Rays Prospect readers, if you're not familiar with the Future Considerations podcast, first of all I'd recommend listening, although I don't myself so maybe not. Secondly, I'm Scott, Kevin's co-host of the show. Thanks to him for giving me this opportunity to do some written work for the site. My credibility in the Rays community is probably a 20 on the scouting scale, but I'd like to at least to reach below average at some point. Lists are always fun to make, and I hope I can justify my opinions for you. The challenge in creating lists is measuring upside against proximity to majors, and it's especially difficult when it comes to comparing pitchers to position players. Enjoy the list and thanks for reading.
1. Matt Moore, LHP - This is a slam dunk pick. It would be a shame if he started in AAA due to service time considerations, but that's a debate for another day. He's one of a handful of prospects in the minors with ace potential, and he's likely a top three prospect in all of baseball.
2. Hak-Ju Lee, SS - Lee provides a combination of high end talent and close proximity to the majors. He'll only be 21 on Opening Day 2012, so there's no reason to worry about his bad month at Montgomery to finish the season. He could provide very good defense at shortstop and hit at the top of a major league lineup.
3. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP - For now, it seems like the make-up questions surrounding Guerrieri at draft time were overblown. Thanks to MLB's late signing deadline, he hasn't made his pro debut yet, and he could be headed for Princeton next June. The Rays were fortunate to get a pitcher with his talent with the 24th pick.
4. Mikie Mahtook, CF - Like Guerrieri, the Rays could have gotten a bit of a steal with Mahtook being available with the 31st pick. He was also unable to make his official pro debut, but he reported to the Arizona Fall League and hit very well. He could finish the season at Montgomery if all goes well, but I expect him to start the season with Charlotte.
5. Enny Romero, LHP - Romero's command took a big step backwards in his full season debut, but 140 strikeouts in 114 innings showed his stuff is as advertised. If his increase in walks is just a blip on the radar, his ranking could be even higher next year. Matt Moore made progress from his age 20 to 21 season moving from Bowling Green to Charlotte, and Romero has that opportunity in 2012.
6. Brandon Martin, SS - I'm anticipating that I'll have Martin higher than the rest of the staff, so I'll pre-emptively explain. Besides Lee, he has a better chance to stay at shortstop than anyone else in the system with his strong arm and athleticism. His bat showed a lot of improvement in his senior season, and he'll play most of next season at only 18 years old. Princeton will likely be where he starts.
7. Parker Markel, RHP - Markel was only a 39th round pick out of Yavapai JC in 2010, but the Rays convinced him to sign and could have a tremendous steal. Improvements in his mechanics helped him add velocity to his fastball into the mid 90's, and he complements it with a potential plus slider and good changeup. His strikeout numbers with Hudson Valley didn't reflect his stuff, and he'll look to improve his K/9 with Bowling Green in 2012.
8. Alex Torres, LHP - Torres has impressive stuff and even has a little major league experience under his belt, but questions about his future role are why I don't have him higher. He has over 150 strikeouts in three consecutive seasons, but he has a lot of trouble throwing strikes. If he can't iron out his command and control issues, he could still be a very good set up man with the potential to pitch more than one inning at at time.
9. Tyler Goeddel, 3B - Goeddel is another player who is yet to make his pro debut, but his tools have to interest any Rays fan. His 6'4, 170 pound frame shows that he can add strength and hit for more power to go along with his great bat speed. He's not a bat only player either; his above average arm and athleticism should make him a good third baseman. He should start his pro career in Princeton.
10. Chris Archer, RHP - Like Torres, Archer frequently displays command and control issues. His fastball and slider combination could make him a very good late inning reliever, but his changeup is improving too. His career BB/9 is 5.2, and like Torres, he needs to start throwing strikes consistently soon to fulfill his potential in the rotation. He finished 2011 with Durham, and he'll be back there to start 2012.
11. Alex Colome, RHP - I admit that this may be a few spots low for Colome. If he pitches well in AA in 2012, there will be no reason to keep him out of the top 10. His strikeout and walk rates both went in the wrong direction in 2011, and a pitcher with his stuff should be striking out more than seven batters per nine innings. If he has the durability and ability to maintain his stuff through multiple innings which has been a problem, he can be a very good starter. If not, he'll have to become a reliever, albeit a very good one.
