2013 Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects Chat With Bill Ballew

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.

Bill Ballew: Hello Rays fans and esteemed others. Let's see what's on your remind regarding the team's top prospects...

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks as always for the chat, Bill. Should we assume you put Guerrieri in the closer's spot on the lineup card simply because there was no room for him on the SP list of five? And does this mean you're very confident Archer won't be converted into a reliever anytime soon?

Bill Ballew: I think that's a good assessment. Right now it's really a toss-up as to what happens with several guys, including Guerrieri and Archer. Guerrieri is young and has a good ways to go, whereas Archer's command difficulties tend to come and go. Given all the depth currently in the Rays' rotation at the upper levels, it just shook out right now that Archer is a starter and Guerrieri could be a closer. Either way, it's a good problem to have.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Does Mikie Mahtook project as an everyday type of player, or is he more of a 4th OF? Was he considered for the top 10?

Bill Ballew: Mahtook was in and out of the top 10 and at the very end he got nudged out. I think he can be an everyday outfielder, especially in left field. He might be a platoon guy on a really deep team, but I believe in the near future he will have a chance to be a starting outfielder for the Rays, especially with the imminent departure of free agent B.J. Upton, which will create an opening in the outfield.

    Mike (Tampa, FL): Felipe Rivero was very impressive at Bowling Green this season, even though the Rays limited his innings. Was he close to your list, and what is his upside? Is he ready for Charlotte?

Bill Ballew: Rivero did have a solid season, and he probably is ready for the Florida State League. He was a strong contender for the top 10, not unlike several other guys, but he wasn't quite as close as Mahtook and a few others. Rivero needs to work on his secondary offerings, but he works in the low 90s and touches 95 and locates his fastball well. I feel he passed the Midwest League with flying colors and will now face more experienced hitters in the FSL.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): I realize it's difficult for relievers to make your list, but I'd like to get your input on Nick Sawyer and where he placed. He's been lights out thus far. How fast could he ascend through the system?

Bill Ballew: Sawyer is guy I really like and he's definitely a reliever to keep an eye on. He had a great start to his pro career, and he's an example of the Rays' dedication to indepth scouting. He has a relatively fresh arm after not pitching a ton in junior college and his stuff is really electric. He also seems to have the mindset to be a major contributor in the bullpen at higher levels. Some relievers come out of the gate strong and then fizzle after scouting reports are created, but I think Sawyer has a chance to be an impact guy down the road.

    Billy (Atlanta): Does Kes Carter project as a 5-tool player to you? Did he reach the 11-20 range?

Bill Ballew: Carter had a tough season on a variety of fronts and was more of a consideration for the final 10 of the top 30. He does have five-tool potential but he's also raw and needs to stay healthy. Carter had fewer than 150 at-bats between Bowling Green and the GCL this past season and struggled to find his rhythm in any phase of the game. Look for him to return to Bowling Green to open the 2013 season and then make the jump to Charlotte at mid-year if his tools shine the way they have the potential to.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Before his suspension, Josh Sale had looked a helluva lot more like the guy the Rays drafted. As he was not on the top 30 last year, did he impress you enough to get back on?

Bill Ballew: Sale definitely improved upon a disappointing first full year of pro ball, even with the suspension, which hit four members of the Bowling Green team. As a result, Sale was back in the top 30, although he really wasn't a strong consideration for the first 10. He has the potential with the bat to make an impact at higher levels but needs to refine his mental approach to the game. He did that for the most part in 2012 but some more adjustments in that phase of the game would really benefit him at higher levels.

    Morrie (NJ): Which RP impresses you more between Nick Sawyer and Lenny Linsky?

Bill Ballew: Linsky had a solid showing at Charlotte and limited opposing hitters to a .220 batting average, which led to a stint in the Arizona Fall League. He has good stuff overall, but he's not electric the way Sawyer is. Linsky has more polish of the two, but long term Sawyer probably has the edge in overall stuff and potential.

    Brent (Durham, NC): I saw Jeff Ames pitch a couple of times this year and came away thoroughly impressed. Did scouts have a similiar reaction? Was he on your list of 30?

