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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. 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. Despite his success at the highest levels of the minors, Jennings has relatively little game experience. He didn't dedicate himself to baseball 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. 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.
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. 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. Hellickson occasionally lacks movement on his fastball, which makes him more hittable. With further improvement to his curveball, he could have three above-average pitches. The biggest concerns with Hellickson entering 2009 was his command, but he improved it significantly. 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.
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. 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. Davis also throws a changeup and slider, neither of which is as consistent as 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. Brignac is an aggressive hitter who needs to show more plate discipline. He starts trying to pull the ball during slumps, which usually exacerbates 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. 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.
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. 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. 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 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.
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. 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. 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 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.
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. 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. 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 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
After bringing in Lobstein for a $1.5 million bonus at the signing deadline in 2008, the Rays received their first significant look at the lefthander last summer. They were pleased with the early returns. Lobstein seemed to get stronger as the season progressed, tossing a pair of seven-inning shutouts in August. A former two-way player who had committed to Arizona before he signed with Tampa Bay, Lobstein has an ideal pitcher's frame with an easy arm action and flawless mechanics. He has an advanced feel for pitching, good overall command and impressive mound presence, which reminds some scouts of a young Andy Pettitte. Lobstein's fastball is inconsistent, fluctuating from 85-88 mph to 89-91, but either way it's effective because of its movement and deception. The Rays believe his velocity will settle in the low 90s once his body matures. His curveball features a sharp downhill break in the upper 70s. He shows good feel for the changeup but is working to improve its depth and fade. If the complete package comes together, Lobstein will be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter in the major leagues. He'll open 2010 in low Class A.
Regarded as one of the top high school catchers in the 2009 draft heading into the spring, Bailey strained an elbow ligament while pitching and had Tommy John surgery. Given the success rate of elbow reconstructions, the Rays saw little risk in using their fourth-round pick on Bailey, who passed up a scholarship to Auburn and signed for $750,000. He has above-average raw power and makes consistent contact. His power production dropped during his senior year, but scouts believe he was tinkering too much with his timing mechanisms while trying to make a good impression. Bailey has solid athleticism and surprising speed, and he also has played the infield corners in addition to catching. Before his injury, he had above-average arm strength with excellent carry and accuracy on his throws. He moves well behind the plate with steady footwork and soft hands. His makeup is considered a strength as well, and he showed his toughness by playing with a broken rib as a junior. Bailey's rehab has gone well and Tampa Bay expects him to make his pro debut during the summer. While the start of his pro career has been delayed, he has the raw tools to emerge as the top catcher in the organization.
Cruz is behind in his development compared to pitchers ranked ahead of him on this list, but his upside is impressive, particularly considering how far he has already come. The lanky hurler, whose 6-foot-4 frame still offers projectability, has a smooth delivery with a loose, fluid arm action. He gets good extension that makes his pitches look as if they're jumping out of his hand. Cruz throws his fastball at 92-94 mph and touches 96. He's still learning how to throw his offspeed pitches, a decent curveball with some bite and a fringy changeup. While his control is good, he needs to throw more quality strikes. He also must manage his emotions on the mound. When Cruz keeps his pitches down in the zone he can be close to unhittable, with several Rays officials comparing him to a young Matt Garza. That makes Cruz a steal as a former 30th-round pick who signed for $100,000. Ticketed for high Class A Charlotte in 2010, he can become a solid major league starter if his secondary pitches develop. If not, his live arm could work well out of the bullpen.
As an amateur, Morrison played in Virginia and Hawaii before finishing high school in Oregon. He signed with the Rays for $500,000 at the deadline in 2008 as a fourth-round pick, and has spent his first two pro seasons at Rookie-level Princeton. A fast-twitch athlete with broad shoulders and a frame that should allow him to get bigger and stronger as he matures, Morrison has excellent baseball instincts and aptitude. The Rays envision him developing into a top-of-the-order threat. He impressed with his keen batting eye during extended spring training, though he struck out too much during the season. He has excellent quickness and plus speed, and he is adept at stealing bases and beating out bunts. He also has decent pull power from the left side of the plate, and should have slightly above-average bat speed once he adds strength. Morrison covers a lot of ground in center field, though he still needs work on getting better jumps and taking more direct routes to balls. His arm is his worst tool, grading at slightly below average. Morrison made as much progress as any prospect in the organization last year, and Tampa Bay hopes for more of the same when he plays in low Class A in 2010.
