Tampa Bay Rays: Chat
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.
Chris (Chicago, IL): Did Wilking Rodriguez sniff the top 10? What is his ceiling?
He definitely sniffed it and then some.
Rodriguez is a classic power pitcher with clean mechanics, although he
does tend to overthrow on occasion. He relieved in Venezuela and is
still working his way through the nuances of starting. He doesn't rate
off the charts, but he's a solid candidate to develop into a back-half
of the rotation guy at the major league level, provided he continues to
John (Houston, TX): Do you see Matt Gorgen making it to the big league bullpen this year? Can he be an effective setup man in the majors?
I don't know about 2010, but I definitely
think he has the stuff to be a middle reliever and possibly a setup man
in the big leagues. He needs to command his pitches better, and
experienced hitters in the AFL took advantage of that need. I see him
opening next season back at Double-A Montgomery with a shot at reaching
Triple-A Durham during the second half of the slate.
JAYPERS (IL): Could you compare Jennings to Andrew McCutchen for us, tool for tool? Which would you rather have on your team?
I haven't seen McCutchen nearly as much
as Jennings, so I really don't feel qualified to do so. Obviously, I'd
taken either one if available, although that's a whimpy answer.
McCutchen has already had success in the big leagues, so that gives him
an edge, but Jennings was incredible last year. He has a knack for
using his speed to his greatest advantage, and I believe Jennings will
have some serious pop down the road. Right now I'd lean toward
Jennings, but again, we're splitting some hairs here.
JAYPERS (IL): Which 2009 draftees came closest to making your Top 10?
The Rays very quietly had an incredible
draft, especially considering they didn't sign their first two picks.
Outfielder Ty Morrison, OF Cody Rodgers, catcher Luke Bailey,
outfielder Todd Glaesmann and first baseman Jeff Malm all found their
way into the top 25.
Ben (Leland Grove): Your thoughts on Zach Quate? Is his future as a starter or reliever?
Awesome, a Quate question. The
righthander from Appalachian State was outstanding as a 14th round pick
last year. He may have been the Rays' biggest surprise in their 2009
draft class. Granted, it's only one summer, but he showed signs of
promise last year in the Alaska Baseball League and the Rays did a
great job of scouting him. With his advanced feel for pitching, Quate
could move rapidly. At this point, I see him only as a reliever in pro
Brett (SoCal): Could you give us a rundown on Jason McEachern's mechanics, and did he make your top 30?
McEachern is another guy I'm high on and
another Brad Matthews sign. McEachern has some of the best overall
command in the organization and does a great job of controlling the
tempo to get hitters out. He's not overpowering, but he works both
sides of the plate and keeps his pitches down in the strike zone. His
mechanics are very smooth and easy, and the Rays believe he has the
body type and the athleticism to maintain that rhythm even after he
adds some strength and weight, which the team really believes he needs.
Yes, he made the top 30, and I believe he has a chance to take a huge
step in 2010.
Pierre (Ottawa, Ontario): If Carlos Pena leaves as a free agent at the end of the year, is there anyone ready in the farm system to replace him?
There isn't a true first baseman ready to
step in and be there for years to come. Jeff Malm is the top prospect
at first currently in the system, and Mike Sheridan and Ryan Wiegand
have shown some potential. For a very deep system, first base is one of
the weaker areas from top-to-bottom depth.
Trent (Fayetteville): Victor Mateo had an excellent WHIP for his first test in the US. Can he be a no. 3 or 4 starter?
You're right; he did have an excellent
WHIP. Mateo has come a long way and still has a long way to go, so
pegging him as a potential 3 or 4 starter at this point is a reach. He
has some promise, but I'm not going to go overboard with projecting him
at this point.
Frank (GA): What is your opinion of Jeff Malm's plate and field discipline?
Malm is a hitter first. He has a smooth
left-handed swing that makes consistent contact. I believe he will
continue to hit for more power as he climbs the organizational ladder.
