Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/30

Hermosillo 1, Mazatlan 0
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 1 for 4.

Mazatlan is defeated 4-3 in the Championship Series.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Puerto Rico League Recap from 1/29

Mayaguez 8, Caguas 6 (11 innings)
Elias Otero (Mayaguez); pinch ran in the 10th inning.

Mayaguez wins the Championship Series 4-1, earning the Puerto Rico Winter League Title and advancing to the Caribbean Series.

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/29

Mazatlan 4, Hermosillo 3
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout.

Championship Series tied 3-3.

Venezuelan Winter League Recap from 1/29

Caracas wins Championship Series 4-3, earning the Venezuelan Winter League Title and advancing to the Caribbean Series.

Meet Princeton Rays Manager Michael Johns February 9th

Princeton RaysThe Princeton Rays professional baseball team will conduct a free public reception on Tuesday, February 9 for fans to get acquainted with the team's new 2010 manager, Michael Johns. The event will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Princeton Presbyterian Church, located at 1809 West Main Street in Princeton, West Virginia. There will be brief remarks at 7:30 p.m. followed by drawings for door prizes.

"I have talked with Michael by phone several times and he is very anxious to get up here and check out the set-up. It will make his job a little easier that he will already have been here once before he arrives back here in June with the team. And, he has certainly heard about our great fans and is anxious to meet them," commented P-Rays General Manager Jim Holland in announcing the event.

The 2010 campaign will mark Johns' first season as a professional baseball manager. The 35-year old resident of Orange Park, FL has spent the past two summers on the coaching staff of Tampa Bay's New York-Penn League affiliate, the Hudson Valley (NY) Renegades. He was the head coach at Orange Park (FL) High School from 2004-2007 prior to joining the Rays' organization on December 11, 2007. Before that, he spent four years as the assistant baseball coach at Fernandina Beach (FL) High School.

As a player, he was a middle infielder, who was drafted in the 19th round by the Colorado Rockies of the June, 1997 draft. He played two years in the pro ranks for the Rockies' farm system for their class-A affiliates at Portland, OR and Asheville, NC. He graduated from Tulane University, where he was a two-time Conference USA, all-conference shortstop for the Green Wave.

Persons needing more information about the event are asked to contact the Princeton Rays either by e-mail at or by telephoning the team's office at Hunnicutt Field at (304) 487-2000.

Rays sign former #1 pick Matt Bush

According to, the Rays have signed former #1 overall pick Matt Bush to a minor league contract. Bush was the first pick of the 2004 draft as a shortstop, but has struggled throughout his Matt Bushcareer with injuries and off the field issues. He was converted to a pitcher during the 2007 season by the Padres. Bush spent last spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays but was cut before the season started for violating their zero-tolerance behavior policy.

Bush is an intriguing signing. He has the stuff to be a solid pitcher, with a fastball that reaches 96mph. However, he has struggled to stay healthy, and hasn't thrown in an official game since the 2007 season. He missed the 2008 season with an elbow injury, and was out of baseball in 2009.

He will report to minor league camp with the rest of the pitchers and catchers on March 5th.

Here are Bush's minor league pitching numbers thus far.

Year   Age         Tm   Lg  Lev W L  ERA G  IP H ER HR BB SO  WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9
2007 21 Padres ARIZ Rook 1 0 1.23 6 7.1 5 1 0 2 16 0.955 6.1 2.5 19.6
2007 21 Fort Wayne MIDW A 0 0 0.00 1 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.0 0.0 0.0
1 Season 1 0 1.17 7 7.2 5 1 0 2 16 0.913 5.9 2.3 18.8
Provided by View Original Table Generated 1/30/2010.

[Edited by Doug to fix stats format.]

Friday, January 29, 2010

Top 15 Pitchers: #12 David Newmann

David Newmann
6'2" 200 lbs DOB: 6/24/1985
Left-Handed Pitcher
Bats: Right | Throws: Left
2009: Charlotte Stone Crabs
Acquired: 2007 Draft, 4th Round, 125th Overall

Virtually forgotten about after being drafted in 2007, David Newmann had to wait all the way until the 2009 season to throw his first professional pitch. Finally healthy, he turned in a very nice season with the Stone Crabs, helping them reach the Florida State League finals.

Newmann's biggest strength is his low-90s fastball with good sink, evidenced by a 1.81 GO/AO and only six home runs surrendered. In 131 innings over 24 starts, he struck out nearly a batter per inning(138 punchouts) while walking a manageable 46. He ended the season as hot as anyone in the system: Over his final seven regular season starts, he pitched 43.2 innings, allowed 27 hits, four earned runs(good for an ERA under 1.00), walked 9, and struck out 45. In the playoffs, he pitched the Crabs into the championship with a 6-inning, 4-hit, 10-strikeout game in the semi-finals.

While he was 24 years old for much of the season, Newmann doesn't have the experience to go along with his age. He started off at San Jacinto Junior College, where he led his team to the 2004 Junior College World Series championship. He transferred to Texas A&M, but didn't pitch in 2005 or 2006 while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. He had a solid year in 2007, but his statline doesn't reflect how he was somewhat inconsistent.

Newmann signed too late in 2007 to make his pro debut, and in the spring of 2008, his season ended before it began when he suffered a serious knee injury. So it had been a while since he was on the mound in a game, and in April, he pitched like it. He settled in during May and June, allowing just 11 earned runs over eight starts between those two months. Things came apart in July, however. Perhaps owing to the fatigue of not having pitched in a long time, his groundball percentage was the lowest of any month, opponents hit .324 off him, and his strikeout-to-walk rate slipped to 12-to-11 over 24 innings. It proved to be a blip on the radar, because when the calendar flipped to August, Newmann got locked in and stayed that way through the playoffs.

His stuff isn't off the charts, but his sinking fastball along with a decent curveball and change-up shouldn't have any problems playing at higher levels. The key for Newmann is simply to stay on the field and continue to gain experience. While his stuff isn't likely to improve at this point, his control might as he racks up more post-Tommy John innings. In particular, his control against left-handed hitters could use some work. In 2009, he walked 22 lefties in 35.1 innings as opposed to 24 righties in 95.2 innings.

Newmann will open up 2010 in the Montgomery rotation, but if he's able to carry over his late 2009 success, a promotion to Durham isn't out of the question.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/27

Hermosillo 9, Mazatlan 0
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 2 for 3 with a double.

Mazatlan trail 3-2 in the Championship Series.

Top 15 Pitchers: #13 Joseph Cruz

Joseph Cruz
6'4" 190 lbs DOB: 7/20/1988
Right-Handed Pitcher
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2009: Bowling Green Hot Rods
Acquired: Acquired: 2007 Draft, 30th Round, 905th Overall

Without the dazzling stuff of Matt Moore or the draft pedigree of Nick Barnese, Joseph Cruz flew under the radar in Bowling Green's rotation despite a very solid season.

In fact, his 2009 numbers with the Hot Rods are very close to the numbers he posted in 2008 with Princeton: His 1.39 WHIP was identical while his 10.1 H/9 and 2.4 BB/9 were as close as it gets(10.2 and 2.3 in 2008). His strikeout rate dropped from 10.3 to a still-impressive 9.1 and he allowed just five home runs in 98 innings. He did a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground, with a 1.26 GO/AO.

