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, 2011.
Welcome to the 2012 version of the Rays top
prospects chat. Let's see what you're thinking about besides candy
canes and sugar plums...
Grant (NYC): How close to the top 10 was Derek Dietrich, and do you see him sticking in the infield?
He was close, one of those guys who
filtered in and around the top 10 but didn't quite make it. I see him
staying on the dirt, but it will likely be as a second or third baseman
down the road.
Frank (Chicago): How many of the top 10 do you believe are worthy of making BA's top 100 next year?
I don't contribute to the top 100, but I
see only Matt Moore and Hak-Ju Lee as the only sure things. Archer has
the ability to be on the list as do one or two others, but right now
Moore and Lee are the only ones I see as certainties.
@Jaypers413 (IL): After drafting Guerrieri and
Mahtook, did the Rays not have enough pennies saved to afford more of
the bigger-name guys in the Sandwich round, or did they simply choose
The Rays had so many picks in the first
two rounds this year that they could not go overboard with a high-dollar
selection. Plus, that's not the Rays operate on any level under the
current brass. I believe scouting director R.J. Harrison did an
outstanding job of balancing quality and quantity in the Rays'
@Jaypers413 (IL): Of the 2011 draft picks not on your top 10, who do you think has the highest ceiling?
Shortstop Jake Hager has a chance to be a
solid major league player. He's probably first, but lefthander Blake
Snell and third baseman Tyler Goeddel are in the conversation as well.
Ben (Leland Grove): What went wrong with Josh
Sale's swing this year, and how far down the list did he fall? Are you
confident he can regain it, and is he likely headed back to Princeton?
I believe it was more of a mental thing
than any other aspect. He got a little pull happy and seemed completely
out of rhythm. In people I've spoken with, some believe he had so many
things going through his head that it was paralysis by analysis.
Hopefully he can clear his mind this winter and arrive in spring
training with a clean slate. He's likely headed to Princeton or Hudson
Sam (Miami, FL): How do Wilking Rodriguez's pitches stack up against the others in TB's system? Is he ready for the FSL?
Rodriguez was overshadowed in 2011 after
he missed the first half of the season while remaining in extended
spring training with a shoulder injury. His arm strength has been
compared to that of Alex Colome, with his fastball registering between
90-95 mph. In addition to honing the quality of his secondary pitches,
he's learning how to set up hitters and pitch to his strengths by
getting ahead in the count. I believe he's ready for the FSL, and he
could even reach the Southern League during the latter half of the
Frank (Chicago): How does LHP Felipe Rivero compare to Enny Romero, if at all? Was he in the 11-20 range?
It's hard to compare players, but there
are similarities. Rivero has an excellent feel for pitching and mixes
his offerings effectively without depending too much on one particular
pitch. He gets in trouble when he leaves his pitches up in the strike
zone but improved as last season progressed while making impressive
strides with his overall command. He was in the 20 range but has a
chance to move up significantly by this time next year.
Mike (Tallahassee): Are the Rays still as high on BJ Upton as they were at this time last year? Gut feeling - is he going anywhere anytime soon?
This isn't really a prospect question but I
have a feeling he may be on the move in the not-too-distant future due
to his salary and projected long-term contributions. The Rays will have
options to replace Upton with younger talent, so I would not surprised
if he dealt, a la Delmon Young a few years back.
Rachel (Tampa, FL): Did Guyer's overall athleticism take a dip since last year's list, or did Morrison's improve? Who came closer to the top 10?
Guyer was a bubble top 10 guy who narrowly
missed getting in. Morrison was a little lower. Both of them are solid
athletic baseball players with Morrison simply a little more so based on
performance this past season.
Ben (Leland Grove): If you were Andrew Friedman, which starter would you trade to make room for Matt Moore in the rotation?
It all depends upon what I could get in
return. I believe James Shields would produce the largest haul, but
would it be significant enough to significantly improve the team? I
would bet no, which would lead to me shopping Wade Davis to see if I
could fill a specific hole. It's not an easy decision, that's for sure.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Is Justin O'Conner still amongst your top 30? What New Year's resolutions would you make up if you were him?
O'Conner is definitely in the top 30. It's
all about making more consistent contact and ironing a few rough spots
in his catching mechanics. He has good bat speed but struggles with his
balance and his plate discipline, which led to a strikeout rate of 40
percent. That has to improve, but O�Conner is a hard worker who has the
drive and determination to succeed.
