For our predictions series this year we'll be running one question each weekday through Monday, with answers coming from across the Rays blogosphere. You can find a complete list of the panelist's various blogs and websites in this post.
Today's question is: Who among the lower levels will have a breakout year in 2011? For this question, players with less than a half season at full-season affiliates were considered.
R.J. Anderson: If he counts, Luke Bailey. He’ll now be two years removed from surgery, which should lead to better production, although, I suppose if the team is aggressive, it could be evened out by tougher competition along with the difficulties involved in learning how to handle his defensive position.
Jason Collette: I think Enny Romero is too obvious here as I would consider his work last year as a breakout so I'm going with his teammate in Princeton last year, Braulio Lara. More than twice as many strikeouts than walks, an opponents' batting average of just .200, and only 74 baserunners in 66 innings pitched. If his other offerings can come around, he could be one of the best pitchers in the Sally this season.
FreeZorilla: Enny Romero seems too safe since he already broke onto the radar. I'm going with Andrew Bellatti who was been released from jail. He's quietly put up solid numbers with a horrible distraction and burden he had to bear for his poor decision. Hopefully he takes advantage of his second chance and emerges as a good pitcher, but more importantly a better person.
Cork Gaines: Jake Thompson. The first thing I always want to see from a young pitcher is a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio. And Thompson showed that in his limited play in 2010. His 5.3 strikeout-to-walk ration with Hudson Valley was a sign of good things to come. And if he can just add a little bit more command of those pitches, he should continue to dominate this season and see his name added to the Rays top pitching prospects.
Kevin Gengler: Hector Guevara. He just missed our top 15 hitters and had a disappointing year with Princeton, but there's still a lot I like. He proved he could hit as the MVP of the Venezuelan Summer League Rays in 2009 when he posted a .330/.374/.534 line. His batting average fell to .251 and he didn't hit for much power, but he was still making enough contact as an 18-year-old in the Appalachian League. He has a knack for getting the bat on the ball – he only struck out 31 times in 64 games for the P-Rays – and has the quick, strong wrists to hit for some power as well. His low-ish walk total hid a solid approach. He's not a free swinger, instead working the count to get a pitch he can hit. He showed soft hands in the field and will be able to stick at second base. Guevara should spend the year with Bowling Green, where he'll emerge as possibly the Rays' best infield (non-catching) prospect.
Erik Hahmann: Josh Sale. He was a first round pick in 2010 and has the tools to be an above average corner outfielder. First round picks should do well against the lower minor league levels, especially ones with the power of Sale.
Jason Hanselman: Justin O'Conner brought a lot of praise to go with his big bat when he was selected as a supplemental pick in 2010. There are a lot of bright minds wondering if he's ever going to be able to make enough contact to fully utilize his plus power, but I think a larger concern is how he would take to catching after a relatively late move to the position. As he hones his defensive craft it will allow him to focus more on what he does in the box. I think he'll show a lot more positives in that respect in 2011.
Jake Larsen: Ryan Brett. If there's any prospect in the Rays' system that I'm going to keep an eye on all season, it'll be our spark-plug-to-be Ryan Brett.
Mike Lortz: Josh Sale. I’m toeing the line of conformity here. The man hasn’t yet had a professional at-bat yet. But I think he will live up to the hype. Of course, he will probably initially struggle with plate discipline, but I think he will greatly improve by season’s end.
Doug Milhoan: RHSP Jake Thompson (over Ryan Brett and Todd Glaesmann). Rays 2010 2nd rounder had a great debut in Hudson Valley (plus 2 starts for Charlotte), expect him to move more quickly than we are used to with Rays pitching prospects. Should begin the season with in Charlotte with a possible mid-season promotion to Montgomery. Only 21 years old this season.
Tommy Rancel: Derek Dietrich is a guy who I really like. His defensive position is unknown, but has shown good power for his position. With some work on plate discipline, he could become an even more potent offensive player.
Steve Slowinski: I'm going to go out on a complete limb here and say Phil Wünderlich, mostly because he's got a truly awesome name (I threw an umlaut in for good measure). He did have an impressive season in Hudson Valley and his power is pretty intense, though, so I'll bite.