After playing with the Rays down the stretch in 2008 and earning a spot on their postseason roster, Perez entered last year as a strong candidate to be their fourth outfielder. That plan unraveled in late March when he dislocated his left wrist and had surgery. The highest player ever drafted out of Columbia (seventh round), he traveled with the big league club throughout the season in order to get better acclimated to the big leagues, and got into 18 games in September. Perez's game is centered on speed, with several scouts saying he's as close to an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale as anyone in professional baseball. He has an incredible first step, which allows him to get great jumps in center field as well as on the basepaths. He has improved his technique by getting bigger leads on stolen-base attempts and taking better routes on balls in the gaps. His arm strength rates as average and he makes accurate throws. A switch-hitter since 2006, Perez must reduce his high strikeout totals and make more consistent contact, particularly from the left side. He also needs to continue honing a small-ball approach, with a focus on improving his bunting. He has a little pop and can hit an occasional home run. While Perez would be a big league starter for some teams, his future with Tampa Bay is unclear with the emergence of Desmond Jennings and presence of Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton. He should land a big league job this year as a backup outfielder and pinch-runner.
Because the Rays couldn't reach deals with their first- and second-round picks, Glaesmann emerged as their top signee from the 2009 draft. An athletic outfielder who had an impressive senior high school season, he signed for $930,000 while turning down an opportunity to play at Texas A&M. He didn't stand out during the showcase circuit in the summer of 2008, then tore a thumb ligament in the fall while playing football. The package came together, however, as the baseball season progressed, and Glaesmann now rates at least average with all five tools. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he has a frame that should produce power once he learns to add loft to his line-drive swing. His speed is also above average, both on the basepaths and in the field. So is his arm strength, which will allow him to make the move from center to right field if needed. Glaesmann will need to shorten his swing in order to make more consistent contact at higher levels, but otherwise he just needs to polish the tools he has. He'll play the entire 2010 season at 19, so he'll probably spend the summer at Princeton.
After two years of relieving in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League, Rodriguez made an impressive step forward in 2009 as he made the transition to starting at Princeton. With some of the best all-around stuff in the Appalachian League, he rated as the circuit's No. 3 prospect despite winning only once in 13 starts. Rodriguez has a quick arm that produces a fastball that parks at 92-93 mph and touches 96. He also has a plus power curveball with tight spin and late bite. With a thick lower half and the ability to drive off his strong legs, Rodriguez could be an innings-eater at higher levels. He tends to overthrow on occasion, which hurts his control, and he has a habit of relying too much on his curve. He's working on his changeup, which shows promise despite a lack of fade and depth at this point. Rodriguez's mechanics are clean. He shows excellent poise and above-average command for his age. The Rays rarely push young players, particularly pitchers, but Rodriguez could jump to low Class A with a strong showing in spring training.
O'Malley put together his best season as a pro last year, turning a corner in his development as a hitter. A career .237 hitter through his first three seasons, he batted .268 in high Class A and .313 in the Arizona Fall League. At the plate, the switch-hitting O'Malley focuses on making line-drive contact and using his speed. Despite having little power, he will turn on pitches, and he also hit to the opposite field with more consistency in 2009. His plate discipline improved dramatically, as he led the Florida State League with a .388 on-base percentage and ranked third in the AFL with a .470 OBP. He has become an excellent basestealer, succeeding on 40 of 52 attempts last year. A hustle player who comes to the ballpark ready to play every day, O'Malley has a strong arm at shortstop, along with above-average range and soft hands. With his athleticism and defensive savvy, he'll be able to play shortstop at higher levels and could be valuable as a utilityman. Jason Bartlett, Reid Brignac and Tim Beckham are ahead of him on Tampa Bay's depth chart, so O'Malley has his work cut out for him to become a starting shortstop for the Rays. He'll spend 2010 honing his skills in Double-A.
While most teams thought Malm was headed to Southern California to play for head coach and family friend Chad Kreuter, Tampa Bay was able to sign him last August for $680,000 as a fifth-round pick, adding a much needed big bat with power potential into the organization. Malm was a fixture on the national youth circuit for years. He was the youngest player on the U.S. junior national team in 2007 and the only underclassman to earn a spot in the Cape Cod High School Classic that summer. Playing for powerhouse Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, Malm helped the team to state championships in all four of his seasons and tied a national high school record with 277 career hits. He draws comparisons to Travis Hafner with his big build and ability to swing the bat. He has a sweet lefthanded stroke and manages the strike zone well. The only question some scouts have about his offensive potential is how much pop he'll have with wood bats, but he has the size and strength to develop at least average power. Malm has a strong arm and was clocked at 87-89 mph off the mound, but his lack of overall athleticism is expected to limit him to first base, where his defense is a tick above average. He's a below-average runner but could improve as he loses some of the baby fat on his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame. After a seven-game debut last summer, Malm will get his first extended pro experience at either Princeton or Hudson Valley in 2010.
