2008 In Review: Our Crystal Ball

Before the start of the 2008 minor league season, we made five predictions about what might happen during the campaign. With the 2008 slate officially coming to an end today with the Bricktown Showdown, we take a look back at those five predictions to see how close we came to seeing the future.

On February 28, 2008, we published an article entitled "A's Crystal Ball: Five Predictions for 2008." With the 2008 season now come and gone, let's look back at those predictions to see how we fared.

Prediction: The A's system record will be higher than .500 in 2008

Result: Right on the money.

After finishing with a below .500 cumulative record in 2007, all eight affiliates, including the Oakland A's two Dominican Summer League teams, went a combined 419-402 for a .510 winning percentage in 2008. The A's four full-season affiliates were particularly successful. Sacramento, Stockton and Kane County all made the playoffs, with Sacramento and Stockton each coming away with league championships. Midland finished one game short of the post-season, but still finished with a 75-65 record (.536 winning percentage). The River Cats finished with the highest winning percentage of any A's affiliate with a .576 mark and an 83-61 record. The A's short-season affiliates struggled, however, with none of the four finishing above .500.

Prediction: An A's prospect will reach the 30-homer mark in 2008

Result: Bingo!

After being starved for power for the past few seasons, the Oakland A's minor league system flexed its collective muscle in 2008. The A's ended a nearly 10 year drought when Chris Carter (39) and Corey Brown (30) both reached the 30-homer plateau. Carter nearly reached the 40-homer mark, falling just one short during the regular season. He wound-up hitting five more homeruns during the post-season, finishing 2008 with 44 longballs to lead the A's organization. Carter paced all minor leaguers with 75 extra-base hits during the regular season. Brown collected 30 homeruns despite starting the season in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Midwest League. The left-handed hitting centerfielder hit 14 homers for Kane County in 85 games and 16 homers in 49 games for Stockton.

In addition to Carter and Brown, the A's had five minor leaguers pass the 20-homer plateau in 2008: Brooks Conrad (28), Jon Zeringue (23), Tom Everidge (22), Sean Doolittle (22) and Wes Bankston (20). Conrad actually reached the 30-homer mark for the season during the River Cats' post-season run, during which he hit four longballs. Doolittle finished 10th among all minor leaguers in extra-base hits with 65, while Everidge was third among minor leaguers in RBIs with 115.

Prediction: Multiple A's pitching prospects will strike-out more than 150 batters

Result: Scorer's decision.

Given that we cleverly omitted that the prospects had to strike-out the 150 batters during the minor league regular season, one could make a case that we got this prediction correct. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez had 128 strike-outs in 123 innings for the Sacramento River Cats before injuries opened a spot for Gonzalez in the big leagues in August. He has since added 30 more strike-outs in 30 big league innings, giving him 158 and counting this season. Right-hander Henry Rodriguez finished with the most strike-outs of any A's farmhand during minor league regular season games despite being converted from a starter to a reliever in July. Rodriguez finished with 147 strike-outs in only 116 innings during the regular season, but he crossed the 150 strike-out mark during the post-season with Sacramento.

There were a number of near-misses in this category, as well. Right-hander Trevor Cahill was cruising towards the 150 strike-out mark before he left for the Olympics. In 124.1 minor league innings, Cahill struck-out 136 batters. He then added eight more strike-outs during the Olympic tournament and exhibition schedule, but he injured his oblique muscle while pitching for Team USA and was shut-down after the Olympics were over, finishing just shy of the 150-K mark for the season.

Left-hander Brett Anderson, Cahill's Team USA teammate, missed two weeks early in the season with a sprained thumb. Despite that missed time, Anderson had 118 strike-outs in 105 innings during the minor league regular season, added 14 more during his time with Team USA and nine during the post-season with Sacramento for a total of 141. Missed turns in the rotation thanks to that DL slot and his participation in the Olympics conspired to keep him short of 150.