His plate discipline is good, and his years of experience on the
showcase circuit is obvious. Defensively, he's a little above-average,
but not a great athlete. Because of that, he's likely to stay at first
base, and his work ethic should allow him to develop into a solid major
league performer at the position.
Simon (Vancouver, Canada): Do you think the
Rays regret not drafting Pedro Alvarez? He was the obvious choice, and
could have replaced Carlos Pena next year. What were they thinking?
Alvarez is a solid prospect, but I don't
see him as a sure thing in terms of long-term all-star ability, etc.
Don't get me wrong—he has promise, but Carolina League pitchers this
year proved he can be retired. Considering what the Pirates had to pay
to get him, I don't believe the Rays are kicking themselves. R.J.
Harrison has maximized value throughout all of his drafts, and I
believe that will continue to be the case, even as his previous classes
JAYPERS (IL): If they had it to do over again,
do you think the Rays would have drafted Posey over Beckham, or was his
fetching price always a roadblock? It seems to me a young, high profile
fast rising catcher would have met their more immediate needs, as
opposed to picking up guys such as Zaun and/or Shoppach.
Again, the asking price for Posey was in
the same class as Alvarez's, which was a little rich for the Rays'
blood. There seems to be some disappointment regarding Beckham, but the
Rays believe he is on the right track. He displayed outstanding
improvement over the course of the 2009 season and really impressed the
Bowling Green coaching staff with his work ethic and coachability.
Beckham may not be the long-term answer at short, but he has a chance
to be a solid major league player if he continues to do what he's been
doing since signing with Tampa Bay.
Ben (Leland Grove): How close did Lobstein come to making the list?
For the second straight year, Kyle
Lobstein was right there at no. 11. I'd venture to say he'd be in the
top 10 of three-quarters of the other organizations. He has an ideal
frame with an easy arm action and flawless mechanics. He has an
advanced feel for all of his pitches and impressive demeanor. Believe
me, it was tough to leave him out of the top 10, and he bounced back
and forth on several occasions, based on the various conversations I
had with Rays officials.
Kyle (Charlotte, NC): With Longoria entrenched at 3B, is Matt Sweeney future trade bait, or is he more of a bench player at the major league level?
He could be trade bait or he could even
be a potential candidate at first base in the near future. He has as
much power as anyone in the organization and just needs to display that
consistently in order to get a shot. He's definitely a strong candidate
for major league time with the possibility of being at least a
platoon-type player in the big leagues.
JAYPERS (IL): How would you rank Glaesmann's five tools on the 20-80 scale?
I'm not a scout, so any numbers I'd put
on his tools would have little merit. That said, his tools rate at
least average in all five categories. His speed is probably in the
55-60 range, and his fielding, arm strength and ability to hit the ball
with consistency are probably close to that. His power potential is
probably more in the 50-55 range. Again, those are just guesses on my
part, but I know he has impressed scouts with his all-around ability.
Harry (NJ): Assuming he recovers on schedule, how many years away is Luke Bailey?
That's real hard to say since he's yet to
see his first professional pitch, but even on a fast track in the Rays'
system he's probably three full years away. Being a catcher, he's
likely four years away. He has great promise as a hitter and receiver
and could emerge as one of the team's top 10 prospects during the 2010
Brian (Burlington, Vermont): Where is Jeff Malm going to play in 2010? Is he a legitimate prospect?
From my previous answers, there's no
question I believe Malm's legit. Most players in his situation would
find themselves in Hudson Valley or Princeton next year, but it
wouldn't surprise me to see Malm earn a job in Bowling Green with a
strong spring showing.
Logan (Atlanta): You have Kelly Shoppach as
the catcher in the 2012 lineup. Are there any catching prospects in the
system that could potentially push for that spot?
We talked about Luke Bailey a few
questions ago, and I believe he has a tremendously high ceiling. The
Rays also really like Jake Jefferies. Nevin Ashley played very well
throughout the 2009 season, while Mike McCormick and Omar Narvaez are
other receivers in the organization with some promise.
