Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TEAM #5 – Tampa Bay Rays

Jennings is about ready to become part of the Majors speediest Outfields

Our 2010 Prospect eGuide is less than a week away. If you have enjoyed this series, then check out the details here: http://baseballnumbers-diamondfutures.blogspot.com/2010/01/exclusive-offer.html .

There is a bit of a gap between the Cubs at #6 and the Tampa Bay Rays at #5, as we are truly down to the elite systems in baseball. The Rays have six legitimate Top 100 prospects, and their eleven that earn grades of ‘B+” or better is three more than the next closest team that we have reviewed thus far. While the Rays have significantly more pitching than hitting in their Minor League system, their collection of arms likely surpasses any team other than perhaps the Texas Rangers. With players like Jennings, Hellickson, Davis and Brignac all likely to graduate in 2010 and younger players like Beckham, Colome, Lobstein, Bailey, and Malm, there is a good mix between players ready to contribute and depth at the lower levels. Players like Colome, Guevera and Wilking Rodriguez are the fruits of a revamped Latin American effort. When you combine the strength of their Minor League system with a likely 25-man roster average age of barely 27yo, you have one of the brightest futures in all of baseball. The only thing that keeps the Rays from ranking even higher is that they don’t have the total system depth of the four teams that rank in front of them.

Grade A

1) Desmond Jennings, CF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 56; First Base Rate 77; Discipline 71; Speed 79)

In a normal year, Jennings’ 2009 SOL performance would have gotten a lot more press, but despite earning League MVP honors, Jennings played in the shadow of Jason Heyward in the SOL before a late season to promotion to AAA. As it was he still posted the #3 Performance Score in the SOL and the #2 Performance Score in the INT, clearly establishing himself among the game’s elite, and making people forget about his disappointing 2008. A highly gifted athlete, Jennings is certainly at least a 4-tool talent, as he possesses plus contact and plate discipline skills to go along with his plus-plus speed. While his power is his biggest weakness, it too should end up at least average by the time all is said and done. Defensively he is a potential gold glove talent that should likely move B.J. Upton to right when Jennings joins the Rays for good, sometime likely in 2010. Once that happens, the Rays, with Crawford in left, Jennings in Center, and Upton in right; will have one of the speediest OFs ever assembled. One of the few truly top of the order game changers in the currently Minors, Jennings profiles to be somewhere between solid average offensively and superstar. While he is likely to return to AAA, the 23yo almost certainly will take over CF in Tampa sometime during the season.

2) Jeremy Hellickson, RHP (2009 – Dominance 79; Stamina 72; HRrate 54; Control 67)

We have been among Hellickson’s biggest advocates since his 2006 performance in the NYP. In six stops since the 2006 season he has posted Performance Score Ranks of #1, #2, #1, #2, #3, #2—a record unmatched by any pitcher currently in the Minor Leagues. Hellickson succeeds by using a low-90s fastball and a plus change—both pitches that he throws with plus command. While his Curve is a Major League caliber pitch, it lags behind the other two. However, it is Hellickson’s ‘pitchability’ and baseball IQ that clearly separate him from the crowd, as he is ‘in charge’ every time that he takes the mound. Hellickson is the textbook definition of a Major League #2 starter and should have a long productive Major League career. His biggest problem will be breaking in to an already ‘stacked’ Ray’s rotation. Expect him to begin the season in AAA, but he will be the first starter called up for a Big League shot.