Right-hander James Simmons was another prospect who made a run at the 150 mark. Simmons missed about a month early in the season with general fatigue resulting from sleep apnea. He finished the year with 120 strike-outs in 136 innings. Without the missed time, he might have passed the 150 mark.

Prediction: The Stockton Ports will have at least two pitchers with 10 wins or more

Result: Just off the cross-bar and wide right.

The Stockton Ports began the 2008 season with a starting rotation that was the envy of the minor leagues. Anderson, Cahill, Rodriguez, Fautino De Los Santos and Jared Lansford were all highly regarded prospects and all of them began the year in the Ports' rotation. Although most of them performed very well for Stockton, none wound-up winning 10 games for the Ports. In fact, the Ports finished the year with no double-digit winners.

A few came close to double-digits for Stockton with Anderson, Jason Fernandez and James Heuser each winning nine games for the Ports. Heuser, who was a reliever for much of the season, stayed with Stockton all year, but Anderson and Fernandez were promoted to Midland before getting the opportunity to win their 10th with Stockton. Anderson finished 11-5 during the regular season with Stockton and Midland, was the winner in the bronze medal game during the Beijing Olympics for Team USA, and he finished his year winning two games for the Sacramento River Cats in the playoffs, including the title clincher. Fernandez finished his season 10-9 after going 1-3 with Midland post-promotion.

The rest of the Ports' vaunted Opening Week rotation fell considerably short of 10 wins with Stockton. Cahill was one of the best pitchers in the California League during the first half of the season for Stockton, but he managed only five wins with the Ports, as Stockton struggled to score runs for the right-hander. He did win six more with Midland and finished the year 11-5. Rodriguez was promoted to Double-A Midland after the first few weeks of the season and struggled with the Rockhounds. He wound-up back with Stockton late in the year, but was eventually moved to the bullpen. He finished the regular season with four wins. De Los Santos went down with an elbow injury after only a handful of starts. He had Tommy John surgery in May and missed the rest of the year. Lansford had a stand-out season for Stockton and Midland, but it was primarily in the bullpen, where he had a 3.34 ERA, 94 strike-outs in 89 innings and eight saves, but only five wins.

Prediction: One of the A's farmhands will have at least 40 stolen bases

Result: Caught in a run-down.

Over the past few seasons, the normally station-to-station Oakland A's system has seen a gradual up-tick in its number of base-stealers. Going into the year, the A's had a number of minor leaguers who had swiped 30 bases the previous year, so it seemed like a decent bet that the 40-stolen base mark would be reached by one of them. A few came close, but didn't quite reach the mark.

Shortstop Michael Richard is arguably the biggest base-stealing threat in the A's system. He had a number of nagging injuries that limited him to 85 games, however, but he managed to get close to the 40-stolen base mark, swiping 35 bases in 42 opportunities for Kane County. Left-fielder Archie Gilbert also totaled 35 stolen bases during the regular season and he added four more during the post-season. Gilbert was caught stealing 18 times, but 10 of those came in April before he made a few mechanical adjustments.

Like Richard, veteran centerfielder Todd Donovan was limited by injuries all season for Midland. He still gave the 40-stolen base mark a good run, finishing just short with 37 in only 79 games. Donovan did pass the 300 career stolen base plateau during the season. Infielder Cliff Pennington swiped 31 bags in 37 chances for Midland and Sacramento before being promoted to Oakland. He is two-for-two in the stolen base category with the A's thus far. Infielder/outfielder Eric Patterson has stolen 29 bases between Triple-A and the big leagues this season, while outfielder Jermaine Mitchell stole 23 bases for Stockton in 29 chances.

Jonatan De La Cruz (20), Larry Cobb (19), Adam Klein (18), Corey Brown (16), Casey Rogowski (16), Aaron Cunningham (15), Matt Ray (14), Jason Christian (13), Tyreace House (12), Elvis Garcia (12), Angel Sierra (12), Toddric Johnson (11), Jonathan Johnston (11), Nino Leyja (10), Abraham De Leon (10), Kelvin Rojas (10) and Justin Sellers (10) all reached double-digits in this category.

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