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After leading the minors in strikeouts in 2009 and 2010, Moore brought even more to the table in 2011. He went a combined 12-3, 1.92 between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, threw a no-hitter in June and pitched a perfect inning in the Futures Game. He finished second in the minors in ERA, strikeouts (a career high 210) and opponent average (.184). Moore then distinguished himself further following a September callup. He won his first major league start with five shutout innings at Yankee Stadium, then two-hit the Rangers over seven shutout innings to win the opening game of the American League Division Series. Not bad for an eighth-round pick out of a New Mexico high school who signed for $115,000 in 2007. Moore was the top prep prospect in a state that's not heavily scouted, and he fell through the cracks. There's no question that Moore is the top pitching prospect in baseball. He reported to Double-A in April as equal parts thrower and pitcher before refining his mechanics and improving the quality of his secondary offerings. Moore has displayed an electric arm with easy action since he signed with the Rays. His fastball sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97 when he reaches back for a little extra. He has significantly upgraded his fastball command and now pounds the lower reaches of the strike zone on both sides of the plate. His curveball is also a plus-plus pitch, especially when he keeps his fingers above the ball and creates sharp, quick break and late bite. When he didn't stay on top of his curve at the Futures Game, it morphed into a nasty 86-87 mph slider. Moore gained a better feel in 2011 for his changeup, a pitch he throws with good arm speed to create deception and fade. His changeup is often a plus pitch and allows him to control opponents' bat speed and work deeper into games. Moore's an intelligent pitcher with tremendous mound presence, and he wasn't bothered by the challenges Tampa Bay presented him with during his taste of the big leagues. He controls the running game well, as only eight of 14 basestealers succeeded against him in 2011. With above-average or better grades in every facet of his game, Moore is an ace waiting to happen. Scouts say he has better pure stuff than David Price, whom the Rays selected 244 picks ahead of him in the 2007 draft. Moore doesn't have anything left to prove in the minors, where he has gone 28-21, 2.64 with 700 strikeouts in 497 innings. Despite his minimal big league experience, the Rays locked him up for the long term in December, giving him a five-year, $14 million contract that includes another $26 million in options for 2017-19.
Signed for $725,000 by the Cubs in 2008, Lee was a huge part of the eight-player Matt Garza trade last January. He overcame chicken pox at the start of the 2011 season to hit safely in his first 14 games at high Class A Charlotte. He played in his second straight Futures Game before moving up to Double-A for the final month. An exciting player who employs speed and quickness in all aspects of his game, Lee has impressive footwork, plus range and an uncanny ability to read balls. Managers have rated him the best defensive shortstop in his league the past two years, and he has soft hands, a strong arm and a quick release. Using a line-drive stroke, Lee finished third in the Florida State League with a .318 average in 2011. He slapped the ball to the opposite field early in the season before becoming more proficient at turning on pitches. While his home run power is limited, his speed produces doubles and triples. He's learning how to read pitchers in order to become a better basestealer and could swipe 30-plus bases annually in the big leagues. Lee is a pure shortstop who should emerge as a starter and possibly an all-star. He'll return to Montgomery to open 2012 and could reach Tampa Bay by mid-2013.
Archer struggled for three years in the Indians system before joining the Cubs in a trade for Mark DeRosa in December 2008. By the time he was included in the Matt Garza trade last January, Archer ranked as Chicago's No. 1 prospect. Despite an uneven showing in his first season in the Rays system, he recorded a 3.25 ERA over the final three months. Archer has impressive size and a quick arm that generates a power fastball/slider combo. His heater resides at 90-95 mph and touches 97 with run and sink. He falls in love with his plus-plus slider, an 86-88 mph offering with incredible tilt and good depth. He'll need to improve his below-average changeup in order to remain a starter. He struggles at times to repeat his delivery, which leads to control issues. He led the Double-A Southern League with 18 wild pitches and ranked third with 80 walks in 2011. Archer has the stuff to challenge hitters and succeed in the front half of a major league rotation. He also would have what it takes to become a closer. He'll open 2012 in Durham and should make his big league debut at some point during the year.