12. Drew Vettleson, COF - Unlike fellow Washington prep bat Josh Sale, Vettleson adjusted to pro ball nicely in 2011. He has some better secondary skills than Sale and won't need to be quite so reliant on his bat to advance. He's a smart baserunner with a strong arm and could profile in right field. He should get a chance at Bowling Green in 2012, and the Rays would like to see him hit lefties better and add some power.
13. Jake Hager, SS - The Rays surprised many when they took Hager 32nd overall, and the reports on him have been good so far. His defense may be better than first expected, and his assignment directly to Princeton after signing suggests he's more polished than the typical high school player. His competitiveness should allow his tools to play up in game action, similar to Ryan Brett.
14. Tim Beckham, SS - Without a doubt, this will inevitably be lost in the ether of the internet's never ending Tim Beckham debate. He's done a good steadily advancing through the system without being overmatched, but he still has many questions to answer. Will his defense be good enough to stick at shortstop? Will his bat be good enough to profile at another position if necessary? The best word to describe his career so far may be nondescript.
15. Brandon Guyer, OF - Guyer's upside probably isn't as an every day major leaguer, but he's ready to play a role in the big leagues now. He doesn't have the athleticism to be a regular in CF or the bat to profile in a corner, but he should still have value as a platoon player against lefties with his all-around skill set.
16. Ryan Brett, 2B - Brett is a tough player to evaluate. His pro career has been very good so far, and his hit tool, patience and competitiveness are all better than average. That skillset can lead to a major league career, but with his size and defensive questions, I'd just like to see how he does when he gets a taste of a full season league with Bowling Green in 2012. He could easily be higher.
17. Nick Barnese, RHP - As we talked about in episode 9 of the podcast, Barnese had a bit of an unusual season. Typically players with average stuff get exposed in AA with a sharp decline in strikeout rate and allowing harder and more frequent contact. Barnese's H/9 remained the same and only saw a slight decrease in his K/9. Instead, his BB/9 shot up to 4.4, and he continued to battle injury problems. I can't write him off yet, but he needs to show improvement and stay healthy in 2012.
18. Grayson Garvin, LHP - Injury concerns cost Garvin a few hundred thousand dollars, but it wasn't a big enough issue to keep him from signing entirely. His stock rose on the heels of a great junior season at Vanderbilt and a great Cape Cod performance the previous summer. If his slider improves, he could be a solid starter, but he could be an effective reliever with his fastball/changeup combo.
19. Lenny Linsky, RHP - Linsky is the first true reliever I have on my list and for good reason. He should rise through the system quickly and could make an impact late in games for the Rays soon. As expected, he dominated the New York Penn League, and he could even reach Montgomery by the end of 2012. His fastball and slider have good velocity and sink.
20. Ryan Carpenter, LHP - As Kevin showed in Prospect A-Z recently, Carpenter and Garvin are quite similar. They're both big bodied lefties, and Carpenter's ceiling is probably similar to Garvin's. His fastball velocity fluctuates, but with his size, it could always return to its previous heights. Carpenter is a player I like, and he could easily be higher on this list next year.
21. Granden Goetzman, COF - Goetzman was able to sign not long after the draft, but an injury cut short his season. The reports from his time in the GCL weren't great, but it wouldn't be fair to judge him from a few weeks of action. If he doesn't have five tool talent, he's close to it with an advanced hit tool, above average power and good athleticism. He needs to get healthy next year and show his talent at Princeton.
22. Johnny Eierman, SS - Eierman has a lot of talent if he can find a defensive home. He's fast, produces nice bat speed that helps him generate potential plus power along with his high effort swing. He'll need to cut down on the length of his swing to consistently hit better pitching, but it shouldn't stop him from developing his power. He played shortstop in high school, but he may eventually find himself in the outfield with an average arm and bad hands.
23. Felipe Rivero, LHP - I might have Rivero too low here. In his stateside debut, he had a solid season with Princeton. His ERA was a bit worse than the league average, but he had a great K:BB ratio of 4.38. His impressive 8.5 K/9 rate came with improved fastball velocity to go along with his plus curveball. Moving forward, he'll have to prove he has the durability to handle a full workload with his 6'0, 150 pound frame and develop a third pitch, but his fastball and curveball could make him a reliever down the road.
