Tampa Bay Rays: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Tampa Bay Rays: Scouting Reports

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.

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Tampa Bay Rays

At first glance, 2009 looks like a disappointment for the defending American League champion Rays.

Not only did they fail to repeat, but they also finished a distant third in the AL East. A strict budget kept them from making a major move at the trading deadline. Two weeks later, their refusal to go much over MLB's bonus recommendations kept them from signing their top two draft picks, LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroeger. At the end of August, they dealt Scott Kazmir, the best pitcher in franchise history, to the Angels in a money-saving move.

In the grand scheme of things, however, Tampa Bay believes it remains on course for long-term success. The Rays' 84 wins represented their second-highest total ever. While they lost out on Washington and Diekroeger, they paid over-slot bonuses to lock up four gifted high school draftees. Trading Kazmir—whose deteriorating command and inability to reach the 200-inning plateau convinced the front office that Wade Davis was a better fit for the rotation—yielded three promising youngsters, headlined by infielder Sean Rodriguez.

By exercising financial restraint last year, Tampa Bay should be able to keep its nucleus together in 2010. After Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, B.J. Upton and others receive significant raises via arbitration, the major league payroll will rise to the low $60 million range, the highest in club history. Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena are on the verge of free agency, and general manager Andrew Friedman hopes to sign both to long-term deals.

Other than adding a couple of relievers, the Rays are mostly set for the upcoming season. Without making a major move, they should have a more potent offense and better pitching than they did a year ago. They have a young, talented rotation with James Shields, Garza, Jeff Niemann, David Price and Davis, with Jeremy Hellickson waiting in the wings.

While the system remains deep in pitching, Tampa Bay isn't as strong in position prospects, especially power hitters. Center fielder Desmond Jennings and shortstop Reid Brignac are on the verge of helping the Rays, but there's a steep dropping in big league-ready players behind them. Shortstop Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, isn't on the fast track after a mildly disappointing first full pro season.

With that need in mind, Tampa Bay took high school bats with its first five selections in the 2009 draft and signed outfielder Todd Glaesmann, catcher Luke Bailey and first baseman Jeff Malm. The Rays will have extra choices to work with in 2010, getting compensation picks for not signing Washington and Diekroeger and for losing Gregg Zaun as a free agent. They'll add another choice if Brian Shouse signs elsewhere.

Tampa Bay also hopes to start reaping benefits from their newfound dedication to player development in Latin America. The Rays have relatively new complexes and summer leagues teams in both the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, bringing their total of minor league affiliates to nine, tops in baseball.

boost the quality of its development efforts, Tampa Bay brought back all of its minor league coaches from 2009 and added three more minor league coordinators for 2010. Bill Evers joins Jim Hoff as field coordinator, Matt Quatraro will team with Steve Livesey as hitting coordinator, and Dewey Robinson will work with Dick Bosman as pitching coordinator.

1.  Desmond Jennings, of   Born: Oct. 30, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 180
 Drafted: Itawamba (Miss.) CC, 2006 (10th round)Signed by: Rickey Drexler
Desmond JenningsBackground: A football and baseball standout in high school, Jennings turned down Alabama in order to attend Itawamba (Miss.) CC, where he earned juco all-America recognition as a wide receiver. Signed for $150,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2006, he rated as the No. 1 prospect in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2007 but missed the final month after having arthroscopic knee surgery. He played in just 24 games in 2008, missing time with back and shoulder injuries, with the latter requiring surgery. Finally healthy last season, Jennings turned in one of the best campaigns in the minors. He earned Double-A Southern League MVP honors after ranking second in hitting (.316), third in steals (37), fourth in on-base percentage (.395) and fifth in slugging (.486). His numbers improved after a late-July promotion to Triple-A, where he tied an International League record with a 7-for-7 game. He helped Durham win the league title as well as the Triple-A national championship. Jennings was the only minor leaguer to post 50 extra-base hits and 50 steals in 2009.

Strengths: Jennings has a lethal combination of speed and power that, combined with an aggressive approach and impressive overall knowledge, makes him a true game-changer. Managers rated Jennings as the best and fastest baserunner in the Southern League, as well as the best defensive outfielder and most exciting player. He has a live, athletic frame and five-tool talent that should continue to improve with experience. He has more power than most leadoff hitters, with at least 15-homer potential, and even better, he understands that his pop is secondary in importance to getting on base. He has exceptional strike-zone judgment and stays within himself by putting balls on the ground and using his speed to beat them out. With his outstanding speed and basestealing savvy, he swiped 52 bases in 59 attempts last year, including a steal of home, and took three bags in as many tries during the Futures Game. As a center fielder, he can run down balls from gap to gap. His arm is his lowest-rated tool, but it's average and he gets to balls quickly.