Grade A-

3) Matt Moore, LHP (2009 – Dominance 79; Stamina 65; HRrate 57; Control 23)

Coming from an unheralded New Mexico prep program, and quite raw, somehow Moore was lost in the shadows of bigger names in the 2007 draft. Even in the Rays’ system he was barely an afterthought in a draft that netted David Price. But when the astounding success of prep pitchers from the 2007 draft is chronicled, it will not only contain the names of Rick Porcello, Madison Bumgarner, Jarrod Parker, Jordan Zimmerman, Chris Withrow, Tim Alderson and Casey Crosby—but it will include an 8th round pick named Matt Moore. Moore’s two year strikeout rate of 12.8 batters per 9IP is among the best in the Minor’s, among starters, over that period. He posted the #2 Performance Score in the APY in 2008, and then followed that up with the #4 score in the SAL in 2009. Moore succeeds with a three-pitch repertoire that has significant late movement and that he keeps down in the zone. While his low-90s fastball rates as a plus pitch, it is only second in his arsenal to a devastating curve. His only weakness is that, still raw, he has difficulty with command. Moore has front of the rotation stuff if he is able to harness his control. He will begin 2010 as a 20yo in the FSL.

4) Wade Davis, RHP (2009 – Dominance 62; Stamina 70; HRrate 48; Control 44)

Drafted in the third round of the 2004 draft, seemingly the world has been far more enamored with the hulking, 6’5”, 220lb Davis, than have we. It’s not that Davis isn’t a solid prospect, and, as evidenced by his six 2009 Major League starts, he has a high ‘certainty’ of performing in a Big League rotation. It’s just that, in Davis, we have a 767 inning Minor League track record, that has included eight stints, and has only produced two (#3 in NYP in 2005 & #4 in FSL in 2007) Top 10 Performance Scores. That looks, to us, far more like a middle rotation innings eater, without the ceiling of the three pitchers that we have rated ahead of him. Featuring a low-90s fastball and a plus curve, Davis has two offerings that will play well at the Major League level. However, neither his slider nor his change portend success as of yet. Additionally, Davis’ control has never rated more than average.
Davis will compete for a rotation spot this spot this spring, but if it were us, we would transition him to the bullpen and get him out of Hellickson’s path.

5) Alex Colome, RHP (2009 – Dominance 78; Stamina 72; HRrate 73; Control 41)

Colome was perhaps the biggest riser in the Rays’ system in 2009 after finishing outside the Top 30 Performances Scores in the APY in 2008, he put everything together with a breakout 2009 in the NYP—finishing with the League’s #2 Performance Score. Although already 21yo, Colome still has projection left in what is currently a mid-90s fastball. His Curve also shows plus potential, and he does a good job of keeping both pitches down in the zone. His negative is that his command, while improved in 2009, remains a big issue, as he has averaged nearly 5.0 walks per 9IP in his career. If Colome is able to improve his changeup, he has the ceiling of a front of the rotation starter…if not, his fastball/curveball combination should be successful in a back of the bullpen role. Colome will get his first taste of full-season ball in 2010, and it would not surprise us to see him move rapidly this year.

6) Tim Beckham, SS (2009 – Power 50; First Base Rate 48; Discipline 49; Speed 49)

It has been a disappointing beginning for the #1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, as in over 700 PAs, Beckham has just 7 HRs, has posted a .701 OPS, and has fanned at 22% rate. His 2009 SAL Performance didn’t even rate Top 25. To make matters worse, the premium value that the Rays assigned to him as a shortstop seems to be in question now, as he has gotten bigger, slower, and looks destined to move to 3B or RF. As a shortstop he projects to have above average offensive skills across the board…as an OF corner they all become average to below average. Barely 20yo, we haven’t given up on him, as Beckham has plenty of time to develop, and he will get a chance to do it in the FSL in 2010.

Grade B+
7) Reid Brignac, SS (2009 – Power 49; First Base Rate 43; Discipline 61; Speed 42)

Another player that hasn’t excited us to the levels that he has others, Brignac is at a critical juncture as he heads into the 2010 season. With over 2600 Minor league PAs under his belt, Brignac hasn’t posted an OPS above .800 or a Performance Score in a League Top Ten since his #3 Ranking in the CAL in 2006. Now 24yo, he enters the Spring competing for a roster spot as a reserve, and clearly behind a guy with a career OPS in the .740s. From where we stand, that doesn’t have the makings of a significant Major League career. While all of his skills grade as average, none stand out. Defensively, the word capable comes to mind. Perhaps his best characteristic is his hard-nosed approach and high baseball IQ. While we feel that Brignac has the upside of an average everyday Major League shortstop, it would also not surprise us to find him in a career utility role.

