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February 20, 2012

Future Shock

Tampa Bay Rays Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: Graduations and some not-so-successful recent drafts have led to a downturn in system strength.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Matt Moore, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
Three-Star Prospects
3. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
4. Alex Torres, LHP
5. Alex Colome, RHP
6. Mikie Mahtook, OF
7. Enny Romero, LHP
8. Chris Archer, RHP
9. Tim Beckham, SS
10. Drew Vettleson, OF
11. Ryan Brett, 2B
Nine More:
12. Tyler Goeddel, 3B: Supplemental first-round pick has all the tools but needs more patience at the plate.
13. Jake Hager, SS: Thirty-second overall pick is a crazy athlete, capable of staying at shortstop and hitting a bit.
14. Brandon Guyer, OF: He’s a big leaguer, but scouts don't see much more than a fourth outfielder on a first-division team.
15. Blake Snell, LHP: Teenage lefty is loaded with projection but very far from ceiling.
16. Wilking Rodriguez, RHP: Power arm was hampered by injuries in 2011; could move quickly in a bullpen role.
17. Derek Dietrich, SS: Had big full-season debut but needs to prove it at upper levels; projects to move off shortstop.
18. Josh Sale, OF: Drafted for his bat but didn't hit in debut, struggling with his hitting mechanics.
19. Brandon Martin, SS: Lots of tools in a small package but needs significant development.
20. Luke Bailey, C: 2009 draftee has plenty of power and good defense, but will he hit?

1. Matt Moore, LHP
: 6/18/89
Height/Weight: 6’2/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Eighth round, 2007, Moriarty HS (NM)
2011 Stats: 2.20 ERA (102.1-68-28-131) at AA (18 G), 1.37 ERA (52.2-33-18-79) at AAA (9 G), 2.89 ERA (9.1-9-3-15) at MLB (3 G)
Tools Profile: Everything one looks for in an elite-level pitching prospect.

Year in Review: Among the best pitching prospects in the game entering the year, Moore somehow got significantly better.
The Good: Moore has the arsenal of a true ace pitcher. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, can touch 99 mph, and comes from a free and simple mechanic that is so easy it looks like he's playing catch.  He's improved his control considerably and gets ahead in the count to set up one of two plus power breaking balls and a well above-average changeup with plenty of late, downward break.
The Bad: It's hard to find weaknesses in Moore. He can get sometimes caught between his low 80s curve and upper 80s slider with a slurvy pitch that isn't as effective. His control is good, but his command could use some sharpening.
Ephemera: Triple-A batters facing Moore with runners on and two outs in 2011 went 0-for-27 with 11 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Ace-level starter and Cy Young candidate.
Fantasy Impact: Moore has monstrous potential and could end up the first pitcher taken in future drafts.
Path to the Big Leagues: While already locked into an extended deal by the Rays, Moore has no guarantee of a spot in the Opening Day rotation. He certainly deserves one, though, and should spend most, if not all of the season in the majors.
ETA: 2012

2. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
: 11/4/90
Height/Weight: 6’2/170
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: South Korea, 2008
2011 Stats: .318/.389/.443 at High A (97 G), .190/.272/.310 at AA (24 G)
Tools Profile: True shortstop skills to go with speed and arm strength.

Year in Review: The best prospect acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal got off to a blistering start, but he steadily slowed down from there.
The Good: Lee has value for his defense alone. While he falls just short of Gold Glove-worthy, his range, hands, actions, and arm strength are all above-average. Despite his age, he already knows how to slow the game down. His swing is short and simple, and he makes steady contact to all fields; he should hit .280-.300 all the way up the ladder. He's a plus runner who could steal 25-plus bases per year.
The Bad: Much of Lee's offensive value is wrapped up in his batting average. He doesn't have much power or projection, and his walk rate is merely solid due to an aggressive approach that works for him.  
Ephemera: While Korea has produced 11 pitchers, Shin-Soo Choo and Hee-Seop Choi remain its only two position players to reach the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average everyday shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: He could hit for average and steal bases at a rate few shortstops can match.
Path to the Big Leagues: After struggling in Double-A at the end of last year, Lee will return there to begin the 2012 season.
ETA: 2014

3. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
: 12/1/92
Height/Weight: 6’3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Spring Valley HS (SC)
2011 Stats: N/A
Tools Profile: Power prospect starter kit.