Weaknesses: Despite his success at the highest levels of the minors, Jennings has relatively little game experience. He didn't dedicate himself to baseball year-round until he signed in June 2006, and his injuries have limited him to 311 regular-season games since then. Additional reps will help him improve his ability to hit the ball to the opposite field as well as his reads in center field. He simply needs to continue to refine his skills against top-flight competition.

The Future: Given the Rays' conservative approach to development, Jennings could spend at least the first half of the 2010 season back in Triple-A. He looks ready to make the jump to Tampa Bay and could land there if he has a convincing showing in spring training. Regardless of his immediate future, Jennings is the club's long-term answer in center field, a potential all-star who will push B.J. Upton to right. When he arrives in the majors, Jennings will team with Carl Crawford and Upton to give Tampa Bay the most tooled-up set of outfielders in baseball.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Montgomery (AA) .316 .395 .486 383 69 121 25 8 8 45 48 52 37
Durham (AAA) .325 .419 .491 114 23 37 6 2 3 17 19 15 15
2.  Jeremy Hellickson, rhp   Born: April 8, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Des Moines, Iowa, 2005 (4th round)/strong> • Signed by: Tom Couston
Jeremy HellicksonBackground:  After leading Rays farmhands with a 2.96 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 2008, "Hellboy" was even better last season. He was much better in his second stint at Double-A Montgomery, struck out 12 in six innings in the International League playoffs and was MVP of the Triple-A national championship after working five shutout innings.

Strengths: Hellickson rarely gives hitters a chance to gain the upper hand. He works ahead in the count with impeccable command of his low-90s fastball, which touches 94 mph and has nice sink. His changeup has become a plus pitch as he has added late fade over the past two years. He can throw his solid curveball for strikes or get hitters to chase it out of the zone. He throws strikes and creates deception by delivering all of his pitches from the same arm angle.

Weaknesses: Hellickson occasionally lacks movement on his fastball, which makes him more hittable. The biggest concerns with Hellickson entering 2009 was his command, but he improved it significantly.

The Future: Hellickson has little to prove in the upper minors, but also no clear opportunity in Tampa Bay to open 2010. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he'll likely start the season in Triple-A and make his big league debut later in the year.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Montgomery (AA) 3 1 2.38 11 11 0 0 57 41 4 14 62 .198
Durham (AAA) 6 1 2.51 9 9 0 0 57 31 4 15 70 .157
3.  Wade Davis, rhp   Born: Sept. 7, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 220
 Drafted: HS—Lake Wales, Fla., 2004 (3rd round)Signed by: Kevin Elfering
Wade DavisBackground: With Scott Kazmir continually battling his command and injuries, the Rays dealt him to the Angels last August and inserted Davis into his rotation spot. He pitched a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts against the Orioles for his first big league win and looked very comfortable in the majors.

Strengths: Davis throws a heavy 93-94 mph fastball with above-average sink. His 11-to-5 curveball is also a plus pitch, arriving at 77-81 mph. He has a tall, strong frame that produces an easy delivery and an outstanding downhill plane on his pitches. The Rays also like his mental and physical toughness.

Weaknesses: Davis also throws a changeup and slider, neither of which is as consistent his two plus offerings. If he can command one of those secondary pitches and throw a few more strikes, he could be dominant at the major league level.

The Future: Barring something unexpected, Davis should be a fixture in the Tampa Bay rotation for the foreseeable future. He has the upside of a No. 2 starter, and the Rays also could be tempted to make him a closer down the road as they try to figure out how to get all of their talented young pitchers on the big league staff.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Durham (AAA) 10 8 3.40 28 28 0 0 159 139 14 60 140 .231
Tampa Bay 2 2 3.72 6 6 1 0 36 33 2 13 36 .243
4.  Matt Moore, lhp   Born: June 18, 1989B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Edgewood, N.M., 2007 (8th round)Signed by: Jack Powell
Matt MooreBackground: Stolen in the eighth round of the 2007 draft and signed for $115,000, Moore keeps getting better. After leading all pitchers in short-season leagues in strikeouts per innings (12.8) and opponent average (.154) in 2008, he topped the minors in the same categories (12.9 K/9, .195 average) as well as strikeouts (176) in his first taste of full-season ball last year.

Strengths: Moore's 90-92 mph fastball touches 94 and has impressive movement. His hard, late-breaking curveball generates awkward swings and misses. He does a great job of keeping his pitches, including a changeup with screwball-like action, down in the strike zone. He made impressive strides last year in his ability to reduce his pitch counts and work out of jams.

