Monday, February 28, 2011

Tampa Bay Rays Lose Lead and Game to Pittsburgh Pirates

The Game: The Tampa Bay Rays gave up a four run lead midway through the game as they fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 on Monday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park. The Rays were highlighted by Manny Ramirez and Ben Zobrist who were both 2 for 2 and Jeff Niemann pitched a no-hit inning in his first start of the spring. But it was the five runs given up by Mike Ekstrom in the fourth inning that was the turning point of the game.

The Rays jumped out to an early lead in the top of the second inning. Manny Ramirez and Ben Zobrist opened up the inning with back to back singles. Ramirez moved to third when BJ Upton hit into a double play. Then a wild pitch by Bryan Morris sent Ramirez towards home, sliding in under the tag to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.

The Rays strike again an inning later. Reid Brignac doubled to left with one out to put a runner in scoring position. Johnny Damon then singled on a line drive to right, scoring Brignac. Evan Longoria followed with another single, moving Damon to second with two outs. Then Ramirez picked up his second hit of the game, an RBI single to score Damon and move Longoria to third. Longoria would later score on an RBI double by Zobrist to give the Rays a 4-0 lead.

But then in the top of the fourth inning, the wind was taken out of the Rays sails as the Pirates tagged Ekstrom for five runs in the inning. Neil Walker singled to left to put a runner on the bases. Then Walker moved to third on a double by Matt Diaz. Josh Fields drove home a run with a single to the mound, scoring Walker. Garrett Atkins cleared the bases with a three run homer to left field. Alex Presley drew a walk and made it all the way around the bases to score without a hit being recorded thanks to a stolen base and two wild pitches. When the inning was finally over, eighth batters later, the Pirates led 5-4.

The Rays battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. Desmond Jennings drew a one out walk to put a runner on the bases. Justin Ruggiano drove him home with an RBI double to center to tie the game 5-5.

The Pirates took the lead back for good an inning late. Chris Snyder scored on a wild pitch by Jake McGee to give the Pirates the lead. The Rays could not strike for another run and took the 6-5 loss.

The Rays pitching staff combined for seven strikeouts on the day. Jeff Niemann, Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Cory Wade, Cesar Ramos, Dane De La Rosa and Alex Cobb all provided no-hit performances on the mound. Ekstrom allowed 5 runs on 4 hits in 2/3 of an inning. McGee allowed 1 unearned run on 2 hits to suffer the loss.

RP Top Prospect Watch:
Alex Cobb: pitched a no-hit inning with 1 strikeout.
Desmond Jennings: 0 for 1 with a walk and a run scored.
Jake McGee: allowed an unearned run on 2 hits with a wild pitch.

A Look Ahead: The Rays (1-2) travel to Ed Smith Stadium to face the Baltimore Orioles (1-0) on Tuesday. Andy Sonnanstine (0-0) will start for the Rays against Jeremy Guthrie (0-0) for the Orioles. Dirk Hayhurst. Chris Archer, Matt Bush, Rob Delaney, Mike Ekstrom and Cesar Cabral will be available to pitch for the Rays. Evan Longoria, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez and BJ Upton are also scheduled to make the road trip as well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RP Podcast Test Episode

This is a test of the podcast system I've been working on lately. The content is simply a review of the weekend pitching performances from some of the pitchers on my college follow list. The content isn't really the point of the podcast, that was just something to use for testing, the real point is to see if it works and how easy it is for you to use. I ran into some volume issues today that had not happened before which required me to boost the gain quite a bit, so there may be some distortion. I hope to have that fixed soon. Please let me know how the podcast works for you in the comments. Thanks.

Seven Rays Make BA's 2011 Top 100 Prospects, 22 From AL East

Seven players from the Tampa Bay Rays organization have made BaseballAmerica's 2011 Top 100 Prospects list. Twenty-two of the top 100 are from American League East teams. Here they are by organization:

Tampa Bay Rays (7):
6. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
15. Matt Moore, LHP
22. Desmond Jennings, OF
27. Chris Archer, RHP
71. Jake McGee, LHP
88. Josh Sale, OF
92. Hak-Ju Lee, SS

New York Yankees (6):
3. Jesus Montero, C
30. Gary Sanchez, C
41. Manny Banuelos, LHP
43. Dellin Betances, RHP
78. Andrew Brackman, RHP
98. Austin Romine, C

Boston Red Sox (3):
52. Jose Iglesias, SS
67. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
97. Drake Britton, LHP

Baltimore Orioles (2):
14. Manny Machado, SS
28. Zach Britton, LHP

Toronto Blue Jays (4):
29. Kyle Drabek, RHP
36. Travis d'Arnaud, C
40. Brett Lawrie, 2B
95. Deck McGuire, RHP

Note: Hellickson is at #5 on the link above but is listed at #6 on the article listing the top 20, so I'm using the actual article ranking of #6 for him.

