Results tagged ‘ Durham Bulls ’
We’re just a little over two weeks into the MLB regular season, but there’s been plenty of action down at the farm in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
Top prospect Wil Myers has been the talk of the town and Chris Archer has also drawn his fair share of hype, but neither of the two have had real intriguing starts to the season.
Take a look at five names to keep an eye on as the 2013 minor league baseball season takes flight.
It’s been a fantastic start to the season for hard-throwing right-hander Alex Colome with Triple-A Durham.
Colome, who’s considered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, has allowed just one run over 16 innings (three starts). His line includes eight hits, eight walks and 18 strikeouts.
His electric stuff has looked dominant, but he’s going to have to cut down on the walks if he wants to make his big-league debut this year. Hopefully, he can rise above the cluster of talented arms in the Rays’ system and make a positive contribution to the bullpen as soon as possible.
Right-hander Jesse Hahn was a speculated breakout candidate coming into the 2013 after his success last year in his pro debut. Following Tommy John surgery which sidelined him for the entire 2011 season, Hahn hit his stride with short-season Hudson Valley in 2012. He got better as the season progressed, and clearly hasn’t cooled off yet.
Hahn’s made three starts of three innings each so far with Class A+ Charlotte, giving up just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out 11.
It really looks like it could the beginning of a big breakout year for the 23-year-old right-hander.
Catcher Alejandro Segovia is another player who is worthy of the breakout prospect discussion.
The 22-year-0ld Venezuelan native is batting .286/.333/.619 with four home runs and 10 RBI through 12 games. His exciting power is definitely something to watch as the season progresses.
Talent at the catching position is something that the Rays organization lacks, so Segovia emerging as a top prospect would be huge.
Alex Torres’ name kinda got lost in the mix last year after an atrocious year with Durham. Again with the Bulls in 2013, the 25-year-old southpaw looks to be turning things around so far.
Torres has made two starts (11 innings), not allowing a single run while striking out 11 batters and letting up just four hits. Control has been the biggest issue for Torres throughout his entire career, which is why it’s both surprising and encouraging to see that he’s walked only one batter thus far.
Torres is a guy who already has some major league experience as a reliever, so if he stays on track he could possibly see time in the ‘pen.
It was a big year for Jeff Ames’ development last season. The 2011 first-round draft pick had a outstanding campaign with Hudson Valley, and has started his first full pro season (Class A Bowling Green) off on the right foot.
Ames surrendered just two runs (both home runs), five hits and one walk with 15 strikeouts over his first three first starts (five innings each).
He’s a player with sky-high potential and believe he’ll shine this season in the Midwest League.
The logic of the rankings are based off of the prospects’ tools and potential, as well as previous performance in the minors leagues.
Because most of the prospects on this list are at different stages of development, future upside was a large factor in putting together these rankings.
Without further ado, here’s a look at my top 10 Rays prospects heading into spring training.
1. Wil Myers
Wil Myers was the top prize in the four-prospect trade package that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City. After putting together an outstanding 2012 season in Class AA and Class AAA ball, the 22-year-old has become arguably the best hitting prospect in all of baseball.
As you can see from the numbers, Myers’ main forte is his impressive raw power. He also has great bat speed and the ability to hit well for power and get on base proficiently. On the base pads, he’s an average runner with decent speed.
Myers’ main weakness overall is his plate discipline. The exciting power does come with some swing-and-miss tendency, as he struck out 140 times in 134 games last season. Hopefully, Myers will be able to fix the holes in his swing as he matures overall as a ballplayer.
Defensively, Myers is nothing special but nothing below average either. He played centerfield, right field and some third base in 2012, but right field will most likely be his main position in the majors. With a plus arm and average range, he should manage pretty well there.
Barring an injury, Myers will most likely get his first taste of the big leagues this season with Tampa Bay. The only question is how early. If he goes on a tear this spring he could even make the Opening Day roster.
2. Taylor Guerrieri
Drafted by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, 20-year-old right hander Taylor Guerrieri didn’t hesitate at all to open eyes in his professional debut with Class A- Hudson Valley last year. Guerrieri posted an impressive 1.04 ERA through 12 starts (52 innings) with 7.9 K/9 and 9.0 K/BB.
He has a good feel for four pitches, including a two-seam fastball with excellent late sinking action and a plus curveball. He’s also in the process of developing a changeup which could also transform into an above-average pitch.
Guerrieri’s fastball reaches up into the mid-upper 90′s and he still has plenty of room to grow into his six-foot-three, 195 pound frame to build up velocity in the future.
Besides for having great stuff, Guerrieri has also displayed advanced control and command with the ability to pound the strike zone. He only walked five batters throughout the entire 2012 season.
3. Chris Archer
Chris Archer has been one of the top prospects among the Rays’ plethora of young arms for a while now, and it looks like his minor league days could be coming to the end as spring training rolls in.
Archer made his MLB debut last season, making four starts as a replacement in the rotation. He posted a 4.60 ERA through four starts (29.1 innings), but continued to show a bright ray of light with an outstanding 11.0 K/9 ratio.
The 24-year-old right-hander has great stuff, including a fantastic fastball that reaches velocities in the upper-90′s range along with great live movement. He also has a very good slider, giving him a nice two-pitch combination with the fastball. His changeup is still lagging behind, but it does seem to be improving.
Command and control are by far the biggest issues for Archer. He’s struggled throwing strikes in both the majors and minors, and it’s been holding him back from a breakout season.
With such a terrific arsenal, the sky is the limit for Archer. His big league future can be anything from a middle reliever to an All-Star starter. If he can just improve his command enough, the Rays are going to have yet another dangerous starter in their rotation.
4. Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi was another highly-ranked prospect acquired from Kansas City in this winter’s blockbuster trade. The Rays may have lost two talented starting pitchers in that deal, but they did gain one back in Odorizzi.
The 22-year-old right-hander had a very productive 2012 season, going 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 8.4 K/9 through 145.1 IP.
He has four pitches in his arsenal, including a solid fastball that reaches the mid-90′s and a plus curveball and slider. His changeup is still a work in progress, but he has displayed excellent command over all his pitches for a pitcher at such a young age.