Weaknesses: Overall control and command of the strike zone is all Moore needs to become one of the premier prospects in the minors. He walked 33 batters in his first 35 innings last season before recovering. His changeup could use some more fade. He can work both sides of the plate with more consistency.

The Future: If Moore can locate his pitches better, he can be a frontline starter. Only 19, he's headed to high Class A and the Rays may not be able to hold him back much longer.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Bowling Green (Lo A) 8 5 3.15 26 26 0 0 123 86 6 70 176 .195
5.  Reid Brignac, ss   Born: Jan. 16, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—St. Amant, La., 2004 (2nd round)Signed by: Benny Latino
Reid BrignacBackground: With the Rays drafting Tim Beckham No. 1 overall in 2008 and Jason Bartlett blossoming into an all-star in 2009, it might be easy to overlook other shortstops in the organization. But Brignac hasn't let that happen. He has been an International League all-star and received big league cups of coffee in each of the last two years, playing capably for the Rays when needed.

Strengths: Considered an offensive-minded player early in his career, Brignac has worked hard with the leather and become one of the top defensive shortstops in the minors. He has excellent quickness and above-average arm strength, and he does an excellent job of directing the defense. He has good pop for a middle infielder and uses the entire field.

Weaknesses: Brignac is an aggressive hitter who needs to show more plate discipline. He starts trying to pull the ball during slumps, which usually acerbates the problem. More quick than fast, he's not an effective basestealer, getting caught in half of his 14 attempts in 2009. The lone complaint about his defense is that his range to the right is merely average.

The Future: After two years of Triple-A seasoning, Brignac is ready to prove himself at the game's top level. Blocked by Bartlett, he'll probably have to settle for serving the Rays in a utility role this year.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Durham (AAA) .282 .327 .417 415 51 117 28 2 8 44 27 69 5
Tampa Bay .278 .301 .444 90 10 25 8 2 1 6 3 20 2
6.  Tim Beckham, ss   Born: Jan. 27, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Griffin, Ga., 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Milt Hill
Tim BeckhamBackground: The first overall pick in the 2008 draft and the recipient of a then-record $6.15 million bonus, Beckham made steady improvements during a solid if unspectacular first full season in pro ball. After rating as the No. 1 prospect in Rookie-level Appalachian League in his pro debut, he ranked fifth in South Atlantic League last year. His older brother Jeremy played with him at low Class A Bowling Green.

Strengths: Despite hitting only five homers in 2009, Beckham has the raw strength and hitting ability to be one of the better power hitters in the system. He has plus bat speed with strong hands and wrists, and he uses his muscular legs to his advantage while staying back on the ball. Defensively, he has fluid actions, soft hands and a strong arm. He's a good baserunner with average speed but doesn't project as a basestealer. He has an outstanding work ethic.

Weaknesses: Several scouts believe Beckham's athleticism has started to decline because his lower half is getting bigger, which could necessitate a move to third base or an outfield corner. He made 43 errors last season, many because of inaccurate throws caused in part by lackadaisical footwork. His aggressive approach is a long way from being ready for the majors.

The Future: The Rays' present plan is to keep Beckham at shortstop, and third base isn't much of an option with Evan Longoria already in Tampa Bay. Beckham will spend 2010 in high Class A at age 19.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Bowling Green (Lo A) .275 .328 .389 491 58 135 33 4 5 63 34 116 13
7.  Alexander Colome, rhp   Born: Dec. 31, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 185
 Drafted: Dominican Republic, 2007Signed by: Eddy Toledo
Alexander ColomeBackground: Deemed a raw prospect with considerable promise, Colome went 1-11, 5.04 in his first two pro seasons before blossoming as the Rays hoped last summer. He led the short-season New York-Penn League in strikeouts (94 in 76 innings) and ranked second in ERA (1.66). He's the nephew of former Tampa Bay reliever Jesus Colome.

Strengths: Colome has electric stuff and tremendous upside. He has a good frame and loose arm action, and the ball jumps out of his hand when he's relaxed. His fastball has been clocked as high as 97 mph and sits at 94-95. He also throws a hard curveball with 11-to-5 break and late bite.

Weaknesses: Though he has started to harness his stuff, Colome is still in the process of controlling his pitches and commanding them in the strike zone. He has displayed a decent feel for a lively changeup, but he often throws it too hard. He tends to overthrow when behind in the count, which hurts his ability to throw strikes.