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Draft: College Pitchers Follow List

Every year when the college baseball season begins I make a list of players to follow as we head toward the draft. Most years that potentially included every top college prospect since the Rays usually had a top 5 pick. The past couple of seasons of course that has changed, with the Rays improved records they haven’t even had a top 15 pick. When June 6th rolls around the Rays draft begins with the 24th overall pick and includes 12 selections in the first two rounds.

In the past I haven’t posted my follow lists, but I decided to share them this year because of the increased interest in the draft due to all of the picks. Remember, these are only 2011 draft-eligible college pitchers (the position players list is much longer, may post it later). There are over 4,000 college players, which is way to many to follow very closely, but much more manageable than the tens of thousands of high school players. In addition to fewer numbers, college players have a longer track record of performance to review and there is more information available from scouting sites, YouTube, and team sites.

I am intentionally leaving off players who have very little chance of falling to the Rays at #24. The pitchers I’m leaving off include: Matt Barnes (Connecticut), Trevor Bauer (UCLA), Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech), Gerrit Cole (UCLA), Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt), Danny Hultzen (Virginia), Taylor Jungmann (Texas), and Matt Purke (TCU).

Here are the pitchers remaining on the list (alphabetically), all are juniors unless noted:

Tyler Anderson (Oregon) - 6'4", 215, DOB: 12/30/89
Andrew Barbosa# (South Florida) - 6'8", 235, 11/18/87
Ryan Carpenter (Gonzaga, Rays 2008 21st round pick) - 6'5", 225, 8/22/90
Andrew Chafin* (Kent State) - 6'2", 210, 6/17/90
Adam Conley (Washington State) - 6'3", 186, 5/24/90
Grayson Garvin (Vanderbilt) - 6'6", 220, 10/27/89
Sean Gilmartin (Florida State) - 6'2", 192, 5/8/90
Charlie Lowell (Wichita State) - 6'4", 245, 10/25/90
Brett Mooneyham (Stanford) - 6'5", 235, 1/24/90 (Out for season with finger surgery)
Sam Stafford (Texas) - 6'4", 190, 4/27/90

Dixon Anderson (California) - 6'6", 224, 7/2/89
Matt Andriese (UC Riverside) - 6'3", 205, 8/28/89
Jack Armstrong (Vanderbilt) - 6'7", 225, 12/14/89
Madison Boer (Oregon) - 6'4", 215, 11/9/89
Jordan Cooper* (Kentucky) - 6'3", 215, 2/16/90
Brian Dupra# (Notre Dame) - 6'3", 205, 12/15/88
Blake Forslund* (Liberty) - 6'4", 215, 2/16/90
Andrew Gagnon (Long Beach State) - 6'4", 195, 6/26/90
Cole Green# (Texas) - 6'0", 210, 5/4/89
Erik Johnson (California) - 6'2", 240, 12/30/89
Chris Marlowe (Oklahoma State) - 6'0", 165, 10/26/89
Cory Mazzoni (N.C. State) - 6'1", 194, 10/19/89
Scott McGough (Oregon) - 6'1", 185, 10/31/89
Anthony Meo (Costal Carolina) - 6'2", 185, 2/19/90
Alex Meyer (Kentucky) - 6'9", 220, 1/3/90
Tyler Pill (Cal State Fullerton) - 6'1", 185, 5/29/90
Mark Pope (Georgia Tech) - 6'2", 205, 8/29/89
Noe Ramirez (Cal State Fullerton) - 6'3", 180, 12/22/89
Burch Smith (Oklahoma) - 6'3", 192, 4/12/90
Carson Smith (Texas State) - 6'5", 215, 10/19/89
John Stilson (Texas A&M) - 6'3", 195, 7/28/90
Matt Stites (Missouri) - 6'0", 181, 5/28/90
Logan Verrett (Baylor) - 6'3", 185, 6/19/90
Kyle Winkler (Texas Christian) - 5'11", 205, 6/18/90
Austin Wood (USC, Rays 2010 4th round pick) - 6'4", 220, 7/11/90
Tony Zych (Louisville) - 6'3", 188, 8/7/90

* draft-eligible sophomore
# senior

I’m not trying to be an expert on these players (I’ll only see a few of them pitch in person), but keeping track of their progress is fun and may come in handy if the Rays happen to select them. If this is something that interests you please feel free to mention pitchers I have overlooked or any news about the pitchers on the list. Hopefully I’ll have updates with news, stats, injuries, etc. as the college season unfolds.