It's tough, then, to explain how his ERA rose from 3.17 with Princeton to 4.04 with Bowling Green. Despite the drop in strikeout rate, FanGraphs his 2009 FIP(fielding-independent pitching) at 2.70, lower than 2008's 3.00. FIP isn't an end-all stat, but it does indicate that was the victim of bad luck in terms of allowing runs. My best guess is that he was unlucky in terms of relief pitchers letting inherited runners score. Opponents hit over .050 points higher against Cruz when the bases were empty as opposed to having runners on. It should be noted that his BABIP the past two seasons has been .383 and .372. BABIP is generally a stat that fluctuates, but the 150 innings are basically all we have, and the BABIP has been (very) high twice. Definitely something to keep an eye on for 2010.

So while we can't isolate what exactly caused the inflated ERA, we can accept that he got unlucky in some regard(theories, again: inherited runners and BABIP, though the latter stat actually fell from 2008 while his ERA rose). Moving forward, then, Cruz might possibly be the most under-rated player in the system. He has a very live arm(92-93 with the fastball), he's projectable, and does a good job of throwing strikes. The higher hit rate may be because hitters could sit on his fastball, since his secondary stuff still needs work.

He'll be bumped to Charlotte's rotation for 2010, where again he'll begin the season in Moore and Barnese's shadow. But if his breaking pitches and change-up improve and he runs into some better luck, he should have no problem making a name for himself. If he develops even one out pitch besides his fastball, he could be a potential back-end reliever with his arm. As a starter, he's yet to crack the 100-innings mark, and given his slender frame, we'll have to see if he can maintain his stuff throughout a full season's worth of starts.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Puerto Rico League Recap from 1/22 to 1/26

Mayaguez 5, Caguas 4
Eduardo Morlan (Caguas); no runs on 4 hits with a walk in 2 innings pitched.

Mayaguez leads 2-0 in the Championship Series.

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/22 to 1/26

1/22: Mazatlan 5, Hermosillo 3
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 2 for 3 with a walk.

1/23: Hermosillo 4, Mazatlan 2
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 1 for 4 with a run scored.

1/25: Mazatlan 8, Hermosillo 7
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 1 for 4.

1/26: Hermosillo 7, Mazatlan 2
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 1 for 3 with a strikeout and a walk.

The Championship Series is tied 2-2.

Venezuelan Winter League Recap from 1/22 to 1/26

Caracas trails 3-2 in the Championship Series.

Top 15 Pitchers: #15 Aneury Rodriguez

Aneury Rodriguez
6'3" 180 lbs DOB: 12/13/1987
Right-Handed Pitcher
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2009: Montgomery Biscuits
Acquired: April 2009 trade with Colorado Rockies(for Jason Hammel)

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Colorado Rockies, Aneury Rodriguez debuted as a 17-year old in 2005 and was in full-season ball at age 19, despite pedestrian stats. With Asheville in 2007, he posted very good strikeout and walk rates(9.5 and 2.8 per 9, respectively) but his ERA was 5.15 and his WHIP was 1.51. His hit, homerun, and walk rates all fell in 2008 in the Cal League, though his strikeouts also dropped. A 3.74 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in the Cal as a 20-year old is very nice, so when the Rays acquired him for Jason Hammel, they sent him to Montgomery.

Things did not start smoothly. He struggled with his control early in the season, leading to an ERA over 8.00 in April. His strikeouts picked up in May and his batting average against fell .100 points, but he still walked too many and his ERA for May was 5.46. He cut his walks in half from May to June, though still struggled to get outs. Things finally came together in July, when he struck out 25, walked 9, and posted an ERA of 2.08 in 35 innings. He continued his success into August, finishing the season strong(though he got hit hard in his lone September start).

He isn't as good as he was in July, just as he isn't as bad as he was in April, but his second half numbers were at least partially the result of luck. He allowed more flyballs in the second half(his GO/AO dropped from 0.73 to 0.56) but at the same time he allowed less homeruns(his HR/9 dropped from 1.58 to 0.31). For the season, his HR/9 was 1.1, a little bit above his career average of 0.9. Rodriguez is a flyball pitcher, though, so homeruns are an unfortunate part of his game.

His walk rate jumped nearly a walk and a half per 9 innings from last season, but most of the damage done to that stat was in the first two months of the season. More troubling is the drop in his strikeout rate, which has now fallen from 9.5 per 9 to 8.0 to 7.0 the past three seasons. He doesn't have great stuff, but it's good enough: A low-90s fastball with a slider and change-up, but the change-up lags behind the other two in terms of development. At a slender 6'3", Rodriguez could add a little bit to his fastball as he continues to develop.

Interestingly, the Rays left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft this off-season. He wasn't selected, which I suppose makes sense considering he still has some refining to do. Still, he seemed like a good candidate for a non-contending team to take and try out in the bullpen. Instead, he'll continue as a starter in the Rays' system, likely back at Montgomery in 2010 to try to replicate the second-half results from 2009. Given the depth of starting pitching and Rodriguez's lack of feel for his change-up, a move to the bullpen may be in his future, or he may be used as a piece in a trade(think Mitch Talbot, who, by the way, would have occupied this #15 ranking had he not been dealt). For the 2010 season, an uptick in the strikeout rate along with putting the control problems of early 2009 would be welcome signs.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Top 15 Pitchers: Honorable Mentions

The Rays system is much more pitching-heavy, so an honorable mention on this list isn't necessarily equal to one for the hitters list. The five who have a brief write-up are in the 16-20 range, presented in no particular order. After that are a few more names to keep an eye on in 2010. Last year, Alex Colome, David Newmann, Jason McEachern, and Matt Gorgen were all honorable mentions, and they've each graduated to the main list. Chris Mason also made the honorable mention list, and he was released by the organization halfway though the season.

Anyway, here are the guys who just missed the cut:

Zach Quate, RHRP - Taken in the 14th round of the 2009 draft, Quate was arguably the most dominant reliever in the New York-Penn League. In 26 innings, he allowed just a single earned run while striking out 34 and walking just four. Then again, Quate might be exactly the type of guy who would dominate a short-season league: He played four college seasons(although he didn't turn 22 until September), has a bit of a deceptive delivery, and everything he throws moves. His statline is very similar to Matt Gorgen's from 2008 in Hudson Valley(Gorgen struck out 35 and walked five), but he doesn't throw as hard as Gorgen or have quite the same bite on his off-speed stuff.

While Quate will have to prove himself each time he moves up the ladder, he does have the potential to be a major-league middle reliever. He pitched in a non-elite college conference, so it will be interesting to see how he does against more experienced hitters in full-season ball in 2010. The Rays could skip him over Bowling Green like they did with Gorgen, but whether it's with the Stone Crabs or Hot Rods, Quate will be the closer.

Heath Rollins, RHP - Rollins ranked #8 on our list last season, but ran into his first struggles as a pro in 2009. After helping anchor the 2007 Columbus championship rotation, Rollins had another fine season in 2008 between Vero Beach and Montgomery. But back with the Biscuits in 2009, his strikeouts fell from 138 in 161 innings to 87 in 140 innings(including 6 with Durham), a drop from 7.7 per 9 down to 5.5. He was moved to the bullpen later in the season, but his numbers weren't much better, and he got lit up in the Arizona Fall League working in relief(small sample size alert).

Rollins has never had great stuff, and it simply might not play at the higher levels. His control isn't bad, but he'll need to tighten it up even more. Though he's capable of working deep into games and handling a lot of innings in a season, the move to the bullpen is probably permanent, and appropriate, given the wealth of starting pitchers the Rays have. He'll open the season with Durham, hoping to get his strikeout rate back on track while refining his command further. Rollins turns 25 in May.

Jacob Partridge, LHSP - A two-sport athlete from the state of Washington, Partridge was at a disadvantage starting the spring late because of basketball and the colder weather. Projectable, athletic lefties are a valued commodity, but Partridge had a relatively strong commitment to Gonzaga, and teams thought he would be a summer follow, best-case. The Rays drafted in him in the 18th round, and he quickly signed for near-slot money, probably slightly over. He made eleven appearances, including seven starts, for the GCL Rays, where he was easily their best statistical starting pitcher.

