Kevin: It turns out when you don’t record a podcast for three weeks, you get a little rusty and forget some minor details like “turning the recording program on.” My bad. So while episode 25 of the podcast is lost to the Skype graveyard, we still wanted to give our thoughts on the draft, short-season ball starting, and our top 30 prospect lists.
Let’s start with the draft and Richie Shaffer up top. It seems like for the second straight year the Rays were able to grab a guy who didn’t seem likely to fall to them. Shaffer was arguably the best college hitter (Catcher Mike Zunino at #4 obviously has the positional advantage) in the class this year, so I think the Rays have to be happy to have him. Good hit tool, good power, good eye, maybe he’s not elite in any of those categories, but more than enough for a corner spot. Whereas Mikie Mahtook sort of plays above his tools, Shaffer is the better raw hitter. And he’s going to have to move to a COF spot in the future if he remains in the Rays organization.
Scott: Trying out this not-cast will be interesting. I really like Shaffer, and the Rays are fortunate he fell to them. We also saw Stephen Piscotty fall further than expected, so apparently there was something about the college third basemen this year. Shaffer has something a lot of teams covet, and that’s right-handed power. Like you said, his power potential will profile in a corner whereas Mahtook may not, and it seems like that’s where both of them will end up, Mahtook because of tool limitations, and Shaffer because the Rays hope to have third base covered for the next few years. He competed in the ACC which is rising as a baseball conference, so you hope that he can move quickly.
Kevin: How did you feel about the rest of their draft? I would’ve liked to see them take a high school arm in the second round over Spencer Edwards. His tools package is nice but he’s old for his class and we’ve talked about how older high schoolers tend to be at a disadvantage. The short-season pitching ranks are pretty shallow past Taylor Guerrieri, and while Nolan Gannon and Damion Carroll are nice additions, it would’ve been nice to get another upper-cruster. I don’t mind the toolsy upside plays in Edwards, Andrew Toles, and Bralin Jackson, but it seems like another pitcher would’ve balanced it out a little better.
Scott: Yeah, I think they could’ve done more in the way of high school pitching. Gannon and Carroll are certainly arms to watch, but they’re not players you hang your hat on in a draft class. There are still some other pitchers in the lower minors like Henderson, Spann and Kendall that you can’t write off yet, but you can never have enough high school pitching depth.
With the position players they drafted, at least they went for up the middle athletes. With the depth the organization seems to have all around the diamond, going for the high upside players is the right thing to do. Edwards may not stay at shortstop, but he can stay up the middle in center field. Toles is a player I like in this draft. He combines great speed with instincts on the bases and field, and they hope he can hit enough to play every day. The Baseball America scouting report compares him to Michael Bourn, but something that sets Bourn apart is his ability to get on base which makes him so good leading off. We’ll see if Toles can develop those skills too.
Kevin: Switching gears, we each did our mid-season top 30 list on the site this past week. You ranked Taylor Guerrieri #1 (this was before his first start with Hudson Valley), was that pretty much a case of nobody in full-season ball stepping up and grabbing it? I went with Chris Archer (again, before his last start) even though he hasn’t really taken a step forward with his control/command. Even before he got the call-up it was pretty obvious that Archer was going to provide value this year, even if it’s in a relief role down the road. His walk numbers didn’t balloon like Alex Torres’ and his stuff is still as good as anyone else’s.
Two other guys I noticed you were pretty high on: Brandon Martin at #8 and Parker Markel at #11. Thoughts on those two?
Scott: Martin is a guy I’ve been staking my precious e-reputation on since he was drafted. I really like him even though he doesn’t have much pro experience to date. He’s going to be able to stick at shortstop, and I believe in his bat. Shortstops that can hit are rare commodities, and given time I believe Martin can be in that group. He has the home run this year at Princeton, but otherwise it’s been a slow start. Markel I would say has been unimpressive, and the rankings of everyone else reflects that probably more accurately than he did. He has good stuff, but for a second year his strikeout rate doesn’t reflect that. He needs to be better, and if he can stay healthy, he has a nice opportunity the next two months.
Going back to the #1 discussion, it’s a wide open race right now. For me, I had Guerrieri there more because of Hak-Ju Lee’s struggles. Not that I’m writing him off, but we’re closing in on a full season in AA of not performing for him. He’s still young and has plenty of time to turn it around, but he needs to get hot. Guerrieri has great stuff, and now we’re finally getting a chance to see him in box scores. Archer is another guy I think it’s fair to put up there. Lately, he’s done a much better job throwing strikes, and if he’s making improvements and not just going through a hot phase, you have a pitcher with great stuff teetering on truly being ML-ready. Shaffer I think should be in the discussion too, but they need to get him signed.
Kevin: Lee is actually having a pretty nice month of June for Montgomery, so hopefully that’s able to get him going. But unless he just totally kills it in the second half, I agree that he’s probably not in the mix as the #1 guy. Doing a mid-season list makes it pretty tough to rank the guys from short-season ball, specifically the big 2011 crop. Granden Goetzman, James Harris, Johnny Eierman, Grayson Garvin, Jeff Ames, Lenny Linsky and Blake Snell all got bunched up in the 19-28 range.
I’m a little higher on Ames than most, and lower on Garvin, because you don’t really have to project on Ames’ fastball. It’s got very good present velocity, and while his iffy secondary stuff might make him move to the bullpen down the line, I can see the fastball being a legit major-league rotation pitch to work off of. Blake Snell has been really good through two starts with Princeton, it feels like he gets forgotten about. A breakout year by him could give the Rays an exciting up-and-coming 1-2 with Guerrieri. But for the all the high schools, I think we really need to see them hit outside of a small sample in the GCL to see who separates themselves.
Scott: Yeah, the strength of the system is in the lower levels where all of the 2011 picks are, and only a handful of them have even played in a full-season league. You can only look at the scouting reports and see which player has attributes you like. It’s exciting that short-season ball is going now, especially for the Rays. There are so many reasons to check the box scores, and the organization spreads the fun around with three affiliates that started this month.
I could certainly come around on Ames over the last two months, but the reports from the draft last year indicated reliever. I’m usually inclined to rank relievers lower than usual, but if he looks good with Hudson Valley, opinions could certainly change. One of the most interesting things in short-season ball to me is Johnny Eierman in left field. When the Hudson Valley and Princeton rosters were released, I think we all figured that Eierman wasn’t listed because they wanted him to play shortstop and not have to share the position with Brandon Martin. I’m not really sure why he’s in left field. Even if he’s probably not going to stick at shortstop, he’s athletic enough that I’m surprised he’s been banished to left field.