Guerrieri had one of the best arms in the 2011 draft, yet the Rays were able to nab him with the 24th overall pick. He slid somewhat because of questions regarding his makeup that arose after he switched high schools for his senior year. Tampa Bay believed the situation was overblown and signed him for $1.6 million at the Aug. 15 deadline. Guerrieri has matured physically in the last year, allowing him to repeat his mechanics more consistently and adding 6-7 mph to his fastball. With a clean arm action and a high three-quarters arm slot, he delivers easy gas. His fastball sits at 93-96 mph with good life and has been clocked up to 98. It sinks and runs when he throws to the right side of the plate and features heavy sink when he works the left side. Guerrieri's 11-to-5 curveball, which he throws with his middle finger tucked under his index finger, is also a power pitch in the low 80s. He also throws a cutter and changeup that show promise despite being rarely used in high school. Improving his overall command is his main priority. Guerrieri has the potential to become a frontline starter, and the Rays have an impressive track record of developing young pitchers. He'll probably open 2012 in extended spring training and make his pro debut at Rookie-level Princeton in June.
The nephew of former Rays reliever Jesus Colome, Alex spent three seasons in shortseason league before making his full-season debut in 2010. He pitched a career-high 158 innings and reached Double-A in 2011, when he ranked second in the system with 12 wins. He finished with a strong relief stint in the Venezuelan League, and Tampa Bay protected him on its 40-man roster. Colome reminds scouts of his uncle with his electric arm. He throws a sinking fastball that sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97 with armside run. His heater doesn't have a lot of deception but comes out of his hand easily. He complements it with a sharp curveball with good rotation and a fringy upper-80s slider with decent tilt. Colome has impressive late fade on his changeup at times. Because Colome is long-limbed, his arm slot can get out of sync, leading to a lack of fastball command. He overthrows on occasion and goes for strikeouts, which limits his effectiveness. While the Rays believe Colome can develop into at least a No. 3 starter, he may be better suited as a reliever if he can't refine his changeup and command. He'll remain in the rotation for now when he returns to Montgomery to open 2012.
Acquired along with Sean Rodriguez and first-base prospect Matt Sweeney in the Scott Kazmir trade with the Angels in August 2009, Torres encountered a roller-coaster ride when he got to Triple-A for the first time in 2011. He gave up five earned runs in his first six starts, then 25 in his next six before posting a 2.17 ERA the rest of the way. He pitched five shutout innings against the Blue Jays to earn his first big league win in a crucial victory on Sept. 24. Torres has the potential for three plus pitches, which helped him lead the International League with 156 strikeouts and rank fourth with a 3.08 ERA. Though he's not a big guy, he generates lively low-90s fastballs with his strong lower half. He has an above-average changeup with good depth that he'll throw in any count. His curveball has the makings of a plus offering but he struggles to maintain his feel for it. Torres throws across his body, which provides movement and deception for his pitches, but it also leads to control woes when he fails to repeat his mechanics. He topped the IL with 83 walks. Provided he can harness his control and command, Torres can be a No. 3 starter. Tampa Bay's rotation is crowded, so he'll return to Durham to start 2012.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft and recipient of a Rays draft-record $6.15 million bonus, Beckham lost luster by hitting .263/.332/.371 in his first three pro seasons. He boosted his stock in 2011, making solid progess in the upper minors at age 21 and appearing in his first Futures Game. His .736 OPS was his career best, and his 12 homers matched his previous career total. Beckham took a step forward offensively once he improved his pitch recognition and started swinging at more strikes. While he must continue to refine his approach, he didn't give away as many at-bats and showed hints of plus power potential. He also displayed more mental and physical maturity and looked more confident. Most scouts say that Beckham won't be able to stay in the middle infield because he has a thick lower half and fringy speed and range. He does have an above-average arm and has gotten more consistent making routine plays, but he's probably going to wind up on an infield or outfield corner. While Beckham remains a work in progress, he could still develop into a big league regular. He'll spend most of 2012 in Durham and may start to see time at positions other than shortstop.