Note: Be careful if you attempt to compare 2011 stats (for both hitters and pitchers) to prior seasons due to the new NCAA-mandated  BBCOR bat standards. The new rules regarding bats are designed to make the metal bats used in college perform more like wood bats, and decreased offensive numbers are expected.

Also, in case I don't get my position players list up anytime soon, make sure to check out Lincoln Hamilton's RENDON system for evaluating college batters using stats. Read the intro first so understand what the system does and does not do. I really like it.

[Update]: In case you missed it, Lincoln Hamilton had a chat about the college baseball opening weekend over at Project Prospect. I asked a few questions about some of the pitchers on this list and some position players of interest. Make sure to see the entire transcript, lots of good information.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

RaysProspects Guide Preview: Scott Shuman

Here's the profile page for Scott Shuman out of the RaysProspects 2011 Prospect Guide, coming March 7th:
(Click HERE for full-sized version)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rays Minor League Spring Training Schedule

The Rays have not released their minor league spring training schedule yet, but two divisional teams (Orioles and Twins) have. Using process of elimination, here is how the spring schedule looks. Any changes will be made as they are released.
March 16    Twins       Stone Crabs/Hot Rods home, Biscuits/Bulls away
March 17    Orioles     Biscuits/Bulls home, Stone Crabs/Hot Rods away
March 18    Red Sox     TBA
March 19    Orioles     Stone Crabs/Hot Rods home, Biscuits/Bulls away
March 20    Camp Day
March 21    Red Sox     TBA
March 22    Twins       Biscuits/Bulls home, Stone Crabs/Hot Rods away
March 23    Red Sox     TBA
March 24    Orioles     Biscuits/Bulls home, Stone Crabs/Hot Rods away
March 25    Red Sox     TBA
March 26    Orioles     Biscuits/Bulls home, Stone Crabs/Hot Rods away
March 27    Camp Day
March 28    Orioles     Stone Crabs/Hot Rods home, Biscuits/Bulls away
March 29    Red Sox     TBA
March 30    Twins       Biscuits/Bulls home, Stone Crabs/Hot Rods away
March 31    Orioles     Biscuits/Bulls home, Stone Crabs/Hot Rods away
April 1     Orioles     Stone Crabs/Hot Rods home, Biscuits/Bulls away
[Updated to add from the Comments]: Also for those of you heading to Port Charlotte for minor league spring training, I attached a travel guide to Claw Digest with directions and information on the away games for the Rays minor league clubs once games get started. If you have not seen it, here is the information:

Rays MiLB: The Rays minor league games are held on the backfields of Charlotte Sports Park at 2300 El Jobean Road in Port Charlotte. When the major league club is on the road or off, plenty of parking is available in the parking lot to the stadium. If there is a game in the stadium, you can either deal with the crowd and pay to park in the stadium or limited streetside parking is available along Ester Avenue to the north side of the training complex. You can reach Ester Avenue from the side street by the Harley Davidson dealership on El Jobean Rd east of the stadium.

Orioles MiLB: The Orioles affiliates play their spring games at the Buck O’Neil Complex at Twin Lakes Park located at 6700 Clark Road in Sarasota, Florida. The complex is approximately 35 miles from Charlotte Sports Park and will take about 45 minutes to get there on a normal day. From Charlotte Sports Park head east on El Jobean Road until Toledo Blade Blvd. Turn left on Toledo Blade Blvd towards I-75. Once you reach I-75, head north until Exit 205 (Clark Road). After exiting at Clark Road, head east on Clark Road and Twin Lakes Park is located about a half mile from the interstate.

Twins MiLB: The Twins affiliates hold their spring training games at the Lee County Sports Complex located at 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers. It is a 55 mile trip that will take a little over an hour. From Charlotte Sports Park head east on El Jobean Road until Toledo Blade Blvd. Turn left on Toledo Blade Blvd towards I-75. Once you reach I-75, head south until you reach Exit 131 (SW Florida International Airport/Cape Coral). Head west on Daniels Parkway until you reach Six Mile Cypress. Make a left onto Six Mile Cypress and the complex will be about a mile away from the intersection.