24. Josh Sale, COF - It's safe to say that Sale had a disappointing pro debut. He's an unathletic player with a below average arm, and he has to be carried by his potential middle of the order bat. He hit just .210 without much power and left fans hoping his low BABIP was an indicator that he wasn't very lucky and not that he wasn't making hard contact. The coaching staff made some changes to his swing near the end of the year and he finished the season well, and next year he needs to show that they're changes with a long-term positive effect and not just a brief hot streak.
25. Derek Dietrich, SS - When Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee were simultaneously promoted to higher levels, it was believed by many that Dietrich would be promoted from Bowling Green to Charlotte to take Lee's spot, but he spent the entire season in the Midwest League. He showed great power for the middle infielder, slugging a little over .500 in a pitchers league. There are some question marks though which is why I gave him a lower ranking than most probably will. He can't play shortstop, so will his bat be good enough to profile in a corner position? His plate approach isn't great, and I just want to see how he performs at a higher level.
26. Tyler Bortnick, 2B - I initially didn't have Bortnick in my top 30, but it's difficult to not acknowledge the solid season he had with Charlotte. He may be short on tools, but he could eventually reach the majors in a bench role. He's been a .300 hitter in his career so far with a very good plate approach. He's fast, and he's a smart baserunner that stole 43 bases with only 47 attempts this season. He's never going to hit for power, but if he shows he can play short or third base in a pinch, he could be a utility player.
27. Matt Bush, RHP - Bush is one of the best stories in the minors, and now it looks like he could be a major league reliever. After being drafted first overall and failing as a shortstop with the Padres, he was eventually converted to reliever and after a serious elbow injury, trade to the Blue Jays and a subsequent release, he landed with the Rays. It appears that he's moved past his off-field issues and is showing the stuff to pitch in the majors. If he can harness his hard fastball and slider and throw more strikes, he'll get off the short list of first overall picks to never play in the majors.
28. Wilking Rodriguez, RHP - Rodriguez battled injuries most of this season after finishing last year with a career high of 106.1 IP while wearing down at the end of the season. With his slight 6'1, 160 pound frame, injuries and durability may always be a concern. When he's healthy, he'll show a fastball with nice velocity and movement, and he has a feel for a curveball and changeup. He was supposed to pitch at Charlotte in 2011, but his injury held him back at Bowling Green another year. He has the stuff to move up on this list if he can pitch a full season.
29. James Harris, CF - The Rays took Harris a little sooner than anyone expected, but if they wanted a premium athlete, they got their man. His top notch speed is an asset both on the bases and while he's roaming center field, but his arm is just okay in the field. He's expected to develop into a player able to get on base frequently which would be a huge asset at the top of the lineup when combined with his patience. It's going to take some time for him to develop, and he might drop out of the top 30 in his first couple years because he's so raw.
30. Oscar Hernandez, C - If Hernandez doesn't have the greatest variance of prospects ranked here this week, I'd be surprised. I just don't know where to put him. His numbers were absolutely incredible, but how much can be gleaned from that? Teams are abandoning Venezuela and some are taking their best prospects out of there and into the Dominican Summer League, so the competition is watered down. The Rays' affiliate's stadium is very hitter friendly, but the few reports about him say that there is some talent there. I'm interested to see how he does in the states next season.
This has probably gone on long enough already, but I'll provide some more general commentary and self-critique:
-Shiny new toy syndrome - I admit that I'm a serial offender of this. Four players in my top 10 are from the 2011 draft class, and 1/3 of my total list is from June's draft. Since the Rays had so many early picks it's not shocking, but I may have still been too aggressive with them. I justify it to myself because the only thing I have to go on when evaluating them is a scouting report from high school or college and perhaps a small sample size of games. That doesn't necessarily make it right, but in a way, they haven't had a chance to fail yet. The only information on them is a very favorable scouting report, and we all know that warts will start showing for all of these guys once they take the field.
-Undervaluing the scrappy players - My guess is many readers hate this term and frankly so do I, so let me explain. Players like Brett and Bortnick have value beyond the five tools. Their makeup and effort allow their tools to play up and they put up better statistics than some of their teammates that look better in a uniform. I think it's tough to evaluate those players because one more promotion and their lack of natural ability could catch up to them, not that those guys are stiff. If they keep performing above their perceived talent level, it'll be time to acknowledge they're better than the initial reports say, and I'm prepared to do that.
Readers, it's been fun. I hope I didn't prove to be completely unknowledgeable and that I have a chance to write for you again in the future. Thanks for reading.