Year in Review: Questions about makeup and money dropped one of the top pure arms in the draft to 24th overall.
The Good: Guerrieri features plenty of arm strength, consistently touching 97 mph last spring while sitting consistently in the 93-95 mph range. He has a textbook delivery with good leg drive and generally throws strikes. He gets plenty of spin on a hard curveball and pitches aggressively with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
The Bad: Guerreri is still raw and a long way from his ceiling. Like many kids fresh out of high school, he has little feel for a changeup and needs to learn sequencing instead of trying to just blow hitters away. He can be guilty of over-throwing at times and missing his spots.
Ephemera: Of the 17 pitchers selected with the 24th overall pick in the draft, only nine have reached the big leagues, and only four—including currently big leaguers Chad Billingsley and Joe Blanton—have had established careers.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level starting pitcher, if not higher.
Fantasy Impact: Guerrieri has star potential, but for now he's a risky, long-term play.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Rays are notoriously slow with their prospects, which means Guerrieri's pro debut might not come until the short-season leagues begin.
ETA: 2015

4. Alex Torres, LHP
: 12/8/87
Height/Weight: 5’10/175
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2005
2011 Stats: 3.08 ERA (146.1-134-83-156) at AAA (27 G), 3.38 ERA (8.0-8-7-9) at MLB (4 G)
Tools Profile: Small lefty with the stuff of a starter.

Year in Review: The left-hander spent the majority of the year at Triple-A and reached the big leagues despite his control issues.
The Good: Torres has three pitches that rate average or better. His fastball sits at 90-93 mph, touching 95, and he can alter his grip or his release to add a bit of sinking or cutting action. He'll flash a plus curveball and gets excellent arm-side deception on a plus changeup.
The Bad: The combination of Torres's small size and delivery that requires some effort is a concern, but he's stayed relatively healthy in his career. With his mechanics comes below average control, though, especially with his secondary pitches.
Ephemera: Torres knew how to get into trouble and find a way out of it in 2011; at Triple-A Durham, batters hit .300/.408/.422 against him with the bases empty and then just .200/.299/.287 with runners on.
Perfect World Projection: Number-three starter.
Fantasy Impact: Solid in every category, but walks could hurt his WHIP.
Path to the Big Leagues: Torres has no path to a rotation job with the Rays, but with more strikes at Triple-A Durham, he could have immediate value in a relief role.
ETA: Late 2012.

5. Alex Colome, RHP
: 12/31/88
Height/Weight: 6’2/184
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2011 Stats: 3.66 ERA (105.2-78-44-92) at High A (19 G), 4.15 ERA (52.0-41-28-31) at AA (9 G)
Tools Profile: Pure power arm.

Year in Review: Pitched well but rarely dominated across two levels.
The Good: Colome has an electric fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touches 97-98 with consistency. He'll flash a plus power breaking ball with depth and tilt and has improved his changeup to the point where it projects to be average down the road.
The Bad: Colome's delivery is far from easy, and he has problems throwing strikes. His secondary pitches come and go, and his breaking ball can get slurvy. A large number of scouts think he projects far better in a late-innings bullpen role.
Ephemera: In eight home starts for High-A Charlotte in 2011, Colome went 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA. Thirty-five of his 43 home runs came against him in 11 road starts where he had a 5.66 ERA.
Perfect World Projection: Good starter or an even better reliever.
Fantasy Impact: There is risk to picking him up now since his future role is up in the air.
Path to the Big Leagues: Colome will remain a starter for now and return to Double-A to begin the season.
ETA: Late 2013.

6. Mikie Mahtook, OF
: 11/30/89
Height/Weight: 6’1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Louisiana State
2011 Stats: N/A
Tools Profile: At least average.