In 36 innings, he posted a 1.75 ERA, struck out 39, and walked 13. The GCL was a huge pitcher's league, so those stats may be a little bit inflated, but it was still a very impressive debut(also, Partridge didn't get to face the worst-hitting GCL team, which was the Rays). His fastball sits in the upper-80s, occasionally creeping into the 90s. He has the makings of a solid breaking pitch, but it's still inconsistent. He's athletic with a good pitcher's build, so he could be a steal for the Rays if he adds some velocity. 19 years old, he'll spend 2010 with either Princeton or Hudson Valley(he could start with the P-Rays and be promoted, much as Jason McEachern was in 2009).

Scott Shuman, RHRP - Speaking of potential draft steals, Shuman came out of nowhere to be one of the big surprises in the Appalachian League. After three unremarkable seasons with Auburn(his ERA was over 6.00 in 2008 and almost 8.00 in 2009), the Rays took him in the 19th round and assigned him to Princeton. Something must have clicked there, because he struck out 29 and walked nine in 22 innings, posting an ERA of 0.82. While he was a college guy in a lower level, his stuff is for real. With an unconventional low, three-quarters slinging delivery, he can ramp his fastball up into the 94-96 range with good movement. He backs it up with a good, hard slider.

He'll be 22 years old for the 2010 season, so a promotion past Hudson Valley into full-season ball is in order. His stuff is good enough that he could handle the Florida State League, but I can't recall the Rays ever skipping a player over two levels. Wherever he debuts, he has a chance to move quickly. The disparity between his college and pro stats is staggering, but the scouting reports on him have been glowing, and he's a nice sleeper heading into 2010.

Kevin James, LHSP - While the focus on the Rays draft has been on the high-ceiling, over-slot high school hitters they were able to get, they also reeled in James, a high school lefty with some big-time potential. A projectable 6'4" 190 pounder from Wisconsin, James has shown the ability to run his fastball into the low-90s, sitting in the 89-91 range. Beyond that, however, he's extremely raw. Hailing from the state of Wisconsin, he hasn't logged as many innings as pitchers from warmer climates, and it shows. His control has a long way to go, and his off-speed stuff is a work-in-progress. James won't be a quick riser, but patience with him may pay off big-time with his ceiling.

He signed just a little bit before the August 15th deadline, and as a result was only able to get one inning in with the GCL Rays. He's like to start 2010 with Princeton, though like Partridge, he could earn a promotion to Hudson Valley.

And here's a few more names to watch out for:
Matt Swilley, RHP - 21st round pick got a $150,000 signing bonus
Darin Downs, LHP - Excellent season statistically, but he's a little bit older and is coming off of a scary injury, having taken a line drive to the head
Chris Andujar, RHP - Quietly posted a 2.70 ERA for Bowling Green
Devin Fuller, RHP and Shane Dyer, RHP - Two top-10 round picks from community colleges the past two seasons have a chance to break out

Monday, January 25, 2010

Top 15 Hitters: #1 Desmond Jennings

Desmond Jennings
6'2" 180 lbs DOB: 10/30/1986
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2009: Montgomery Biscuits/Durham Bulls
Acquired: 2006 Draft, 10th Round, 289th Overall

Desmond Jennings was on the brink of falling off the prospect radar with another injury-riddled year in 2009. But not only did he stay on the field, he had one of the best seasons across all of the minor leagues.

After playing just 99 and 24 games in the previous two seasons at Columbus and Vero Beach, respectively, Jennings put in 132 between Montgomery and Durham in 2009. He did a little bit of everything with the Biscuits - hitting .316, showing an impressive batting eye, swiping 37 bases, and playing top-notch defense - on his way to Southern League MVP honors. A late-season promotion to Durham didn't slow him down, in fact, he hit better with the Bulls in 32 games than he did with Montgomery. He even set a record in his brief time with the Bulls, collecting seven hits in one game.

Across the board, Jennings' tools compare favorably to anyone in the system. His combination of contact and discipline skills are un-matched among Rays' farmhands. He's not a big home run threat, but he has some raw power and his 52 extra-base hits led the system. He's among the fastest players the Rays have, and that includes Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton. Jennings, who was offered a football scholarship to play wide receiver for Alabama, may be a better basestealer than those two with an 88% success rate(52 steals out of 59 chances).

Jennings has the range to play center field at a high-caliber level. His lack of experience means his reads aren't perfect, but he has the speed to make up for it while they improve. His arm is his weakest tool, but it still grades out as at least average. A defensive outfield of Crawford in left, Jennings in center, and Upton(whose arm is superior to Jennings') in right would be among the best in recent memory.

There's little question about Jennings' tools playing at the major-league level. The only thing he has left to prove is that he can continue to stay on the field. He's missed time with injuries to his knee, back, and non-throwing shoulder, but none of those were issues in 2010. He'll begin the 2010 season back with Durham, but if he stays healthy and continues to hit the way he has, the Rays won't be able to hold him back much longer.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rays 12th Round Pick Suffers "Serious Injuries" In Car Crash

Andrew Bellatti, the Rays 12th round draft pick in the 2009 draft, was seriously injured in a head-on car crash Friday afternoon. Bellatti's passenger and the passenger in the other car were also seriously injured. The driver of the other car was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash occured in Spring Valley, CA, near Steele Canyon High School, where Bellatti graduated last year. It is reported the two seriously injured passengers are students at the school.

The California Highway Patrol says all the injuries are considered major but not life-threatening. There was no indication that Bellatti had been racing, or that drugs or alcohol were a factor in the accident.

Here is a link to a local story. Warning, the pictures (especially the video) and description are troubling.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved. We will update you as more information becomes available.

[Update at 5:45]: The deceased driver of the other car has been named as David Norman Reid, age 50. His 17 year-old son, who was in the passenger seat, underwent surgery today.

Bellatti and his 17 year-old female passenger are reported as released from the hospital today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Durham Bulls 2010 Broadcast Schedule

Durham Bulls[Via email from the Durham Bulls Director of Media Relations Matt DeMargel.]

The Durham Bulls today released their 2010 broadcast schedule with a familiar partner back as the flagship radio station. 620-AM The Buzz, formerly WDNC, is once again the home for all 144 games on radio this season.

“It’s great to be back at our old address,” Durham Bulls General Manager Mike Birling said, “620-AM and the Bulls have a long history together, and with the new sports format, it’s a perfect match for us.”

The agreement ends a two-year separation when the Bulls moved their broadcasts to 1410 WJRD-AM for the 2008 season, then 99.9 FM the Fan and their HD2 channel in 2009. The Bulls and 620-AM had been continuous partners since 1981 and had partnered in various seasons dating back to 1947.

In August, 2009, Capitol Broadcasting announced a transaction to exchange certain broadcasting assets that would allow CBC to expand its sports coverage in the Triangle. CBC acquired WDNC from Curtis Media and the rights to the former 850 The Buzz sports programming, which it integrated within the newly acquired WDNC and its two-year-old 99.9 The Fan sports talk radio station.

“I think it’s a perfect fit,” 620 AM The Buzz General Manager Brian Maloney said, “it puts the Bulls back on their flagship station of so many seasons while adding to our lineup of outstanding local sports coverage.”

RTN (Time Warner Cable Channel 251) remains the television flagship for the Bulls in 2010, carrying almost 60 Bulls and USA Baseball Games at the DBAP this season. The first broadcast is scheduled for Friday, May 7th as the Bulls take on the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees in a rematch of the 2009 Governors’ Cup Finals won by Durham.