Odorizzi already made his big-league debut last year, making two starts with the Royals, and will be fighting for a spot in the rotation this spring. If he stays on the path he’s on he’ll eventually make it, and should be exciting to watch with a very high ceiling to be a frontline starter in Tampa Bay.
5. Hak-Ju Lee
Like Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee was acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade back in 2011. Ever since, Lee’s appeared in two MLB Futures Games and rised to be the organization’s best position player prospect until the Wil Myers trade this offseason.
The 22-year-old Korean native posted an underachieving .261/.336/.360 line with 37 RBI and stolen bases last year in Class AA ball. He failed to make much progress and unfortunately didn’t even get the call for Triple-A Durham.
The main concern with Lee is hitting, which is really the only thing holding him back in Double-A. He has no power, so getting on-base is crucial for him, and he’s going to have to do a better job of that this season if he wants to break into the big leagues.
On the other hand, Lee’s strong points are fielding and speed. He’s a very good shortstop with both great range and a good arm, and definitely has high upside defensively at the position at the major league level.
6. Alex Colome
Alex Colome is definitely a name to watch for in the minor leagues in 2013. The 24-year-old right-hander went 8-4 with a 3.44 ERA and 8.8 K/9 through 17 starts last year in both Double-A and Triple-A.
What makes Colome such an exciting prospect is his electric stuff, making him one of the higher upside prospects in the entire organization.
Colome’s arsenal is highlighted by a great fastball which he throws up to 97 MPH with plenty of live action. He also throws a pretty good curve, along with a slider and changeup which are still developing.
Like many talented hard-throwers in the Rays’ farm system over the years, the team has done a nice job gradually transforming Colome from a thrower into a pitcher. His command—which is his main weakness—is slowly but surely improving as he moves up the ranks.
7. Richie Shaffer
The Rays drafted Richie Shaffer 25th overall in last summer’s draft, adding a talented bat to Tampa Bay’s farm system.
After a succesful college career with the Clemson Tigers, Shaffer made his pro debut with Short-Season Hudson Valley. There he hit .308/.406/.487 with four homers and through 33 games.
Shaffer—a right-handed bat—is a very good hitter overall, with big-time power and a nice plate approach. He does have holes in his swing and tends to strikeout often because of them, but he has his whole minor league career ahead of him to work on it.
Defensively, the 21-year-old’s main position is third base. Although his strong arm profiles well for the position, lack of range makes his future at third a question mark. Both first base and/or right field could be possibilities for him long term.
8. Blake Snell
Blake Snell is another pitching prospect on this top 10 list with the tools to become a frontline starter in the major leagues.
Selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 Draft, Snell shined in the Appalachian League last season being named Pitcher of the Year. He went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 10.1 K/9 through 11 starts (47.1 IP).
The 20-year-old lefty has four pitches in his arsenal. He throws a low-90′s fastball that touches the mid-90′s, and with such a lanky physique the Rays can expect Snell to gain velocity as he matures.
Snell also throws a plus changeup, which leads his two other secondary pitches; the slider and curveball. The slider—which he developed last year—could serve as a good pitch for him down the road. The curve is also a work in progress and lacks sharpness a bit.
One thing to like about Snell is his command, which is pretty impressive for such a young pitcher. He does well throwing strikes, and is able to entice groundballs by throwing low in the zone.
9. Enny Romero
Another electric arm in the Rays’ system with very high upside, Enny Romero has steadily moved up the farm over the past five years level by level.
Romero spent the entire 2012 season with Class A+ Charlotte, going 5-7 with a 3.93 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and a .201 opponent’s batting average.
The 22-year-old southpaw throws a powerful fastball in the mid-to-upper 90′s, along with a hard curveball with very high potential as his secondary pitch. He also throws a changeup, but there’s still plenty of refining needed to be done there.
Unsurprisingly, Romero’s main area that needs improvement is his command and control. Throwing strikes and pitch location has frequent issue with the flame-throwing MLB Future Gamer.
Romero could also use good share of work on his mechanics, which has caused inconsistency in pitches.
10. Drew Vettleson
The Rays have an intriguing bat to keep an eye on with 21-year-old Drew Vettleson emerging in their farm system.
Vettleson had a solid 2012 season with Single-A Bowling Green after being drafted 42nd overall in the 2010 Draft, hitting .275/.340/.432 with 69 RBI, 15 homers and 20 stolen bases.
What I like about Vettleson is that he’s a very well-rounded player. His excellent swing and terrific bat speed provide him with both the capability to hit for average and for power.
He’s also a good baserunner, and has above-average speed which should help him continue to steal bases throughout his career.
Defensively, he fields well at both corner outfield positions. With a good arm (was a rare ambidextrous pitcher in high school) and good range, he should be able to play right field.
As the 2012 regular season winds down to another exciting finish, a handful of Rays minor leaguers look forward to breaking into The Show in 2013. Besides for Matt Moore, no prospects have really made a significant impact on the Rays thus far this season. Hopefully it won’t be the same story next season, and a few names will be able to give the Rays a boost. Here are some farmhands to keep in eye on for 2013.
Despite a mediocre 2012 season thus far, Hak-Ju Lee is currently considered the Rays’ No. 1 prospect by many. The 21-year-old is expected to be the franchise’s future at shortstop, and 2013 could be the year he begins his anticipated big league journey. Lee has spent the entire season with Double-A Montgomery, and has hit .261/.336/.360 with 37 RBI and 37 stolen bases. The offensive stats are nothing to get too excited about and neither are his defensive numbers, as Lee has posted a .954 fielding percentage this year. He’s still young and has good potential, so nobody should be surprised to see him with the Rays next September.
Chris Archer—who’s considered the Rays’ top upper-level pitching prospect—has already made an impact with the club in 2012. The 23-year-old right-hander put up a 3.66 ERA in 25 starts with Durham this season and a 3.86 ERA in his two first major league starts. With James Shields likely not returning next year and Jeff Niemann’s health seemingly always in question, Archer will likely have a much more significant role in the starting rotation in 2013.
Alex Colome flashed his high potential as he progressed nicely through the Rays’ farm system in 2012. A recent shoulder injury has ended his season, but at this rate many still expect to see Colome as a late-season call-up next year. Colome combined for an 8-4 record and a 3.44 ERA through 17 starts (14 with Montgomery, 3 with Durham) in the minors this year.
