Every year here at RP, we send a survey around to Rays bloggers around the net to get their predictions on the upcoming season. This year's panel: Steve Slowinski, Jason Collette, rglass44, and mr. maniac from DRaysBay, John Gregg from Rays Digest, Tommy Rancel from ESPN Florida, Sandy Kazmir from OTTOTD, and Doug, BurGi, Scott, and myself from RaysProspects.
Today's question: Who among the lower levels will have a breakout year in 2012? For this question, consider any player with very little or no full-season experience.
Steve Slowinski: We've given up on Josh Sale way too quickly. He was the Rays' first round draft pick in 2010, and despite his struggles last season in Rookie ball, I feel like we need to give him more time before entirely writing him off. Most prospect lists have dropped him down to around #15 (or lower) in the Rays' system, and Baseball Prospectus didn't include him at all in their Rays top 30 prospects list. He's still young and came from high school, so we should expect him to have some growing to do. Coming out of the draft, we knew that Sale had a number of different things to work on before he became a polished product; his swing had some "glitches", and his power was expected to improve even more as he got older. He obviously struggled last season, but much like Tim Beckham, I believe we should still have faith in his overall skills and expect his bat to shine through over time.
Jason Collette: Lenny Linsky - has the power arsenal to be a shut down type reliever in late innings and he could move quickly through the system in what is the path of least resistance in the organization. He was a power reliever in college that generates groundballs and swings and misses in bunches.
mr. maniac: There are so many potential breakout players in the low minors due to the incredible depth of the Ray's, but I'm going with two players, Luke Bailey and Jeff Malm. I think Malm will have a very nice year, finally showing the powerful bat the Rays saw when they drafted him and maintaining that performance for a full year. Interestingly enough, Luke Bailey hits from the right side, yet only managed a weak .125/.171/.181 line against southpaws. Against RHP? .263/.342/.469. If he hits even solidly against LHP while continuing to hit righties, he will emerge as a top 10 prospect. With good years from these two players, the 2009 draft should look much better.
Ryan Glass: I really like the 2011 draftees for this question in general. Assuming Jake Hager has "broken out" I like Granden Goetzman here. He's already well regarded in the community, but I think he's the one that's most poised to pull a "Vettleson" if you will. He gets rave reviews on his tools, and I'd bet he's the best hitter of the draftees not named "Mikie." Depending on where Yoel Araujo ends up I might put him in this category as well.
John Gregg: Jeff Malm --- By his own admission, he was tired and poorly conditioned for the final month last season. He showed what he can do at the plate with a very hot July in 2011 and with improved conditioning and another season under his belt, 2012 should be the year that he finally capitalizes on his potential as an impact-type bat.
Tommy Rancel: Drew Vettleson - while we wait for his buddy - Josh Sale - to show signs of development, Vettleton already shows a good eye, nice speed, decent pop, and solid defense. He shows a platoon split, but at age 20 has time to improve versus lefties. Aside from the splits, his endurance will be tested over the course of full season, but I think he has the tools to take the leap in level and prospect lists.
Sandy Kazmir: Though I'm a huge fan of Drew Vettleson, today, I want to write about Ryan Brett. Ryan Brett was a 20 year old 2B that spent 2011 running around the bases at warp speed for the Princeton Rays. Maybe I'm a sucker for rooting for the little guy, and they don't come much smaller than the 5'9 in heels Brett, but the second sacker has a contact-driven approach (9% of PAs ended in a strikeout) that still saw him walk to first around 10% of the time. Don't get the idea that this is some Punch and Judy hitter, either, as 42% of his hits resulted in extra bases led by 22 doubles in only 270 plate appearances. In an ideal world, Ryan Brett turns into Dustin Pedroia, but it's much more likely that he falls short of that (no pun intended). Still, it's pretty rare to see a skillset where a guy doesn't whiff much, walks quite a bit, and still has some alley power. A breakout this year would see him turning some of those doubles into more homers while not losing the plate discipline that allowed him to rip so many good hitter's pitchers a year ago.
BurGi: If Mikie Mahtook is too obvious (I hope John Sickels was right about him when he mentioned his name as a next possible Mike Trout) I'll go with Felipe Rivero. He will be promoted to full season ball and (along with Ryan Carpenter and Parker Markel) form a strong top 3 of the rotation in Bowling Green.
Doug Milhoan: LHP Ryan Carpenter only pitched 23.2 innings for Hudson Valley after signing as a 7th round pick out of Gonzaga. With the Rays staff now overseeing his development expect his long lost velocity to return in Bowling Green and a mid-summer promotion to Charlotte.
Scott Grauer: Parker Markel. He looks good in a uniform and has the stuff, and he’ll jump to Bowling Green in 2012 and rise up everyone’s lists. All the reports on him are great, but he didn’t strike out as many batters as one would expect in Hudson Valley last year. His junior college and short-season experience should make him more advanced than his low-A competition.
Kevin Gengler: Okay, I'll be bold (you call it crazy, I call it bold): Justin O'Conner. Okay, so he struck out 78 times in 48 games last year, but when he did happen to make contact, he hit for good power (eight doubles and nine home runs). While I don't think he'll suddenly morph into a .300 hitter in 2012, I can see him cutting his strikeouts down closer to once per game while retaining the power.