All 144 games will also be streamed in both audio and video formats in 2010 on Streaming audio will continue to remain a free service, while video will continue on a subscription basis.

The game-by-game schedule is here.

Puerto Rico League Recap for 1/21

Carolina 7, Caguas 3
Eduardo Morlan (Caguas); 1 run on 3 hits with a strikeout and a walk in 2 1/3 inning.

The semi-finals series is tied 2-2.

Venezuelan Winter League for 1/21

Magallanes 9, Caracas 0
Rayner Oliveros (Caracas); 2 runs on 2 hits with a walk in 2/3 inning.

Caracas trail 0-1 in the Championship Series.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Top 15 Hitters: #2 Reid Brignac

Reid Brignac
6'3" 195 lbs DOB: 1/16/1986
Bats: Left | Throws: Right
2009: Durham Bulls/Tampa Bay Rays
Acquired: 2004 Draft, 2nd Round, 45th Overall

It seems like Reid Brignac has been around forever, having been on prospect lists since a strong 2004 debut season. He'll only be 24 years old for the 2010 season though, and while the book on him has changed since his 2006 breakout year, he remains one of the game's top shortstop prospects.

In his second year with the Durham Bulls, Brignac cut down on his strikeouts and saw his batting average rise from .250 to .282. His walk and power numbers were stagnant, however, suggesting he pretty much is what he is in those departments barring any adjustments. Including his major-league numbers, Brignac topped 30 doubles on the season, and hasn't hit fewer than 26 in a season since his debut back in 2004.

He looked more comfortable in his 90 big-league at bats this year then he did when he went 0-10 in 2008, but there are still things to work on. His strikeouts were back up, while he drew only three walks, a rate down from his already-low AAA numbers. He did hit .278 with eleven extra-base hits, but approach needs refinement to maintain those numbers in the majors.

Brignac's defense remains an asset and there aren't any questions about his ability to play the position in the majors. He may not be a Gold Glover-caliber defender, but he should be above-average. At the plate, his power has evaporated, hitting 18 homeruns combined the past two seasons after smacking 17 with Montgomery in 2007. If he can be more selective at the plate and look for better pitches to hit, his homerun total could pick back up a little. He won't be the offensive force that it looked like he might become after the 2006 season, but his bat won't be a detriment.

At this point, all Brignac seems to need is more time to adjust to the major-league level. With Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist seemingly locked into the starting middle infield positions, Brignac could make the team as a reserve, though Sean Rodriguez is also in the running. The Rays could also start Brignac(and Rodriguez, for that matter) back at Durham simply to allow them to play every day. His strikeout rate improving suggests that Brignac is still developing, and similar strides with regards to walks would cement his future status as a big league regular.

Questions and Answers: Stephen Vogt

Stephen Vogt, Rays minor-league catcher, graciously agreed to answer a few submitted questions for I want to thank Stephen for giving a moment of his time to help out our site, and everyone from wishes him the best of luck in 2010!

1. How closely do the guys in the minors follow the big league team?
We follow them fairly close, we watch whenever we can. I have found that I tend to just follow the guys I have gotten to know over the last few years.

2. Can you describe your approach at the plate, particularly what you are trying to do with your legs and your hands?
My approach is middle-away, I want to let the ball travel on me and get close to me. With my legs and hands, I want to make sure I have flexion in my legs, which gets them into an athletic position allowing them to come through the baseball. As for the hands, make sure they are relaxed and in a good position with the bat angled up at 45 degrees making it ready to come straight down through the baseball. Short to it and long through it.

3. Stephen, you have played several positions as a pro. I am sure that as a team guy, you will do your best to do whatever helps the team, but ideally, would your development be better served by sticking at one spot?
Not necessarily. While earning a starting spot in one position would be great and I would not complain whatsoever, the ability I have to play outfield, 1st, 3rd and catch is an asset in that I will be able to use to get into the lineup 6 different ways.

4. Stephen, your scouting report at Baseball Cube reads as follows: Power: 32 Batting: 84 Speed: 38 Contact: 96 Patience: 79 Do you have any quibbles with this report? Which of these ratings is the most important to your development going forward?
I would like to think my speed is higher than a 38! I might be a catcher but I can run a little bit. I believe they are all important, I think the one that I can definitely improve on is power, it is the last aspect of the swing to develope for most baseball players. These are all equally important in my development, but patience and contact are the most important in my mind.

5. What has life on the road been like as a Rays minor leaguer, and has it been hard to change your regular season environment every year?
It's been amazing. Getting to live in 3 different states and experience 3 completely different areas of the country has been a blessing. Being married I have a different perspective than most, but my wife and I have enjoyed each place we have lived and love the fact that we get to move every 6 months. The Minor League lifestyle can be tough at times and exhausting, but overall it is the greatest job a man can have. We get paid to play our favorite game, I wouldn't want to do anything else.

Minor Moves: Colina, Eldridge

Alvin ColinaFrom Matt Eddy: The Rays have signed C Alvin Colina and re-signed OF Rashad Eldridge.

You know Rashad. Colina has been with the Rockies, Reds and Braves, and had 5 MLB AB's for Colorado in 2006. Here are the 28 year-old Venezuelan's minor league numbers:
Year   Age   Lev Aff   AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2000 18 Rook COL 122 25 43 7 1 4 28 2 3 9 26 .352 .417 .525 .942
2001 19 A_ss COL 164 12 35 10 0 5 17 0 2 12 50 .213 .283 .366 .649
2002 20 A COL 212 22 50 8 0 7 36 1 0 20 57 .236 .312 .373 .685
2003 21 A COL 256 26 68 20 1 4 23 5 4 20 53 .266 .329 .398 .727
2004 22 A_adv COL 337 44 85 23 0 11 47 0 1 24 81 .252 .313 .418 .731
2005 23 A_adv COL 34 2 9 3 0 0 3 0 1 3 14 .265 .324 .353 .677
2005 23 AA COL 207 23 53 5 0 9 35 0 2 20 42 .256 .330 .411 .741
2006 24 AA COL 323 45 82 14 1 12 46 3 2 23 77 .254 .314 .415 .728
2007 25 AAA COL 272 22 53 19 0 5 35 0 0 17 69 .195 .243 .320 .563
2008 26 AAA CIN 227 25 58 8 2 8 54 2 1 17 68 .256 .315 .414 .729
2009 27 AAA ATL 225 31 59 12 0 8 42 1 1 25 55 .262 .344 .422 .766
10 Seasons 2379 277 595 129 5 73 366 14 17 190 592 .250 .315 .401 .716
Provided by View Original Table Generated 1/20/2010.

I'm assuming he's a Durham Bull.

Local Singers Invited to National Anthem Auditions for Stone Crabs

Charlotte Stone Crabs[Via email from the Charlotte Stone Crabs' Marketing Manager Jonathan Gantt.]

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – The Charlotte Stone Crabs will host open national anthem auditions for the 2010 regular season from 8:30-11:00 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6, from at Charlotte Sports Park.

All individuals and groups who are interested in singing “The Star Spangled Banner” prior to a 2010 home game must audition on this date. No private auditions are available. All singers who performed last season are required to audition again for the upcoming season.

Anthem tryouts are available on a first-come, first-served basis during the designated time period. This will serve as the only audition date prior to the 2010 season. All interested parties will be required to sing a live, acapella version of the national anthem during the tryout in front of a panel of judges from the Stone Crabs front office.

Performers are encouraged to bring a set of ear plugs for their audition as they will be singing into a microphone which will be broadcast over the speakers at the stadium.