It’s been another disappointing year for former No. 1 draft pick Tim Beckham. The 22-year-old middle infielder is still fairly young, however, and is gradually progressing in the Rays’ organization. A 50-game suspension for drug use really hurt his chances of making a big league push this season, but he there’s actually still a possibility he gets called up this month. Beckham will likely join the Rays at some point in 2013, obviously depending on how he plays with Durham. This year Beckham has posted a underachieving .256/.325/.361 line with 28 RBI and a .946 fielding percentage through 72 games.
September 1 is now just a day away, which means tomorrow all of MLB’s 30 rosters will expand from 25 players to 40 players. The Rays have already announced their first round of call-ups, which will include catcher Chris Gimenez, reliever Cesar Ramos, outfielder Rich Thompson and infielder Reid Brignac.
Chris Gimenez, who already played 24 games with the Rays earlier this season, will be used as a third backup catcher behind Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina. Expect to see Gimenez get a good amount of at-bats against left-handed pitching this month, as he’s posted an average of .375 versus lefties this year (MLB and AAA).
Cesar Ramos has been up and down between Triple-A Durham and the majors during his past two years with the Rays. Ramos will provide the bullpen with an extra arm and be used primarily against left-handed batters, which are his specialty.
Rich Thompson is another call-up that has already been with the Rays once this season. Thompson—who was acquired from Philadelphia earlier in the year—will mainly serve as a pinch runner and should give the Rays a nice boost on the base pads. He’s hitting .311/.369/.426 with Durham this year, but hasn’t proven that he can hit MLB pitching yet.
After seeing his career take a huge downward turn this year, Reid Brignac is finally returning to the big leagues. Many believed Brignac’s last demotion was the end of his MLB career because of his persistent struggles in the minors, but his chance came at the right time, as Sean Rodriguez—who was expected to be called up instead—broke his hand this week while punching his locker. Hopefully Brignac can help out the infield’s defense and the team’s running game as well.
The next round of call-ups should come after Monday, as Durham’s season comes to an end. A first baseman is one thing we can expect when the Rays make their next moves.
With Carlos Pena’s continuing struggles leading him towards less playing time, don’t be surprised to see the Rays call up either Henry Wrigley or Leslie Anderson. Wrigley and Anderson—both first basemen—have both hit well with Durham this season and have yet to earn a single game in the big leagues. With Pena at an all-time low and the rosters expanding, this is clearly their best opportunity.
Top pitching prospect Chris Archer could also be a possibility in the coming week. After a slow start to the season, Archer has pitched well as of late, and could be a nice addition to the bullpen.
After a little over a month of baseball, the MLB—and MiLB season—is now in full swing. Back in February, I did an evaluation on the Rays’ top prospects on The Rays Rant, and I think it’s about time we check-in how they’re progressing thus far. As you can see from the list, Matt Moore is still technically considered a prospect. However, he’s already pitched nearly 50 innings as a Major Leaguer, so I decided not to include him in this article. Here’s the current status of the Rays’ top five minor league prospects:
It’s been a slow start to the season for 21-year-old shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, who earned a full-season promotion to Double-A Montgomery after a breakout 2011 season. He’s batting .229/.293/.314 as the Biscuits’ leadoff hitter, with 12 RBI and nine stolen bases (caught three times). He hasn’t gone yard yet, but he does have 10 extra basehits including three triples. Lee is not only struggling with the bat, as he hasn’t been sharp defensively either. He hasn’t been smooth at short so far this season, committing seven errors already (.955 fielding percentage). It’s clear that the talented youngster has not yet adjusted to the Double-A level, and seems to still be in the process of getting used to the speed of the game. Hopefully it’s nothing more than a slow start for Lee, as the Rays could really use a shortstop like him as soon as possible on the roster.
The Rays’ top right-handed pitching prospect is probably Chris Archer, who continues to provide the Rays with even more pitching depth down at the farm. After a poor April start to the year, it appears as if Archer is now on the right track. Archer currently owns a record of 3-4 with a 4.71 ERA this season with Triple-A Durham, but he’s had a great start to the month of May. In his three starts this month, Archer has gone 2-0 with an ERA of 2.00, going six innings deep in all three outings. He outdueled Yankees’ top prospect Manny Banuelos on Sunday, shining in the Bulls’ matinee matchup with the Yankees (Scranton/WB) throwing nine strikeouts without allowing an earned run. We know he has good swing-and-miss stuff, but the main concern with Archer is his command. The 23-year-old simply walks too many batters; he’s walked 28 already this season (averaging 3.5 base on balls per start). This is something Archer clearly needs to improve on if he hopes earning a promotion to the big leagues at any point this season.
After a good 2011 season, the former first-overall draft pick has disappointed the Rays once again in 2012. After just 13 games with Triple-A Durham, where he hit .204/.290/.278 four RBI, the 22-year-old shortstop was issued a 50-game suspension from MiLB for his second violation of the league’s drug policy (marijuana). This could not come at a much worse time for Beckham and the Rays, as 2012 was supposed to be a crucial year in his development as he continues to near is MLB debut. The Rays and their fans hope that Beckham won’t become the next Josh Hamilton.
Drafted in the first round of last year’s draft, Mahtook has had a solid start in his first year of full-season ball. He’s put up a .278/.340/.317 line with 13 RBI and nine stolen bases with Class A+ Charlotte in the Florida State League. The only thing that hasn’t come around yet this season is the power, as Mahtook remains homer-less with four extra base-hits after the first 34 games (126 at-bats). He definitely has some pop in his bat, and hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the power arrives.
Also drafted by the Rays in the first round last summer, Guerrieri gives Tampa’s organization another exciting young arm. The 19-year-old is starting the year in extended spring training, and is yet to throw his first pitch as a professional. He’s expected to soon start the season in the Rookie League, with the Princeton Rays. A complete scouting report on the hard-throwing right-hander can be found here.
This is part three of The Rays Rant’s evaluation on the Rays’ top prospects. To view part one of the series, click here. For part two, click here. All rankings are based off MLB.com’s top organization prospect list.
