Looking through my old BA Prospect Handbook from before the 2006 season and thought I would share some of the more interesting comments.
1. OF Delmon Young - With virtually no chinks in his armor, it's easy to see why managers tabbed him the Southern League's best batting prospect, best power hitter, best outfield arm and most exciting player... Young has all the tools to be an all-star for years to come.
2. RHP Jeff Niemann - Niemann might have gone No. 1 in the 2004 draft had he not been coming off arthroscopic elbow surgery and a groin strain... His slider has sharp, cutting action and was deemed the best breaking pitch in the 2004 draft... The Rays envision Niemann joining Scott Kazmir as a potent 1-2 punch.
3. RHP Jason Hammel - He has the best command in the system.
4. SS Reid Brignac - Balls jump off his bat and he has natural loft in his stroke. He could produce 25-plus homers annually down the road. Brignac uses the entire field and has a plan at the plate.
5. OF Elijah Dukes - Dukes is an incredible athlete with all-star ability. He makes solid contact, has at least 20-homer power and plays with all-out aggression.
6. RHP Wade Davis - He drives his fastball low in the zone at 92-98 mph. His hard curveball became more consistent last year, and his slider is a solid-average pitch.
7. 1B Wes Bankston - Bankston shows as much raw power as anyone in the organization... His lower body has gotten thicker in the past two years, reducing his speed and overall athleticism.
8. RHP Chad Orvella - Mainly a shortstop in college, Orvella made it to the majors as a pitcher less than two years after he turned pro... When he was a shortstop, Orvella's best tool was his arm, which now delivers consistent 92-94 mph fastballs with late life.
9. RHP Matt Walker - His fastball ranges from 89-96 mph with good life. His overhand power curveball has a sharp break and is the best in the system.
10. RHP Chris Mason - Though he's just 6 feet tall, Mason generates 91-95 mph velocity and plus movement on his fastball thanks to a lightning-quick arm.
11. C Shawn Riggans - A more disciplined approach could mean the difference between being a platoon player and a starter in the major leagues.
12. RHP Jamie Shields - Though not overpowering for a righthander, Shields showed he has the overall package to be a solid fourth starter in the big leagues.
13. OF Fernando Perez - Perez has struggled at times making contact, though he gave switch-hitting a try during instructional league and had success.
14. RHP Wade Townsend - The Devil Rays' former upper-management team overruled the scouting department and mandated that the club take Townsend with the eighth overall pick in the 2005 draft... At his best at Rice, he pitched at 90-92 mph with his fastball and dominated hitters with a spike curveball.
15. C/DH John Jaso - An excellent contact hitter with a good approach from the left side, Jaso could produce 25-plus homers annually at higher levels.
16. LHP Jacob McGee - McGee has one of the best curveballs in the minors, an overhand bender that can be unhittable. He adds and subtracts from his curve, varying its velocity from 69-77 mph. His only problem with the pitch is that it breaks so much that lower-level umpires don't always call it for strikes.
17. OF Shaun Cumberland - Scouts drool over his picture-perfect swing from the left side of the plate.
18. 2B Elliot Johnson - In addition to his plus speed, he should develop consistent extra-base power once his body fills out more completely and adds some strength. Though he's not a big home run threat, he's one of just two players in professional baseball history to hit three homers in the first three innings of a game.
19. RHP Jeremy Hellickson - Projected to go in the first two rounds of the 2005 draft, Hellickson dropped to the fourth because clubs worried about his bonus demands and his commitment to Louisiana State... He missed his junior season in high school because of a fractured growth plate in his right shoulder.
20. RHP Andy Sonnanstine - Sonnanstine won the system's pitching triple crown in 2005, leading all Tampa Bay farmhands in wins, strikeouts and ERA. His most eye-popping number was his 178-18 K-BB ratio, and managers rated him as having the best control in the Midwest League.
21. RHP Jose de la Cruz - Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing in excess of 240 pounds, the righthander physically resembles Antonio Alfonseca, only larger, and is nicknamed "The Aircraft Carrier."
22. LHP James Houser - He dropped to the second round of the 2003 draft mainly because he has a heart murmur that scared teams off.
23. OF Andrew Lopez - Not only did he hit .325 in his pro debut, but he also raked against older pitchers during instructional league, where he reminded veteran scouts of Magglio Ordonez.
24. LHP Chris Seddon - Five years into his pro career, Seddon reached Triple-A at the age of 21.
25. RHP Carlos Hines - Hines has a fast arm that produces a powerful 92-97 mph fastball.
26. RHP Brian Stokes - Stokes' best pitch is a mid-70s curveball, and his 89-92 mph fastball can feature heavy sink when he keeps it down in the zone.
27. RHP Juan Salas - He consistently showed an 80 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale at the hot corner, but his power never developed as expected.
28. OF John Matulia - One Devil Rays coach describes Matulia as "tougher than a one-dollar steak."
29. RHP Derek Feldkamp - Feldkamp's stuff plays very well when he's used in relief, a role in which he shows a 91-95 mph fastball and an 82-84 mph slider.
30. OF Francisco Leandro - Managers rated his strike-zone judgment the best in the Midwest League last year, and he didn't miss a beat after a midseason promotion to high Class A, where he quickly put together a 24-game hitting streak.
Some future Rays:
Arizona Diamondbacks #8 RHP Matt Torra - He became a supplemental first round-pick who signed for $1.025 million after leading NCAA Division I with a 1.14 ERA for a 16-33 Massachusetts team.
Colorado Rockies #17 OF Jeff Salazar - Salazar needs to learn to stay back on pitches and use the opposite field if he wants to reach his potential.
Detroit Tigers #27 OF Matt Joyce - Joyce has average tools across the board to go with a quiet approach that lets him make consistent contact while using the whole field. His arm might be a tick above average.
Houston Astros #15 OF Luke Scott - He's an incredibly streaky hitter, and he'll sometimes get himself out when he's going good, needlessly making adjustments because he fears pitchers will do the same.
Houston Astros #16 SS Ben Zobrist - A switch-hitter who excels at handling the bat, Zobrist has solid-average tools across the board, with the exception of power.
Los Angeles Angels #23 SS Sean Rodriguez - His best tool is his plus arm, but between the organization's depth at shortstop and Rodriguez' lack of pure shortstop actions, he won't play there much longer.
New York Mets #13 2B Jeff Keppinger - Though he homered twice off Southern California ace Mark Prior in a 2001 College World Series game, Keppinger's contact approach means he'll never hit for much power.
San Diego Padres #11 LHP Cesar Ramos - Ramos was drafted in the sixth round by the Devil Rays out of high school, but decided to attend Long Beach State, where he became the winningest lefty in school history... He'll need to keep an eye on his weight and work habits. He doesn't offer much projection, but his feel for pitching should carry him.
San Diego Padres #13 SS Matt Bush - He's a potential Gold Glove shortstop with plus range to both sides, an excellent double-play pivot and a powerful arm that ranks as a pure 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.