Xavier (Denver, CO): Jason McEachern showed a few flashes of brilliance in the NY-P, but struggled in the MWL. What's the word on him?
McEachern remains a raw pitching prospect
with considerable upside but needs to start putting things together on
the mound with more consistency. You're right, he was lights out in the
NYPL but struggled in the MWL. The 2012 season is a big year for him. He
needs to step up and have a solid showing in a full-season circuit, and
the Rays are confident he will do that.
Adam (Charlotte, NC): The Rays don't seem to
think 1B is that much of a priority when drafting. What can you tell us
about 8th rounder John Alexander? Is he the Rays' best bat at that
position, or are you higher on Jeff Malm?
Nice job in noticing Alexander. He was
somewhat of a surprise with his ability to put the bat on the ball after
signing for $325,000 out of a California high school in June. The Rays
believe his power will be at least average and probably better from the
left side as his body matures. I like him better than Malm, who seems to
garner attention simply because of his solid amateur career.
Billy (Rockford, IL): Is Giants' prospect Eric Surkamp a decent comp for Kyle Lobstein?
Maybe. I don't know as much about Surkamp
as I do Lobstein. For whatever reason, Lobstein is not showing the arm
strength that he flashed in high school. The Rays expected him to add
velocity as his body matured but that has not been the case. His
fastball resides in the upper 80s with late life and he gets a good
angle on the pitch. At the same time, Lobstein has become a better
pitcher. He started pitching to contact more often last season and
batters were rarely able to barrel the ball. Evaluations are all over
the board regarding Lobstein. I like him more than many scouts do and I
believe he could pitch in the big leagues even if the power does not
Jasen (FLL): Do you think Torres can remain a starter? His measurements suggest otherwise
You are asking if I think he can. I really
do not see him as a starter in the major leagues due to his height, or
lack thereof. I do believe he has a major league arm and can be an
effective late-inning reliever. But starting every fifth day in the AL
East does not seem likely, in my opinion.
JB (Dallas): Did Grayson Garvin place in the top 20?
Garvin is definitely in the conversation,
but with so many picks and with Garvin not signing until the deadline,
he has trouble getting as much love as he might deserve. Garvin had an
excellent career at Vanderbilt but what concerned scouts prior to the
draft was that while his two pitches were enough to retire college
hitters, his chances for success in pro ball will be determined in part
by the development of his below-average slider. Hitters did not have
trouble making contact against the breaking ball. Garvin, however, has
spent some time working on new grips in order to improve his third
Tony (Lakeland, FL): What type of an offensive ceiling do you predict for Luke Bailey?
Bailey has made significant strides over
the past two years at the plate. He struggled offensively most of last
season, even after getting off to a strong start . He generates good bat
speed and is capable of driving the ball, with 25 of his 55 hits going
for extra bases. At the same time, his long uppercut swing limits the
time his bat stays in the strike zone, which resulted in strikeouts in
nearly one-third of his plate appearances. Scouts believe he could
improve his on-base percentage by leveling his swing and focusing on
making more consistent contact, especially given the fact how well he
runs. If everything comes together, Bailey has the potential to be at
least an average hitter for a major league catcher.
Mike (Central NY): How far off the top 10 was
Tyler Goeddel? Do you think he's a five tool talent, and do you think
he sticks to 3rd, or will he be moved to the outfield.
He was a few picks from the top 10 but a
solid top 30 guys. Goeddel has solid tools across the board, although
some are rawer than others. I believe he could play virtually anywhere
on the field. He has good hands, plus arm strength, and moves well
laterally, especially for a player his size. He was a shortstop in high
school and I see him sticking at third for the long haul.
Whooper (Minneapolis, MN): Why do you think Chris Archer had such a bad year numbers wise in 2011????
The Rays are wondering the same thing. For
some reason he tended to lose confidence when teams laid off the
slider, and his changeup was not good enough to get advanced hitters
out. He also struggled to repeat his mechanics, which cause more issues
with his control and command. He had a couple of good outings in
Triple-A late in the season, but the Rays right now need to see some
more development and adjustments before expecting big things from
Jason (Salem,OR): Where does Ryan Brett fit into the Rays system? Is he a top 20 guy or is his lack of size just too much to overcome?