Dara (Atlanta): Your thoughts on McGee's rehab thus far? What do you see in him that would make the Rays want to keep him as a starter?
He worked very hard to get back right
about the one-year anniversary of Tommy John surgery, and while he
didn't throw a ton of innings in 2009, he did get back in the swing of
things, which should carry over into quicker development in 2010. I
think being lefthanded is what has kept him as a starter as long as he
has. His control has been iffy throughout his career, particularly in
his ability to keep the ball in the lower half of the strike zone. I
believe he's probably better suited to relieve, but considering the
life in that left arm, the Rays probably want to make certain he can't
start before shifting him to the pen.
Kevin (New Brunswick, NJ): Alex Cobb had another nice(not dominant) season, but doesn't seem to be getting any attention. Was he in consideration at all?
Cobb is another under the radar type of
prospect who doesn't get a lot of love because he doesn't blow scouts
away. Nevertheless, he's made steady improvements in all phases of his
game and has shown an advanced feel for pitching. He has an outstanding
11-to-5 curveball that he will throw at any time in the count, and his
fastball sits in the low 90s. His changeup has good sinking action and
looks like a splitter at times. His progress through the organization
has been very methodical, but I believe he has the ability to start in
the big leagues, especially if he continues to have success this year
in the Southern League.
Kevin (New Brunswick, NJ): Who were some of the guys who were barely off the list?
Close but no cigar on the top 10 were
Kyle Lobstein, Joe Cruz, Shawn O'Malley, Ty Morrison, Albert Suarez and
Fernando Perez, to name a few.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Tim
Beckham and brother Jeremy Beckham have progressed through the minors
together at Princeton and Bowling Green. Is 2010 the year that they
diverge and end up on different teams in the Rays's system? Which teams
Could be. I don't see Jeremy Beckham
having a long career as a player. Tim might be well-served to taste the
Midwest League with a return to Bowling Green, but the Rays will
probably challenge him by sending him to Charlotte in the Florida State
League. Spring training will go a long way in helping make that
Francis (WA): Was it a cardinal mistake
letting Washington slip away for such a slim amount? Are the Rays
skittish in dealing with Boras in general?
Washington was anything but a sure thing,
but I do think he should have been signed, from both the player's and
the organization's standpoint. He would be better off in pro ball than
in junior college, especially with a solid chunk of change in his
pocket, and the Rays would have another classic athletic baseball
player developing in the farm system. I don't know exactly what
happened, but from the outside looking in, both sides dropped the ball.
Ben (Leland Grove): With seven of the Top 10
being pitchers, which of them do you see having the biggest chance of
being trade bait, considering the logjam at the Trop?
Good answer. I think Barnese would be a
strong candidate, and not only because he ranks 10th on the list. I
think sometimes he's his own worst enemy, which has to be a little
frustrating for the organization. That could lead to a classic "change
of scenery" trade. I don't see Hellickson or Davis going unless there
is a big-time return. Colome is probably attracting a lot of interest;
McGee is still coming back from surgery; and the Rays really like the
thought of a hard-throwing lefty in Torres coming out of the pen or
starting in the near future.
Jake (Denver, CO): It's no secret the Rays
don't mind doing a little "addition by subtraction", i.e. Delmon Young,
when it seems appropriate to do so. Is Upton on the same type of
chopping block, considering his track record this year?
I have no inside information on this, but
I see that as a possibility. His name has come up in trade talks on
several occasions, and my experience tells me where there's smoke,
there's fire. If the Rays can lock up Crawford, I think Upton may
depart, especially with the imminent arrival of Jennings. If Crawford
is not locked up, Upton's services will be needed, even if he doesn't
always seem to be running on all cylinders.
JAYPERS (IL): Was David Price's 2009 a letdown
in your eyes, considering the sheer amount of hype he has received in
the past? What does he need to work on going forward?
