Back in March, we polled the Rays blogosphere for predictions about the 2009 season in the minors. Now that it's September and the minor-league seasons are drawing to a close, it's time to take a look back and laugh at stupid things we all said. We'll start today with Upper-Level Breakout and do them in no particular order. Again, the panelists were: Cork Gaines from RaysIndex, Tommy Rancel and R.J. Anderson from DRaysBay, the RaysParty gang, Tyler Hissey from AroundTheMajors, Brickhaus from all over the place, and Doug and I from this site.
The question I sent out for this was: "Who among the upper levels of the minors do you think will have a breakout season?" You can view the original post with everyone's full answers here.
There's really only one obvious guy here, and that's Desmond Jennings. He finally stayed healthy for an entire season, tore through the Southern League and is now manning centerfield for Durham. His season line is .312/.398/.486 to go along with 51 steals(and he was only thrown out 7 times!). Though Tyler Hissey predicted he'd start in the Florida State League(he started at AA Montgomery), he was the only one who mentioned him: "While that may be a fairly big if—is he injury prone or just unlucky?—he has tremendous tools and knows what he is doing in the batter’s box and out in center field."
As for the rest of the field...
Cork Gaines and R.J. Anderson each mentioned Reid Brignac, who really just put up more of the same. He's posted a .744 OPS with Durham, and in 22 games with the big-league club, a .642 OPS. He's taken a dive in the second half of the year, hitting just one post-ASG homerun in 37 games and an OBP about .040 lower. R.J. also mentioned Fernando Perez, but this was obviously done before Perez got hurt.
Tommy Rancel predicted Wade Davis would be knocking on the major-league door by June, but instead he's just now slated to make his debut this weekend. Like Brignac, he didn't significantly improve his line from last season, struggling to hammer down his control. He's still striking out a healthy amount and isn't likely to return to the minors anytime soon, but he didn't really break out.
RaysParty mentioned John Jaso, thinking he'd pull things together based on control of the strike zone. He's done that well(43 walks to 47 strikeouts) but simply hasn't hit enough, managing just a .257 batting average and fewer than 20 extra-base hits. The predicted OPS of .900 didn't quite happen, with Jaso currently sitting at .707. Reports on his defense are still mixed.
Brickhaus and Doug each tabbed Heath Rollins, citing similar reasons. Brickhaus counted on another solid season with people finally taking notice, while Doug figured he would maintain his strong peripheral stats and force his way into Durham's rotation over the summer. Rollins did make his way to Durham just recently, but not before a switch to the bullpen. His strikeout-to-walk rate, over 4 a year ago, fell to less than 3 this season. His strikeout per 9 rate fell to 5.5, a drop of about 2 from last season. Doug also mentioned Ryan Reid, who really only posted okay numbers for Montgomery; nothing like his Florida State League numbers from 2008.
As lastly, I predicted Mitch Talbot would pitch well enough in the International League to earn a spot in the Rays bullpen where he'd become a dependable reliever. I still think he can be a solid reliever, but maybe not if he has another season like 2009. He made 10 underwhelming starts for Durham(4.47 ERA and a barely 2:1 K-BB rate after a 4:1 last season) before going on the shelf with shoulder trouble. He resurfaced in the GCL in late July for rehab, but then missed a lot of August with presumably the same injury. He was dominant in the GCL ranks(21 strikeouts, 0 walks in 11 innings) but may not be healthy enough to be re-assigned to Durham in time for the playoffs.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at who we thought would be a breakout prospect in the lower levels of the minors.