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Minor League Matters: Looking back on Preseason Predictions

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Guess who screwed up his prediction on Andy Oliver?
Guess who screwed up his prediction on Andy Oliver?

Seeing as the minor league season is over (alas) it's time to go back and look to see how my minor league predictions panned out. My rules before were to look for players I called "sleepers" or "anti-sleepers" and give a quick look at their performances in the past as well as offer a prediction for 2010. I went with mostly gut instinct as opposed to numbers or scouting reports. In fact, I picked a ton of guys with odd statistical or scouting backgrounds. It's more fun that way.

Without further ado, here is a look back at my four sleepers and four anti-sleepers of the 2010 Minor League season!

Sleepers

Wade Gaynor, 3B, Class A West Michigan Whitecaps

[T]he tools he has at his disposal mean he could be a heckuva stick- he's got lots of power and above average speed... Baseball America notes his "strong work ethic", and that might work to his advantage.

I'm stoked about Gaynor going forward. While his .290/.357/.448 batting line looks good, the real story comes with latter-half improvement. As the season progressed, Gaynor started hitting less ground balls and more fly balls and while his strikeout rate was erratic, he finished at a manageable 19.1%. What's better is his walk rate: he took a free pass 8.1% of the time on the season, but the numbers in July and August were up to around 10%. He still needs to tap in to his power potential, though a .158 ISO isn't too bad at all. I'm still cautious about Gaynor going forward seeing as July and August were driven by high BABIP's, but it wouldn't shock me to see Gaynor continue to hit for a decent average, probably around .270 with a healthy OBP and a good SLG.

James Robbins, 1B, Short Season Connecticut Tigers

He's got a good left-handed swing- with both good bat speed and good power, and he's a former pitcher, so he has a good arm... The bat is really promising here, and he could be a huge steal in the 30th.

Robbins didn't have a great end to his year: he finished August hitting .186/.231/.247. And his lines in both June and July were driven by high batting average on balls in play. His overall line for the year was .252/.295/.353 with a really high BABIP. So what happened? He struck out 90 times and hit 56% of balls thrown to him on the ground. The good news is that he had a decent line drive rate (23%). But he's got to hit more flyballs and work on plate discipline in order to make it. He's certainly got the potential- everything I said last year about him is still true. He's still 19, but he needs to work on translating those tools.

Cale Iorg, SS, Class AA Erie Seawolve

He'll be a good one if he can hit a curveball (or at least lay off the God forsaken thing). [Iorg]'s a good choice to be considered a post-hype sleeper, and I'm kind of rooting for him at this point.

.211/.245/.337 with 139 strikeouts in 453 PA. Oops.

Zach Simons, RHP, Class AA Erie Seawolves

I expect to see Simons in Detroit sometime this year, and I can see him as ether a fireman-type or a decent setup guy. He's nothing special, but he should be better than Jason Grilli (the dude we traded for him).I think he's underrated right now, and he'll have an impact.

Detroit shipped Simons off to AA for the beginning of the season. So that was a far cry from him being in Detroit. To be honest, though, I don't get the move. He had a 3.67 FIP and a 2.36 ERA with no discernible platoon split and almost a strikeout per inning in Erie, and he had a 3.22 FIP (along with almost 10 K/9, though his BB/9 was close to four). Granted, the Toledo numbers are a tiny sample, but Simons looks to be a good pitcher. His stuff didn't seem horrible when I saw him live either. I don't get it. Maybe it's the curse of Jason Grilli.

Anti-Sleepers

Andy Oliver, LHP, Class AAA Toledo Mud Hens

Oliver has the potential to make me look like a real idiot. He's a lefty that gets it up to 96- with movement, he's got a good changeup, and he's a big, athletic guy with a good delivery. But I don't trust anyone who loses a breaking ball- some say it was his slider, others say it was his curve. It doesn't matter. It's gone, and I'm not sure it's coming back. If it doesn't, he profiles as a reliever- albeit a good one.

Dear Mr. Oliver,

I'm so sorry. But I didn't see you putting up a FIP of 3.58 in Erie with 8 K/9 with only your fastball. I didn't realize that you would improve your breaking pitches and we'd see you in Detroit in 2010 (if only for four disastrous games). I thought your results would be more like your 4.58 FIP in Toledo, except at a lower level. And I never thought you'd put up a 3.84 FIP in AAA during the last month of the season. I still think you walk too many batters, and I'd love to see more of your breaking ball, but you deserved better than I treated you. Please forgive me.

Wilkin Ramirez, OF, Class AAA Gwinnett Braves

Ramirez's inability to translate his tools to results with success is a worse one. Ramirez has all the potential in the world- 25-25 ability, a swing that could lead to a .300 batting average and good enough wheels/arm strength to be a plus defender in the outfield. But at 23, we should be seeing something.

Traded to the Braves, where he hit .253/.351/.458 in 83 at bats. Not bad, but I don't think he'll do it at the major-league level. Plus, the Tigers finally gave up on him. This is the team that did everything they could to protect him for a couple years. Sorry, Wilkin. Happy trails.

Brennan Boesch, OF, Detroit Tigers

Boesch can smash, but there are questions about Erie inflating his HR numbers (thank you again, Baseball America). He can't take walks and he can't hit for power without sacrificing a ton of contact ability. His swing is clunky and is full of holes. One-dimensionality only works if that dimension kicks major @$$. His doesn't.

I have, admittedly, ragged on Boesch from the beginning of the season. He made me look like an idiot earlier this year with a May where he hit .345/.378/.595 and a June where he clobbered .337/.400/.625. I won't lie to you, I had a plan for a "I was wrong about Brennan Boesch" post in July (just before the All-Star Break). But his BABIP did fall back to earth as expected, and he's currently hitting .260/.325/.429 with an ISO of .169. The power will probably come back a little, but don't expect much beyond .260/.330/.460. He's a good fourth outfielder, but perhaps he's an even better lesson on the function of BABIP and strikeout rates as predictors of future performance (if Chris Shelton wasn't).

Alfredo Figaro, RHP, AAA Toledo Mud Hens

He's probably going to move to the bullpen and end up as a poor man's Fernando Rodney (his cousin). Disappointing. I really wish he could start long-term, but his upside there is very limited. He'll pitch in the majors, but not as a starter, which is disappointing.

Man, I really wish he would have come up at some point this year. I like Alfredo, though the Rodney comparison was a little weak. He's more of a Zach Miner type pitcher, a guy who can give you a few spot starts and chew up copious amounts of innings out of the bullpen. His FIP of 3.60 in Toledo outperformed his ERA of 4.14, he did pretty well with men on base (3.58 FIP in 67.2 innings) and he struck out almost eight batters per nine innings. My concerns still exist, though. I think he's more valuable as an innings-chewing fifth starter than Zach Miner 2.0, but he deserves a real shot with Detroit instead of just a couple innings here and there.