Bill Ballew: Ames was impressive this year in the New York-Penn League and in many ways dominated the circuit. Scouts, of course, liked him as well, and he was a strong candidate for the top 10 before falling just shy of that part of the list. He has the potential to be a four-pitch pitcher but his changeup and sinking fastball need more consistency. Scouts are also a little concerned about the lack of movement when his four-seam fastball touches the mid-90s. Granted, he has yet to participate in a full-season league, so he has a lot going for him at such an early point in his career.

    Frank (Chicago): Between this year's list and last year's, which one would you choose in terms of potential?

Bill Ballew: I like this one much better than last year's. There are several guys from last year's list that did not make the top 30 this fall yet continue to have potential to be an impact player at higher levels. The Rays had a good draft in June and seem to be getting some guys moving in the right direction from both the 2010 and 2011 processes.

    Ryan (Dover, DE): How many of the top 10 are worthy of placing on BA's top 100?

Bill Ballew: I don't contribute to the top 100 but I believe Archer, Guerrieri and Lee are solid guys for that list.

    Grant (NYC): What did evaluators have to say about Todd Glaesmann? What else does he offer besides raw power?

Bill Ballew: Glaesmann is a better outfielder than he's given credit for by many observers. He has a good arm and takes good angles on balls in the gap. He runs well for his size. I believe that overall he's an underrated player who has a chance to make an even greater jump in 2013.

    Harry (Lakeland FL): Just how close was it between Archer and Guerrieri for the top spot? Who has the ceiling ceiling?

Bill Ballew: That's a good question. It was very close, and you can throw Lee into the mix as well. Given his age and success against higher-level competition, Archer is definitely the safer of the two pitchers, but I really like what Guerrieri brings to the diamond. I believe he got a bum rap surrounding the 2011 draft regarding his maturity and/or makeup and he showed this past summer that he has an great future provided he remains healthy and focused.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is Jesse Hahn slated to become a reliever in the future? How do his secondary pitches look?

Bill Ballew: Hahn was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the Rays' 2012 minor league campaign. He returned after missing two years due to Tommy John surgery and impressed in numerous ways. Hahn showed an advanced feel for pitching along with a plus four-seam fastball that sat in the 94-96 mph range and touched 99. His secondary pitches also have promise, including an overhand curveball with a sharp drop and a changeup that flashes good depth. He also has a hard slider that he threw as an amateur and started to use it again as the summer progressed even though the pitch lacked its previous sharp break. Hahn has the potential repertoire to remain a starter, but I could also see him moving to the bullpen due to his overpowering stuff and feel for getting guys out. The 2013 season should be an interesting one for Hahn.

    Brad (Tampa): How do scouts feel about Tyler Goeddel and Jake Hager? Both were the only two high school guys from their draft class to start in Low A, but neither are on this list. Which is the better prospect and what are their ceilings? Thank you.

Bill Ballew: Both guys received strong consideration for the top 10 and both finished squarely in the second 10. Goeddel and Hager are very close on the list and are also on about the same plane in terms of their development as prospects. Goeddel has a lean frame and is a good athlete who runs the bases with above-average speed and instincts. He also has a strong arm and good hands, with the Rays believing he could play any one of several positions should a need arise. Hager is a low maintenance guy with a determined work ethic that should allow him to succeed at higher levels. He's a little more advanced than Goeddel at the plate because he uses his hands very well and does a good job of employing the entire field. He has excellent pitch recognition and does a good job of waiting on the ball and going with where the ball is pitched. I believe both players could become solid contributors in the big leagues, especially one managed by Joe Maddon.

    Jake (Dallas): What is your opinion of Granden Goetzman as a prospect at this point?

Bill Ballew: Goetzman is a guy the Rays still really like but are a little frustrated with his inability to remain healthy enough to stay on the field. He played well in his 47 at-bats at Princeton, displaying the ability to drive the ball to the gaps with the bat and capable of running down balls in the middle garden. Right now he's a question mark due to his lack of activity. I think everyone would like to see what he brings to the prospect buffet that is the Rays' farm system by playing an entire season in 2013, hopefully in Bowling Green.

    Frank (Chicago): Is Brandon Martin likely to be a SS in the future? How do his defensive and offensive skills compare to Hak-Ju Lee's?