A product of the Rays' increased presence in Latin America, Romero led the Rookielevel Appalachian League with a 1.95 ERA in his 2010 U.S. debut. In his first taste of full-season ball in 2011, he ranked second in the low Class A Midwest League with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Romero is an extremely projectable lefthander. He already throws 92-97 mph fastballs with armside run with a whip-like delivery that looks effortless, and his lanky frame has lots of room to fill out. He also throws a firm curveball in the low 80s. His curve lacks consistency, though when it's on, it breaks straight down from his high three-quarters arm slot. Romero's changeup shows promise but he struggles to command it. Scouts believe his command issues with his secondary pitches stem from his inability to repeat his delivery, which could improve as he matures physically. Following in the footsteps of David Price and Matt Moore, Romero is Tampa Bay's latest high-ceiling lefty. He won't develop as quickly as they did, but Romero has a chance to be a frontline starter. If he can't harness his secondary pitches, he could be a late-inning reliever. He figures to spend the entire 2012 season in high Class A.
The Rays sent their top three 2010 draft picks to Princeton last summer, and supplemental first-round pick Vettleson outperformed first-rounders Josh Sale and Justin O'Conner. Vettleson batted .343/.406/.571 through July before running out of gas in the final month. Signed for $845,000, he drew attention as a switch-pitcher in high school, but his pure hitting ability meant his future would be as an everyday player. For a young player, Vettleson has an impressive, disciplined approach at the plate. He displays outstanding hand-eye coordination and barrels the ball easily with solid bat control. He does a good job of going with pitches and using the entire field. Though somewhat lean, he should develop average or better power as his body continues to mature. Vettleson's speed rates a tick above-average but plays up thanks to his excellent baserunning instincts. He also runs well in the outfield and has solid arm strength that should allow him to stay in right field at higher levels. He'll need to get stronger to deal with the grind of a full pro season. Tampa Bay has plenty of outfield options, meaning there's no need to rush Vettleson. He's at least three years from reaching the majors but should be worth the wait. His methodical ascension will continue in 2012 with a promotion to low Class A Bowling Green.
A star quarterback in high school, Mahtook turned down the Marlins as a 39th-rounder in 2008 to attend Louisiana State. He helped the Tigers win the 2009 College World Series as a freshman. Last spring, he led the Southeastern Conference in hitting (.383) and steals (29) while reaching base in all 56 games he played. The Rays were delighted he was available with the 31st overall pick in June and signed him for $1.15 million at the Aug. 15 deadline. Mahtook plays baseball with a football mentality and possesses the power/speed combination to make an impact in the majors. Employing a deep crouch in his stance, he makes consistent hard contact and drives the ball well to all fields. He has a short swing with good weight transfer and extension that generate backspin and distance on his hits. He's a slightly above-average runner who played center field in two of his three seasons at LSU, though he may be limited to left field if he loses a step once his body fully matures. His arm is the least of his tools but still rates as average. Mahtook received his first taste of pro ball in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .338/.410/.544 to demonstrate yet again that he's an advanced hitter who could move quickly. He'll make his official pro debut in high Class A.
Guyer had an impressive first season in the Rays system after arriving from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade. He tied for second in the International League in runs (78) and ranked fourth in on-base percentage (.384) and fifth in hitting (.312) and slugging (.521). He also hit a two-run homer off Zach Britton in his first big league at-bat in May, and went deep again against Derek Holland in September. Guyer offers an impressive combination of speed and power. He has an ideal body and a smooth swing that produces solid pop from gap to gap. A career .297 hitter in the minors, he should hit for average in the big leagues once he tightens his strike zone and shows more patience looking for pitches he can drive. Guyer has plus speed and is a constant threat to take the extra base. He could steal 20 bases annually in the majors. He's capable of playing all three outfield spots, and with above-average arm strength and good carry on his throws, he fits nicely in right field. Guyer is ready to become a big league regular and is just waiting for an opening in Tampa Bay.
Hager profiles perfectly as a Rays prospect with all-out hustle that enables him to produce at a consistently high level. After Tampa Bay took him with its third first-round pick (No. 32) overall last June, he signed quickly for $963,000 and played 47 pro games. A baseball rat with a nonstop motor, Hager does a little bit of everything even if he doesn't possess any plus tools. He uses his hands very well at the plate, allowing him to wait on pitches and make consistent contact to all fields. He has good power for a middle infielder and could hit upwards of 15 homers annually at higher levels. He's an average runner with good instincts but won't be a big basestealing threat. Hager moves well at shortstop but does not have great range, which could necessitate a shift to second or third base down the road. His hands are soft and sure, and he has good actions and plus arm strength. Having gotten off to a solid start to his pro career, Hager is expected to open his first full pro season in low Class A at age 19.