The Stone Crabs begin the defense of the FSL South Division title on April 8 against the Palm Beach Cardinals at Charlotte Sports Park. Season Seat packages are currently on sale and start at just $60 for the 10-Game Mini Plan. Call 941-206-HITS (4487) or visit for more information.

Beckham vs. Upton (Justin)

In the comments about #3 hitter Tim Beckham there were some comparisons to Justin Upton, another #1 overall draft pick (Upton 2005, Beckham 2008). So everyone can see the stats in one place, here is a look at how they have done so far in professional ball. I'm not liking this comparison.

Beckham so far:
Year   Age  Lev  AB  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
2008 18 Rook 177 30 43 12 0 2 14 5 1 13 43 .243 .297 .345 .642
2008 18 A_ss 6 5 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 1 .333 .556 .500 1.056
2009 19 A 491 58 135 33 4 5 63 13 10 34 116 .275 .328 .389 .717
2 Seasons 674 93 180 46 4 7 77 19 11 49 160 .267 .323 .378 .701
Provided by View Original Table Generated 1/20/2010.

Upton in the minors:
Year   Age   Lev  AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2006 18 A 438 71 115 28 1 12 66 15 7 52 96 .263 .343 .413 .757
2007 19 A_adv 126 27 43 6 2 5 17 9 4 19 28 .341 .433 .540 .973
2007 19 AA 259 48 80 17 4 13 53 10 7 37 51 .309 .399 .556 .955
2008 20 AAA 61 13 17 3 1 3 10 2 0 7 26 .279 .353 .508 .861
2009 21 A_adv 8 1 2 0 0 1 6 1 0 1 3 .250 .333 .625 .958
4 Seasons 892 160 257 54 8 34 152 37 18 116 204 .288 .373 .481 .854
Provided by View Original Table Generated 1/20/2010.

Upton in the majors:
Year   Age  Lg   AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2007 19 NL 140 17 31 8 3 2 11 2 0 11 37 .221 .283 .364 .647
2008 20 NL 356 52 89 19 6 15 42 1 4 54 121 .250 .353 .463 .816
2009 21 NL 526 84 158 30 7 26 86 20 5 55 137 .300 .366 .532 .899
3 Seasons 1022 153 278 57 16 43 139 23 9 120 295 .272 .350 .485 .836
Provided by View Original Table Generated 1/20/2010.

Beckham's best OPS (other than the 6 AB's at Hudson Valley) was .717 at age 19 in the Sally. Upton's worst OPS was .647 at age 19 in the National League. OPS isn't everything, but still.

More On Stepan Havlicek

Tampa Bay RaysFrom the PR: The Tampa Bay Rays have signed 16-year-old left-handed pitcher Stepan Havlicek (STEF-en HAVE-li-check), a member of the Czech Junior National Team, to a free agent minor league contract. He was signed last week in Blansko, Czech Republic, by John Gilmore, the club's European and Australian scout. Gilmore worked closely with Jiri Vit, an associate scout for the Rays in Czech Republic.

Havlicek is the first player signed by the Rays out of the Czech Republic, and is believed to be the first ever signed by the Rays out of Europe.

"Stepan has a loose, quick arm with good follow through," said Gilmore. "His fastball has run and his curveball depth. For a young player, he has great control and goes right after hitters."

A student of Sport Grammar School in the city of Brno, the 6'1", 160-pound Havlicek is a longtime member of the Czech Cadets and Junior National teams. His most recent competition was at the 2009 European Juniors Championships held in August in Bonn, Germany, where he tallied 13 strikeouts over 11.1 scoreless innings. He will likely attend a portion of the Rays extended spring training and play at Major League Baseball's Australia Academy this summer.

"This is a great opportunity for me to play against talented players," Havlicek said at his signing day press conference in Blansko. "Everything will be new for me in the States and it will definitely be a great experience."

The signing is part of the Rays expanded international scouting efforts in Asia, Australia and Europe.

"Playing in the World Series has certainly made international players aware of the Rays," said Gilmore. "But our track record in player development is our most powerful selling point to young players around the world."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Puerto Rico League Recap from 1/18

Carolina 5, Caguas 0
Eduardo Morlan (Caguas); no runs, no hits and 2 strikeouts in an inning on the mound.

Caguas trails 1-0 in the semi-final series.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Top 15 Hitters: #3 Tim Beckham

Tim Beckham
6'0" 190 lbs DOB: 1/27/1990
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2009: Bowling Green Hot Rods
Acquired: 2008 Draft, 1st Round, 1st Overall

After ranking #1 on our top hitters list last season, Tim Beckham's stock slipped some in 2009, and debate about his ultimate ceiling rages on.

The same problems that plagued Beckham during his pro debut with Princeton continued in Bowling Green: His strikeout and walk rates remained poor and his power was limited mainly to doubles; plus some new issues: His defense was a major concern, with a high error total and less-than-stellar scouting reports, and he was an ineffectual basestealer.

Of course, all hope isn't lost. His batting average improved over .030 points, and he smacked 33 doubles as a 19-year old in full-season ball. Scouts still like the overall talent, but it's clear he's far from a finished product. Beckham isn't performing the way a #1 pick might be expected to, but there's still a lot of upside there, and by all accounts Beckham has the work ethic and attitude to reach it.

He'll be the everyday shortstop for the Charlotte Stone Crabs in 2010. The number one thing to watch is his defense. He has the tools to remain at shortstop, but sloppy footwork and a loss of athleticism contributed to his high error total in 2009. Joe Maddon remarked that Beckham appeared in better shape in the winter workouts, which is certainly a step in the right direction.

The next thing to watch will be his plate approach. He has strong wrists and some raw power, but an over-aggressive approach leads to bad hitters' counts and swinging at bad pitches. If he can reign in his plate discipline, then his other batting numbers should improve along with it. His doubles total is a sign of his burgeoning power, though he doesn't project to be a big-time power threat.

Beckham still has the tools to reach his considerable upside, but 2010 could go a long way as to determining his status. A strong season would silence the critics and he'd emerge as a true shortstop-of-the-future, but another sub-par season and you'll start hearing the word "bust" thrown around. The good news is that he's just now turning 20 years old, and there's more than enough time for him to break through.

Puerto Rico League Recap from 1/17

For the second night in a row, both games of the playoffs have been postponed. Game one of each series have been scheduled for 1/18.

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/17

Mazatlan 6, Obregon 4 (12 innings)
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 1 for 4 with a run scored and 2 walks.

Mazatlan wins semi-final series 4-1 and advance to finals.

Venezuelan Winter League Recap from 1/17

Caracas wins 5-3 and clinched berth into the finals.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Top 15 Hitters: #4 Kyeong Kang

Kyeong Kang
6'2" 200 lbs DOB: 2/6/1988
Bats: Left | Throws: Left
2009: Bowling Green Hot Rods
Acquired: 2006 Draft, 15th Round, 439th Overall

In a system thin on hitting prospects, Kyeong Kang's stats should stand out, but he's been lost in the discussion of top Rays prospects a little. As a 21-year old in the low-A South Atlantic League, a strong season was anticipated; even still, a .307/.390/.491 slash line isn't to be taken lightly. After the All-Star break, he hit .328/.427/.513 with an OPS over 1.000 in his final 28 games.

Kang's tools don't jump out like Desmond Jennings' or even Tim Beckham, but they're not to be taken lightly. After hitting .276 and .278 his first two pro seasons, he topped .300 in 2009. He actually hit one fewer homerun in 2009 than 2008, but nearly doubled his doubles from 15 to 29 in 61 extra at-bats. He also doubled the number of walks drawn, from 20 up to 40 in 2009, while only adding 12 strikeouts transitioning to full-season ball. He also stole 10 bases for the Hot Rods.