Suarez was the winning pitcher on Opening Night for Hudson Valley last season, and he was pitching well in his second start against Staten Island before departing in the fifth inning. A week later he found out he needed Tommy John surgery. A product of the Rays' recent focus on Venezuela, he drew comparisons to Freddy Garcia during his 2008 pro debut. Prior to his injury, Suarez showed a fluid delivery and threw the ball on a sharp downhill plane, generating a 93-94 mph fastball and improving offspeed pitches. Though somewhat inconsistent, his curveball had good break, and he made strides with a promising changeup. Suarez has impressive control for a youngster, with just nine walks in 53 minor league innings. His makeup is considered a major asset as well. He has made a concerted effort to learn English in order to communicate better and hasten his development. Suarez has made steady progress in his rehabilitation, and Tampa Bay thinks his injury will be little more than a minor bump on his road to the majors. The Rays hope he'll be able to pitch in games late in the 2010 season.
His stuff doesn't blow scouts away, but Cobb continues to make steady improvements in all phases of his game. A high school quarterback who had scholarship offers from several college programs, he has an advanced feel for pitching. His best pitch is an 11-to-5 curveball that he'll throw at any time in the count. In fact, there are occasions when Cobb uses his curve too much at the expense of his other pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90s and plays up because his breaking ball is so effective. His changeup has good sinking action and looks like a splitter at times. While he has very good control, Cobb needs to improve his fastball command and use his heater to get ahead of hitters. His climb through the system should continue in Double-A this year, and he has the ability to start in the middle of a major league rotation.
The Rays ruined Texas A&M's outfield plans by signing two of their recruits, third-round pick Todd Glaesmann and seventh-rounder Rogers, out of the 2009 draft. Rogers agreed to a $125,000 bonus, then earned Appalachian League all-star honors with a strong all-around effort. A lefthanded hitter, he has solid hitting ability with good bat speed, a natural feel for making contact and decent power. Tampa Bay is impressed with his strong wrists and solid approach at the plate, believing that he'll add extra-base pop as he matures and gets stronger. Employing an open stance, he gets in trouble when he becomes too pull-conscious, and he needs to use the opposite field when pitchers work him on the outer half. While he's a good athlete with the range to play center field, Rogers' lack of arm strength could make him a left fielder. His game is raw in many respects, but the Rays think he'll make steady progress as he continues to play every day. He's expected to play at short-season Hudson Valley in 2010, though a strong spring could land him in low Class A.
Newmann didn't make his pro debut until nearly five years after he was first drafted, but he looks like he might be worth the wait. The Indians took him in the 24th round in 2004, when he led San Jacinto (Texas) to the finals of the Junior College World Series by pitching a one-hitter in the opener and recording three subsequent saves. He missed the next two seasons after Tommy John surgery, but bounced back to go 11-1, 2.98 for Texas A&M in 2007. The Rays took him in the fourth round that year, but he signed too late to play that summer and then missed the 2008 season after tearing a knee ligament during spring training. He finally made his pro debut in 2009 in high Class A, turning in a solid regular-season showing before excelling in the Florida State League playoffs. Newmann gets heavy sink on his 89-92 mph fastball. His curveball can be an out pitch when it's on, though it still has room for improvement. He also throws a solid-average changeup. His command can be inconsistent, but he competes well and hitters rarely make hard contact against him. At this point, Newmann just needs to stay healthy and log innings in order to fulfill his potential. His next challenge will come in Double-A this year.
Overlooked in the 2006 draft, Sweeney signed with the Angels for $75,000 as an eighth-rounder and quickly established himself as one of the top power hitters in their system. But he hurt his ankle when he was hit by a pitch at the end of the 2007 season, and subsequent surgery to remove bone chips and repair ligament damage cost him all of 2008. His bat was as potent as ever when he returned last season, though he missed two months with a chipped bone in his hip. His injury history didn't scare off the Rays, who acquired him as part of the Scott Kazmir trade in August. With his strength and balance and the loft in his swing, Sweeney is primed to do a lot of damage at the plate. He has good pitch-recognition skills, though he can get very aggressive at the plate. He had below-average speed, agility and defensive ability before he got hurt, and the injuries haven't helped. He has enough arm to play third base, but he has a career .860 fielding percentage at the hot corner and most scouts project him as a first baseman. Tampa Bay wants to see him play a full, healthy season in Double-A before determining his defensive home.
Some scouts in the organization see McEachern as a righthanded version of Kyle Lobstein. The lanky hurler has shown excellent overall control and the ability to control the tempo and get hitters out. He has a career 2.12 ERA in two pro seasons since signing for $90,000 as a 13th-round pick. He didn't attract much attention in the 2008 draft because he threw in the low 80s in the summer before his senior year and teams thought he'd be tough to sign away from Wingate (N.C.), an NCAA Division II school. McEachern arrived in spring training last year looking bigger, stronger and more mature, exactly what the Rays had hoped to see. He also has shown gradual improvement with all of his pitches. His fastball resides at 89-91 mph, and he backs it up with a solid curveball and changeup. He works both sides of the plate, keeps his offerings down in the strike zone and can get batters to chase pitches up. Expected to be part of the Bowling Green rotation at age 19 this season, he simply needs experience against better competition in order to maintain his progress.