The top pick (third round) in a 2007 Astros draft that will live in infamy, Dietrich turned down Houston to attend Georgia Tech and became a second-rounder three years later. He progressed as hoped during his first full pro season in 2011, leading Rays farmhands with 22 homers and ranking second in the Midwest League with 60 extra-base hits and 241 total bases. Dietrich generates above-average power from the left side of the plate with his quick hands and natural strength. He tries to muscle the ball out of the park on occasion, which adds uppercut and length to his swing, reducing his effectiveness. To his credit, he worked hard over the course of last season on making more consistent line-drive contact and improving his plate discipline, though he still struck out 128 times. A shortstop during his first two pro seasons, Dietrich doesn't have the range or quick-twitch athleticism to remain at the position at higher levels. He has soft hands and good arm strength, which make him a candidate at third base and possibly second. He's a below-average runner but not a liability on the bases. Dietrich does many things well and has a chance to develop into a productive big league regular. Next on his agenda is a full season in high Class A.
Tabbed by the Rays as the most improved player in their extended spring-training program, Brett continued to make strides when he headed to Princeton in June. He teamed there with Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson, fellow Seattle-area high school players selected by Tampa Bay in the first three rounds of the 2010 draft. A switch-hitter in high school, Brett had made steady contact while swinging exclusively from the right side as a pro. He repeats his smooth, compact stroke swing and controls the strike zone well. He's capable of driving balls in the gaps and puts his plus speed to work on the bases. Scouts considered Brett's defense choppy during his 2010 pro debut, and he led Appalachian League second basemen with 18 errors last year. His hands aren't particularly soft and his arm is a tick below average, but he does have excellent instincts and quickness. He also has made significant strides on his double-play pivot. Brett is a grinder with impressive drive. He'll graduate to low Class A this year to form a double-play combination with 2011 first-rounder Jake Hager.
Teams regarded Bailey as the top high school catching prospect in the 2009 draft until he blew out his elbow while pitching and needed Tommy John surgery. He fell to the fourth round but still signed for $750,000, the equivalent of sandwich-round money. The Rays turned him loose in low Class A last year, though a wrist injury cost him most of the final month. Bailey has plus bat speed and raw power--25 of his 55 hits went for extra bases in 2011--but struggled offensively for most of the season. His long uppercut swing limits the time his bat stays in the hitting zone, which has resulted in strikeouts in 31 percent of his pro plate appearances. Scouts believe he can improve by leveling his stroke and focusing on making more contact. Bailey runs well for a catcher and has has above-average athleticism and agility behind the plate. He proved he has put his elbow reconstruction behind him by throwing out 40 percent of basestealers last year, displaying plus arm strength and accuracy. He also has soft hands and the ability to block balls in the dirt. Tampa Bay applauds Bailey for the progress he has made the past two years. He's slated to open 2012 in high Class A.
A 39th-round pick in 2010 who signed for $75,000, Markel has some of the best arm strength in the system. A reliever at Yavapai (Ariz.) JC and in his pro debut, he moved into the rotation last summer at short-season Hudson Valley and didn't allow an earned run in his first 292⁄3 innings. Markel's fastball ranges from 92-97 mph with heavy sink and armside run, though it moves so much that he has trouble commanding it. He throws an 81-84 mph changeup with fade and deceptive arm speed, and he trusts that pitch more than his breaking stuff. His 82-86 mph slider is a plus pitch at times, as is his curveball with good depth. Markel's doesn't maintain his low three-quarters delivery, leading to a wandering arm slot and intermittent command. He also doesn't stride much or get over his front side well, and his velocity tends to decrease over the course of a game. Most scouts believe those flaws will lead Markel back to the bullpen, but the Rays are intrigued by his repertoire and will keep him as a starter for now. Though raw, he has tremendous upside in either role. He'll open 2012 in low Class A.
One of the top righthanders in the system, Suarez has flown under the radar because of physical issues. He missed much of 2009 and the first three months of 2010 after Tommy John surgery, and he was sidelined until late July last year with Lyme disease. When healthy, he has shown a fluid delivery as well as a knack for getting hitters out. Suarez' fastball returned last summer to its previous velocity of 93-94 mph, and he throws it on a steep downhill plane. He also has good feel for a sharp curveball and a changeup that could be at least an average pitch. He has maintained his control and command despite his repeated stints on the disabled list. Suarez has tremendous makeup with a strong desire to get better. He has handled his setbacks well and picked up where he left off with little delay. The Rays hope Suarez can pitch an entire season in 2012 and believe he has the ability to develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Though he has only 58 innings in full-season ball, he could reach Double-A at some point this year.
