of the season.”
Knapp actually dropped to 16th on the MLB ranking, however a restocked prospect pool has injected the organization with a lot of new prospects, eight of whom are ranked higher than Knapp.
There are probably a few guys above who had legitimate breakout seasons. Certainly, the infusion of new talent affected more players than just Knapp. However, I think only two of the above players actually moved up the MLB ranking in spite of all the new players – Cord Sandberg and Ricardo Pinto. (Franklyn Kilome also moved up on the MLB ranking, but none of us thought he would have a breakout season.)