Red Sox MiLB: The Red Sox hold their minor league games at the Red Sox Player Development Complex at 4301 Edison Avenue in Fort Myers. The trip is about 45 miles and will take just under an hour to complete. From Charlotte Sports Park head east on El Jobean Road until Toledo Blade Blvd. Turn left on Toledo Blade Blvd towards I-75. Once you reach I-75, head south until you reach Exit 138 (Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd). Head west on MLK until Rockfill Road. Turn left on Rockfill Rd and take the first left onto Edison Avenue. The complex is about a quarter mile from the intersection.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Project Prospect 2011 Digital Prospect Guide

Adam Foster and the great folks over at Project Prospect have released their 2011 Digital Prospect Guide. If you follow the link you can see some free samples from last year's DPG. It doesn't cost much, $19.99 for the video version and only $9.99 for the text-only version. Here is their description of what you will be getting:
This year's Digital Prospect Guide will feature 100 prospects. Thirty prospects were chosen as the game's truly elite and given more write-up space and longer videos than the other 70. Videos for top 30 prospects are approximately one minute, with write-ups ranging from 225 to 400 words. Videos for prospects in the 31-100 range are approximately 30 seconds, with write-ups ranging from 90 to 150 words.

Most of the videos were taken by Adam Foster and the Project Prospect team. Other skilled videographers provided clips of players that we were unable to see in person. We have video of all of our top 30 prospects and should have footage of 90-percent of our top 100 prospects. We strive to provide the highest quality prospect videos possible.

Adam Foster, Lincoln Hamilton and Steve Carter, along with help from dozens of trusted scouting sources, have seen every player who will be in this year's guide in person. Write-ups combine as many scout takes on a prospect as we could get. Info from some player write-ups came from as many as a half dozen scouts.
I don't promote a lot of things here (and Adam didn't ask me to, I asked him), but Adam is a really nice guy and PP provides great information and is a personal favorite of mine, so I wanted to make everyone aware of it.

Adam was kind enough to let me have a sneak peek at the 2011 DPG and share some Rays-related content here. Lots to choose from: Moore, Sale, Lee, etc. But I chose a passage from the write-up on Jeremy Hellickson, since we're all focused on how he will do as he debuts in the Rays starting rotation this season. After reviewing his basic bio, stats, a scouting summary, and discussing his repertoire pitch-by-pitch, they add this cautionary note:
Despite his solid stuff, advanced command, and outstanding performance, the outlook for Hellickson isn’t all rosy. He’s had three separate arm injuries in the past, two of which were shoulder injuries that didn’t require surgery and one a fractured growth plate in high school. His motion is inefficient and we believe it increases the chance of injury. His arm action is long and he gets the ball in the driveline late. His hips open early and there isn’t much forward drive from his lower half. His arm is left to do a lot of hard work. To his credit, Hellickson is well balanced and repeats his delivery well, a big reason for his plus command.
They end up ranking Hellickson as the #21 overall prospect entering 2011. While this is the lowest I've seen him ranked anywhere, I have to say they are objective about it and aren't afraid to go against the grain. No echo chamber concerns in this publication.

The video version of the DPG is incredible, but if you're on a tight budget the text-only version is very informative and well worth your ten bucks. Again, you can order the 2011 DPG here, and you can follow Adam at @AdamWFoster on twitter.

RP 2011 Prospect Guide: Coming March 7th

I'm proud to announce there is now an official release date for the RaysProspects 2011 Guide: Monday, March 7th

I've been in the process of moving so our mid-February release isn't possible, but in just three weeks, we'll have the guide available. As a reminder, it will feature profiles, affiliate previews, predictions, and some other features. I'll start posting some previews in the days leading up to the release, so keep an eye out!

If you have any questions, just ask away in the comments section and I'll be able to answer them

Bowling Green Hot Rods Let Facebook Fans Design Game

Just received this Press Release from Bowling Green, pretty neat idea! Here is the PR in full:

Bowling Green, KY – The Bowling Green Hot Rods, Class A affiliate of the American League East Champion Tampa Bay Rays, introduced Facebook Fans Night on Monday. Scheduled for May 18, the promotion is the first of its kind in Minor League Baseball, allowing the team’s Facebook fans to customize the entire Hot Rods experience using the power of social media.