Year in Review: Put up the kind of numbers that made it seem like the new bat rules never went into effect, landing him in the first round.
The Good: Mahtook can do a bit of everything. He has a very quick bat, at least average power, and uses all fields. He's a solid-average runner who can player center in a pinch and has an average arm.
The Bad: As good as Mahtook is, he possesses no star-level tools. He lacks the arm for right and the speed for center, and as a left fielder, there will be considerable pressure on him to put up big numbers.
Ephemera: Mahtook earned all-state honors as a quarterback in high school, and both his father and uncle played football at LSU.
Perfect World Projection: Solid or better everyday left-fielder.
Fantasy Impact: He could provide something in every category with 20-plus home runs and double-digit steals.
Path to the Big Leagues: Mahtook is advanced enough to begin his pro career at High-A. He shouldn't need much time in the minors.
ETA: 2014

7. Enny Romero, LHP
: 1/24/91
Height/Weight: 6’3/165
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008
2011 Stats:4.26 ERA (114.0-104-68-140) at A (26 G)
Tools Profile: Rare stuff from the left side but an extreme lack of polish.

Year in Review: Power southpaw racked up the strikeouts in the Midwest League.
The Good: It's easy to be blown away by Romero, and hitters often are. His fastball sits at 94-95 mph, touches 98, and features explosive late life. He shows the ability to spin an effective breaking ball at times and showed a willingness to throw his changeup in 2011.
The Bad: At times, Romero is a spectacular mess. His command and control are below average, as he consistently struggles with his delivery. His secondary pitches are prone to completely disappearing, and many feel he projects better out of the bullpen.
Ephemera: Forty-eight of Romero's 54 earned runs and all nine of his home runs allowed in 2011 came on the road.
Perfect World Projection: Dominating arm in a role to-be-determined.
Fantasy Impact: All that can be promised, for now, is the strikeouts.
Path to the Big Leagues: Romero is a breakout candidate for 2012, but he could wind up holding that title for seasons to come. He'll begin the year in the Florida State League and zoom up prospect lists with more strikes.
ETA: 2015

8. Chris Archer, RHP
: 9/26/88
Height/Weight: 6’3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2006, Clayton HS (NC)
2011 Stats: 4.42 ERA (134.1-136-80-118) at AA (25 G), 0.69 ERA (13.0-11-6-12) at AAA (2 G)
Tools Profile: Impresses with stuff, frustrates with ability to harness it.

Year in Review: The top pitcher acquired in the Garza trade went backwards in terms of both stuff and results.
The Good: Archer has two plus power pitches. His fastball varied throughout the year but generally sat in the low-90s while touching 95-96, and at times he was one-to-three ticks better than that. His best pitch is a nasty two-plane slider than can produce some silly-looking swings from opponents.
The Bad: Archer has always had control issues, and after throwing more strikes in 2010, he regressed last year;  his release point can slip down, and when it does, it can get too high as he over-compensates. His changeup has gotten better but remains below average.
Ephemera: On average, Archer required 18 pitches to get out of the fourth inning of starts for Double-A Montgomery, allowing 40 base runners in his 25 outings.
Perfect World Projection: Number-three starter or late-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: Like Colome and Romero, it's hard to predict his future role.
Path to the Big Leagues: After making two starts for Triple-A Durham at the end of 2011, Archer will return there in 2012. His ability to harness his stuff will dictate when he takes the next step.
ETA: 2013

9. Tim Beckham, SS
: 1/27/90
Height/Weight: 6’0/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008, Griffin HS (GA)
2011 Stats: .275/.339/.395 at AA (107 G), .255/.282/.462 at AAA (24 G)
Tools Profile: Not nearly as impressive as they were coming out of high school.

Year in Review: The former number-one overall pick made progress… but only enough to make him look like a big leaguer, not a star.
The Good: Beckham made considerable strides in every aspect of his game last year. He's always had a good approach at the plate and began to tap into what should become average power as he continues to mature. His defense improved as well; he has good footwork, soft hands, and a plus arm. He's a 50-55 runner with excellent instincts on the basepaths.
The Bad: While Beckham was better this year, there are questions about his ceiling. He’s not a classic quick-twitch athlete, which limits his range at shortstop. He can still be fooled by good breaking balls, and few believe his pure hit tool will peak as anything more than average.
Ephemera: Only four players with the last name of Beckham have ever been drafted, and two were among the top eight picks in 2008; the White Sox selected Gordon Beckham seven picks later. Tim's brother Jeremy was a 17th-round pick that year as well and played into the middle of the 2009 season before finishing his career with a  .231/.345/.290 slash line.
Perfect World Projection: Solid everyday shortstop, but there could be too much pressure on the bat if he's forced to move away from the middle of the diamond.
Fantasy Impact: Beckham could provide 15-plus home runs and stolen bases annually.
Path to the Big Leagues: Beckham will return to Triple-A in 2012 and could make his big league debut by season's end.
ETA: Late 2012.

