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 is the most over-hyped prospect in the system?
Steve Slowinski: This might come off as a bit strange, but I'm beginning to grow skeptical of Chris Archer. While he certainly has the potential to become a front of the rotation starter, I'm not sure I see him ever reaching that potential. His fastball and slider are both plus pitches, but he still struggles with his command and he doesn't have a reliable third offering. Especially with the depth of pitching in the Rays' system, I could easily see him ending up in the bullpen if he doesn't show much improvement this season in his control, or if his change-up continues to lag behind his other pitches. And considering Archer is rated by Baseball America as the #3 prospect in the Rays' system...yes, I'd consider him overrated.
Jason Collette: I have my concerns about Derek Dietrich. Yes, he hits for good power, but he should as a guy with his collegiate pedigree while playing a full season of baseball in Low A ball. That said, there are holes in his swing. He made 11% less contact when swinging at strikes in the zones than the league average and made 12% less contact that the rest of the league when swinging at pitches. Now, he makes the jump to the FSL where the parks are bigger and pitchers have better stuff. He's not going to stick at shortstop so he'll have to hit with power to stick at a corner infield or outfield spot. I have a hunch he will struggle to get out of AA ball in his career.
mr. maniac: I believe Alex Torres is the most overhyped prospect in the Rays minor league system. His pure stuff probably ranks only behind Matt Moore's in the system. However, his lack of command will force him into relief, where is stuff will play well, but not exceptionally. I tend to prefer relievers with a dominant fastball over those with several good offspeed pitches.
Ryan Glass: Oscar Hernandez by a mile, but he doesn't really count because no one knows anything about him. This is a tough one for me because I'm a big optimist on prospects knowing that even the best ones don't live up to expectations, but I think Alex Torres is a bit overrated right now. Some people think he could step in to a big league rotation and be a good middle of the rotation starter. I do think he could have success immediately in the bigs, but his stuff will never fully translate because of command/control issues (see Garza as a better version).
John Gregg: Oscar Hernandez --- No one is more guilty of hyping Hernandez than I am, but the fact remains that until he shows something in the States against better competition, that his numbers in the VSL are relatively meaningless. The power potential and catch-and-throw ability seem legit, but the results may not match the expectations initially until he gets adjusted to better quality pitching in the US.
Tommy Rancel: For the most part I think expectations for this current group are tempered. That said, I think people may be expecting too much too soon from Matt Moore. I still believe he is the best and most advanced pitching prospect in team history and will be a dominant starter at some point, but it seems as if some expect him to be that right off the bat in 2012.
Sandy Kazmir: Hak-Ju Lee seems to be getting a ton of love after an absolutely scorching start in Charlotte in 2011. His defense at shortstop elevates his floor to a likely useful player in MLB someday, but the biggest questions revolving around his bat are which was the mirage in 2011, his:
A: .318/.389/.443 with 16% strikeout rate in 454 PAs in A+ ball
B: .190/.272/.310 with 19% strikeout rate in 114 PAs in AA Montgomery
Some like to make excuses that he was tired due to a bout of chicken pox prior to the season, but it's more likely that he is neither as good as he was in A+ nor as bad as he was in AA. That leaves a lot of mystery about who he actually is at the plate and that's enough for me to question whether he's truly the second best prospect in all of the Rays farm system. Doubly so when looking at all that raw talent just bubbling and brewing in the lowest levels of the minors.
BurGi: Tough question. I'll answer with two names here: Firstly, I do have Jake Hager much lower on my board (29th; behind fellow '11 draftees Goeddel, Goetzman, Linsky and Eierman) than the industry consensus (13th) and my colleagues here at RaysProspects (between 13 and 17). Secondly, regarding the fan base, I think Henry Wrigley. I don't have anything against him, but he seems a bit overhyped in the fan base.
Doug Milhoan: RHP Chris Archer, who BA ranks as the Rays #3 prospect entering this season. He walked 5.3 batters per nine between Montgomery and Durham last year, which was only a tenth higher than his career 5.2/9 over six seasons. Because of baserunners (he allowed 9.0 hits/9 last year too) he'll end up a reliever, probably not in 2012 but eventually, and will not be a top 10 prospect entering 2013.
Scott Grauer: Chris Archer. Not that he doesn’t have the stuff, but in his career he’s had more bad innings than good, and it’s time for him to show why he’s held in high regard. In a very, very brief stint with Durham to finish 2011, his walk rate was down at a slightly more manageable 4.2 per 9, but with the organizational depth at pitcher, he’ll be headed to the bullpen soon if he doesn’t improve quickly.
Kevin Gengler: Chris Archer, although there's definitely less shine on him now than at this point last year. In his minor-league career, he's only had two stops where he posted a BB/9 under 4.0: Repeating the GCL in 2007 and repeating the Florida State League in 2010. He's only 23 and he's athletic so there's hope there, but he needs to throw more strikes in 2012 to remain a future rotation candidate.