8) Kyle Lobstein, LHP (2009 – Dominance 67; Stamina 74; HRrate 44; Control 57)

Lobstein was the Rays’ second round pick in 2008, to whom they gave first round money, and whom didn’t make his professional debut until the NYP this summer where he posted the League’s #5 Performance Score. At 6’3, 200lbs and 20yo, there is still upside projection for Lobstein, but currently his fastball is a high-80s offering. Both his curve and change show potential and when combined with a high degree of pitchability and above average command, the package is there for Lobstein to potentially become a middle of the rotation starter. Lobstein will get his first taste of full-season ball in 2010.

9) Luke Bailey, C -

Bailey spent most of last spring as a near certain mid-first round pick, until an April elbow injury forced him to have Tommy John surgery, and caused him to slide. We still had him at #41 on our draft day board and consider the fact that the Rays tabbed him in the 4th round to be a significant bargain. The key to Bailey’s future value will be whether or not the injury causes him to move from behind the plate. While his athleticism and make-up when combined with above average power and contact skills make him a premium catching prospect, they become at best average skills on a corner. We expect Bailey to get on the field sometime in 2010, likely in a short-season league.

10) Matt Sweeney, 3B (2009 – Power 74; First Base Rate 58; Discipline 68; Speed 42)

Injuries have significantly cut into the 2006, 8th round draft choice’s developmental curve, as he has missed significant parts of the last three seasons. When he has played though he has put up solid numbers, as evidenced by his #5 Performance Score in the CAL in 2009. Sweeney possesses plus power potential and strike zone management skills. While he can get a bit over-aggressive at times, he has the bat speed to make solid contact. Unfortunately, it is speed and defense that are his limiting factors—even before the lengthy list of injuries. With a questionable glove at third base, Sweeney looks to us to profile best as a left fielder or first baseman. To make it in the Majors at either of those positions is going to require Sweeney to reach most of his considerable ceiling. If not, his left-handed bat should at least earn him a career in a Reserve/Platoon role. Still only 21yo. Sweeney will open 2010 in AA.

11) Alex Torres, LHP (2009 – Dominance 65; Stamina 71; HRrate 75; Control 26)

Both Torres and Sweeney above were acquired this past summer from the Angels in the Kazmir deal. 2009 was somewhat of a breakout season for Torres, who posted the #7 Performance Score in the CAL. With a high degree of pitchability, Torress uses a heavy high-80s fastball, and potentially above average curve and slider to induce plenty of groundouts. On the downside, his change is still very much a work-in-process and his command is poor. At only 5’10”, 160lbs, there isn’t a lot of additional projection, but Torres has the upside of a back of the rotation starter. He’ll begin 2010 as a 22yo in AA.

Grade B

12) Nick Barnese, RHP (2009 – Dominance 44; Stamina 67; HRrate 63; Control 49)

After posting the #3 Performance Score in the NYP in 2008, Barnese wasn’t nearly as dominate in 2009, as his strikeout rate fell from 11.5 per 9IP in 2008 to only 7.5 last season, as he moved up to full-season A-ball. Barnese attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball. His Curve and Change both show potential. On the downside, with somewhat of an uncontrolled arm action, Barnese sometimes gets himself into battles with his command. Additionally his secondary offerings remain raw. Barnese has the upside of a solid mid-rotation starter. Only a 20yo, he will open up 2010 at Hi-A.

13) Jake McGee, LHP (2009 – Dominance 72; Stamina 32; HRrate 34; Control 43)

Once one of the Minor’s best starting pitching prospects, McGee saw his career derailed by 2008 Tommy John surgery. While he did get on the field for 30 innings, late last summer, there are still big questions as to how far he’ll return. At his best, McGee possesses a mid-90s fastball, a plus Curve, and a Change that has the potential to be a plus offering. However, McGee has always struggled with control and control takes the longest to return after TJ surgery, so it remains to be seen what effect the surgery will have on him. Prior to the surgery, McGee had the ceiling of a front of the rotation star. Now there are whispers that his role may end up in the back of the bullpen. In either case, we don’t have tremendous expectations for him in AA in 2010, as it will likely require an entire season for rehabilitation. If all goes well, he may have a shot at a Big League roster spot in 2011.