Bill Ballew: Martin does have the ability to remain at shortstop at higher levels. His offense was inconsistent at Princeton, with Martin plagued with too many strikeouts for a guy with good speed. He possesses more power at the plate than Lee and does not have as much speed, but his quick-twitch reactions should allow him to stick at short for the long haul. Martin has some things to work on, particularly in his approach with the bat, but I believe he could be a big mover on this list over the next 12 months.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Jeff Malm - prospect or suspect at this point?

Bill Ballew: My opinion is that he's more of a suspect. He's kind of a one-trick pony, which is not earth-shattering news, dating all the way back to his high school days. He's a little bit better of an athlete than some scouts give him credit for being, but his inability to dominate as a power guy leaves me believing he has too many holes in his swing to develop into an impact player in the big leagues.

    Ike (Tampa Bay): Did Luke Bailey's stock drop him from the top 30 this year? Thoughts on his progress?

Bill Ballew: I think Bailey's status remained about the same, and with more players in the system displaying above-average potential, Bailey was bypassed by several of them. That really doesn't take much away from Bailey, who does a decent job behind the plate and has power potential with the bat. Still, he needs to make significant strides in all areas of the game in order to become a true big league prospect. I believe there's still time for him to do that, but more progress needs to be seen.

    Ty (Baltimore): Who is likely to be the heir apparant once Upton leaves? Could Tim Beckham conceivably hold his own in the OF, similiar how Upton did?

Bill Ballew: Right now that's the $64,000 question in Tampa, at least as far as Upton is concerned. Even though speed is not a major part of Beckham's game, I believe he has the athleticism to be a good outfielder, although asking him to man the middle garden in the big leagues would be a tall order. I feel he's more of a corner guy for the outfield, and in my mind he's definitely more of a second baseman than a shortstop. He received some action at the keystone sack for the first time during the latter half of the 2012 campaign at Durham, which when combined with his modest adjustments made at the plate make Beckham a questionable contributor at the major league level for at least the first half of the 2013 season.

    Morrie (NJ): Did Andrew Toles get any comps from scouts this past season?

Bill Ballew: Toles definitely received a fair share of love from the scouts and could make a big jump along this list in the next year or two. A high-energy player, he is a plus-plus runner who was considered to be one of the fastest players in the 2012 draft. He runs the bases very well and covers a wide berth in the middle garden. His arm strength is above average, and he makes accurate throws with the ability to hit the cut-off man consistently. Toles' greatest need centers on adapting his strengths to the game, such as learning to bunt for base hits after having none in 2011. The Rays liked the work ethic Toles showed after joining the organization and believe he has impact skills to make a relatively quick climb through the farm system. He should be ready for Bowling Green to open the 2013 season.

    Eric (Tallahassee, FL): Your thoughts on Tyler Goeddel's season? Are you still bullish on his skills at the hot corner?

Bill Ballew: Goeddel has soft and consistent hands and a strong arm. I believe I mentioned earlier in the chat that the Rays believe he could play any number of positions well at higher levels, but he will remain at third base for the time being. If Goeddel continues to make adjustments and have success above Bowling Green, the Rays might consider moving him due to the presence of some fellow named Longoria. But for the time being, he's at the hot corner and should continue to make strides in his development.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Is Justin O'Conner's plate discipline likely to remain a problem in the foreseeable future? How did he look to evaluators as a catcher this year?

Bill Ballew: O'Conner has solid catch-and-throw skills but needs to become effective with the bat, especially with his plate discipline, as you mentioned. Much like fellow receiver Luke Bailey, O'Conner hasn't made tremendous strides with his development and needs to show more progress in order to remain one of the organization's better prospects.

    Sammy (Washington DC): Who would you say is the system's biggest sleeper going into next year?

Bill Ballew: I've hinted at this in a few answers, but Nick Sawyer has a lot of potential, as does Todd Glaesmann, Brandon Martin and Andrew Toles. Toles and Martin have a chance to really break out if they make the proper strides in their respective games.

    Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Do you see the Rays moving Shaffer to 1B next year? Might as well start his work there and not delay the inevitable any longer, don't you agree? He's not going to be playing 3B with Longoria around. Thanks for the chat.