“Several teams, including us, are using social media to promote their club and communicate with their fans,” said Hot Rods President Brad Taylor. “But this promotion takes that idea to the next level by giving our Facebook fans ownership of an entire game as they democratically create the elements of the night.”

Beginning with today’s announcement, the initial step of the promotion drives the team’s Facebook fans to recruit new members to add to its following that has surpassed 7,000 fans. Until April 18, for every 200 additional fans that ‘Like’ the team on Facebook (up to 10,000), the Hot Rods will reduce ticket prices by 50 cents for all of its Facebook fans on May 18. This means for every 1,000 new fans beyond the current 7,000, box seat ticket prices drop $2.50 from their face value of $10.

Starting next Monday and continuing every week through the beginning of the season, the team begins phase two of the promotion. Each week a new element with a handful of choices will be posted on the team’s Facebook page for fans to vote on. The first element on February 21 will have fans select what time the game starts on May 18. Additional elements include which uniforms the Hot Rods will wear and what food and merchandise items will be specially priced for the game, among many others. Hot Rods Facebook fans will also be incorporated into several game day activities ranging from on-field promotions, first pitch opportunities, and meetings with Hot Rods players and coaches.

Fans who wish to join the revolutionary promotion can become a Hot Rods fan at Bowling Green Hot Rods.
(And just a quick reminder: Citizens First Opening Night is just 56 days away. The Hot Rods open their third season on Monday, April 11, at 6:35 PM against the Fort Wayne TinCaps (San Diego Padres).)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rays 2011 Spring Training Full Broadcast Schedule

Note: this is complete with the exception of Baltimore's radio schedule, which doesn't appear to have been released yet:

So just six games are going completely uncovered:
2/28 vs. Pittsburgh
3/1 @ Baltimore
3/7 @ Pittsburgh
3/8 vs. Toronto
3/9 @ Netherlands (at Al Lang)
3/9 vs. Toronto

Three games are only being broadcast by the opponents, so they won't be available locally in the Tampa/St. Pete area:
3/4 @ Minnesota
3/16 @ Florida
3/24 @ Houston

Seven games are only available via internet streaming on, which I believe requires a Gameday Audio or subscription or the MLB At Bat app to listen to:
3/2 @ Toronto
3/3 vs. New York
3/10 vs. Boston (televised on SunSports)
3/11 vs. Pittsburgh
3/23 vs. Philadelphia (televised on SunSports)
3/25 vs. Pittsburgh
3/29 @ Boston

Five games are on the Rays television network:
3/10 vs. Boston
3/15 vs. Florida
3/18 vs. Boston
3/21 vs. New York
3/23 vs. Philadelphia

With five other games being broadcast on the opponents' television network:
3/6 @ Philadelphia
3/12 @ Philadelphia
3/13 @ Toronto
3/28 @ New York
3/30 vs. Toronto (at the Trop... anyone else find it weird Toronto is broadcasting this but not the Rays?)

Those five games would be available with an subscription, though it's possible the MLB Network picks one or two up to show.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jeff Malm - Weekend Open Thread

The long offseason is about to end with players reporting to Spring Training next week. The first actual game is in exactly two weeks, on February 26th against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is the Rays Spring Training radio and television broadcast schedule, which includes five televised games. The 25-man roster must be set by March 31st.

To begin the weekend open thread here is some video of our 5th round pick in the 2009 draft, Jeff Malm, working out in Las Vegas last week. Malm did not make Baseball America's Rays Top 30 prospects list this year after being ranked #19 entering the 2010 season. (I wonder if anyone will mention that we shouldn't rank draftees who have barely played pro ball?)

And here is Malm playing catch with Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies (the Flyin' Hawaiian).

Not the most interesting videos I'll admit, but the closest thing I've seen to live baseball in months. I'll finish with a question: At the end of Spring Training when affiliate rosters are announced, which player(s) are you most interested in seeing where they are assigned?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Around the Majors Discusses Three Rays Prospects's Around the Majors segment featured the Rays and three prospects who may or may not make the Rays lineup out of spring training. Jonathan Mayo provided his analysis on whether Desmond Jennings will start at AAA or MLB, Jeremy Hellickson will make the rotation and if Jake McGee will be the Rays closer for 2011. Click here to watch the video.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Could Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg Buy Into The Mets?

