This is a new feature on the site, mainly because we're still in the doldrums of prospect season and we want to get discussion going. We'll be going through the alphabet in October and November to pick one prospect a day before our top prospect coverage starts in December. There's no real rhyme or reason to who we'll talk about, and we're open to suggestions for some letters.
Jake Hager was the Rays final true first-round selection, right before the plethora of supplemental round picks. A shortstop from a Las Vegas-area high school, he signed quickly for $963,000 and was able to get his pro career started. Unlike every other high school draftee, the Rays sent Hager to Princeton and not the Gulf Coast League. While he only hit .269/.305/.399, he impressed nonetheless playing against mainly older competition. BaseballAmerica rated him as the 7th-best prospect in the Appalachian League, behind only Drew Vettleson among Princeton players:
The third of three Rays first-round picks this year, Hager signed quickly for $963,000 and got 47 games of experience under his belt. He may lack prototype range for shortstop, but he's sure-handed and fundamentally sound, and his solid-average arm strength will allow him to play second or third base in the event of a position switch.
Even if Hager's defensive home has yet to be determined, few managers questioned his offensive potential. He has a handsy swing and knack for contact, spraying the ball around and looking to hit the ball where it's pitched. He doesn't project as a big power or stolen-base threat, but he could top out at 12-15 homers at his peak and he has solid speed.
The last Rays high school first round pick was, of course, Tim Beckham. While Beckham got more than six times Hager's signing bonus, he also signed quickly and played 46 games with Princeton (two with Hudson Valley brought him to 48 total; Hager played in 47). Beckham hit .246/.309/.350 and was assigned to Bowling Green the following year. Surely part of that is because he was the top pick in the draft, but it's got me wondering about Hager. If they liked him enough to have him in Princeton and not the GCL, is it possible he follows Beckham's footsteps? It could happen, but Juniel Querecuto played SS for Hudson Valley and is the logical choice to be promoted to the Hot Rods. Meanwhile, Hager could head for the Renegades or be re-united with much of his draft class in Princeton. The Rays will want him and Brandon Martin on different teams so each can play shortstop every day, and I think the most likely scenario is Hager at HV and Martin with Princeton.