Brett was a borderline top 10 guy. His
size is not overwhelming, but he is a grinder with solid all-around
tools. He is starting to live up to the high expectations by making
numerous adjustments in all phases of the game, especially with his
defense, where his overall actions became smoother last season. He makes
steady contact and repeats his smooth and compact swing consistently
and displays good plate discipline. I believe Brett has a chance to be a
major leaguer regardless of any perceived lack of size.
Jeff (LA): Do the Rays believe Leslie Anderson will stick at the major league level?
No. I don't believe he has enough defense or enough offensive consistency to contribute in the big leagues.
MJ (Milwaukee): What has happened to Nick Barnese? Still a decent SP prospect?
Barnese seems to have stagnated somewhat
in his development. Scouts believe his pitches do not have enough life
and crispness in order to succeed in the major leagues. He still has a
chance to develop, but he needs to alter the momentum in his overall
body of work.
Bill (Tampa): Bortnick has close to a career
860 OPS and never gets any love from you guys. I dont get it? He seems
like the perfect guy that would fit well in Tampa's system. Gets on
base, steals bases, and most importantly, he scores runs! Please
enlighten me as to why he never gets the credit he deserves.
You know, Bill, that's a good question,
because I love the guy. I believe Bortnick has a chance to not only play
in the big leagues, but be a better-than-average player at the keystone
sack. I saw him at Coastal Carolina and liked him there and believe he
has made impressive strides since college. Good speed, good motor, solid
hitter, above-average fielder. He too is a grinder, and don't be
surprised when he overcomes the naysayers. Plus, Joe Maddon really likes
Bjorn J (Target Plaza, MN): Do you think Taylor
Guerrieri's makeup concerns were overstated, and do you think that
Guerrieri has similar upside to Dylan Bundy? What pitcher currently in
the Majors draws a strong comparison to what Guerrieri could become?
I believe they were overstated. I don't
know the whole story, but there was something involving his high school
situation that led to his moving as a senior. The Rays are big on
scouting character and they believe the issues were blown out of
proportion. His upside could be in the same class as Bundy.
Adam (White Plains, NY): What's the skinny on Kes Carter? Thanks.
Carter was the 56th overall selection but
played only three games at Hudson Valley due to a lower-leg stress
fracture. An excellent all-around athlete, Carter flashes five tools. He
has a smooth stroke from the left side and has become a much more
disciplined hitter who worked hard in college on developing a
middle-away approach to drive the ball to left-center. He also reduced
his strikeout totals by becoming more patient in getting an offering he
can drive. He needs to hit left-handed pitching more consistently but
should be able to make the adjustments while seeing southpaws more often
in pro ball.
Kevin (NJ): Did you hear anything from a scouting standpoint on VSL stat-monster Oscar Hernandez?
I knew I'd get an Oscar Hernandez
question. The young man has impressive tools but he's very raw at this
point. He's flown under the radar somewhat but is likely to attract more
attention if he continues to produce this year in the U.S., either in
the GCL or Appy League. He has good bat speed with quick wrists and
solid raw power. He's definitely a player to keep an eye on.
Ron (Wisc): I know you ranked Archer highest of
the 3, but Colome, Archer, Torres all seem to me to be in range of arms
that end up "missing" or being organizational depth. Which one do you
pick as your best arm longterm with most contributions? Thanks!!
Torres attracts the most attention for his
arm strength, Archer garners love for his hard slider and projected
high ceiling, but I love the potential of what Colome brings to the
party. It would not surprise me if he had one of the breakthrough
seasons in the organization in 2012.
Brian (Vermont): Russ Canzler's not the typical high upside prospect but given his AAA production can he make in impact in the majors?
He could be a steady role player who
contributes off the pines and as a designated hitter. I would not be
surprised to see Canzler stick in 2012 with the big league club. He
brings a lot of the intangibles that Joe Maddon loves to have on his
Steve (Florida): Do you see Braulio Lara as another back end of the rotation guy or a reliever??? He is another lefty with a power arm.
Lara has a smooth and easy delivery with
his fastball but has had difficulty maintaining the same fluidity with
his secondary pitches. How he improves in that area will determine
whether he remains a starter or moves to the bullpen. Scouts are not big
on the poise he has demonstrated on the mound and believe that too will
keep him from developing into a starter at higher levels.
Pierre (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada): Do the Rays still have a top 3 farm system?
