RaysProspects: Of course, a few questions on the return for Matt Garza: Chris Archer is the Rays' 2nd/3rd/4th/other best pitching prospect? Could Robinson Chirinos be an everyday starter, or is he more a platoon/utility type? Is Hak-Ju Lee a better prospect than Tim Beckham?
Jim Callis: Archer is the Rays' second-best pitching prospect, between Matt Moore and Jake McGee. He still needs to figure out command and control, but I could see him becoming a No. 2 starter or a closer. Chirinos is old for a prospect at 26, but he's legit. I think he has the upside of a starter, because he can hit, has some pop and has improved during his two years as a catcher, but I think it's more likely he's a quality backup. Lee is definitely a better prospect than Beckham. He's still two to three years away from the majors, but he's a much better defender (and will stay at shortstop), a much better runner, and I think he'll hit more. Beckham has more power but isn't going to stick at shortstop.
RP: Speaking of Beckham, he hasn't posted the numbers expected out of a 1-1 pick, but he's been young for his level and hasn't been a total washout a la Matt Bush. What's your opinion of Beckham, and just for fun, your opinion of Bush as a reliever?
JC: I'd be worried about Beckham. He's not a bust like Bush, but Beckham can't stay at shortstop and he hasn't hit consistently or shown much power. He will be just 21 this year, so he still has time, but right now he looks like a guy who's going to have to play third base and won't have the bat (especially from a power standpoint) for the position. Bush has plenty of arm strength, and that's about it. He hasn't proven he can stay healthy or keep himself under control, so I wouldn't expect anything out of him. I was surprised he got added to the 40-man roster.
RP: How does Matt Moore compare to the other LHP prospects like Aroldis Chapman, Martin Perez, Mike Montgomery, and John Lamb?
JC: In the upcoming Prospect Handbook, I ranked Moore as the 18th-best prospect in baseball. The only lefties I had ahead of him were Chapman (No. 5) and Zach Britton (No. 18), with Lamb (No. 21), Chris Sale (No. 23), Montgomery (No. 25), Tyler Matzek (No. 27) and Perez (No. 33) close behind him. I see Chapman as a reliever, so I think it's fair to say Moore potentially is the most overpowering of that group.
RP: Aside from Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings, and Jake McGee who should spend most or all of the year in the majors, do you think any other prospects could make a meaningful impact in St. Pete this season?
JC: Those are the obvious guys. Chirinos could contribute as the No. 2 catcher, and Archer could surface in the bullpen at the end of the year. I'm not a big Leslie Anderson believer.
RP: There are a ton of righties who seem to be about equal in terms of prospect status: Alex Cobb, Jake Thompson, Wilking Rodriguez, Nick Barnese, Joseph Cruz. Do any of them stand to you?
JC: In the Handbook, we rank them in this order: Thompson, Barnese, Cobb, Cruz, Rodriguez. I'd like to see Thompson build on his fine 2010 debut before I jump fully on board. Cobb has advanced the furthest, and probably has less pure stuff than anyone of the group. I keep expecting Barnese to break out.
RP: The Rays gave out some over-slot bonuses in the 2009 draft, but those players struggled last season. What do you make of Todd Glaesmann, Luke Bailey, and Jeff Malm at this point?
JC: Young high school hitters need time to adjust to pro ball. We saw the same thing with Justin O'Conner out of the 2010 draft. I'd be most concerned about Malm, because he had an impressive amateur resume and should have been the most ready to hit, plus his bat has to carry him. Bailey plays a premium position and Glaesmann is a quality athlete, so they can do some other things.
RP: Has any team ever been as loaded with draft picks as the Rays are for 2011? Do you think the looming possibility of hard-slotting in the 2012 draft will impact their (or any team, for that matter) strategy?
JC: I don't know if anyone has actually done the research, but I believe (if my math is correct) that the Rays could have 12 picks in the first two rounds, which I don't think has ever happened before. The 2011 draft is going to be wide open. Teams fear that this will be the last time they can spend what they want on draft picks (read: sign a lot of the premium high school players), so many of them will spend like they've never spent before. Teams spent a record $194.8 million on draft bonuses last year, and I bet they come close to $210 million this year.
RP: The Royals seem to be a lock for the #1 system ranking this off-season, but how close are the Rays? Is it fair to say the Rays system is as strong or stronger than when it ranked #1 in years past?
JC: We do rank the Royals No. 1 in the Handbook, with the Rays checking in at No. 3. That was before the Garza trade, and when we update the rankings in the spring, the Rays (as of now) will move past the Braves and into the No. 2 spot. I don't see an appreciable difference between the system now and a year ago, when we ranked the Rays No. 1 entering 2010. When we ranked the system No. 1 entering 2008, Evan Longoria and David Price were the headliners, and that's tough to match.
RP: Who are two guys in the system (a hitter and a pitcher outside of the top 20 or so) you like as sleepers going forward?
JC: I'll base this on our Handbook rankings (pre-Garza trade). I'd keep an eye on Scott Schuman (No. 24), who still has to figure out his command but has a fastball that reaches 98 mph and a nasty slider. He struck out 111 in 72 innings last year in low Class A, and he could move fast if he can find the strike zone consistently. Also watch outfielder Kevin Kiermaier (No. 26), who was MVP of the Division II Junior College World Series in 2009 at Parkland (Ill.) JC. He has solid all-around tools and had a nice debut last summer.
RP: And how about a prospect you aren't as high on as most?
JC: Looking at our Top 10, I'd say Jake Thompson. He was much more successful in his pro debut than he was at Long Beach State, and I just want to see him do it again before I jump fully on board. If he continues to throw strikes with his 92-94 mph fastball and his improving slider and changeup this year, I'll be a believer.
RP: And to wrap up, what are your feelings on the Rays overall approach to building an organization? Would you do anything differently if you were in charge?
JC: It's hard to argue with what the Rays are doing, isn't it? They have fewer resources than any club in the AL East, and they're going to remain in contention for a long time. They've got plenty of young talent and depth.
Thanks a lot again to Jim for taking time!