Little did Goeddel know when he participated in the Perfect Game National Showcase in June 2010 that he was performing on the same field his future employer calls home. During his brief stint at Tropicana Field and for the past two years in high school, he showed the ability to be a premier player with his easy athleticism and lean, projectable body. The brother of Mets minor league righthander Erik Goeddel, Tyler turned down a scholarship to follow in his sibling's footsteps at UCLA to sign for $1.5 million as the 41st overall selection in last June's draft. His bonus was nearly twice MLB's guideline for his slot and more than what the Rays paid three of the four players they drafted ahead of him. Goeddel employs a tall stance at the plate and tends to wrap the bat yet generates excellent bat speed with his aggressive swing. He barrels the ball consistently and drives pitches from gap to gap, with scouts believing he will hit for above-average power as his body matures. A shortstop in high school who projects as a third baseman in pro ball, Goeddel has the tools to play virtually anywhere on the field. He has plus speed and arm strength, sure hands and moves well for a player his size. Because he didn't sign until the Aug. 15 deadline, Goeddel has yet to make his pro debut. He'll do so at Princeton in June.
Bush's legacy once looked like it would be as the biggest bust ever among No. 1 overall picks in the baseball draft, but he has evolved over the past two years while converting from shortstop to pitcher in his third organization. A money-saving choice by the Padres in 2004--though he did get $3.15 million--he got into off-field trouble before he ever played a game and hit just .219/.294/.276 in four seasons. San Diego tried to move him to the mound in 2007, but he injured his elbow after seven games and needed Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2008 and was sold to the Blue Jays in February 2009, only to get released two months later for violating team guidelines. The Rays signed him in January 2010 and sent him to the Winning Inning Baseball Academy in Clearwater, Fla., the same place where Josh Hamilton cleaned up his life. An oblique strain and a sore arm limited Bush to 15 innings in 2010, and he had surgery on the radial nerve in his upper arm after the season. Tampa Bay added him to the 40-man roster after that season, and he repaid the team with an impressive Double-A showing in 2011. Using a 94-97 mph fastball and a hard, tight curveball, he averaged 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He also has a slurvy slider and a changeup that are far from quality offerings and he doesn't need them much in short relief. Bush's biggest need is to improve his control and command so his stuff can overpower more advanced hitters. He also needs to prove he can handle a heavier workload, as the Rays never used him with fewer than two days of rest last year. Though he's short, he gets decent plane on his pitches and works the bottom of the zone by repeating his clean delivery. He has good balance and fields his position well with his above-average athleticism. Bush's makeup no longer appears to be a problem and the expectations of being a No. 1 overall choice are in the distant past. He could help in the big league bullpen at some point in 2012, though he also could start the season back in Montgomery.
Homeschooled until his senior year of high school, Snell attracted lots of interest when his sinking fastball touched 94 mph last spring. The Rays took him with their seventh choice (52nd overall) in the 2011 draft and signed him for $684,000. In his pro debut, Snell showed the ability to get groundouts by keeping his 88-92 mph sinker down in the zone. Some scouts question whether he'll add much more velocity, because he has narrow, sloping shoulders and a wiry frame. He relies heavily on his fastball and will need to improve both his curveball and changeup, both of which grade as below average. He has tried different grips on his secondary pitches, and he'll have to use them and throw them for strikes more often. A potential No. 3 or 4 starter, Snell showed impressive mound presence while having the best debut among the top picks Tampa Bay sent to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer. The Rays traditionally handle high school pitchers with care, so he'll probably move up one level to Princeton for 2012.