Defensively, he has above-average range with a nice arm. He doesn't have the athleticism to play center field(in fact, he didn't see any time there after playing it some in 2008) but he would be fine in either corner spot.

The important thing to watch is his power output. Corner outfield is traditionally a power position, so he'll probably need to start cranking some more homeruns. His extra-base hit total was impressive(29 doubles and 7 triples) but the homerun number dropping one from last season was a disappointment. He has the raw power to become a 20 home run type.

Kang got off to a late start in 2009 because of injury, but finished as hot as anyone in the system. If he carries that momentum in 2010 with Charlotte, a mid-season promotion to Montgomery is possible.

RaysProspects Forum

Over the past year we've added some great writers (Nick, Jake, Ricky) and some fun ways to connect like Twitter (thanks Kevin) and Facebook (thanks Jim). In an effort to continue to improve the site today we're adding a discussion forum.

We know we have a lot of smart readers with great ideas for discussion topics. The Comments sections here are fine, but it's sometimes hard to know where to post an idea or a question. On the new RP Forum you can create your own topics, ask a question, or link to an interesting article. We think it will be a little less formal and hopefully a lot of fun. We hope to see you there and that you enjoy it.

Just so you know, before starting the Forum I tried several software programs. Each one has it's pros and cons. I wanted something that was easy to use, free, and looked nice. I was close to using the phpbb format, it was fast and looked great, but was just a bit too complicated (for me at least). So ultimately I ended up using the one offered by Lefora. It's a fairly basic layout right now, but expect it to evolve over time, just like this site has. It's simple to use but offers a lot of features. You can post pictures, flash, links to interesting articles about the Rays, and much more. Check it out and let us know what you think.

You can get there by clicking on the RP Forum logo on the sidebar (just below the Twitter now, may get moved) or by clicking on this link.

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/16

Mazatlan 5, Obregon 2
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored.

Mazatlan has a 3-1 lead in the semi-final series.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Winter League Stats Update (through 1/15)

The Caribbean League playoffs are in full swing. Here are how the teams featuring active Tampa Bay players are doing in the playoffs:

Caracas (VWL); second place with an 8-6 record in the round robin playoffs.
Mazatlan (LMP); advanced to semi-finals and hold a 2-1 lead in the series.
Caguas (PWL) & Mayaguez (PWL); begin playoff action tonight.

Here are the current statistics for the Winter Leagues:

BATTERS           LG   AVG  AB  H 2B 3B HR RBI   OBP   SLG   OPS
Nevin Ashley AFL .366 71 26 6 4 2 14 .405 .649 1.053*
Willie Aybar DWL .259 85 22 4 0 1 9 .354 .341 .695*
Reid Brignac LMP .233 60 14 2 0 0 3 .324 .267 .590
Cody Cipriano AFL .250 4 1 1 0 0 1 .250 .500 .750*
Jose Lobaton VWL .300 40 12 3 0 2 6 .356 .525 .881
Dioner Navarro VWL .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
Shawn O'Malley AFL .313 64 20 2 0 0 5 .470 .344 .814*
Elias Otero PWL .375 8 3 0 0 0 1 .444 .375 .819
Justin Ruggiano VWL .246 69 17 1 0 2 4 .329 .348 .677

Chris Andujar DWL 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 1.0 0 0 0 0 0.00 .000*
Joe Bateman VWL 2 2 3.41 25 0 1 37.0 39 3 35 11 1.35 .279
Jason Cromer VWL 0 0 3.86 6 4 0 18.2 16 4 14 6 1.18 .232
Richard De Los Santos DWL 0 0 12.00 3 0 0 3.0 7 0 2 1 2.67 .467*
Matt Gorgen AFL 0 1 10.38 10 0 1 8.2 18 1 12 6 2.77 .450*
Carlos Hernandez VWL 2 2 4.78 8 8 0 37.2 50 6 20 9 1.57 .327
Eduardo Morlan PWL 0 0 6.89 13 0 0 15.2 21 2 14 4 1.60 .318
Rayner Oliveros VWL 2 1 4.68 12 7 0 32.2 38 2 17 13 1.56 .290
Paul Phillips AFL 0 1 4.82 9 0 0 9.1 9 0 4 5 1.50 .250*
Heath Rollins AFL 0 0 8.03 10 0 0 12.1 21 2 9 5 2.11 .404*
Alexander Torres VWL 0 0 0.00 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0.00 .000

Note: These stats are for regular season play.

* indicates season completed

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/15

Obregon 4, Mazatlan 3
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 0 for 3 with an RBI.

Mazatlan has a 2-1 lead in the semi-finals.

Venezuelan Winter League Recap from 1/15

Zulia 8, Caracas 7
Rayner Oliveros (Caracas); 4 runs on 4 hits with 2 strikeouts in 2 innings pitched.

Caracas is 8-6 in the round robin playoffs.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rays Sign Czech 16-Year Old

Dock Of The Rays was the first Rays outlet with it. Quote from a European baseball site:
The 16-year-old left-handed pitcher Stepan Havlicek, member of the Czech national junior team and student of Sport Grammar School in Brno, signed a six-year professional contract with the Major League club Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday in Blansko. Havlicek is the first player of Black Hill Blansko (till 2009 Extraleague team) to sign a pro contract and the fourth European player ever to sign with the Rays.

Havlicek is going to two months of spring training in the USA (March/April) and will spend a couple of weeks in a training camp in Australia during the summer months. He is expected to make his debut for a farm club of the Rays next season, since his first priority is to finish school in Brno, before moving to the USA permanently.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stone Crabs Unveil 2010 Promotional Schedule

Charlotte Stone Crabs[Via email from the Charlotte Stone Crabs' Marketing Manager Jonathan Gantt.]

The Charlotte Stone Crabs aim to lead the Florida State League in attendance for the second straight season with the help of their 2010 promotional schedule, which features more of their popular fireworks shows and entertainment acts as well as dozens of special theme nights that reflect the fun atmosphere of Minor League Baseball.

The FSL South Division Champions open the 2010 season with Opening Weekend on April 8-9, against the Palm Beach Cardinals. The weekend will feature a variety of promotions and fanfare including giveaways, a pre-game player autograph session, live band and much more.

Other promotional highlights include: six fireworks dates (one per month), four nationally-acclaimed entertainment acts, popular returning theme nights like Golfer’s Appreciation Night (April 16) and Military Appreciation Night (June 19) and new theme nights like Wild, Wild West Night (August 7) and World Cup Night (June 18).

The Stone Crabs popular weekday promotions will all return from last season including Dollar Dog Night on Mondays, Seniors Eat Free Tuesdays, Chick-fil-A Winning Wednesdays, Thursty Thursdays and Sun Newspapers Family Sundays. These promotions continue to provide fans with wallet-friendly promotions in addition to the affordable ticket prices offered by the Stone Crabs, which range from just $5-11.

For a complete listing of the Stone Crabs 2010 promotional schedule, please visit Season Seat packages are currently on sale and start at just $60 for a 10-Game Mini Plan, which includes seats to the Top 10 Promotional Nights of the season. For more information, please call 941-206-HITS or visit

Stone Crabs to Host 1st Annual Little League Jamboree at Charlotte Sports Park

Charlotte Stone Crabs[Via email from the Charlotte Stone Crabs' Marketing Manager Jonathan Gantt.]

Area children will have the chance to register for their local Little League and then get some practice on the same fields as their Major League heroes as the Charlotte Stone Crabs host the 1st Annual Little League Jamboree at Charlotte Sports Park on Saturday, January 16.

