Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rays Organizational Needs

Unlike last year, when the Rays had 12 picks within the first two rounds, this year's draft provides them with less opportunities to acquire elite talent. The Rays have one pick per round (the 25th) and no supplemental picks in 2012. Nevertheless, there are some organizational needs that can be filled by drafting and developing the right players. I'm going to take a short look at the organizational strength, pointing out the positions I see the Rays with the most of lack in talent.

Starting Pitching

While Starting Pitching has been THE organizational strength for years now, the minor league depth regarding top starting pitching prospects took a considerable hit over the last year. Top SP prospects like Chris Archer, Alex Torres, Alex Colome and Enny Romero have not (yet) developed the way we all hoped for and a new Matt Moore or Jeremy Hellickson (at least in full-season ball) is nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, I do see the starting pitching depth as clearly above average, comparing it to other MLB teams. Here is my explanation why:
  1. Despite Alex Torres' struggles and Jeff Niemann's injury, the MLB depth is still solid. Alex Cobb should fill in nicely for Niemann. Wade Davis is always there for insurance. And Chris Archer seems to recover a bit from a slow start to the season.
  2. While the pitchers in A+ and AA are mostly not playing up to their potential (with the exception of Mr. Riefenhauser), there is at least some MLB-SP potential in there with Alex Colome and Enny Romero. 
  3. Bowling Green has some very intriguing starting pitching prospects with Ryan Carpenter, Parker Markel (both have to improve their K-rates, though) and especially Felipe Rivero.
  4. The overall organizational pitching, and so also its starters, has been improving since a horrid start of the season.
  5. There are some very interesting, mostly raw but high potential pitchers parked in extended spring training. Taylor Guerrieri, Jacob Faria or Blake Snell could develop into high-end starting pitching prospects.
That said, the high-end depth in SP has definitely taken a hit and could use some reinforcements through the draft.

Relief Pitching

Year in, year out, Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon build an above average major league bullpen by identifying potential where nobody else sees potential. Therefore, I'm less concerned about a possible lack of minor league depth in the relief pitching department, then in other areas. Nevertheless, the Rays have traded for cheap and controllable bullpen talent by acquiring young and nearly major league ready pitchers like Josh Lueke or Brandon Gomes and signed power pitchers who highest likely (or at least as a suitable fallback option) project as relief pitchers due the draft (Ian Kendall, Jeff Ames, Jake Thompson, Lenny Linsky, Blake Snell, Jesse Hahn, ...).
With the contracts of most of the Rays late inning saviors (Rodney, Peralta and Farnsworth) being up after this season, the front office will have its work laid out in front of them for the upcoming offseason. But, I'm confident that they find the missing pieces in order to complement the above mentioned pitchers, as well as converted starting pitchers like Jake McGee, Wade Davis (for the long run?) and Alex Torres.
Despite the new CBA being a pain in the ass for the Rays, when it comes to bonus amounts for highschoolers, they should again try to find raw highschool pitchers with starting pitching potential, who could be converted into relievers if not panning out in a starting role. Relief pitching, though, should not be a premiere priority for the franchise entering the 2012 draft (or any draft).


Jose Molina - MLB - .551 OPS
Chris Gimenez - MLB - .491
Jose Lobaton - DL
Robinson Chirinos - DL
Nevin Ashley - DL
Mark Thomas - AA - .542 OPS
Luke Bailey - DL

With the exception of Mayobanex Acosta, no minor or major league catcher stands out for his (offensive) play this year. The already barren prospect pool (with Justin O'Conner struggling heavily in his 1st two MiL seasons and Luke Bailey not fulfilling his potential by draft day) has taken a big hit due to injuries and bad performances.  Unfortunately, the Rays don't draft at the top of the draft (in order to land Mike Zunino), nor have they acquired a player like him (still sad about that) during the offseason. Bottom line: What the Rays need most is a FRANCHISE CATCHER. This draft has some highly ranked catching prospects behind Mike Zunino,  with Stryker Trahan, Peter O'Brien or Josh Elander. Will the Rays draft a catcher early on, once again, despite having very limited success with the drafting of catchers in the past? Or will they sign someone from outside? Something has to be done.