Cork Gaines of RaysIndex fame had a nice article at Business Insider about the possibility of Rays owner Stuart Sternberg becoming the owner of the New York Mets. Cork points out many reasons that Sternberg would be a good fit for the Mets if current ownership is forced to sell due to their financial troubles.

There have also been reports that the Mets current ownership would like to sell a minority share of the team to raise funds, and some have mentioned Sternberg's name in that discussion. Which led me to ask, is that even legal? Can an owner of one team buy a portion of another team?

A review of the Major League Constitution yielded no answers, so I turned to the Major League Rules. There I found two rules that cover such a dual-ownership situation, Rules 20(a) and 50(c). Here are those sections of the two rules, with the relevant portions in italics:


(a) OWNERSHIP AND FINANCIAL INTERESTS. No Club, or owner, stockholder, officer, director or employee (including manager or player) of a Club, shall, directly or indirectly, own stock or any other proprietary interest or have any financial interest in any other Club in its League, provided, however, that any owner or stockholder of a Major League Club (who is not also an officer, director or employee of a Club) whose interest does not exceed 5% of such Club and whose interest does not constitute a control interest (as defined in Article V, Section 2(b)(2) of the Major League Constitution) may own a non-control interest not exceeding 5% of any other Club or Clubs in its League, unless the Commissioner determines that such ownership would not be in the best interests of Baseball.

(c) CONTINUITY OF ASSIGNMENTS, AGREEMENTS AND TRANSACTIONS. All assignments whether optional or otherwise of players' contracts and all agreements and/or other transactions involving players' contracts mentioned in or provided for by the Major League Constitution and the Major League Rules shall be given, and shall have the same force and effect for all and every purpose, notwithstanding the stock ownership or control either directly or indirectly by any one Club or by a stockholder or stockholders of any one Club in/or of one or more other Clubs.

Provided further that in no event shall ownership and/or control directly or indirectly be permitted by one Club or by a stockholder or the stockholders of one Club in another Club of the same League.
So it appears that it would be legal for Sternberg to buy a portion of the Mets because of the phrases "in its League" and "of the same League." Since the Rays are in the American League and the Mets in the National League, there would be no violation of the Major League Rules.

Don't take this as my opinion of whether Sternberg has any interest in becoming an owner of the Mets, either in a majority or minority role. I obviously have no idea. Read Cork's article for the reasons it might or might not make sense. But in reading the speculation I wondered if it was even a possibility, and thought you might too, so I just wanted to share what I found. Personally I hope he stays right where he is, in charge of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Top 15 Hitters: #1 Desmond Jennings

Desmond Jennings
6'0" 185 lbs DOB: 10/30/1986
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2010: Durham/Tampa Bay
Acquired: 2006 Draft, 10th round

Jennings wasn't able to quite live up to the hype that his 2009 season created, but his tools still grade out well even if his ultimate ceiling has come down a bit. The biggest question his entire career has been health, and he missed some time early last year due to a wrist injury. He returned to action pretty quickly, but there's a chance it affected his hitting for at least part of the season; in particular, his power, as he hit just three home runs all season.

His best asset at the plate is still his keen eye, which he uses to get on base at an above-average rate. Combined with his plus speed, he profiles as a top-of-the-order bat. He hit .278 with a .362 OBP in Durham last season, below his career averages of .299 and .384. Notice now the difference in each category was nearly the same (.021 and .022 points), so his isolated discipline was almost the same, it's just the batting average that fell. He uses to speed to not only steal bases but do it efficiently. He swiped 37 bags last year and was caught only four times.

Defensively, he has well above-average range and could play very good major league defense right now, easily. His arm is only average, so if centerfield is blocked when he's promoted, he would slide over to left. The signings of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez all but mean Jennings will start the year back in triple-A, but if he hits as he did in 2009 (and stays healthy), he'll carve out a spot in the majors before too long. The 2010 season raised some questions about his power, so he may not be as good an all-around hitter as it once seemed. He's athletic and strong but probably won't develop more than average power at this point. But because of his defense and on-base skills, he still looks like a future above-average regular.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Draft Changes: Weekend Open Thread

The power is finally back on, now just have to clean up a flooded basement and do a thousand loads of laundry. And they are forecasting 7 inches of additional snow by Sunday morning. But I promised a weekend open thread, so here it is. Also, sorry for so few posts this week, hope you understand why.