It was probably a disappointment in some
respects, but the expectations were almost impossible to live up to.
Price needs to develop his third pitch. He got away with throwing two
pitches in college, but starting in the big leagues requires command of
three and the ability to throw all three at any time in the count.
Dave (Naples, FL): This is the first year I
haven't read that Hellickson doesn't have a "true strikeout pitch", yet
he's racked up K's at every level. Couple his pitchability with his
plus command of all three offerings and TB could have something
special. Is he a #1 down the line? Do you think TB may end up trading
him away for some needed bats?
He doesn't have a true strikeout pitch
because his repertoire is so loaded. He is a potentially special
pitcher, although I see him more as a No. 2 than a No. 1. With his
talent and residing on the cusp of the big leagues, I'm sure his name
is frequently mentioned by other teams in trade talks.
JAYPERS (IL): Is lack of experience the only
real reason you don't see Jennings winning a spot out of spring
training, or is it just the Rays' general policy? They didn't seem to
have a problem fast-tracking Longoria. Could he conceivably wow them
enough in April/May to make them reconsider?
Even with Longoria the Rays sent him down
out of spring training before calling him up and watching him produce.
Their approach has worked, so it's hard to criticize it, although I
don't believe it's a hard-and-fast rule. I definitely believe Jennings
could see extensive time in the big leagues before this all-star break
Steve (Orlando): What's the info on Hector Guevara, the outstanding Rays 18 year old SS in Venezuela?
Guevara showed in Venezuela that he could
be a breakout type of player for the Rays in 2010. He was borderline
dominant this past year, which should set the stage for his U.S. debut
this coming campaign. He has above-average power and hitting ability
for his position, with solid range and a strong arm. He hasn't been
challenged by a wide range of prospects, but he's definitely a player
on the rise in the Rays' organization.
Tommy (New York): Last year Tim Beckham ranked
28th on top 100 list. I would have to assume that he will not be in the
top 50 this year if he ranks sixth on the Rays' list. Also I have heard
that he has a bit of an attitude problem in regards to
self-entitlement. Just how far has his stock fallen?
His stock has probably fallen with
regards to the top 100, but he's easily in the conversation. I have
heard of questions surrounding his attitude, but no one in the
organization has indicated there's a problem. He gets very high marks
with his work ethic and is generally considered to be a good teammate.
I think some of that is just a bad rap, possibly from camps with an ax
Dave (Tampa): Could you envision Beckham following in the Upton brothers' footsteps and playing an OF position?
That's definitely a possibility. He will
probably be tried at third base if he is deemed incapable of playing
shortstop at the major league level. If that doesn't work, then one of
the corner outfield slots would be the next options. I don't see him in
center, however, especially with the likes of Jennings and even
Crawford in the picture.
sportznut (Clinton Twp, MI): What is the time
table for Luke Bailey to get back behind the plate? If he develops as
expected, can he be considered the Rays top catching spec?
He already did some throwing behind the
plate in instructional league and should be going strong back there
during the second half of the 2010 season, probably at Princeton but
possibly at Hudson Valley. And yes, he is the top catching prospect in
the organization at this point.
Ben (Leland Grove): Would the Rays be in the
Top 5 overall farm systems, if you had a vote? Also, along the same
lines, how many of the Top 10 would be in your Top 100 overall
In my list, yes, they would be in the top
five, probably the top three. I don't know most of the other
organization as well as the Rays, but I don't know of a stronger
organization from top to bottom than Tampa Bay's. I don't contribute to
the top 100, but I would put Jennings, Hellickson, Davis, Brignac,
Moore and probably Beckham in there.
Mike L. (Tampa, FL): With Jennings waiting in
the wings, would you trade Crawford to trim costs and augment a loaded
farm system? If so, what is he worth? How do you think Jennings would
If Jennings stayed healthy, I believe he
would be fine. Speed doesn't slump, and his approach would make his
defense and baserunning an asset, at the least. I would not trade
Crawford, simply because of what he brings to the table in terms of
putting pressure on the defense and manning left field. If the Rays can
get consistent production out of Upton in right, an outfield of
Crawford-Jennings-Upton would be fun to see.
