Jake McGee, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Jake McGee was drafted by the Rays in the fifth round in 2004, out of high school in Sparks, Nevada. He was one of the very best pitching prospects in the minors entering 2007, after fanning 171 hitters in 134 innings in the Midwest League in '06, projecting as a possible ace starter. Injury struck in 2008 when he blew out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery. After a shaky comeback in '09, he returned to full form last year with a 3.57 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 88 innings for Double-A Montgomery. Converted to relief after a promotion to Triple-A Durham, he posted a stunning 27/3 K/BB in 17 innings with a 0.52 ERA, earning a September trial with the Rays and a spot in the '11 bullpen. I gave him a Grade B+ in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book.
Viewed as a future closer due to his fastball/slider combination, he's had some troubles in the early going, allowing four hits and two runs with two walks (and two strikeouts) in his first 2.2 innings, gathered over five outings as the Rays are using him in a spot role. McGee peaked at 98 MPH in ‘10, but hasn't been throwing as hard this spring, peaking at 96 but with an average fastball at 91.7 MPH, compared to 93.5 last year. Given the small samples involved, I'm not especially worried about that at this stage, but the velocity issue bears watching. McGee was unhittable when he threw strikes last year, and right now getting his command in gear is the main thing he needs to do to succeed. I remain high on him in the medium and long-term, but hopes that he could be a short-term source of saves may need to be postponed for awhile.