The Future: The sky is the limit for Colome once he realizes his strengths and uses them to his advantage. Even now, hitters rarely get good swings against him. Provided his changeup comes around, he has the ability to be a frontline starter. A move up to low Class A awaits.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Hudson Valley (SS) 7 4 1.66 15 15 2 0 76 46 0 32 94 .174
8.  Jake McGee, lhp   Born: Aug. 6, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 230
 Drafted: HS—Sparks, Nev., 2004 (5th round)Signed by: Fred Repke
Jake McGeeBackground: McGee was one of the best lefthanded pitching prospects in the minors when he blew out his elbow in June 2008 and had Tommy John surgery. He returned to the mound a year later, showing flashes of his former stuff while working short stints.

Strengths: Prior to his injury, McGee has a mid-90s fastball that touched 98 mph and a hard three-quarters breaking ball with good tilt. If last summer is any indication, he should get those pitches back. He also has shown good feel for a changeup that has the makings of a plus pitch.

Weaknesses: McGee struggled with his control prior to the injury, and control is often the last thing to come back following Tommy John surgery. The consistency of his release point has fluctuated throughout his career. From a command standpoint, he needs to pound the bottom half of strike zone better. If he can't improve his ability to locate his pitches, his future may be as a reliever.

The Future: The Rays were thrilled McGee got in some innings in 2009, which should allow this season to be devoted to development instead of rehabilitation. Ticketed for Double-A, he's still just 23 and has time to become a significant part of Tampa Bay's big league pitching staff.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Rays (R) 0 2 3.52 5 5 0 0 8 5 0 3 14 .172
Charlotte (Hi A) 0 2 6.45 11 11 0 0 22 26 2 9 26 .299
9.  Alex Torres, lhp   Born: Dec. 8, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 5-10Wt: 160
 Signed: Venezuela, 2005Signed by: Carlos Porte (Angels)
Alex TorresBackground: The Rays acquired Torres, Sean Rodriguez and third-base prospect Matt Sweeney when they traded Scott Kazmir to the Angels last August. After spending most of his first four pro seasons in Rookie ball, Torres made a huge jump last year, winning the high Class A Calfiornia League ERA (2.74) and performing well after a promotion to Double-A.

Strengths: Torres rarely throws the ball straight or employs the same arm angle on consecutive pitches, keeping hitters on edge. His 89-91 mph fastball has plus movement and he does a good job of using both sides of the plate. He also throws a curveball and slider, both of which are tight, sharp breaking pitches. He's an aggressive pitcher with plenty of confidence.

Weaknesses: While most observers consider Torres to be effectively wild, he needs to improve the command of all his pitches, particularly his offspeed stuff. His changeup remains a work in progress, and refining it would give him four different offerings for hitters to think about. He's undersized and runs up high pitch counts, so there are some concerns about his durability as a starter.

The Future: An offseason addition to the 40-man roster, Torres has the repertoire to be a quality big league starter. He'll likely get some more Double-A seasoning at the start of 2010, with a second-half promotion to Triple-A a possibility.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Rancho Cucamonga (Hi A) 10 3 2.74 21 19 0 0 121 93 4 63 124 .217
Arkansas (AA) 3 1 2.77 5 5 0 0 26 23 0 17 25 .245
Montgomery (AA) 0 2 3.12 2 2 0 0 9 7 1 5 7 .219
10.  Nick Barnese, rhp   Born: Jan. 11, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 170
 Drafted: HS—Simi Valley, Calif., 2007 (3rd round)Signed by: Robbie Moen
Nick BarneseBackground: Shoulder tendinitis caused Barnese to miss the first two months of last season, but he made up for lost time with a solid showing at Bowling Green. He has performed consistently while the Rays have moved him slowly, going 13-10, 2.64 with 183 strikeouts in 177 pro innings.

Strengths: Barnese is a bulldog who will challenge any hitter at any time. He uses whip-like arm action to deliver fastballs that sit at 91-92 mph and touch 94. When he stays on top of his hard slurve, it's a two-plane pitch with a sharp break. The bottom falls out of his changeup when it's at its best, and it could become a plus pitch with more consistency. He creates good deception with his over-the-head windup, high leg kick and three-quarters arm slot. He controls the running game with a quick pickoff move and good athleticism.

Weaknesses: Barnese needs to throw his breaking ball down and in more often. When he learns to command all of his pitches on the inner half of the plate, he'll be even more effective. He has strong makeup but can be his own worst enemy when he gets down on himself.

The Future: Some minor refinements and more consistency will enable Barnese to emerge as a No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues. Tampa Bay can continue to be patient with his development, which will continue in high Class A this year.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Bowling Green (Lo A) 6 5 2.53 15 15 0 0 75 56 3 25 62 .202

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