As always, I'll start: We love to talk about the June draft around here, and apparently many of you do too. With the collective bargaining agreement between the teams and the union set to expire after this season there has been a great deal of speculation that the new CBA will include many changes to the draft. Some of the ideas floating around include allowing teams to trade picks, making it a world-wide draft (currently only US, Canadian, and Puerto Rican players are eligible), and hard-slotting for bonuses (if you're picked #x you get $y).

What do you think about these three ideas, particularly from the Rays smaller-market point of view? Are there any other changes you would like to see made, for instance a lottery system for the top 10 ten picks like in the NBA, so that the team with the worst record isn't guaranteed the #1 overall pick? Also feel free to post any questions you may have about the draft process.

Have fun, and stay warm!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How Much Will The Rays 2011 Draft Cost?

There are reports that Felipe Lopez is going to sign a minor league deal with the Rays. The most exciting part about his signing to me is that it will mean the 2011 draft order is finally set, as Lopez was the only remaining unsigned Type A or B free agent. Since it's reported to be a minor league deal, the Red Sox will not receive a compensation pick for him (if he would have signed a major league deal they would have received a supplemental first round pick, number 48 overall).

With that settled, we can try to estimate how much the draft will cost the Rays in signing bonuses. There haven't been any reports yet on whether MLB will increase or decrease it's recommended slot amounts for 2011, so I'm going to assume for this article that they remain the same as 2010. Some of the picks will sign for over-slot and some under-slot, but let's see what it would cost if every pick signs right at the slot amount.

Here are the Rays picks, by overall pick number, in the first 5 rounds:

1st - 24, 31, 32
Supplemental 1st - 38, 41, 42, 52, 56, 59, 60
2nd - 75, 89
3rd - 119
4th - 150
5th - 180

The Rays will also have 45 more picks in rounds 6 through 50, but the vast majority of the Rays draft budget will be spent on the first 5 rounds. Here is what the MLB recommended signing bonuses were for each of the above picks in 2010:

24th - $1,242,000
31st - 972,000
32nd - 954,000
38th - 858,600
41st - 815,400
42nd - 802,800
52nd - 684,000
56th - 643,500
59th - 614,700
60th - 605,700
75th - 485,100
89th - 392,400
119th - 250,000
150th - 169,200
180th - 131,600

This means that the Rays will spend $9,621,000 on the first 5 rounds alone if every player signs at slot, or if the over-slot and under-slot amounts cancel each other out. For the entire 2010 draft the Rays paid $7,200,000.

We still need to estimate the cost of the 45 picks in rounds 6 through 50. For rounds 6 through 10 let's assume the Rays stay at slot and pay each player $125,000, or $625,000 total. Last year the Rays went over-slot to sign Jesse Hahn in the 6th round ($525,000) and Jake DePew in the 9th round ($460,000), but with the increased costs of the first 5 rounds I don't think they will be able to do that this year. For the 40 remaining picks in rounds 11 through 50 let's assume an average of $25,000, which will add another $1,000,000 to the total.

That gives us a grand total of $11,246,000, a $4,046,000 increase from 2010. That is a lot of money for the budget-conscious Rays and their 40-some million dollar payroll. But it should bring a huge influx of talent to the organization for less than the cost of one mid-level free agent. Remember, it's still about $5 million less than they spent for a year and change of the great Pat Burrell.

This is only a rough estimate, and many picks will not sign (18 didn't sign in 2010). But I wouldn't be surprised if the Rays end up spending between 11 and 12 million dollars on players this June.

BaseballAmerica Top 50 In Each College Class

BA's unveiled their top 50 prospects by college class (it's insider), and here are the ones formerly drafted by the Rays:

9. Kevin Patterson, 1B, Auburn (2010, 23rd round)
34. Paul Hoilman, 1B, East Tennessee State (2010, 49th round)

23. Austin Wood, RHP, USC (2010, 4th round)
38. Ryan Carpenter, LHP, Gonzaga (2008, 21st round)
39. Kyle Gaedele, OF, Valparaiso, 2008, 32nd round)

2. Kenny Diekroeger, SS, Stanford (2009, 2nd round)
9. Austin Maddox, C/3B, Florida (2009, 37th round)
14. Dylan Floro, RHP, Cal State Fullerton (2009, 20th round)
26. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State (2009, 24th round)
37. Derek Dennis, SS, Michigan (2009, 10th round)

18. Michael Lorenzen, OF, Cal State Fullerton (2010, 7th round)