Bill Ballew: No problem regarding the chat, Michael. If Shaffer is as far along with the bat as some people in the organization believe he is, then you would think the move to first would be a no-brainer, and the sooner the better. I believe the organization's typically conservative ways doesn't want to put that type of pressure on Shaffer just yet in hopes that he can continue to build a solid foundation at the plate without having to worry about the nuances of changing positions. Right field is also a potential home for Shaffer, but I feel that being as tall as he is that first base is where he belongs. Don't be surprised if the move to first isn't made by the middle of the 2013 season.

    Trent (Detroit): Do you see Spencer Edwards hitting enough to be a big league starter at SS?

Bill Ballew: Edwards is obviously a long way from reaching the big leagues after being drafted this past June. The 2013 season will be a big one for him regarding his future position. Edwards struggled with the leather during his first taste of pro ball while also appearing overwhelmed at the plate. The Rays want him to relax and play his game in order to determine where he fits best. But if I had to predict, I see him moving to either second or third base.

    Al (NYC): Given the Rays' lack of stability at the SS position in recent years, how likely would it be that Lee breaks camp as their SS to begin the season?

Bill Ballew: It's a possibility if Lee shows the ability to make consistent contact during spring training. I feel he took a little bit of a step back in all areas of the game in 2012 while playing in the Southern League, so making the jump to the big leagues might be a little unrealistic at this point. But you make a good point that short has not been a steady position for the Rays and it would appear that the job is wide open heading into 2013.

    Cy (Western Mass): Hi Bill, Enny Romero continues to add pieces to his puzzle. Is he on the verge of putting it all together? Thanks.

Bill Ballew: I believe Romero is on the verge of putting it all together. He has the God-given ability to be an impact pitcher at the major league level and he was dominating at times in the Florida State League. Control is the biggest issue with him at this point, but I believe he's made some big strides of late and could become an impact guy, especially in the bullpen, with Tampa in the next two or three years.

    Brett (The ILL): What are thoughts on Ryan Brett and where will he rank? Has his suspension changed opinion much?

Bill Ballew: Time for just a few more... Finally, a Ryan Brett question! He's definitely one of the guys on Santa's naughty list but the Rays realize young players make stupid mistakes and are willing to forget and forgive if the player shows he's learned from the miscue. Brett has a blue-collar approach at the top of the lineup, above-average speed, makes consistent contact and can drive the ball in the gaps with his short, compact swing and solid knowledge of the strike zone. I like Brett a lot and believe he's ready to make an impact in the Florida State League in 2013.

    Andrew (Minneapolis): What's the buzz on Parker Markel? Seems like an interesting arm progressing nicely in the lower minors for the Rays.

Bill Ballew: You're correct, Andrew, he is making solid progress and is one of the top right-handed arms in the organization. Markel has raw arm strength that resides in the mid-90s and he is learning how to use it. Maintaining a consistent release point with his low three-quarters delivery has been Markel's biggest problem. His power arm is likely better suited for the bullpen at the major league level, but he will remain a starter for the time being in hopes of gaining more consistency with all of his pitches while honing his mechanics.

    Jack (Toronto): The Rays used to have a farm system power-house, but most of that has graduated. Right now where would you rank the Rays prospects compared to the rest of the league?

Bill Ballew: The Rays have more depth than top prospects, especially after you get past the top three guys. The Rays are hoping that quality will emerge from quantity, and based on the 2012 season, that approach appears to be headed in the right direction. Time will tell, of course, but it seems to me that many of the players will fit nicely at the major league level, based on the way Joe Maddon loves to mix and match his lineups on a daily basis.

    Jim (Atlanta): Any chance that Derek Dietrich can get the 2B gig over Beckham?

Bill Ballew: I believe that is possible, Jim. Dietrich has the ability to be a Jeff Kent type of player in my opinion. He has excellent power and solid hands after manning third base early in his career. The Rays really want to see Beckham succeed, but Dietrich may prove to be the safer bet. Sorry I couldn't get to all of the questions, but I really appreciate everyone taking the time to participate. More top prospects chats to follow this week, so keep the stove burning hot! Thanks again!