11. Parker Markel
Scouting Report: The Rays could have a future reliever in right-hander Parker Markel. The 21-year-old started 13 games last year in the New York-Penn League, and pitched pretty well in his first season as a starter. Markel went 3-4 with a 3.14 ERA through 57.1 innings pitched. The six-foot-four 220-pounder has pretty good stuff, including a quality fastball. His heater ranges in the low 90′s, while generating plenty of ground outs. Markel also has a plus changeup to complement his fastball, but his secondary pitches are a bit of a question after that. He does have a slider with potential in his arsenal, but he didn’t show it much at all last year. Markel’s stuff is not one of his main areas of concern. Most scouts can agree that his mechanics are lacking, which doesn’t help his case at all for a starting role. Markel also needs to continue to improve his command, even though it appears as if he’s going in the right direction in that department. Low strikeout rates are another red flag for Markel, which is a big strange considering scouting reports’ admiration on his stuff. Strikeout ratios may not be a big deal at the MLB level, but they sometimes can be a foreshadowing sign for pitchers in the early stages of the minors.
Conclusion: Chances are that Markel ends up becoming a reliever with the Rays’ organization, rather than a starter. Although he may have good enough stuff to become a big league starter, a relief role is clearly the best fit for him. Markel doesn’t have the stamina for a starting role; at least that’s what his 2011 short-season numbers reflected. Markel’s three-pitch arsenal and groundball-inducing abilities are other reasons why his future’s brighter as a reliever. From the Rays’ perspective, a good young reliever is really just as great as another starting pitcher. Tampa could use a lot more help in that department, and they have a lot to like about Markel when he joins their ‘pen.
12. Josh Sale
Offensively: Former first-round draft Josh Sale hasn’t been written off just yet after his poor professional debut. The 20-year-old slugger hit .210 with just four homers and 15 RBI last year with the Rookie League Princeton Rays. Sale was drafted for his big-time offensive ability. He possesses huge raw power and excellent bat speed from his big left-handed swing, giving him the potential to become a very good hitter. As the stats show, it’s clear that Sale needs to work on his plate approach in order to make more contact. Once the ball starts meeting the bat, Sale’s homerun-power will quickly shine on the baseball field. Baserunning wise, Sale has never excelled at all in that department. The muscular six-foot 215-pounder lacks athletic ability to some degree, and is a below-average runner overall.
Defensively: Defense is probably Sale’s biggest weakness on the diamond. Although he has improved at his corner outfield position, he’s still probably a below-average outfielder overall. Sale has a naturally strong arm, and his overall throwing abilities are about average and could become above-average if he continues to improve. He has worked hard to fix some issues with his arm action, and will hopefully convert his raw strength into a decent throwing arm in the outfield. As I said before, Sale lacks speed. Although he’s not slow, he doesn’t have much range at all in the outfield.
Conclusion: At 20 years of age, Sale has ways to go. Time and experience is really what he needs to reach his full potential. Sale knows what he needs to needs to do in order to progress through the minors, and he eventually his outstanding hitting abilities will break through with hard work.
13. Brandon Guyer
Offensively: Acquired in the Matt Garza trade, Guyer quickly excelled during his first year in the Rays’ organization. In his first ever big league at bat, Guyer blasted a homer into the seats of Camden Yards. That would be the first of 15 games he’d play for the Rays in 2011, as Guyer spent most of the season in Triple-A Durham. In his 107 games in AAA, he batted .312 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI. A career .297 hitter in the minors, Guyer is a very good all-around offensive player. The 25-year-old has the ability to make good contact, hit for power, and steal bases with great speed. The Rays could really use a guy on the roster like Guyer, who brings the uncommon combination of speed and power to the table.
Defensively: An excellent athlete, Guyer’s a good defensive outfielder overall. His fast legs help him run down balls in the gap well, and his accurate throwing is also a plus. Guyer’s arm strength is about average, which is probably the main reason why he profiles better as a corner-outfielder in the majors. Still, Guyer has plenty of experience at center and will be able to fill in there when needed.
Conclusion: As Guyer nears a big league breakthrough, he’s one guy the Rays will definitely keep an eye on. A crowded outfield is the only thing that has kept him away from significant playing time in the majors, and his five-tool abilities will continue to inch him closer to a spot on the roster. Guyer appears to be developing into a better hitter overall, especially power-wise. If he continues to succeed in the minors, Guyer could very possibly be a key player for the Rays as early as this season.
14. Alex Colome
Scouting Report: Alex Colome is not exactly a known name among baseball’s top prospects or even the Rays’ prospects, but he’s one talented arm. Colome is a power pitcher, depending heavily upon his hard fastball and sharp curveball. The changeup is another pitch that Colome likes to mix up in his arsenal, but it’s still a developing pitch for a him. His secondary pitches will be crucial for him as he progresses through the Rays’ system. Like most of the Rays’ top pitching prospects, Colome’s main issue is command. Colome had stints with both Class-A Charlotte and Class-AA Montgomery last year. His combined stats included a 3.82 ERA, a 12-9 record and a terrific 9.6 K/9 ratio. The command was what contributed to the mediocre ERA, but Colome showed that he can be a great strikeout pitcher. Colome’s electric stuff is what makes him a hit with the scouts.
Conclusion: At just 23 years of age, the six-foot-two right-hander still has a lot of baseball left in his minor league career. It looks like he’ll be starting in high Single-A in 2012, where he hopes it won’t take him too long to move up from there. Even with the Rays over-crowded pitching depth, Colome could very possibly make his debut sometime during the 2013 season.
15. Ryan Brett
Offensively: The Rays drafted a scrappy second baseman in Ryan Brett during the third round of the 2010 draft. His old-fashion, aggressive approach to the game makes him a perfect fit in the Rays’ organization. The 20-year-old switch hitter posted a .300/.370/.471 line along with three homers and 24 RBI during his 61 games in Rookie League ball last season. Brett has shown the ability to make consistent contact at the plate, with plenty of solid line drives. He has more pop in his bat than he appears with his five-foot-nine 180-pound stature, but still won’t provide much power in his career. As for base running, Brett has great speed and the knack to steal bases. He swiped 21 bags last year, and his good instincts on the basepaths should lead to more stolen-base success in the future.
Defensively: Brett has improved a lot over the past year defensively, as second base continues to appear as his position as he starts his pro baseball career. His overall defense is somewhere around average, and most scouts agree that he needs to improve his overall fielding. I expect Brett to move forward defensively in 2012, as he has a chance to become a solid second baseman in the future.