From a quantity standpoint they might be
close, but from a top-of-the-line talent perspective, probably not.
They're in the top 10, but right now I believe there is more major
league talent in a handful of other organizations.
Paul D. (San Francisco): I'm shocked Mikie
Mahtook is only #10! He's not even projected to be a starter in 2015.
He played great in college, and had a terrific pro start in the Arizona
Fall League. Why so negative on his chances to crack the roster in 3
It really isn't negativity. We try not to
project trades and free agent signings, but I honestly would be
surprised if someone like B.J. Upton was still in Tampa in 2015 if Mikie
Mahtook was considered to be a starting major league outfielder.
Mahtook will be in the big leagues, and he'll be with the Rays.
Mike (New York): Hey Bill. Thanks much for the
Given that most of the middle infielders from Asia in the past haven't
quite gotten the job done in MLB (Kaz Matsui, Tad Iguchi, Tsuyoshi
Nishioka, etc.), is there any concern about Hak-Ju Lee's ability to
translate his skills to the highest level as a starting shortstop?
Granted, he's in a different boat because 1) he's Korean (the others are
Japanese) and 2) he's been brought up through the system in America as
opposed to first playing professionally overseas. But would his
long-term potential be different in any way if he happened to be from a
different background? Dicey question, I know.
You mention some interesting points, Mike.
I don't believe the Rays have any concerns about Lee's potential,
including his nationality. As you mentioned, he's been developed
throughout his formidable years in the U.S. and he has the tools to be
successful at higher levels. Given his speed, defensive ability and
offensive potential at or near the top of the lineup, Lee should be in
the discussion among the top shortstop prospects in the minor leagues.
Guy (Hawaii): Where does Lenny Linsky rank in the organization?
Linsky is a solid top 30 guy. He's durable
and has a closer�s mentality. He was dominant in 29 1/3 innings split
between Hudson Valley and Bowling Green and should move quickly through
the organization, unlike most Rays players.
Noel (Portland, OR): I too think Archer is
destined to be a reliever. Do you think that he'll start out the year
in the AAA rotation, or will they begin grooming him to close right
I believe they want to see if he can
remain in the rotation, but I would not be surprised either to see the
Rays move him to the bullpen if he does not show some progress by
midseason. Right now he does not have a deep enough repertoire to be a
big league starter.
Mike (Montgomery, AL): What is your take on the
Matt Moore signing? It seems like a necessity for a team with a small
payroll to sign young prospects with the most potential to long term
My take is just about what you said. The
Rays try to use every option available to them and were aggressive by
signing Moore to some guaranteed money. This is a little risky on their
part, but Moore has shown to be worth that gamble.
Eric (Visalia, CA): If healthy, do you take Moore or Brett Anderson?
Moore. Nothing against Anderson, but I
love the way Moore competes in addition to his nasty repertoire. Both
are outstanding, but Moore is at the top of the charts.
Ricky D. (Montpellier, VA): Bill, thanks for
the chat. What is the Rays biggest strength in their system right
now/biggest weakness right now? Merry Christmas!
Thanks, Ricky, and Merry Christmas to you.
The biggest strength is the overall depth, especially among the
pitchers. Ironically, I would say the weakness might be the lack of
top-shelf prospects, especially after you get past Moore and Lee. From a
position standpoint, first base and left field are weaker areas than
others. Center field and second base are strengths.
Ryan (Michigan): I haven't heard Matt Sweeney's name in a while. How has he looked? Is he still a prospect?
Sweeney has been a disappointment since
coming from the Angels. The Rays had high expectations for him upon
acquiring him in the Kazmir deal, but right now he does not appear to be
on track for a major league career.
Cy (western Mass.): Hak-Ju Lee hit over .300 in A ball and under .200 in AA.
Was he just tired or in over his head?
I believe he was a little tired and a
little overmatched. He did not have a lot of time to make adjustments in
Double-A, and I believe he will do that when he returns to Montgomery
to open the 2012 season.
Jasen (FLL): Who has the better offensive tools, Vettleson or Mahtook?
I like Mahtook. I believe he's more
polished than Vettleson and still has room to improve even though he's
coming out of college.
Thanks for all the questions. There's no
way I could get to all of them but I tried to answer as many different
topics I could. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New
Year. And remember, once the New Year rolls around, it won't be long
until pitchers and catchers report. Take care!