14) Jeff Malm, 1B –

We had Malm ticketed as a second round pick on draft day, so we feel that the Rays tabbing him in the 5th round is pretty much a bargain, even if they paid second round money to sign him. For the most part a one-trick pony, Malm’s ‘trick’ is an explosive bat that promises plus raw power and solid contact skills. However, at 6’3” 225 lbs, he lacks any real speed and is likely relegated to a first base role—setting the bar for a prep player exceedingly high. Malm’s bat has enough of a ceiling to succeed there, making him a legitimate prospect. Expect him to begin 2010 later this summer in the NYP.

15) Hector Guevara, MI (2009 – Power 75; First Base Rate 55; Discipline 72; Speed 51)

One of the Rays’ top International signings in 2008, Guerva put on an offensive show in the VSL this past summer, posting the #1 Performance Score in the League. Still tremendously raw, Guerva shows above average power potential and contact skills. Most impressive, however, is that even though he is an attacking, aggressive, hitter, he shows tremendous strike zone management skills…significantly precocious for a young Latin American player. Defensively he lacks tremendous speed and may not have the lateral movement required to stay in the middle infield. To us he profiles best at either third base or right field. Fortunately, his bat should play anywhere on the diamond, and he will likely be one of the more exciting players in either the GCL or APY in 2010.

Grade B-

16) Wilking Rodriguez, RHP (2009 – Dominance 65; Stamina 60; HRrate 46; Control 67)

Rodriguez made a splash in his U.S. debut, posting a top ten Performance score in the APY as a 19yo. With a low-90s fastball and plus curve combo, both of which he commands well, there is a significant upside potential here. While his change is very much a work-in-process, he is relatively athletic and possesses sound mechanics—offering a confidence in further projection. We would expect to see him make his full-season, class-A, debut in 2010.

17) Jason McEachern, RHP (2009 – Dominance 48; Stamina 72; HRrate 44; Control 70)

McEachern doesn’t earn a lot of recognition from the scouting community, as his fastball is a fringy high-80s offering. Still, he used it along with a potentially above average Curve and Change to post the #4 Performance Score in the NYP in 2009. At 6’2, 185lbs, and 19yo, there is still projection with McEachern. While we don’t anticipate him ever being much more than a back of the rotation starter, his high pitchability provides a bit of comfort on the ‘certainty’ side. Look for McEachern to get his first taste of full-season A-ball in 2010.

18) Aneury Rodriguez, RHP (2009 – Dominance 49; Stamina 69; HRrate 26; Control 48)

Rodriguez apparently felt the pressure of being dealt straight up for Jason Hammel at the beginning of the 2009 season and got off to a horrendous start, posting a 6.01 ERA in 18 pre-all star break starts. It wasn’t a lost season however, as his struggles caused him to adjust, and in the second half of the season his ERA was a miniscule 2.22, allowing him to climb to the League’s #16 Performance Score. With a 90mph fastball, and a potentially above average Change and Curve, there is enough stuff here for Rodriguez to become a quality back of the rotation guy. However, with his seemingly split personality in 2009 it is difficult to get a read on which Rodriguez we can expect to see going forward. He’ll likely open up 2010 in AAA, but in an already stacked organization, and with higher upside players in front of him, another trade may yet be in the offing.

19) Kyeong Kang, RF (2009 – Power 67; First Base Rate 65; Discipline 50; Speed 54)

We’d love to tell you that Kang was the first fruits of an expanded Pacific Rim focus by the Rays, but the reality is that he is a 2006 draft and follow from an Alabama junior college. Although not a high ceiling prospect, Kang displays above average power potential and contact skills, with solid strike zone management and speed. Unfortunately, he is defensively challenged, and is likely limited to either first base or left field. This makes it likely that he is destined for a reserve or platoon role. Expect Kang to open 2010 in Hi-A as a 22yo.

