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Reviewing Sleepers from the 2009 Book

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One of the things I try hard to do in the book each year is to get ahead of the curve on prospects, to pick out players who might not have a lot of publicity heading into the season, but who could emerge as top prospects if things go right. In the book, I put the tag "Sleeper Alert" next to such players. I don't put this label on a guy if they were a hot prospect that everyone knows about: the point is to notice them before they are big names.

Anyway, I've been getting more systematic about this, so here's a review of the players I gave the Sleeper Alert tag to last year. There are a lot more pitchers than hitters, but for some reason I've always found it easier to pick out the pitchers who could be surprises.

LIST OF SLEEPER ALERTS in the 2009 Baseball Prospect Book

Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees: Pitched great in the Sally League, 2.67 ERA with a 104/28 K/BB in 108 innings. Now rated among the Yankees top prospects. Definite hit on this one.

Anthony Bass, RHP, Padres:  2.19 ERA with a 69/25 K/BB in 90 innings for Class A Fort Wayne, 3.51 ERA with a 20/14 K/BB in 33 innings for Class A Lake Elsinore. Pitched well, not showing up high on lists yet but is just 22 and has time. Successful but not a big hit.

Joel Carreno, RHP, Blue Jays: 3.62 ERA with 62/29 K/BB in 80 innings for Class A Lansing. Another good performance, still worth tracking. Successful but not a big hit.

Dexter Carter, RHP, White Sox: Strong season with Kannapolis in the Sally League, 3.13 ERA with 143/32 K/BB in 118 innings. Traded to Padres and fell apart at Fort Wayne, 12.68 ERA in 21 innings. Overall posted a 4.60 ERA with 166/47 K/BB in 139 innings, 137 hits. This counts as a success.

Jose Casilla, RHP, Giants: 1.67 ERA with 31/9 K/BB in 27 innings for Salem-Keizer, 12 saves. I rate this as a definite hit.

Richard Castillo, RHP, Cardinals: 3.87 ERA with 105/66 K/BB in 149 innings for Palm Beach, 155 hits allowed. I'd rate this as mediocre.

Simon Castro, RHP, Padres: 3.33 ERA with 157/37 K/BB in 140 innings for Fort Wayne, 118 hits. Showing up on top prospect lists now. I'd rate this a definite hit.

Joseph Cruz, RHP, Rays: 4.04 ERA with 99/26 K/BB in 98 innings for Bowling Green, 110 hits. He did okay and still looks like a sleeper, but I'll call this one mediocre overall.

Stephen Fife, RHP, Red Sox: Limited by pitch counts to 87 innings in 18 starts, 3.71 ERA combined between Greeneville and Salem, 86/14 K/BB. I'll call this one mediocre but he still has a chance.

David Francis, RHP, Braves: 4.20 ERA with 95/43 K/BB in 105 innings between Myrtle Beach and Rome, 117 hits allowed. Mediocre.

Parker Frazier, RHP, Rockies 10-7, 4.48 ERA with a 98/33 K/BB in 131 innings for Asheville, 158 hits allowed, 1.88 GO/AO. I'd call this one mediocre, though he pitched better in the second half.

Austin Gallagher, 3B, Dodgers: Hit .257/.319/.345 in 60 games for Great Lakes, with injury problems. This was pretty bad even accounting for the injury.

Kennil Gomez, RHP, Rangers: 5.27 ERA with a 126/67 K/BB in 135 innings for Bakersfield, 147 hits allowed. Showed flashes, I'd call this one mediocre.

Jesus Guzman, 3B, Giants: Hit .321/.379/.507 in Triple-A, 5-for-20 in the majors. Hard to call this a failure exactly; he just needs a chance. Different than the other sleepers, in that he's an older guy looking for a spot rather than a younger guy on the way up.

Trevor Harden, RHP, Diamondbacks: Outstanding in the Midwest League (2.39 ERA, 31/7 K/BB in 38 innings), but less so in the California League, overall numbers 3.84 ERA with 94/30 K/BB in 129 innings, 143 hits. Borderline between success and mediocre, but we'll be conservative and call it mediocre.

Jairo Heredia, RHP, Yankees: 3.99 ERA with 32/8 L/BB in 38 innings, 42 hits allowed, split between three levels due to injuries, was horrible at the highest level (6.91 ERA in 14 innings, 25 hits at Tampa). He's still a prospect but this goes into the "injury failure" category.

Chris Hicks, RHP, Astros: 6.12 ERA with 103/39 K/BB in 129 innings, 180 hits for Lancaster. I know it was Lancaster, but road numbers weren't good either. Failure.

Deryk Hooker, RHP, Cardinals: 3.98 ERA with 53/23 K/BB in 61 innings, 56 hits in the New York-Penn League. He did okay but we need to see more at higher levels. Mediocre.

J.J. Hoover, RHP, Braves: 3.35 ERA with 148/25 K/BB in 134 innings, 135 hits for Rome. Strong numbers with great K/BB and K/IP ratios, but we need to see more at higher levels. Borderline between Definite Hit and Successful.

Jeremy Horst, LHP, Reds: 3.25 ERA with 101/41 K/BB in 133 innings for Sarasota, but 6.21 ERA with 21/10 K/BB in 29 innings in Double-A. Borderline between Successful and Mediocre.

T.J. House, LHP, Indians: 3.15 ERA with 109/49 K/BB in 134 innings for Lake County, 127 hits allowed. Just 20 years old. I'd say it's a success.

Dan Houston, RHP, Rockies  3.63 ERA with 121/63 K/BB in 149 innings for Asheville, 141 hits, 1.81 GO/AO. Got grounders and struck some people out, but need to see at higher levels due to his age. I'll say success but not a stunning one.

