Overall, the Rays did a very good job of signing the top selected talents. Only J.D. Davis was not signed out of the first 11 rounds. That makes it 10 1st round picks signed in one draft. The Rays need to get lots of credit for that. However, J.D. Davis, Tanner English, Trevor Mitsui and Matt Young are very intriguing talents who couldn't have been signed by the Rays.
I'm going to look a bit at some parts of the whole picture (dividing it in starting pitching, relief pitching, middle-of-the-order talents, up-the-middle talents, all-around talents), pointing out which players are contributing how much in which area. So ... What do they bring to the table (click at the player names for scouting reports)? I'm also giving some very subjective draft grades for each area. Let me also know what you think about the grades and which grade you would hand out.
Starting Pitching (Grade: D)
Overall I've hoped for the Rays to add more high ceiling starting pitching to their talent pool. One very high ceiling pitcher (Guerrieri), four wild cards (Carpenter, Snell, Ames and Faria) and a safe low ceiling/high floor college pitcher are not the talents I was hoping for. But, the Rays deserve credit for signing all potential starting pitching prospects.
- Tyler Guerrieri ... Man, I love this pick from a talent standpoint (it's way too early to talk about character and makeup but there have been some warning signs). He has the ceiling of a #1/#2 starter if he develops his change and sinker along his plus power fastball and above average curveball. Command and consistency are also question marks but the ceiling is excellent. I also love the pick because the Rays are among the best when it comes to developing prep pitching.
- Blake Snell (16.2 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 17 SO, 3.24 ERA), Jeff Ames (24 IP, 35 H, 7 BB, 31 SO, 8.62 ERA) and Jacob Faria (15.2 IP, 15 H, 1 BB, 14 SO) ... Not just because of their respective draft positions they do have the ceiling of a major league starting pitcher. However, it's not very likely for them to reach their ceiling. Snell is very raw and there are lots of questions about his breaking stuff and durability while Ames has big questions regarding secondary offerings and about his repeatability/mechanics and while Faria is very raw (but projectable). I think Ames will become a full time reliever and Snell will become a #3/#4 starter at best. Both players were drafted way too early for my taste. Jacob Faria was one of the late raw but projectable prep pitching talent selections the Rays are very good at. Lets hope he develops as hoped.
- Grayson Garvin ... Not much upside here. His above average fastball is complemented by an average change and a below average slider. #4/#5 starter at best. Reported concerns about his medical condition don't help, either.
- Ryan Carpenter (13 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 10 SO, 0.00 ERA) ... If Carpenter can get his earlier velocity back he could become a #3 starter with his solid secondary offerings (a curve, slider and change). He is a bit of a wildcard because of his velocity dip but I really like the pick.
With the focus on hitting, the Rays didn't draft that many (relief) pitching prospects. Before the draft I've hoped for 1-2 high ceiling relievers and some high upside prep talents who could develop into high ceiling relievers if not developed into starters. And while especially the prep talent thing didn't happen I'm quite okay with the relief pitching talent added to the system. Lenny Linsky could become the minor leagues top relief pitching talent very soon and Garrett Smith and Matt Ramsey do have power arms. Blake Snell, Jakob Faria and especially Jeff Ames also could always fall back to relief pitching if they don't work out in a starting role. Also some late round picks have shown some strikeout potential already (e.g.: David Kubiak, Lucas Irvine).
- Lenny Linsky (16.2 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 20 SO, 1.08 ERA) ... His excellent fastball/slider combo, combined with his ability to induce lots of groundballs will get him very far. He could move fast through the system.
- Jake Floethe (21 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 15 SO, 1.71 ERA) ... An average fastball and slider plus a serviceable changeup won't do it as a starter. Without a plus offering he could also have problems in the pen. Maybe his pitchability is THAT good for him to become a serviceable major leaguer. I doubt it, though.
- Garret Smith (11 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 5 SO) and Matt Ramsey ... Ramsey's and Smith's mid 90's fastballs and potential plus curveballs could bring them very far. I like them the 4th (Ramsey) and 5th most (behind Linsky, Ames and Snell) as a relief pitching prospect out of the draft.
The position players the Rays minor league system lacks the most are power middle-of-the-order bats. And while guys like Jeff Malm and Drew Vettleson seam to emerge in the low minors it's still not represented enough in the system. Therefore, nearly all of us were hoping for at least one high ceiling power bat a la C.J. Cron, Dan Vogelbach or Josh Bell (who signed for 5 mio. $) to land with the Rays. The Rays, however, didn't select any of them. Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Goeddel, Johnny Eierman, Granden Goetzman and maybe Kes Carter project for solid power but won't develop into plus power hitters. I don't know enough about 8th round pick John Alexander (7 PA, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 SO, .857 OPS) other than that he is huge and Cameron Seitzer's scouting report doesn't indicate other-worldly power while his stat line in Princeton is excellent (203 PA, .304 AVG - .424 OBP - ,971 OPS, 10 HR, 32:36 BB:SO).
