Pitcher Matt Moore of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches while taking on the Texas Rangers during Game One of the American League Division Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 30, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Matt Moore, LHP, Grade A: His profile is a collection of superlatives: excellent stuff, dramatically improved command over the last two years, impeccable statistics. He'll be a true ace and Cy Young contender barring an injury or catastrophic command slippage.
2) Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Grade B+: Excellent defense and took a step forward with the hitting this year, should provide batting average, speed, solid OBP. I'm not worried about his bad month in Double-A.
3) Alexander Torres, LHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. Outstanding dominance ratios, still has some command issues but has nothing left to prove in the minors.
4) Alex Colome, RHP, Grade B: Also has command issues but plus stuff, and I trust the Rays organization to develop him properly. Could be mid-rotation starter or a closer.
5) Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Grade B: Has the ability to be a B+, A- or even an A if he lives up to full potential, but I want to see some pro data first and the alleged makeup issue from high school remains a puzzle.
6) Mikie Mahtook, OF, Grade B: Good career start in the Arizona Fall League but everyone hits there. Grade could go higher once he faces better pitching. Strong across-the-board tools and really blossomed as a hitter the last two seasons at LSU. Still can't believe he lasted to the end of the first round.
7) Brandon Guyer, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Also has across-the-board skills. Doesn't draw many walks, but has some power, will swipe bases, hits for average, and strong defense. Older prospect at age 26.
8) Parker Markel, RHP, Grade B-: High-velocity power sinker, hard slider and changeup stand out. Could rank much higher next year once he performs in full-season ball. Low strikeout rate mitigated by ground ball tendency. Could be mid-rotation starter or a closer.
9) Ryan Brett, 2B, Grade B-: Like Markel, he could rank higher next year once we see him in full-season ball. Pure hitter, should provide batting average and OBP, defense is still a work in progress.
10) Drew Vettleson, OF, Grade B-: Like Brett, he hit well in the Appy League, provides speed and at least gap power. He's a little older than Brett and strikes out a lot more, so I rank Brett slightly ahead.
11) Chris Archer, RHP, Grade B-: Not fond of the command slippage and he may end up in the bullpen, but his ceiling remains impressive. Needs a good dose of Triple-A.
12) Enny Romero, LHP, Grade B-: High-ceiling arm went backwards with his command in full-season ball. Seems a good bet to improve/rebound, and grade could be at least a notch higher if that happens.
13) Tyler Goeddel, 3B, Grade B-: No pro data yet, but will rank him here based on pre-draft scouting reports. Main question appears to be how much power he will develop.
14) Jake Hager, SS, Grade B-: I think he will sneak up on people with the bat either this year or next, and I believe he'll be able to remain at shortstop.
15) Tim Beckham, SS, Grade C+: In relative terms, his 2011 season was not statistically better than his '10 season, until he had the power surge in Triple-A. Even that came at the expense of poor plate discipline. Still young, still has tools, but I think some fans are getting overly excited at this point. I still see him as more of a utility player with some pop, not a first-division regular.
16) Oscar Hernandez, C, Grade C+: Put up monstrous numbers in the Venezuelan Summer League and did a good job throwing out runners. He wasn't a big bonus guy and scouting reports remain annoyingly vague. It will be fascinating to see how all this translates to North America. Ranking here is a guesstimate.
17) Granden Goetzman, OF, Grade C+: Didn't hit great in rookie ball, but in a less-deep draft he would have been a certain first-round pick. I like his tools, has power and speed, draws Jay Buhner and Jayson Werth comparisons.
18) Tyler Bortnick, 2B, Grade C+: Does everything well except hit homers and excite scouts with his tools. Very polished, excellent plate discipline, dangerous on the bases. You could easily rank him as high as 15 and ahead of Beckman.
19) Felipe Rivero, LHP, Grade C+: Live-armed lefty didn't dominate the Appy League statistically, but has plenty of arm strength and a mid-rotation ceiling.
20) Derek Dietrich, SS, Grade C+: Good power, but poor strike zone judgment in Low-A and pending move to third base keep him from a higher grade at this point. With some adjustments could get into strong B range.
21) Lenny Linsky, RHP, Grade C+: Power sinker/slider, excellent ground ball rates with strikeouts and solid command. 2011 draft product could move very quickly through system.
22) Nick Barnese, RHP, Grade C+: I've liked him better in the past and I still think he can be a good pitcher, but durability/injury concerns are still a big issue.
23) Josh Sale, OF, Grade C+: Tough ranking. He hit poorly in the Appy League due to problems with his swing, and he doesn't have enough other skills to be useful without power. The C+ cuts him some slack and reflects his reputation from high school, but he's got to hit better than this.
24) Jeff Ames, RHP, Grade C+: Posted 7.12 ERA in rookie ball, but K/IP and K/BB ratios were excellent. The ERA was the result of three poor games where he gave up 17 runs, six walks and 20 hits in seven total innings. Take those games out and he had a 2.73 ERA with 20 hits in 23 innings with a 31/1 K/BB ratio.
25) Kes Carter, OF, Grade C+: Western Kentucky outfielder has solid tools, good performance record, but gets hurt a lot.
OTHERS: Lucas Bailey, C; Matt Bush, RHP; Russ Canzler, OF; Ryan Carpenter, LHP (big sleeper); Johnny Eierman, SS; Marquis Fleming, RHP; Grayson Garvin, LHP; Todd Glaesman, OF; Kyeong Kang, OF; Braulio Lara, LHP; Kyle Lobstein, LHP; Jeff Malm, 1B; Brandon Martin, SS; Ty Morrison, OF; Justin O'Conner, C; C.J. Riefenhauser, LHP; Wilking Rodriguez, RHP; Cody Rogers, OF; Cameron Seitzer, 1B; Blake Snell, LHP; Matt Spann, LHP; Jacob Thompson, RHP; Stephen Vogt, C-1B.
Many of the B/B- guys and even several of the C+/C players have a chance to raise their grades significantly in 2012, especially the '11 draftees who have not played yet and younger guys at the rookie ball level.
I don't know what to make of Oscar Hernandez. There is a reason why I don't write much about VSL or DSL players. Performance at this levels is not particularly predictive, either good or bad performance, and scouting reports from those leagues are often vague and unreliable. Hernandez could be one of the best catching prospects in baseball a year from now. He could also fizzle out in Low-A. We just need to see.
Players listed 15 through 25 could be ranked in any number of ways. Josh Sale is an especially tough case.