The registration event will take place on the field at Charlotte Sports Park where kids can register for their respective Little League and then play catch on the field from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Participating Little Leagues include Port Charlotte Little League, Murdock Little League and North Port Little League.

Team mascot Stoney will be on hand for pictures and autographs, and the Stone Crabs will also enter each Little League team into a drawing for a complimentary Luxury Suite Night ($485 value) and Field of Dreams Party ($185 value) during the upcoming season.

For questions on the Little League Jamboree event, please call the Stone Crabs front office at 941-206-HITS (4487). Additional information for the Stone Crabs organization including ticket packages, 2010 schedule and more is available at

Puerto Rico League Recap from 1/4-1/13

1/9: Ponce 3, Mayaguez 2
Elias Otero (Mayaguez); 1 for 2 with an RBI, run scored and drew a walk.

1/12: Mayaguez 3, Caguas 1
Eduardo Morlan (Caguas); 1 run on 1 hit with 3 strikeouts and a walk in 1 1/3 inning.

1/13: Caguas 8, Mayaguez 3
Elias Otero (Mayaguez); 2 for 4 with a run scored and a stolen base.

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/4-1/13

1/7: Culiacan 4, Mazatlan 1
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 0 for 3.
Mazatlan leads 3-2 in round one of the playoffs.

1/9: Culiacan 5, Mazatlan 3
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 0 for 3.
Series tied at 3-3.

1/10: Mazatlan 2, Culiacan 1
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 2 for 3.
Mazatlan wins series 4-3, advance to semi-finals.

1/12: Mazatlan 4, Obregon 1
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 2 for 3 with a run scored.
Mazatlan leads 1-0 in semi-finals.

1/13: Mazatlan 7, Obregon 0
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 2 for 4 with a double, 3 RBI's and a run scored.
Mazatlan leads 2-0 in semi-finals.

Dominican Winter League Recap from 1/4-1/13

Willy Aybar has been removed from the roster due to injury. There are no longer any members of the Tampa Bay organization active in the league.

Venezuelan Winter League Recap 1/4-1/13

1/6/2010: La Guaira 12, Caracas 6
Rayner Oliveros; 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits with a strikeout in 2 2/3 inning.

Caracas is in second place with a 7-5 record in the round robin playoffs.

John Sickels' Top 20 Rays Prospects

You can view the whole post here, but here's the list:

1) Desmond Jennings, OF, Grade A: Borderline A-, but my gut is saying to be aggressive with this one.

2) Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Grade A-

3) Wade Davis, RHP, Grade A-

4) Matt Moore, LHP, Grade B+

5) Alexander Colome, RHP, Grade B: borderline B+

6) Reid Brignac, SS, Grade B-

7) Alexander Torres, LHP, Grade B-

8) Tim Beckham, SS, Grade B-

9) Nick Barnese, RHP, Grade B-

10) Wilking Rodriguez, RHP, Grade B-

11) Luke Bailey, C, Grade C+

12) Kyle Lobstein, LHP, Grade C+

13) Aneury Rodriguez, RHP, Grade C+

14) Kyeong Kang, OF, Grade C+

15) Matthew Sweeney, 1B, Grade C+

16) Todd Glaesman, OF, Grade C+

17) Alex Cobb, RHP, Grade C+

18) Jake McGee, LHP, Grade C+:

19) David Newmann, LHP, Grade C+:

20) Matt Gorgen, RHP, Grade C+

Looks like he's pretty high on both of the Rodriguezes. His comment on Jake McGee("he was horrible coming back from Tommy John") is frankly way off base. His strikeout and walk numbers at Charlotte were in line with his career averages, the only difference was a way-inflated hit rate, and considering it was only 22.1 innings, I'll take it with a grain of salt. I certainly don't think he'll get around to the tune of 10.5 hits per 9 innings in 2010.

Top 15 Hitters: #5 Luke Bailey

Luke Bailey
6'0" 195 lbs DOB: 3/11/1991
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2009: Did not play(signed late/injured)
Acquired: 2009 Draft, 4th Round, 139th Overall

Bailey entered spring of 2009 as one of the hottest names from the high school crop. He was atop the list of a very strong catching class, boasting above-average tools across the board, and hee was considered the top defensive catcher.

His offensive game dropped off a little bit during the high school season, though he continued to show off the tools that made him a premier name and remained strong defensively. Doing some pitching, however, he hurt his elbow, eventually requiring Tommy John surgery. That caused him to fall to the fourth round, where the Rays signed him away from an Auburn commitment for $750,000.

Bailey will make his debut in the 2010 season, but the Rays will ease him back into catching as his arm strength returns. Assuming his arm eventually does heal, Bailey will be among the toolsiest catchers in the minors. He'll need to show he can hit after struggling a bit his senior season, but the concerns about his bat aren't too extreme. He'll begin 2010 in extended spring training, but from there it's anyone's guess where he ends up. He has no pro experience, but the Rays may consider him advanced enough to take on the New York-Penn League.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stephen Vogt Q&A: Final call for questions

I will be submitting the questions to Stephen Vogt tomorrow afternoon, so if anyone has any questions they would like to ask about Stephen and his career, leave them as a comment or send them to

On The Fringe: Justin Ruggiano

Ruggiano has been toiling in the minors for six seasons, having several stints with the Rays in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He spent the entire 2009 season at Durham as essentially the injury replacement for the fourth/fifth outfielder that would open with an outfield injury. However the outfield remained healthy minus a few brief spells and Ruggiano had a slightly above average year (109 wRC+). Plus, the Rays were able to save his last option.

The scouting reports projects Ruggiano has potential fourth or fifth outfielder who can play above average defense at all three spots, a bat with some pop, a bat with some holes (high Ks), and speed on the base paths. The low BB/K rate is the glaring concern as that would prevent serious offense production from Ruggiano considering he is not a 20-30 homer guy.

The statistical projections give him a surprisingly excellent outlook considering he posted a .256 wOBA in a small 96 PA sample.


ZiPS 490 11 .238 .301 .369 17
CHONE 433 15 .253 .309 .389 12
Marcel 208 6 .251 .317 .412 4

Granted, these projections are for a large number of plate appearances which Ruggiano is very unlikely to achieve. That low number of walks doesn’t put him on base that much as you would like with his speed. So he has to rely on good BABIP numbers from successful batted balls via line drive or groundball in order to rack up those hits. But we all know how much BABIP fluctuates so Ruggiano’s on-base skill is reason for the Rays to not give him too many PAs in the starting lineup.


If you have been paying attention this offseason, there has been an upheaval in prizing above average defense in a ballplayer. And when looking at Ruggiano’s projections for 2010, they suggest that he can become an average to above average defensive outfielder in the Majors. I am guessing that his defensive abilities is a reason why the Rays didn’t waste his option in 2009 and kept it open for possibly a longer stint in 2010 or 2011. Although that scenario would need some injuries and/or departures in the outfield. 

Final Verdict:

These projections are merely that, projections. But I like to think of them like expectations based on past performance. His plate discipline and contact rates have to refined in order to produce acceptable production in the Majors. His worth right now is his defense and speed on the bench as a potential fourth or fifth outfielder. CHONE has projected his WAR at 1.4 next season. A surprisingly high number that has to be taken with a grain of salt for two reasons. The first one I mentioned earlier dealing with the large amount of PAs needed to reach. Second, CHONE also projects these outfielders with a 1.4 WAR in 2010 :

  • Matthew Joyce
  • Mike Cameron
  • Gregor Blanco
  • Jason Heyward
  • Willie Harris
  • Mitch Maier

Not what you would expect the Red Sox signed Cameron for or Mitch Maier being that good. Plus Matt Joyce, who will be a starting outfielder in the Majors eventually, having the same WAR as Ruggiano doesn’t seem right. Hence why these are merely projections.