All-around talents (Grade A-)
The players mentioned above are more likely to develop into all-around talents who have some power, show adequate defense and also are no slashes at the basepaths. And, the Rays did very well in that area. I very much liked the picks of Mikie Mahtook, Johnny Eierman and Grandon Goetzman and I was okay with the Tyler Goeddel and Brandon Carter selections. I'm not very high on the Riccio Torrez (9 PA, 2 H, 0 BB, 5 SO, .444 OPS) selection as he doesn't have enough upside for a 4th rounder in my eyes.
- Mikie Mahtook ... He can do it all. He has power, shows patience and is fairly well at the basepaths. Overall he projects as an above average major league outfielder. How much above average depends on two things: 1) Can he stay in center field and play at least average defense and 2) Can he make the necessary adjustments to his swing in order to hit for average at higher levels?
- Tyler Goeddel ... While being very raw for a 1st-supp round selection I'm still okay with the pick as the upside is very good. His ceiling is the one of a well hitting 3B/OF who should at least be adequate in the field and on the basepaths and who projects for at least average power. That's something. And while the Rays paid a hefty price for signing him (1.5 mio. $) I still like this signing.
- Granden Goetzman (84 PA, .173 AVG - .262 OBP - .475 OPS) ... I take a potential five-tooler with above average power potential, especially when selected in the 2nd round. The 2nd day started off on the right foot with this pick.
- Johnny Eierman (33 PA, .250 AVG - .273 OBP - .741 OPS) ... Long swing, above average power potential and bat speed, athletic. While not a finished product I like his ceiling. He is one of my favorite Rays picks this year. Good value for the 3rd round. No ranking board had him lower than 84.
While I know about the Rays affinity of drafting up-the-middle talents I didn't expect this outcome of the draft as the Rays already have had lots of high ceiling C/SS/2B/CF prospects in their minor league system (Jennings, Lee, Morrison, Beckham, Bortnick, Dietrich, Bailey, O'Conner, ...). Nevertheless, they picked Jake Hager, Brandon Martin, Kes Carter and James Harris Jr. in the 1st round. And while I would have been okay with value up-the-middle picks, I have to say that I'm not thrilled with any of these picks. The high ceiling late round gems (Tanner English, Matt Young, Tyler Parmenter, Bret McAfee) who would have been great value for their round were not signed. On the other hand, I like the Matt Rice and Taylor Motter picks.
- Jake Hager (15 PA, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 SO, .564 OPS) ... Jake Hager projects to be solid at everything. A good hitter with some gap power and good moves at short. He is not that fast on the basepaths, though, and doesn't possess a single plus or even clear above average tool. Are the Rays overvalueing defense here?
- Brandon Martin (42 PA, .250 AVG - .357 OBP - .718 OPS) ... Good bat speed should make him a solid hitter with some gap power. He also has no standout tool and projects as sound player with good middle infield defense. For some reason I like this pick a bit more than the Hager pick.
- Kes Carter (15 PA, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 SO, .564 OPS) ... He could become an average major league center fielder with good range and maybe even slightly above average power. He might be limited to a platoon role (not hitting lefties (yet)). While I'm in no way exstatic about this pick, I am okay with it.
- James Harris Jr. (129 PA, .153 AVG - .217 OBP - .395 OPS; 8 BB:33 SO) ... Every expert said that he likes this pick and I get it why (speed, potential). But, why didn't the same experts rank this player higher in their rankings, then? Nevertheless, I like such an upside pick more than the pick before. He is very, very raw right now.
- Matt Rice (162 PA, .295 AVG - .389 OBP - .792 OPS) ... The major league talent (while he is doing fine so far) might not be there but he may bring other things to the organization: Leadership, intelligence, makup. I like this pick.
- Taylor Motter (130 PA, .336 AVG - .438 OBP - .952 OPS; 18 steals; 20:13 BB:SO) ... There are obvious Tyler Bortnick comparisons flying around (Same school, stats are pretty similar, tools also) and I'm very okay with that. He is doing excellent so far.
While I expected more from the Rays I think they did fairly well considering the budgetary restrictions they must have had. I would have loved for them to go for 2-3 more high upside players early. They may not sign all of them but I would much rather have 2 high upside players than a combination of 4 lower upside players. The Rays have to shoot for excellence in the AL East. But, as I said earlier: The Rays know what they are doing and I do trust them while still critically and as open minded as possible analysing all of their moves.