De los Santos may not have as high a ceiling as other pitchers in the system, but that doesn't detract from his solid 2009 season and overall steady progress. He has a live arm and works well off his 91-93 mph fastball. He labored diligently on his hard slider and changeup last year and threw strikes with both pitches, and his overall command improved considerably. His slider needs more consistency and sharper break, and he has flirted with switching to more of a cutter. Even without a quality breaking ball, lefthanders rarely take good cuts against him and posted a .485 OPS against him last season. The Rays like de los Santos' fearless, competitive approach and his outgoing personality. He has made a strong effort to become fluent in English and has shown the willingness to do whatever it takes to reach the big leagues. He's undersized but has good mound presence and challenges hitters. Most likely a situational reliever at the major league level, de los Santos must continue to refine his complementary pitches this year in high Class A.
Acquired from the Rockies for righthander Jason Hammel at the end of spring training last year, Rodriguez struggled with his mechanics shortly after joining the Rays but gradually made adjustments. In addition to cleaning up his delivery, he developed his changeup, dramatically improving the fade on the pitch. He also tightened the spin on his curveball, which allowed him to throw both of his offspeed offerings for strikes. Montgomery pitching coach Neil Allen worked with Rodriguez to create a hesitation in his delivery, allowing him to stay over the rubber better and generate more downhill plane with his pitches. The lingering concern with Rodriguez centers on the velocity of his fastball. Clocked at 92-94 mph with the Rockies, he sat at 89-91 mph with his fastball and didn't miss as many bats last year. He tends to overthrow when he gets in jams but has made progress in going from a thrower to a pitcher. Rodriguez should reach Triple-A at some point in 2010.
Gorgen has made a seamless transition from college to the minors. He has 32 saves and a 1.35 ERA since signing for $125,000 as a 16th-round pick in 2008. He's the twin brother of Cardinals rigthhander Scott Gorgen, and while both are fearless on the mound, their styles are totally different. Scott relies heavily on his changeup, while Matt is a classic hard-charging reliever. His 91-92 mph fastball has been clocked as high as 95, and his 80- 81 mph slider can be an out pitch. He has been working on a changeup, but it's still inconsistent and not nearly as good as his brother's. Gorgen needs to command his pitches better after posting a 10.38 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. He projects as a middle reliever or set-up man at the major league level. A return to Double-A, where he pitched well at the end of 2009, is next on his agenda.
Jefferies shared Big West Conference player of the year honors in 2008, then had a solid pro debut after the Rays drafted him in the third round. An offensive-minded catcher, he's a contact-oriented hitter who should improve as he learns the nuances of how pitchers are trying to attack him. After being tough to strike out in college, he often went out of the strike zone early in the count last year, which took a toll on his batting average and overall production. He uses the entire field and could hit for more power as his approach improves. Jefferies arrived in spring training last year too bulky and tight after an offseason of weight training, which affected his throwing. Once he reduced his bulk and his entire body became looser, he made steady strides, dropping his pop times from a well below-average 2.3 seconds to a fringy 2.0. He threw out 26 percent of basestealers. Jefferies has focused on becoming more agile, and his footwork, blocking ability and overall quickness behind the plate improved. He works well with pitchers and calls a good game. Though he has below-average speed, he runs well for a catcher and has good instincts. Jefferies successfully made several adjustments last year, setting up for a solid season in high Class A in 2010.
When Tampa Bay failed to sign its top two picks in the 2009 draft, James wound up as one of the beneficiaries. The Rays drafted James in the ninth round and became determined to sign him after scouting him over the summer. With unspent money in the draft budget, they found $625,000 to steer him away from attending Boston College. Easily the best draft prospect in Wisconsin last year, James showed flashes of ability but often struggled against weak competition. He has a lightning-quick arm that produces fastballs that sit at 90-91 mph and touch 93. His curveball is an above-average pitch when he stays on line to the plate, while his changeup shows enough promise that he could have three solid offerings. He has outstanding body control, particularly for such a tall pitcher, as well as above-average athleticism. He has wide shoulders with a frame reminiscent of a young Jake McGee, and the chance to fill out. In addition to honing his command and the quality of all his pitches, James needs to mature and control his emotions better on the mound. The Rays believe he has a high ceiling and will be patient with his development. After working just one inning in his pro debut, he'll pitch in Rookie ball in 2010.
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