The 2011 season served as a learning experience for Lara. After leading the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in strikeouts in 2008 and 2009 and ranking second in the Appalachian League in ERA in 2010, he discovered that hitters at higher levels have better knowledge of the strike zone and will take advantage of mistakes. He recorded just five quality starts in 25 outings while battling his control and command, though he did throw more strikes in the final two months. Lara's best pitch is a 92-95 mph four-seam fastball that has above-average movement and appears to jump on hitters. He also throws a two-seamer to jam lefthanders, who hit only .212 against him last year (compared to .283 for righties). While he lacks consistent feel for his curveball and changeup, he earned credit for working diligently on them in 2011. Lara has a smooth and easy delivery when he throws fastballs but has difficulty maintaining the same fluidity with his secondary pitches. How he improves in that regard will determine whether he remains a starter or moves to the bullpen. He'll stay in the rotation when he climbs to high Class A in 2012.
The 27-year-old Vogt doesn't have the pedigree to rank among the top-tier prospects in a deep system like Tampa Bay's. At the same time, he has a productive bat and the versatility to play four positions, and he continues to prove he has a future at the major league level. After winning the Florida State League batting (.345) and slugging (.511) titles in 2010, he encored by leading Rays farmhands with 105 RBIs and winning the organization's minor league player of the year award last season. Signed for $6,000 as a 12th-round pick in 2007, Vogt has excellent hand-eye coordination and hitting instincts. He uses the entire field and has learned to drive the ball with his strong hands. He should have at least average power. Vogt would have more value if he projected as an everyday catcher, but most scouts see that as a stretch. He's a fringy receiver with average arm strength, and he threw out 30 percent of basestealers in 2011. He tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder in 2009 and missed most of that season. He's a well below-average runner who's adequate at first base or on the outfield corners. Tampa Bay added Vogt to its 40-man roster in November and should find a role in the majors at some point this year for a player who has the makeup and ability to produce at multiple positions.
Rodriguez has one of the better arms in system but has been overshadowed throughout his pro career. That didn't change in 2011, when he missed the first half of the season with a shoulder injury that didn't require surgery. Rodriguez has a 90-95 fastball with natural tailing action that makes it difficult for opponents to barrel. He can add and subtract velocity from his heater, too. His 76-78 mph curveball shows the potential to be an above-average offering, as he throws it with tight spin at times. He has made strides with his changeup but does not throw it as often as he should, especially if he hopes to remain a starter. Despite his size, Rodriguez uses a drop-and-drive delivery to work the bottom of the zone. He throws strikes but gets hit if he leaves his pitches up. Rodriguez owns just a 6-20 record in the United States, but the Rays believe he's on the verge of a breakthrough if he can stay healthy in 2012. They added him to the 40-man roster in November and will send him to high Class A.
Linsky was one of the better relievers in the college ranks in 2011, posting a 1.30 ERA and a Hawaii-record 14 saves while leading the Rainbows to their first regular-season Western Athletic Conference title in 19 years. The 12th of Tampa Bay's record 12 picks in the first two rounds, he signed for $392,400 as the 89th overall pick. Linsky has closer potential. He works off a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot, giving his fastball impressive sinking action that causes hitters to swing over the top. He mixes the heater with a mid-80s slider that reaches 89 mph. His slider has great deception since it looks much like his fastball when it comes out of his hand. Linsky's pitches are tough to elevate, as evidenced by the fact that he allowed just three extra-base hits during his junior season. He sometimes has difficulty with his mechanics, opening up to soon and getting under his pitches, which cause them to flatten out. Linsky reached low Class A at the end of his pro debut and should move quickly through the minors.
Quality defensive shortstops were a rare commodity in the 2011 draft, but the Rays found one with the 38th overall pick. Thanks to adding muscle by dedicating himself to a workout program, Martin made huge progress at the plate as a high school senior last spring. He has a quick bat and a line-drive swing that should allow him to hit for average with good pop for a middle infielder. He's an average runner who can steal a few bases, but it's with his glove that Martin really shines. He makes highlight-reel plays with the leather with his quick-twitch athleticism. He has plus range and soft, reliable hands to go with an above-average arm with excellent carry on his throws. His actions aren't always smooth, though Tampa Bay believes he can iron them out. Martin is likely to spend his first full pro season at Princeton.