Middle Infield

Much was said about the Rays drafting - what feels like - 10 shortstop prospects every year. The prospect pool should be laden, you might think? Fact is, the Rays don't look very well at short in 2012. While Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez hold the fort with some respectable play in the majors, Reid Brignac looks like he won't make it, Tim Beckham is suspended and Hak-Yu Lee seemengly can't (yet) adjust to AA ball. Derek Dietrich is hitting well, but might have to move off from short and Jake Hager (why no Trevor Story???) is being outperformed in full-season ball.
Summarizing, the Rays do have talent at short in the minors. The talent is mostly not playing up to its potential, though.
With Tyler Bortnick and Cole Figueroa, who both could turn out to be useful utility infielders a la Elliot Johnson, the Rays don't have All-Star caliber, but solid upper minor league depth at 2B. With Ben Zobrist, Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriguez already at the major league level, All-Star depth is not necessarily needed either. Therefore, 2B should be okay for the upcoming years, also with players like Derek Dietrich or Tim Beckham possibly moving over and Ryan Brett or Hector Guevara emerging.

Corner Infield

The Bowling Green Hot Rods give hope to the - what seems to be for years - weakest point of the Rays' minor league system. Both, Jeff Malm and Tyler Goeddel have the potential to emerge as above average major leaguers. Until they are ready for the majors, the Rays have to continue to look for stopgap options across Evan Longoria, though, as the upper minors only have - a much improved - Henry Wrigley to count for. Therefore, and even despite the 2012 draft looking to be thin at first, the Rays should add one or two potential power bats to Malm, Goeddel and John Alexander in the lower minors.


The best for the end! With Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist forming one of the best outfields in the majors, the Rays look good for 2012. Brandon Guyer could/should take the first spot that opens up in the majors (due to Upton leaving after the season or Zobrist moving back to 2nd) and contribute regularly in 2013. Sam Fuld, Rich Thompson or Stephen Vogt then could compete for a possible last spot in the outfield. Behind them, Kyeong Kang (for a COF spot) and Ty Morrison (for CF) should be in AAA full time next year and provide solid depth, while with Mikie Mahtook, Josh Sale, Drew Vettleson, Kes Carter (if healthy), Grandon Goetzman and Johnny Eierman lots of potential gems have time to grow into future big league roles. Therefore, and while I definitely expect the Rays to select at least one or two athletic SS/CF guys in the draft, outfield is THE NEW STRENGTH of the system and less of a need in this year's draft.


  1. So kiermierer is expected to return to the active roster tomorrow. With that I guess there will be a roster move? I know there are only 24 on the active roster but Gracia is expected to return soon. I think his injury was minor. Who gets released with the return of kiermierer? Will be interesting to see.

  2. probably OF Lyerly

  3. agreed. maybe they will send him to XST

  4. Only about 3 weeks until short-season ball starts, so any moves will be short term.

    Nice article BurGi, like to look at things as a whole sometimes. A few thoughts on your thoughts...

    I don't think the Rays take any more catchers early for a while. In the last 5 drafts they've taken:

    2007 - Vogt in the 12th round
    2008 - Jefferies in the 3rd
    2009 - Bailey in the 4th
    2010 - O'Conner in 1st, DePew in the 9th
    2011 - Rice in the 9th

    The 3 lowest picks are doing better than the 3 highest. I think they'll fill holes with free agents at MLB and move lower round picks and VSL/DSL guys up through the minors. Drafting 'franchise' catchers is a bad idea to begin with, and the Rays have shown they have no aptitude for it.

    I think overall the MIF positions are quite strong, at least compared to the rest of the position players. They aren't can't-miss stars or anything, but with each guy I think we can all see something to like. More solid all-around players than stars, but with a few plus tools. I think the past ways of signing of new AAA guys each year will stop now that internally developed guys are reaching that level (Beckham/O'Malley/Figueroa this year), with layers following.

    CIF is bad, very bad. Sheridan's been better this year, but you really have to go all the way down the depth chart to Riccio Torrez at 3B in Charlotte to get to any kind of prospect. And he's been underwhelming, reaching base more often by HBP (7) than walking (5) on the year (179 plate appearances). So like you said it's Malm and Goeddel and wait 3+ years.

    I hate to see them draft 1B, as I've said before if you're limited to 1B as a teenager you are extremely unlikely to reach the majors. But they've drafted quite a few 1B-types in the earlier rounds the past 5 years:

    2007 - Fronk 7th round (as a 3B), Vogt 12th (as a 1B)
    2008 - Sheridan 5th
    2009 - Malm 5th
    2010 - Flores 11th, Wunderlich 12th
    2011 - Alexander 8th, Seitzer 11th, Mitsui 12th (didn't sign)

    So I think we'll see them take a flyer or two in the 8-12th rounds again.