20) Todd Glaesmann, OF –

Glaesmann is a ‘toolsy’, athletic outfielder whom we had projected as an early 4th round pick on draft day. The Rays selected him in the third round, and signed him to sandwich round money. While not a knock on Glaesmann, this was not a favorite move of ours from the 2009 draft. The good news is that he is projectable with all five tools. Defensively, he is solid, with the speed and arm to play either center or right field. We will need to see some on the field production from Glaesmann to rate him any higher than this. It won’t likely come until the APY season opens later this summer.

21) Alex Cobb, RHP (2009 – Dominance 55; Stamina 70; HRrate 57; Control 67)

Most times when you have a prep right hander whose best pitch is his curveball, there is a strong predilection for the scouting community to look the other way. Such has been the case for Cobb since he signed as a 4th round pick in 2006. But Cobb gets the most from his plus curve/low-90s fastball combo, accentuated by a solid change, using it to post a Top 20 Performance Score in the FSL in 2009. While he doesn’t present a high ceiling, Cobb looks like a solid bet as a back of the rotation starter. Expect him to kick off 2010 in AA.

22) Matt Gorgen, RP (2009 – Dominance 79; Stamina 29; HRrate 70; Control 54)

While we’re not big fans of Minor League relief pitchers, Gorgen showed enough in 2009, with his low-90s fastball and plus slider, to not only post a top 20 Performance Score in the FSL, but to also convince us that there is a potential Major League bull pen role in his future. He’ll need to further refine his slider and tighten up his command, but he could end up in a set-up role. Gorgen will likely return to AA to open up the 2010 season.

23) Joe Cruz, RHP (2009 – Dominance 59; Stamina 64; HRrate 56; Control 60)

Cruz is a projection guy, whose production has not yet caught up with his potential, as he offers a mid-90s fastball, and three developing secondary offerings. At 6’4”, 195lbs, and 21yo, his promise lies in his projectability, as he could very well end up with a heater that hits the hi-90s. In 2009, his Performance Score fell barely outside of the Top 30 in the SAL, but Cruz is still in the rotation, and we feel his most potential lies as a late inning reliever. Look for him to continue in the rotation in Hi-A in 2010, but eventually expect the Rays to convert him.

24) Ty Morrison, LF (2009 – Power 38; First Base Rate 69; Discipline 38; Speed 79)

Morrison is a speedy, toolsy, athletic outfielder, who shows raw tools that haven’t developed into producible skills. While he is unlikely to ever provide more than average power, he does possess plus speed, and above average contact skills. Our biggest concern is his 25% strikeout rate—far too high for a potential top of the order threat. Additionally, he isn’t the most disciplined defender, and if he has to move off of center, his only real option is left because he lacks the requisite arm strength for right. Morrison is likely to see his first taste of full-season A-ball in 2010.

Grade C+ Prospects –

25) Roan Salas, 3B; 26) Tyler Bortnick, SS; 27) Kevin James, LHP; 28) John Jaso, C; 29) Jake Jeffries, C; 30) Fernando Perez, CF; 31) David Newman, LHP; 32) Scott Shuman, RP; 33) Zach Quate, RP; 34) Jacob Partridge, LHP.

Grade C Prospects –

Nevin Ashley; Dustin Biell; Jose Colmenares; Frank de los Santos; Reid Fronk; Devin Fuller; Cesar Guillen; Elliot Johnson; Eduardo Morlan; Omar Navarez; Raymer Oliveros; Shawn O’Malley; Cody Rogers; Heath Rollins; Ryan Royster; Alejandro Segovia; Michael Sheridan; Trevor Shull; Albert Suarez; R.J. Swindle; Mark Thomas; Isaias Velasquez.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions

No comments:

Post a Comment