Dale W. (Saint Petersburg, FL): Who is the better CF defender Desmond Jennings or BJ Upton? Has Jennings played any left field?
Jennings...not even close. He might have played some left over the years, but he's an outstanding center fielder.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): If Rhyne Hughes had not been traded to the Orioles where would he be in the Rays's prospect rankings?
He would have been in the 20-30 range, if he made it at all.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Pitcher Aneury Rodriquez - did he come close to making your top 10 list? What is his ceiling in your opinion?
He wasn't a strong candidate for the top
10, but he was a solid member of the top 30. I live in Asheville, NC,
and I saw him pitch for the Tourists a couple of years ago and believed
then he has big league ability. His velocity has decreased somewhat
since then, but he's a better all-around pitcher instead of a thrower.
With the Rays' ability to develop pitching talent, Rodriguez has a
solid shot at taking the mound in the big leagues in the next two years.
Henry (San Antonio, TX): After the Scott
Kazmir trade, the player I heard the most about that came to the Rays
was Matt Sweeney. What can you tell us about him?
Sweeney is a solid hitter with
above-average power who played third base in the Angels' system, but is
not likely to stay there much longer. Part of that is the presence of
Longoria, but a larger part is the fact he's a liability at the hot
corner. I see him as a corner outfielder or possibly a platoon 1b/dh
guy. He adds some much-needed power to the organization. He is a solid
return for Kazmir, especially when Cruz is added to the mix as well.
Dawson (Boise): So who is the better defender right now and who will be four years from now fro the following: Brignac, Beckham, Bartlett?
Beckham is third of the three on both
charts. Right now Bartlett may be the better fielder simply because
he's a major leaguer, but Brignac is right there after making
tremendous strides with the glove over the past two years. In four
years, Brignic will probably have the edge.
Mike (Kosovo): Why didn't the Rays every give
John Jaso a shot last year to provide a little LH offense while Navarro
was struggling? Do the Rays just not think he can catch at all?
I think the Rays have soured on Jaso as a
potential major league catcher. Some scouts believe he's a little soft
for the position, although there's no question his bat has some promise.
Brett (The ILL): As a huge Upton fan, I gotta
ask, why would Jennings push him to right? Upton is one of the best
defensive CF's around. Is it just because Upton's arm profiles better
Because Jennings is the better defender
in center fielder. To me, Jennings brings the right attitude to the
field every single night, which is something that can't always be said
about Upton. And you're right, Upton's arm would be an asset in right
Al (New York): Is it me or are there an
inordinate number of high ceiling, potential frontline LH starters
around minor league ball right now? How does Moore compare with some of
the better ones (Perez, Montgomery, Friedrich, Matzek and Crosby...to
name a few) in the minors now? Who would rank highest of this bunch?
You're right, there are a lot of
promising lefties. Based on what I saw from Moore this past season, he
has the ability to rank up there with any pitching prospect, right- or
left-handed. Give him another year of experience, probably in the
Florida State League, in 2010, and his name will be heading a lot of
top prospect lists.
Mike L. (Tampa, FL): As a Rays fan, how
worried should I be about Tim Beckham's future? He seems as if he is
developing into a tweener in many respects.
I wouldn't be worried, simply because the
Rays haven't put all of their eggs into one Beckham basket. I believe
your assessment is accurate, however, in that Beckham is looking to be
somewhat of a tweener, especially with his thick lower body.
Mike C. (Blue Ridge, VA): Thanks for the chat! How high would you rank Hellickson and Davis on your personal top 50 or 100 prospects?
Time for one more question. You're
welcome for the chat. I would have Hellickson and Davis in my top 25.
Both those guys would be No. 1's in many other organization. Thanks
again for your time and questions! Happy Holidays!