    You covered the OFs. I'm not nearly as excited about this draft as last years, we have 40 picks overall instead of 60, and 2 in the 1st 2 rounds instead of 12. But it will still be fun to see who they get. Let's just pick pitchers, SS's and OF's and forget the rest!

  5. I watched Jake Flothe pitch the other day on MILBTV. You guys have overlooked this kid since day one. He doesn't throw 97 but he knows how to pitch period. His ball sinks and he spotted it up all game. His WHIP is the best in the organization, batting average against is best in the organization and he should have 7 wins...The hits were weak with one exception (a Double). You talk about Carpenter (who I like) but Flothe and Rivero are the top 2 guys with high ceilings. Flothe's nasty sinking stuff will work on the next level as he improves his offspeed stuff. There are alot of pitchers in the show that have the same stuff as this kid most not as good. Rivero has the ability to pound the strike zone. He too needs to improve his offspeed stuff. He always pitches ahead. He can change speeds off his pitches too. He is 20 years old and pitches like a 30 year old. What is going on with Linsky? Is he going to pitch this year...Markel has the stuff you like but so far its inconsistant!

    1. Anon, don't worry. When the lists come out, Floethe and Rivero will both have moved up quite a few spots.

    2. Michael,

      I hope your right because the players that are constantly identified as top prospects such as Archer, Thompson and others...I don't like throwing players under the proverbial bus...but they are inconsistant and you don't know what you will get from start to start, CJ, Jake and Felipe have proven that they can 1. Throw strikes 2. Throw Strikes and 3. Throw Strikes with all 3 pitches. WHIP them up the ladder...They are all 3 in all top catagories.

    3. Which Thompson are you referring to? Jacob Thompson hasn't gotten much love.

    4. @Anon: You're right with Jake Floethe. His control is excellent which makes him very consistent. His FIP (3.13) is even lower than his ERA! Behind Riefenhauser, Rivero, Garvin, Cobb and Carpenter, he is the 6th best pitcher with at least 30 IP according to FIP. Maybe we should mention him more often, despite some concerns on my part about his long-term future as a MLB starter.

      And regarding Felipe Rivero: I think he is very highly regarded among us RaysProspects-bloggers. He is on his way to becoming the best internationally-signed SP prospectin the Rays minors.

      @Michael: You're right, Jacob Thompson doesn't get much love as a starter any more. His secondary offerings and consistency don't seem to be there in order to succeed in this role. I think he could have a great future out of the pen, though.

      Chris Archer simply - still - has too much potential not to talk about him. And, he has always had slow starts to the season. He even was more consistent as of late. We all, however, are not as high on him as we have been when the Rays traded for him in the Garza deal.

    5. Burgi,

      Thanks for the clarification. I follow the Rays extensively. I don't usually blog but with the mention of all the TOP prospects and I understand potential. Flothe to me was always the after thought, he "shouldn't have been taken with the 6th pick" and I started tracking him to see how he would do. He to me is a perfect starter for the Majors...Groundballs, low pitch count and he doesn't seem to lose velo late. MacCarthy A's, Lowe Indians, Weaver Angels, etc...I watched him on MILBTV and he is smooth and easy! BA against lefties is better than will win on any level with 1 whip.

      Rivero has the ability to throw strikes and he never gets flustered. He has the poise of a much older pitcher. His stuff can be electric, but he chooses not to try and overpower unless he needs too! Fun to watch...I also think Lopez has a big future off of that team.

    6. I mean Gomez!

  6. This is nothing that the dumpster divers in the Rays front office can't fix with a few strategic moves involvng players no one else wants. What's the problem?

  7. This should be a better year for mid/lower draft picks to survive playing in the Rays organization. Last year was the pits for many of those drafted. If you weren't one of the "select" 1st/2nd rounders, you had a poor shot at reaching our second season.

    1. That's true for sure. Despite having 3 XST-affiliates, there wasn't room for soooo many players. It was sad to see so many young athletes being released despite not having a real chance of proving themselves within the organization.

  8. By the way ... I know it's asked frequently, but does anybody know what's going on with Josh Sale. Is the injury serious?

  9. Hgh school kids in mid to late rounds will not sign with TB this year because of the amount of high draft picks last year. There is no room at the Inn.

    1. That is, if they're