Dan Hudson, RHP, White Sox: Finished the year in the majors, pitched great at four levels. Definite hit and now among the elite pitching prospects in the game.

Jay Jackson, RHP, Cubs: 2.98 ERA with 127/46 K/BB at three levels. Another definite hit, the two Chicago guys did well.

Aaron King, LHP, Giants: 3.70 ERA with 88/52 K/BB in 105 innings at Augusta, 90 hits. Ratios-so-so, but drawing positive commentary from scouts and just 20 last year. I'll go with successful.

Michael Kohn, RHP, Angels: 1.64 ERA with 103/26 K/BB in 66 innings between Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga. Looks like a definite hit to me.

David Kopp, RHP, Cardinals: Did well in A-ball (3.12 ERA, 58/26 K/BB in 69 innings) but was poor in the Texas League (6.43 ERA, 6/11 K/BB in 21 innings, 29 hits). Call it mediocre for now.

Junior Lake, SS, Cubs: .248/.277/.365 with 18 walks, 138 strikeouts for Peoria. Horrible plate discipline led to failure.

Matt McBride, C, Indians: Monster in the Carolina League (.405/.453/.667), so-so in the Eastern League (.247/.301/.427), monster in the Arizona Fall League (.378/.511/.649). Not sure how to call this one given positional questions. Will opt for a conservative mediocre rating.

Matt Moore, LHP, Rays: 3.15 ERA with 176/70 K/BB in 123 innings, 86 hits for Bowling Green. Still some control issues, but he's showing up on Top 100 and Top 50 lists now. Definite hit.

Derek Norris, C, Nationals: Hit .286/.413/.513 for Hagerstown, hit 23 homers, drew 90 walks. Now among the elite catching prospects in the game. Definite hit.

Edgar Olmos, LHP, Marlins: Pitched just nine innings in rookie ball, allowing one run. I'll call it a miss but it's just too early to tell here.

Edgar Osuna, LHP, Braves: 4.02 ERA with 105/35 K/BB in 150 innings between Myrtle Beach and Mississippi, has been great in winter ball, drafted by Royals in Rule 5. I'll say successful sine he might be in the majors this year.

Bryan Petersen, OF, Marlins: Hit .297/.368/.413 for Jacksonville, then .379/.412/.600 in the Arizona Fall League. I'll say a success despite power droppage.

Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Red Sox: 3.82 ERA with 103/29 K/BB in 118 innings for Greenville, 135 hits. Threw strikes, still an interesting prospect, but not dominant yet. Success but not a stunning one.

Jon Michael Redding, RHP, Dodgers: Went 16-3 for Great Lakes, but with a 4.60 ERA and a 96/39 K/BB in 133 innings, 149 hits. I'll go with mediocre.

Carlos Rivero, SS, Indians: Hit .242/.309/.344 for Double-A Akron. Not very good, he's still a prospect but needs to do better than this. Low-end mediocre.

Cody Scarpetta, RHP, Brewers: 3.43 ERA with 116/55 K/BB in 105 innings for Wisconsin, 83 hits, ended up on Midwest League Baseball America prospect list despite 4-11 record. Success.

Scott Shaw, RHP, Mets: 3.73 ERA with 118/57 K/BB in 150 innings for St. Lucie, 140 hits. He did okay, not great but enough to stay on the radar as a prospect. Success.

Will Smith, LHP, Angels: 3.76 ERA with 95/24 K/BB in 115 innings for Cedar Rapids, 109 hits. Another guy who had a decent year but didn't dominate, still a prospect to watch. Success.

Hunter Strickland, RHP, Red Sox: Traded to Pirates. Combined 3.49 ERA with 74/19 K/BB in 126 innings in the Sally League, 127 hits. Low-end success due to control and youth.

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Yankees: 2.13 ERA with 52/15 K/BB in 42 innings in the New York-Penn League, traded to the Braves this winter as a key prospect and expected to emerge as an elite talent. I'll call this one a definite hit.

Kyle Weiland, RHP, Red Sox: 3.46 ERA with 112/57 K/BB in 133 innings, 119 hits for Salem. A solid prospect. Successful.

Joe Wieland, RHP, Rangers: 5.31 ERA With 73/24 K/BB in 83 innings for Hickory, 102 hits. Still draws some positive scouting reports and is just 20, but the numbers were pretty bad.


There were 44 guys. Trying to break this down into some semblance of order:

Definite Hits: Banuelos, Casilla, Castro, Hudson, Jackson, Kohn, Moore, Norris, Vizcaino. I'm especially proud of the Hudson, Jackson, and Norris selections.

Successful:  Bass, Carreno, Carter, Guzman, Hoover, House, Houston, King, Osuna, Petersen, Pimentel, Scarpetta, Shaw, Smith, Strickland, Weiland.: We need more data from most of these guys, but they did enough to justify having been selected as sleepers.

Mediocre: Castillo, Cruz, Fife, Francis, Frazier, Harden, Hooker, Horst, Kopp, McBride, Redding, Rivero, Wieland. These guys weren't complete failures and some of them could still turn out quite well, but didn't do as good as the first two groups in my view. Some of them are pretty borderline.

Biggest Misses: Gallagher (injury), Heredia (injury), Hicks, Lake, Olmos (hardly pitched).

You can quibble about the boundaries between groups, and rating your own list (especially when it is hard to make objective measures) is always problematic, but overall I was happy with how the list turned out.

Ultimately, it will be five years before we know how things REALLY turned out with this list. Some of the guys who look like "definite hits"  right now will fail, while some of the mediocrities and maybe even the misses could still turn out to be good.

The battle to stay ahead of the curve continues.