Conclusion: Brett is no Dustin Pedroia, but there’s still a lot of upside to him. He has several years ahead of him in the minors, and 2012 will be important for him as he starts his first full-season of work. Brett will probably continue to be one of those under-the-radar prospects because of his size, but his great offensive approach should eventually get him some notice as he moves up the ranks.
6. Taylor Guerrieri
Scouting Report: The Rays continue to invest in young pitching. Tampa drafted right-handed pitcher Taylor Guerrieri in the first round last summer, adding another talented arm into the Rays’ organization. Guerrieri features electric stuff, throwing up to speeds of 97 MPH. Besides his dominant fastball, Guerrieri also throws an impressive power curveball, providing him with a great secondary pitch. For good reasons, he hardly ever used his changeup in high school, but most scouts seem to believe he can develop it into a usable pitch. Guerrieri also has a hard cutter in his arsenal, which goes along with his live two-seamer. As for mechanics, there are a few basic things in his delivery that he needs to tweak. Still, nothing that should be a big problem moving forward.
Conclusion: At just 19 years of age, Guerrieri will experience his first professional season this year. Being so young with such little experience and a lot of talent, it’s hard to say exactly what to expect out of Guerrieri in the future. If one thing’s for sure, he has great stuff which can translate into big-time potential. Guerrieri won’t be arriving in the big leagues any time soon, but he’s definitely a prospect worth watching as he progresses through the minors.
7. Alex Torres
Scouting Report: Alex Torres, who was acquired in the 2009 Scott Kazmir trade, has made steady progress through the Rays’ farm system during the last year. The 24-year-old spent the 2011 season with AAA Durham, ending the year with a strong second half which earned him a September callup. Torres went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA through 146.1 innings pitched for the Bulls last season, and allowed one run through his eight innings out of the bullpen with the Rays. Torres has good stuff, featuring a quality fastball and two main off-speed pitches; a changeup and and a curve. His secondary stuff is apparently effective, because he’s keeping hitters off-balance enough to post a high SO/9 ratio of 9.6 last season in the minors. One of the things that makes Torres a high-ranked prospect is his ability to have three quality pitches once he’s fully developed. The only thing that’s been holding him back his whole career has been his command issues. Torres will simply need to improve his strike-throwing ratios if he wants to break in as a starter in the Major Leagues.
Conclusion: Torres has a promising future in the big leagues, and will probably contribute to the ‘pen this season. The biggest question surrounding Torres is whether he has a brighter future as a starter or a reliever. He has good enough stuff for both, but he’s going to have to improve his command if he wants a starting role with the Rays. I see him as a reliever if he stays with the Rays’ organization, but a starter if he plays for another team in the future.
8. Drew Vettleson
Offensively: Drew Vettleson may be the most intriguing of the Rays’ prospects. Vettleson was the Rays’ third 1st-round draft pick in 2010, drafted out of the Pacific Northwest region. What the Rays see in Vettleson is pure, quality baseball player. He has great skills at the plate, and most scouts believe he has the ability to be a good average hitter in the future. He puts up great at bats, and hits the ball hard and often. Vettleson hit .282 with seven homers and 40 RBI through 61 games in his first pro season for Princeton this year. His homerun power has been a debate amongst scouts, but most agree that the lefty can be a double-digit homerun hitter down the road. Vettleson’s baseball intelligence is another strength he possesses on the diamond. Good baseball instincts is something that the Rays highly value in their prospects, and Vettleson is a great example. His baseball smarts really come in handy on the base pads, as he doesn’t have very fast legs. Last year, Vettleson managed to collect 20 stolen bases
Defensively: The most interesting part about Vettleson is that he’s also a pitcher. But not just any pitcher, a switch pitcher. Vettleson can both pitch with his right and left hand; something that is very rare these days in baseball. Although he could try professional baseball as pitcher, most experts agree that the outfield is where he belongs. His pitching arm makes him a good fit in the right field, where Vettleson spent the entire 2011 season.
Conclusion: Vettleson is ways away, but he should be making progress through the minors this year after an impressive first season. We can probably expect to see Vettleson make his big league debut in 2014.
9. Enny Romero
Scouting Report: Southpaw Enny Romero makes the Rays’ stack of talented arms even higher. The 21-year-old throws a great fastball, reaches speeds in the mid-90′s with plenty of movement. His secondary pitches don’t have the same kind of effect on opposing hitters, but both his changeup and curveball have the chance to become great pitches. Just like most 21-year-old hard-throwing lefties, Romero needs to improve on his control and command. If Romero can improve his command while maintaining his great strikeout stuff, the Rays will have another scary pitcher down in the farm. Statistically speaking, Romero went 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA and 140 strikeouts last year with Class-A Bowling Green. The numbers are nothing special, but the outstanding strikeout rates show the type of ability he has.
Conclusion: It should be fun to watch a player with so much potential like Romero develop in the minors throughout the next couple of years. It’s debatable whether his future is brighter as a starter or a reliever, but either way he’s a pretty exciting prospect. The Rays have mastered the art of turning young talents like Romero into quality pitchers, and hopefully the trend will continue here.
10. Blake Snell
Scouting Report: Yet another talented left-handed pitcher, the Rays drafted Blake Snell in the first round of the MLB draft last summer. The 19-year-old features three main pitches in his arsenal; a fastball, a changeup, and a curve. Snell’s heater is his best pitch, which he throws in the low-90′s down in the zone, enticing lots of groundballs. He needs to work on his secondary pitches, though, as his curveball lacks sharpness a bit. Snell played his first professional season last year, posting a 3.08 ERA and 26 strikeouts through 26.1 innings pitched.
Conclusion: Like I said before, the Rays have a reputation of developing young pitchers like Snell. Improvements in command and control will come with time, as Snell has a long ways to go in his minor league journey.
Last year, The Rays Rant evaluated the Rays’ top prospects of 2011. This year, The Rays Rant will break down the top 20 Rays prospects of 2012, once again based off MLB.com’s rankings. Here’s a glance of what some of the Rays’ future players have to offer.