10. Drew Vettleson, OF
: 7/19/91
Height/Weight: 6’1/185
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Central Kitsap HS (WA)
2011 Stats:.282/.357/.462 at Rookie (61 G)
Tools Profile: Solid all-around tools, but the bat stands out.

Year in Review: Highly regarded outfielder was among the Appy League's top offensive performers.
The Good: Some feel Vettleson is the best pure hitter in the system. His approach is beyond his years, and he combines good bat speed with a knack for contact and average raw power. He's a solid-average runner with good instincts in the outfield and a plus arm.
The Bad: Vettleson is not an overwhelming physical specimen, so his ability to hit for average and get on base will always trump contributions from the power and speed department. He can be beat by good breaking balls, but that should be addressed with time and at-bats.
Ephemera: The 42nd overall pick has not been overly kind to position players, as Mookie Wilson (1977) remains the pick’s all-time home run leader with 67.
Perfect World Projection: Average everyday corner outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: More solid than spectacular, but his on-base skills should help in sim leagues more than roto.
Path to the Big Leagues: Vettleson will make his full-season debut in 2012.
ETA: 2015

11. Ryan Brett, 2B
: 10/9/91
Height/Weight: 5’9/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, Highline HS (WA)
2011 Stats: .300/.370/.471 at Rookie (61 G)
Tools Profile: A hit tool than trumps shortages elsewhere.

Year in Review: Third-round pick put up impressive numbers for Princeton.
The Good: Scouts rave about Brett's hitting ability. His swing is simple, quick, and explosive, and he can hit a pitch in any location due to outstanding hands. He's a contact machine who consistently laces balls into the gap, which could result in 10-15 home runs in the big leagues. He's a good runner who stole 21 bases in 24 attempts this year and is a max effort grinder who works hard, plays hard, and earns high marks for his makeup.
The Bad: Brett is small and not exceptionally toolsy. His defense is rough, and his only profile is second base, as he lacks the arm for the left side of the infield or the size for the outfield.
Ephemera: Brett is the only player ever drafted out of Highline High School, whose most famous alumni in the entertainment world is the late bass player for Alice in Chains, Mike Starr.
Perfect World Projection: Offense-oriented second baseman.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll offer average and stolen bases but little in the way of power.
Path to the Big Leagues: Brett will join Vettleson as part of what should be a fascinating roster at Low-A Bowling Green.
ETA: 2015

The Sleeper: A former number-one overall pick as a shortstop, the Rays added Matt Bush to their 40-man roster this winter.  His fastball/slider combination is late-inning worthy if he can hone his command.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Matt Moore, LHP
2. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
3. Desmond Jennings, OF
4. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
5. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
6. Jake McGee, LHP
7. Alex Torres, LHP
8. Alex Colome, RHP
9. Mikie Mahtook, OF
10. Alex Cobb, RHP

This list is not as impressive as you might expect, but if it were 27 and under, it would be a monster. It's amazing for the Rookie of the Year not to rank number-one on a list like this, and Hellickson will be better in 2011 and a star in the future; it's just that Moore is that good. Jennings should have been up earlier and will be an above-average regular with star potential. McGee had some up-and-downs in 2011 but remains a left-hander with late-innings stuff. Cobb is a number-four or number-five starter playing on a team where that's just not good enough.

Summary: The Rays system is at a turning point, down significantly since they’ve become a winning club due to some poor returns on the draft. If Moore opens the year in the big leagues, this becomes no more than a mediocre system that's future is very much dependent on its deep 2011 draft class.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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