Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 Predictions Review: Upper-Level Breakout

Back in March, we polled the Rays blogosphere for predictions about the 2010 season in the minors. Now that it's October and the minor-league season is in the rear-view mirror, it's time to take a look back and laugh at stupid things we all said. The panelists were: Cork Gaines from RaysIndex, Tommy Rancel then of DRaysBay, now at The Process Report, FreeZorilla from DRaysBay, Jason Collette from DockOfTheRays and The Process Report, Ricky/RZ from DRaysBay, and Jake Larsen, Doug Milhoan, and Kevin Gengler from RaysProspects.

Today we'll look at who we selected to have a breakout season at an upper level of the system. You can view the original post with our explanations here or check out the CliffsNotes version below...

Cork: Aneury Rodriguez
Tommy: Alex Torres
FreeZo: Jake McGee (also David Newmann and Aneury Rodriguez)
Ricky: Matt Gorgen
Jason: Matt Sweeney
Jake: Kyeong Kang
Doug: Alex Cobb
Kevin: Alex Cobb

Aneury Rodriguez was named twice, but failed to build on his success from the second half of 2009. In fact, looking at complete-season rate stats, he was very similar: His K/9 increased 0.3 to 7.3, while his BB/9 remained exactly the same at 3.7. While he remained an extreme flyball pitcher, his HR rate dipped, helping lead to a better ERA than 2009. He tended to struggle at times, and 2010 saw trips to the bullpen as well as down to Montgomery, though he did finish the season back in Durham's rotation, where he seems destined to start next season. Verdict: No breakout.

Alex Torres' ERA increase from '09 to '10 looks like it could be pinned on a higher hit rate. His K/9 improved from an already-impressive 9.0 up to 9.5. And while he still issued too many walks (70 in 142.2 IP, 4.4 per 9), he improved in that area as well (4.9 per 9 last season). His stuff continued to draw rave reviews from scouts, including having his changeup ranked best in the Southern League by managers. Verdict: Not a breakout, but a steady build.

FreeZo picks our first winner with Jake McGee. The lefty showed he was healthy again in Montgomery's rotation, then truly took off when promoted to Durham to work out of the bullpen. He finished the season with the big-league club, and depending on how the off-season shakes out, could be in the mix to close out games for the Rays in 2011. Verdict: Breakout.

Matt Gorgen didn't post cartoonish numbers like he did in 2009 with Charlotte, but with Montgomery this season he posted a 1.65 ERA and saved 22 games. He struck out 47 and walked 21 in 49 innings; decent numbers but not blow-you-away numbers. Gorgen was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete the Chad Qualls trade, and while I think he has a big-league future, it seems it'd be as more of a middle reliever than late-inning guy. Verdict: No breakout.

Matt Sweeney's season got off to a good start with Charlotte, but things fell apart in Montgomery. After hitting 6 HRs in 34 games with the Crabs, he hit only 2 in 46 games for the Biscuits. Injuries limited his playing time and hampered him on the field, where he hit .196 with a .543 OPS in AA. Verdict: No breakout.

After appearing in the Futures Games a year ago, Kyeong Kang had a disappointing 2010 season. His power completely vanished, hitting for 24 fewer extra-base hits than he did in 2009, in 46 fewer ABs. After hitting 14 triples and 11 homeruns over the past two seasons, Kang had just one of each in 2010. Verdict: No breakout.

Doug finally started drinking the Alex Cobb Kool-Aid, going from 'from doubter to fanboy" as he said in his prediction. Blister problems continued to nag at him a bit, but that was about the only negative in 2010. He posted a career-high strikeout rate, punching out 128 in 119.2 innings with Montgomery, while only issuing 35 free passes. His GO/AO of 1.55 was right in line with his career numbers, and he kept in the ball in the park with only 6 homeruns allowed. Cobb also made two playoff starts for Durham, including one start with ten strikeouts and one walk in 6.2 innings. He's currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League, which should get him to around 145 total innings pitched. Verdict: Breakout.

Check back tomorrow for our lower-level breakout review!


  1. Good job. I have Sweeney penciled in as breakout. I here that he was hurt for most of the year, even when playing, and I think he could really surprise some to the point where he could be considered 2012 Rays 1b potentially.

  2. Just a nitpik, and nothing against FreeZo of course, but is McGee really a 'breakout'? He came back from TJS and limited duty in '09 with a strong season in 2010, which is great news.

    But he's been a top Rays prospect for years. Here are his BA rankings in the Rays system:

    2010 - 8th
    2009 - 9th
    2008 - 3rd
    2007 - 5th
    2006 - 16th

    To me a 'breakout' is an unranked player who due to his performance is now ranked, or a ranked player who moves quite a bit higher.

    I can't see McGee any higher than 3rd (not saying I'd put him that high, but I can see the argument - behind Hellickson and Jennings). Even if he moves up to 3rd, is that really a 'breakout' when he's been top 10 the past 4 years?

    Plus, it looks like he'll be used mainly as a reliever from now on. To me McGee is more of a 'comeback' player of the year than 'breakout'.

    Anyway, it's probably just me using a different definition of 'breakout' than Kevin. No big deal.