1. Matt Moore
Scouting Report: If anybody’s ready for The Show, it’s phenom pitcher Matt Moore. It’s very rare to discover any young baseball player with the talent like Moore; the kid’s an absolute natural. The young fireballer is considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball, having been ranked No.1 by MLB.com’s top 100 prospects of 2012 list. Moore has been ranked within the top three prospects by pretty much every source, making him one of the most recognized prospects in all of baseball. So, what’s the reason behind all this hype surrounding Moore? First of all, the kid features some wicked wicked stuff, making him a real nightmare for hitters. The young flamethrower lives off of his outstanding fastball, which effortlessly reaches blazing speeds in the upper 90s. He also features a nasty curveball, along with a plus curveball. His curveball has always been a big pitch for Moore, but the changeup is now coming into effect more than ever before. His hard slider and powerful sinker, both above average pitches as well, completing a terrific arsenal. As expected, the 22-year-old lefty enjoyed success in his first Major League season. After pitching ridiculously well during his 27 starts for AAA Durham—12 wins, 1.92 ERA, and 210 K—Moore finally got his chance to shine on the big stage. And shine he did, in most of his 19.1 innings of his 2011 experience. Moore really made his mark when the playoffs started, though. He had an unbelievable outing in Arlington after being called on to start Game 1 of the ALDS—just his second MLB start. He was looking like the ace of the Rays’ rotation, dominating Texas’ big bats by shutting them out through seven strong innings. Moore would finish his brief 2011 season—including playoffs—with a combined ERA of 2.09 with 23 strikeouts.
Conclusion: If Moore is able to stay healthy, he’ll be the future ace of an already-great Rays rotation, which includes David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Moore gives the Rays every reason to believe that their contract extension decision with him was a no-brainer. Moore has a lot of pressure on him, and I’m sure he’ll respond positively, just as he did last October. A lot is expected from him, and I won’t be surprised to see the major rookie impact from him that everyone is anticipating. It looks like the Rays will likely have a second Rookie of the Year winner in a row this season.
2. Hak-Ju Lee
Hak-Ju Lee may not yet be a household name among Rays fans, but it won’t be too long before he gains recognition in professional baseball. The 21-year-old Korean was acquired in the Matt Garza trade and is considered one of the top prospects in baseball. Lee was one of three players that represented the Rays at the MLB Futures Game last July.
Offensively: Lee was promoted in August to Class-AA after spending most of his 2011 season playing for the Charlotte Stonecrabs (Class-A+). His combined stats from his 2011 season included a .292 average with 30 RBI and 33 stolen bases. Some of Lee’s best attributes are part of his offensive game. He has great speed, is a good contact hitter, and is able to put up quality at-bats. However, Lee does have some offensive weaknesses as well. He doesn’t have much pop in his left-handed bat at all, and he also needs to improve his baserunning. Lee will probably never develop into any kind of a power hitter, but wise decisions on the base pads will definitely become a very important part of his game. Last season, Lee was thrown out 16 times out of 49 attempts; a ratio that simply must improve. He’ll likely make good progress in that department, as he already has advanced during his time in the minors.
Defensively: Overall, Lee is a plus defensive shortstop. He’s made huge strides with his glove throughout his pro career, bringing his defense to one of the highest levels in his minor league class. Lee’s quickness provides him with great range at short, and he also features a strong arm. Lee recorded 18 errors last year, which is a drastic improvement from his previous seasons in the minors.
Conclusion: Many believe that Lee has All Star potential in the big leagues, and it’s pretty easy to see why. At just 21, Lee has already convinced scouts he has a Gold Glove caliber future and can be an effective base-stealer in the big leagues. Faults in his game, such as careless baserunning and fielding errors, are not much of a concern at this stage and are very common amongst 20 year-old prospects. At the end of the day, Lee is a very exciting youngster for the Rays’ organization, and appears to be the club’s future shortstop. Excpect to see him arrive sometime during the 2013 season.
3. Chris Archer
Scouting Report: Chris Archer, another top prospect acquired from the Matt Garza trade, has been one of the biggest names in the Rays farm system. With all the pitching talent in the Rays’ farm system, Archer leads the pack of right-handed arms. Archer’s effectiveness is heavily based off his two main pitches; the fastball and the hard slider. He features a very live heater, that reaches speeds in the mid-90′s. Archer’s slider is absolutely nasty, giving him an outstanding secondary pitch. The 23-year-old also includes a changeup in his arsenal, but it’s clear that it needs work to become a reliable pitch. Archer’s overall stuff is pretty impressive, and is definitely not his main issue. Command is by far the biggest thing Archer needs to improve on to take the next step in his career. When Archer struggles, it’s almost always when he’s not able to place his pitches where he wants them. Past command struggles are shown in his stats, as Archer’s high walk rate has hurt his numbers throughout his pro career.
Conclusion: The future looks pretty bright for maybe the Rays’ most intriguing young righty. Archer finished his 2011 season on a high note, being promoted late in the year to AAA Durham after spending most of the season with AA Montgomery. He let in just one run through two excellent starts with the Bulls. Hopefully, Archer can start the season where he left off and improve his 4.09 ERA that he posted last year. His second-half turnaround re-convinced many people that Archer has the potential to become a frontline starter in the majors. At this point it’s pretty clear that only his command is holding him down. Archer may contribute to the Rays bullpen later this season, where he seems like he could fit in pretty well with his dangerous fastball-slider combo.
4. Tim Beckham
Tim Beckham proved a lot last year to remind everybody of the former No. 1 draft-pick he is. Some scouts wrote off Beckham before the 2011 season, but he apparently has made himself noticeable enough to move himself up on the Rays’ prospect list from No. 10 to No. 3 (via MLB.com).
Offensively: Beckham spent his 2011 season playing 107 games for AA Montgomery and 24 games for AAA Durham. He combined for a .271 average with 12 home runs and 70 RBI. Beckham improved his offensive game overall, especially in power and plate discipline. Being a six-foot middle-infielder, Beckham doesn’t feature any real big-time power, but he definitely can hit the ball hard with his excellent bat speed. The biggest thing Beckham has to work on offensively is increasing both his batting and on-base percentage. Besides his appearance at the plate, Beckham also can run the bases well. He increased his baserunning intelligence a lot last year, dropping his caught stealing total by nine while decreasing his stolen base total by just five. Beckham will never become an avid base-stealer, but he probably can be a threat on the bags at the big league level.