The highest-drafted player in the 92-year history of Western Kentucky's baseball program, Carter went 56th overall in the 2011 draft. He was the Rays' eighth pick and signed quickly for $625,000, but played in just three games before his pro debut ended because of shin splints. Injuries have been an issue for Carter, who injured his hip in the Coastal Plain League in the summer of 2010 and was hampered by a strained calf last spring. When healthy, the athletic Carter flashes all five tools. He has a smooth lefthanded stroke and worked hard in college on developing a middle-away approach and better plate discipline. He should have at least average power once he starts turning on more pitches, though he'll have to make more consistent contact against lefthanders. Carter's speed is a tick above average, and he uses his solid instincts to get good jumps on the bases and in the outfield. He may not stick in center fielder in the majors, but his strong, accurate arm easily fits in right field. Carter could return to his college stomping grounds in Bowling Green for his first full pro season.
Before his high school senior season in 2010, O'Conner drew interest as a slugging third baseman and power-armed righthander. He moved behind the plate that spring and became the top prep catching prospect in the draft, going 31st overall and signing for $1.025 million. He has made strides defensively but has struggled more than anticipated with the bat, hitting .183/.266/.351 in two years in Rookie ball. O'Conner has plus bat speed and raw power, with 17 of his 28 hits last season going for extra bases. But he struggles with his balance as well as his plate discipline, and he struck out in 40 percent of his plate appearances in 2011, the worst rate in the Appalachian League. O'Conner also topped the Appy League by throwing out 36 percent of basestealers, a testament to his plus-plus arm strength. He has quick feet and impressive leadership skills. He's still learning the mechanical aspects of catching, but he has the drive and determination to make it work. Though O'Conner has below-average speed, he's faster than the typical catcher. He may never hit for a high average, but provided he finds a way to make more consistent contact, he has the potential to be a starting catcher at the big league level. He should reach low Class A at some point in 2012.
Rivero is the latest strong-armed lefthander to come through Princeton, following the path blazed by Matt Moore (2008) and Enny Romero (2010). Rivero made his U.S. debut there last year, placing eighth in the Appalachian League by averaging 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. A quality athlete with a quick arm, he throws his fastball at 93-94 mph, which is 3-4 mph higher than when he broke into pro ball in 2009. He also has a plus curveball with late, sharp break and an average changeup that improved over the course of the 2011 season. Romero displayed advanced feel for pitching at Princeton, mixing his pitches effectively without depending too much on any particular offering. He gets into trouble when he leaves his pitches up in the zone and gave up seven homers in 14 outings last year, including one in each of his first four appearances. He improved his command as the season progressed, doing a better job of pounding the bottom of the zone in the second half. Rivero's spring-training performance will determine whether he begins 2012 at Bowling Green or Hudson Valley.
It should come as no surprise that Bortnick became a favorite of Rays manager Joe Maddon during spring training last year. Maddon not only appreciated how Bortnick performed on the field but also the way he went about his business. He's a true hustle player who gets the most out of his fringe to average tools across the board. Signed for $5,000 as a 16th-round pick in 2009, Bortnick hits line drives from gap to gap. He has the best plate discipline in the system, which allowed him to draw more walks (79) than strikeouts (67) in 2011, and also to hit lefthanders (.301) and righthanders (.308) equally well. He has some gap power and is an excellent bunter. He combined average speed, a quick first step and keen instincts to steal 43 bases in 47 attempts last year. A shortstop in college before he moved to second and then third base as a senior, Bortnick has seen action at all three positions as a pro but played exclusively at the keystone last season. He has a strong arm and solid range for the position, and he does a nice job of turning the double play. Bortnick has all the makings of a solid utility infielder at the major league level, and he wouldn't hurt a team if he had to start at second base for an extended period. After he played in the Arizona Fall League, a full season in Double-A is on his immediate horizon.
Thompson ranked as the top pitching prospect in the short-season New York-Penn League in his 2010 pro debut, then skipped a level and placed fourth in the Florida State League in ERA (2.90) in his first full pro season. Yet for a college product, he has had to make considerable adjustments. He has lacked consistency with his pitches, struggling at times to locate his fastball and to maintain the feel for his changeup. He also missed May last year with elbow tightness, but he showed no ill effects once he returned. Thompson's fastball resides in the low 90s with average movement. He complements it with a promising mid-80s slider and a changeup that can elicit some swings and misses. He doesn't miss nearly as many bats as he should with that stuff, averaging just 4.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 2011. Thompson doesn't get hit hard, though, keeping the ball down and getting groundballs. He also exhibits good mound presence. While Thompson doesn't have a high ceiling, he could be a serviceable starter in the back of a major league rotation and is ready for Double-A.
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