Any who, at 28 years old in 2010 and with one option left, his days on the 40-man may be numbered come next winter.

Stats and projections taken from (Stats), (CHONE), (ZiPS), (Marcels), and Jeff Zimmerman’s UZR projections.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top 15 Hitters: #6 Matt Sweeney

Matt Sweeney
6'3" 215 lbs DOB: 4/4/1988
First/Third Baseman
Bats: Left | Throws: Right
2009: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes/Charlotte Stone Crabs
Acquired: Trade with Los Angeles Angels(with Alex Torres and Sean Rodriguez for Scott Kazmir)

Behind Alex Torres and Sean Rodriguez, Matt Sweeney has sort of become the forgotten man from the Scott Kazmir trade, but he offers tantalizing potential with his bat if he can stay on the field and pull it together.

Drafted out of a Maryland high school in the 8th round of the 2006 draft, Sweeney had a hot debut and followed it with 18 homeruns in the Midwest League in 2007, but his entire 2008 season was wiped out with an ankle injury. He returned in 2009 and hit .299/.379/.517 in 58 games with Rancho Cucamonga(he also played four games with the AZL Angels and six with the Charlotte Stone Crabs after the trade). His strikeout and walk rates each improved from his 2007 season, but it's important to remember than his 2009 numbers came in the hitting-friendly Cal League.

Sweeney can generate power to all fields, though he only managed nine homeruns in 2009. His plate discipline improved but still needs work, though his contact rate was impressive. Sweeney isn't an adept third baseman and would project as fringe-average at best at the major league level. He has a strong arm but his range, footwork, and hands rate below-average. With Evan Longoria penciled in as the Rays' third baseman for quite some time, a move across the diamond to first base could be in store sooner rather than later.

Despite his struggles in the brief time he spent with Charlotte, Sweeney is ready for a promotion to AA. Both corner infield positions are "open" with no real prospects challenging for them, so while Sweeney could start at third, his future is almost certainly at first base though. An uptick in power from his 2009 season as well as continued development in the walk/strikeout categories will help Sweeney secure a ticket to the big leagues down the line.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rays Prospect Q&A: Stephen Vogt is happy to announce what will hopefully become a regular feature to the site. Stephen Vogt has agreed to answer any questions readers may have about his life as a player in the Rays organization.

Vogt was drafted in the 12th round of the 2007 draft out of Azusa Pacific University. He played for the short-season class A Hudson Valley Renengades after the draft in '07, where he led the team in plate appearances (279), hits (72) and RBIs (48), and posted a .300 batting average. He was also among the New York-Penn League leaders in the RBI category. He split time between catching, first base, and the outfield.

In 2008, Vogt advanced to class-A Columbus, hitting .291, collecting 114 hits, and driving in 54 runs. Vogt spent most of his time at first base and in left field, but also appeared in several games behind the plate.

Vogt began the 2009 season at high class-A Charlotte, again spending time in the infield and the outfield. However, his season was cut short after just 10 appearances. He suffered a season ending shoulder injury, which required surgery. However, Vogt spent the rest of the season working on rehabilitation, and is recovering well. He also made a surprise appearance as a Florida State League first base umpire during a Stone Crabs game in August, after an injury was sustained by the home plate umpire. He is hopeful to be ready to go for 2010 Spring Training.

Stephen is willing to answer any questions about his life as a minor leaguer in the Rays organization. Questions can be submitted to The questions will be send Stephen's way, and answers will be posted soon after.

We want to thank Stephen for allowing us to delve into the life of a Tampa Bay Rays prospect.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Top 15 Hitters: #7 Todd Glaesmann

Todd Glaesmann
6'4" 220 lbs DOB: 10/24/1990
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2009: GCL Rays
Acquired: 2009 Draft, 3rd Round, 108th Overall

The highest draft pick from 2009 that the Rays actually signed, Glaesmann might have the best overall set of skills and tools from that draft. A former quarterback and wide receiver in high school, Glaesmann has the athleticism to stick in center field, but his big frame and strong arm suit him better for right field.

His big frame projects for good power down the road, but right now he's a line-drive hitter with some length to his swing. He underwent surgery for a torn ligament in his left thumb last fall, but was back in time to play for his school in the spring and appear in five games for the GCL Rays after signing.

Glaesmann doesn't have one area that he drastically needs to improve, it's just a matter of refining his athleticism and tools into baseball skills. He's not as raw as someone like Ty Morrison was when he was drafted, but the Rays will be patient with him at let his power develop. In a system relatively weak on bats, Glaesmann offers exciting five-tool potential, although he hasn't yet had the chance to show it on the field. He'll be back in short-season ball for the 2010 season. If the Rays like his bat enough in extended spring training, he should play with Hudson Valley; otherwise, he'll headline the Princeton Rays' outfield.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top 15 Hitters: #8 Shawn O'Malley

Shawn O'Malley
5'11" 160 lbs DOB: 12/28/1987
Bats: Switch | Throws: Right
2009: Charlotte Stone Crabs
Acquired: 2006 Draft, 5th Round, 139th Overall

O'Malley's final 2009 OPS of .699 didn't open any eyes, but seeing his name atop the Florida State League in on-base percentage was a surprise.

O'Malley only hit .268 in 103 games for the Crabs, but he drew 58 walks on his way to a very healthy .388 OBP. Of course, with that good of an OBP and that low of an OPS, it stands to reason that he didn't hit for any power. Power isn't just a weakness for O'Malley, it's not even a part of his game. He hit only 12 extra base hits, one homerun among them. And his .311 SLG% was actually an improvement over last season's .296.

Still, he does enough other things well to make him a legitimate prospect. He gets on base, and once he's on, he's a constant threat to steal with his plus speed. He swiped 40 bases for Charlotte against 14 times caught stealing. He had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .313/.470/.344 with two steals.

O'Malley doesn't figure to develop much power, although he's got an athletic frame to add strength(he was an all-state wide receiver in high school in Washington). He saw a lot of time at 2nd base in Arizona and might not be able to stick at shortstop, although, again, he has the athleticism for it.

If he can continue develop his hitting while maintaining his on-base and stealing skills, he could become a valuable tool off the bench for the Rays in a few years. He'll start 2010 at Montgomery, where he'll primarily play shortstop but also see time at 2nd base. He'll only be 22 years old, but it'll be important for him to show that he's not overmatched by the pitching at the higher levels.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Puerto Rico League Recap from 1/3

Caguas 7, Carolina 5
Eduardo Morlan (Caguas); no runs on 1 hit with a strikeout in 1/3 inning.

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/3

Mazatlan 3, Culiacan 0
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 0 for 4 with a run scored.

Mazatlan takes a 2-0 lead in round one of the playoffs.

Dominican Winter League Recap from 1/3

Gigantes 2, Licey 1
Willy Aybar (Licey); 1 for 4 with 2 K's.

Licey is 2-5 in the Round Robin Playoffs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Puerto Rico League Recap from 1/2

Caguas 3, Mayaguez 1
Elias Otero (Mayaguez); 0 for 1, entered into the game in the eighth inning.

Mexican Pacific League Recap from 1/2

Mazatlan 1, Culiacan 0
Reid Brignac (Mazatlan); 0 for 3 with a strikeout.

Mazatlan leads round one of the playoff (1-0)

Venezuelan Winter League Recap from 1/2

Magallanes 3, Caracas 1
Jason Cromer (Caracas); no runs on 1 hit with a walk and a strikeout in 1/3 of an inning.