Defensively: Defense has been one of the biggest concerns for Beckham in the past. Sloppy defense at shortstop has made many question his future at the position. Fortunately, Beckham has made huge progress with his glove, cutting his error total down by the years. Errors are really the biggest issue for Beckham defensively, as he probably has the tools to become a big league shortstop. He features a strong throwing arm, but it’s debatable how good his range and hands still are.
Conclusion: Beckham has established himself as one of those “Late Bloomers” in the prospect world, but he still hasn’t really ‘bloomed’ to his full potential yet. He may not be the star that he was once predicted to be, but he does have bright potential. This season will be a crucial year for Beckham, as he needs to continue to make strides and rebuild his reputation. He appears to be on the right track, as he inches closer and closer to the big leagues. Beckham could make his MLB debut as early as late this summer.
5. Mikie Mahtook
Former LSU star Mikie Mahtook was drafted by the Rays last summer in the first round. The 22-year-old outfielder is a member of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, being ranked at 96 on the list.
Offensively: Mahtook is arguably the best offensive prospects in the Rays’ farm system. He was a big-time hitter in college, batting .383/.496/.709 in his final season with Louisiana State. The impressive numbers didn’t stop there, as Mahtook continued his success into his professional baseball debut. Mahtook batted .338 with three homers and 9 RBI through 18 games during his stint in the Arizona Fall League. Overall, Mahtook is a very a good hitter. He has great mechanics at the plate, as well as quick bat speed that allows him to hit for both average and power. Mahtook also excels in the baserunning department, featuring average to plus speed. He’s a very intelligent baserunner as well, the type of player that won’t make too many blunders on the base pads. Mahtook’s power-speed combination can bring excitement to any lineup, and is the reason why the Rays drafted him.
Defensively: Mahtook was a centerfielder throughout his college career, but he’ll likely end up in the corner-outfield positions where he seems to fit better. He’s an all-around plus defender, with good range and a strong arm. Mahtook’s throwing accuracy is probably his most attractive asset in the outfield, something that will help in develop into an MLB outfielder.
Conclusion: The Rays have every reason to believe Mahtook’s bat skills and athletic abilities will make him a solid player at the big league level. His natural baseball instincts and energy will likely translate well when he arrives in the majors. The Rays should be eager to have an emotional and intense player like Mahtook joining them in the near-future.
The wait is finally over; Spring Training is officially underway! The long offseason has finally come to an end, which means baseball will soon return to Tampa Bay. As the Rays prepare for another successful season in 2012, there are some questions yet to be answered. Take a look at the five biggest questions coming into Spring Training.
Who will take over the the fifth spot in the rotation?
Having an overcrowded rotation is probably the best problem a team can have. With the addition of phenom rookie Matt Moore, the Rays’ position in the MLB arms race is higher than ever. The front four in the rotation is pretty predictable. Expect to see James Shields in the number one spot, followed by Price, Hellickson, and Moore. Of course, all eyes will be on who wins the last spot in the rotation. Although there is really four candidates for the fifth spot (Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb, Wade Davis, and Alex Torres), the decision is likely going to come down to two players. It appears as if Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, who were both part of the Rays starting rotation last season, will battle it out for the job this spring. It should be fun to watch, as Joe Maddon’s decision will most likely be heavily based off their Spring Training performances. Niemann pitched nearly 50 less innings than Davis last season, but there statistics were still pretty similar. Niemann finished the year with a 4.06 ERA and an 11-7 record, while Davis posted a 4.45 ERA with an 11-10 record. The numbers show that Niemann has been the more effective pitcher in the past, but that’s something he’ll have to prove this March. It’s hard to predict who will get the No. 5 role, but I think the early edge probably goes to Niemann. Again, we’ll just have to wait and see how they fare during Spring Training. As for the three pitchers who will be kept out of the starting rotation, they’re still valuable reserves on the roster. Almost never does a team go through a whole season without an injury to one of their starters, which means that they’ll have their chance to step in and contribute during the season. While the starting five are healthy, the reserve starters will likely help strengthen the bullpen. Whoever is edged out out of the rotation — Niemann or Davis — will become the team’s long reliever this season.
Who will win the battle at short?
The shortstop position is one of the big topics for the Rays this season, and it’s a big question of how much production can come from there in 2012. The competition for the shortstop job features three candidates: Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac, and the newly-acquired Jeff Keppinger. Like the rotation battle, the candidates are going to have to prove themselves during Spring Training. Rodriguez, who can play pretty much every position besides pitcher and catcher, seems to be the early favorite entering Sprig Training. Rodriguez put up the best offensive production out of all the Rays’ shortstops last year, batting .223 with eight home runs and 36 RBI’s. He also has good speed on the bases, collecting 11 thefts in 2011. His defense is maybe a bit above average, and he has proven to be a consistent fielder at short. Brignac also has similar plus sides to Rodriguez. His defense is at least as good as Rodriguez’s, and he’s probably just as much as a threat on the basepads. Besides his speed, Brignac has pretty much no offensive value. That’s main reason why his odds don’t look good for the shortstop job. Brignac finished the season with a low .193 average and just 15 RBI’s. As for Jeff Keppinger, he could earn himself a starting role with a strong Spring Training performance. He’s going to have to hit well for average, as his defense, power, and speed are not going to cut it. Keppinger is less than average defensively at shortstop, and plays a lot more games at second. A lifetime .281 hitter, Keppinger mostly adds offensive value to the roster. The Rays have a defense-oriented infield, but I believe Keppinger could possibly get the shortstop gig if he can convince the Rays that he is offensively stable enough. Still, Rodriguez seems to be the best fit for the job at the moment, and is probably the best prediction to play shortstop on Opening Day.
Who Will Be a Part of the Bullpen?
The battles for the rotation and shortstop spots may be the biggest storylines for the Rays this spring, but there will also be a heated competition for the bullpen. The Rays made multiple moves to reinforce their bullpen this season, now we will have to see how Maddon will piece them together. The closer role and setup man role are pretty predictable for 2012, as Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta look like they will return to their respectable spots in the bullpen. That leaves five more spots in the bullpen, with at least eight serious candidates. New right-handed additions Burke Badenhop and Fernando Rodney will likely find themselves a spot in the bullpen. The long reliever of the ‘pen would be however loses the Davis-Niemann battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. So, that leaves just two spots left in the bullpen. I’m assuming Maddon will want two lefties in his bullpen, bringing multiple names into the picture. The Rays showed a lot of confidence in J.P. Howell this offseason, which makes me predict that he’ll become the team’s left-handed specialist in the ‘pen. That leaves two main names who will likely fight it out for the middle relief role; Jake McGee and Josh Lueke. Even though McGee had a better statistical season last year, I think Lueke will be the one on the Opening Day roster. McGee is younger, and the Rays may prefer that he continues to develop in AAA Durham. However, McGee could be one among a handful of players who will be called up to contribute in the bullpen throughout the season. Brandon Gomes, Dane De La Rosa, Alex Torres, and Cesar Ramos could all potentially find themselves just outside the bullpen as well. Here’s how I predict the bullpen will look at the start of the regular season:
Can Matt Joyce Develop into a First Baseman?
Matt Joyce did not conduct his usual offseason workouts this winter. For the first time in his big league career, the 27 year-old Tampa-native is trying out the first base position. The All-Star outfielder is possibly considering becoming a first baseman. Even though Carlos Pena will be manning first base for the whole season, it’s always good to have the idea in mind. Offensively, Joyce is an adequate hitter for the position, and he’s still developing. In just his first big league season, Joyce batted .277 with 75 RBI’s and 19 home runs. Joyce’s power is something that will help him fit in at first, if he were to continue to pursue the position. Obviously, the biggest adjustment for Joyce would be defensively. Being an outfielder for his whole MLB career, Joyce would have a lot to learn in order to master the position. Joyce is one of many outfielders who have tried the move to first, and it hasn’t been much of a success story. Knowing Joyce, though, I believe he can complete the transition if he’s truly determined. Last offseason, Joyce worked to improve his baserunning and defense, and the results were great and very noticeable throughout the 2011 season. Joyce has terrific work ethic, and he’s one of those players who will do what it takes to achieve his goals. Joe Maddon may make team orders, but at the end of the day it really depends on whether Joyce is willing to put in the hard work or not.
Which Prospects Will Stand Out This March?
Besides Matt Moore, there are a handful of Rays prospects who have a lot to prove this Spring. Shortstop Tim Beckham is one of those names. Beckham, who’s ranked the Rays’ fourth-best prospect (by MLB.com), has a crucial year coming up ahead of him. The former first-overall draft pick has disappointed a bit so far in his minor league career, considering the extremely high expectations put on him since the beginning. Beckham compiled a .271 average with 70 RBI’s and 17 stolen bases through his 131 games last season, during his time with AA Montgomery and his brief stint with AAA Durham. It may not be the big numbers that stand out among scouts, but he was only 21 in 2011. He made a lot of progress last year, specifically improving in his defensive game. Many scouts say he may not have a big league future at the shortstop position, but Beckham is making efforts to prove them wrong. Even if Beckham won’t be an MLB shortstop, I still believe he has the potential to be a solid big league player. Any way you look at it, this is a very important Spring Training for Beckham, and I doubt he’ll disappoint.
Hak-Ju Lee is another top prospect who received a Spring Training invitation. The Rays are hopeful the 21-year-old Korean-native is there future shortstop. Lee, who was acquired in the Matt Garza trade two offseasons ago, ended his 2011 season in AA Montgomery after spending most of the year at the Class-A+ level. He finished the year with a .292 average along with 30 RBI’s and 17 stolen bases. Lee features great speed as well as plus defense, and is expected to make major progress in the minors this season. Although Lee will most likely not be joining the Rays in 2012, he should be a fun player to watch at Spring Training. It will be interesting to see if Lee and Beckham will have themselves a bit of a private battle throughout the spring.
Brandon Guyer, another youngster acquired in the Matt Garza trade, may have the most important Spring Training out of all the Rays prospects. The 26-year-old will have to play some quality baseball if he wants to break into the Rays’ crowded outfield. Guyer batted .312 with 14 homers and 16 stolen bases through his 107 at-bats with AAA Durham last season, displaying his power-speed combination. Even with the good numbers, it will be hard for him to find a decent amount of MLB playing time this season. With B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, and Sam Fuld taking over the outfield, he’s going to have to impress this March if he wants the big league shot he deserves.
With the exception of Matt Moore, there will be three main prospect pitchers to keep an eye on during Spring Training. Alex Cobb, Alex Torres, and Chris Archer will all have a lot of work to do this spring in order to prove they have what it takes to join the Rays’ talented rotation in the future. Cobb has the most MLB experience out of the three, going 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in his nine starts last season. He has also been successful in his minor league career, and has improved year by year. Alex Torres will need to follow Cobb’s path and improve his numbers if he wants a future as a Rays starter. Torres’ stats weren’t bad last year, as he went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA through his 27 starts at AAA Durham. Still, some things have to be fixed, and I’m pretty confident Torres will make progress doing so during Spring Training. As for Chris Archer, the Rays hope he can start the spring where he finished off. Archer, who is ranked the third best prospect (by MLB.com), ended his minor league season strong after having some struggles earlier in the year. It’ll be a big season for the 23-year-old hurler in 2012, and it should be interesting to see how he starts along side the rest of the Rays’ pitching talent. I think this may be the year Archer really shines and shows off his high potential.
Rays’ farmhand Russ Canzler was traded to the Cleveland Indians today in exchange for cash, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Canzler won the International League’s MVP award last season, batting .314 with 18 homers and 83 RBIs in 131 games last season for Durham. The trade came less than a week after Canzler was designated for assignment to make room for the newly-acquired Jeff Keppinger on the roster. Although it may not seem to make sense for the Rays to trade away someone who’s produced big numbers offensively in the minors, Canzler doesn’t really have a future in Tampa. The corner infielder/outfielder’s lack of defensive ability is the main reason why he doesn’t fit on the Rays’ roster. The Rays could use some extra cash anyways.
The Rays lost another Triple-A player this week, after Justin Ruggiano declined his minor league assignment on Monday. Ruggiano has been in the Rays’ organization since 2006, when he was acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 29-year-old outfielder had a .226 average with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 195 career Major League at-bats with the Rays.