Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 Prospects for 2011
UPDATED January 13, 2011 to account for Garza trade.
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 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 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.
Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 For 2011
1) Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Grade A: Best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball.
2) Matt Moore, LHP, Grade A: Best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball not named Aroldis.
3) Desmond Jennings, OF, Grade B+: Love the speed, worried about durability.
4) Jake McGee, LHP, Grade B+: The future closer.
5) Chris Archer, RHP, Grade B+: Acquired in Garza trade; would be the top pitching prospect in many systems.
6) Josh Sale, OF, Grade B: I buy into the bat despite lack of pro data.
7) Alex Colome, RHP, Grade B: Needs some refinement, but an excellent arm and could be number two behind Moore next year.
8) Alex Torres, LHP, Grade B: Command is an issue, but I love the strikeouts.
9) Enny Romero, LHP, Grade B: High grade from me for a rookie ball pitcher, but has the stuff you want and great numbers.
10) Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Grade B: Love the glove, and I think the bat has more potential than people think. That is a minority opinion but I will stick with it for now.
11) Jake Thompson, RHP, Grade B-: Much better in the pros than he was in college, fits well into Rays pitching development system.
12) Justin O'Conner, C, Grade B-: Rookie ball numbers were poor, but I'll stick with his high school rep for now and scouts still like him.
13) Drew Vettleson, OF, Grade B-: Hasn't played yet, this is based on scouting reports and draft position.
14) Alex Cobb, RHP, Grade B-: In most systems this guy would get a lot more attention and be a Top Ten guy. Keep close track of him in 2011.
15) Nick Barnese, RHP, Grade B-: Like Cobb, he'd get more notice in other systems and could be a number three/four starter.
16) Joe Cruz, RHP, Grade B-: Another good arm with good numbers that would rank higher in a less-rich system.
17) Brandon Guyer, OF, Grade B-: A good athlete, has made good strides turning his tools into skills the last two years. Has speed, some power, could use better plate discipline.
18) Scott Shuman, RHP, Grade C+: Throws hard, excellent numbers, could zip up the ladder if command is there.
19) Wilking Rodriguez, RHP, Grade C+: Could take step forward in '11 as Cruz did this year.
20) Braulio Lara, LHP, Grade C+: Another live arm from Latin America who could break through in '11.
21) Leslie Anderson, OF, Grade C+: Cuban defector with a decent bat, could prove useful on bench.
22) Ryan Brett, 2B, Grade C+: Speedy second baseman, another high school bat from '10 draft adds hitting to system.
23) Tim Beckham, SS, Grade C+: Almost dropped him down to a C, but decided to give it one more year as he's just the equivalent of a college junior.
24) Robinson Chirinos, C, Grade C+: Older prospect at age 26, but has performed well in upper minors, can catch, has versatility, bat should be decent.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Luke Bailey, C; Tyler Bortnick, 2B; Cesar Cabral, LHP; Dane De La Rosa, RHP; Derek Dietrich, SS; Shane Dyer, RHP; Cole Figueroa, 2B; Marquis Fleming, RHP; Todd Glaesmann, OF; Brandon Gomes, RHP; Hector Guevara, 2B; Jesse Hahn, RHP; Ian Kendall, RHP; Alex Koronis, RHP; Kyle Lobstein, LHP; Ty Morrison, OF; David Newmann, LHP; Zach Quate, RHP; Cody Rogers, OF; Albert Suarez, RHP; Matthew Sweeney, 3B.
What an amazing collection of pitching. You have two potential number one starters in Hellickson and Moore. You have a future closer in McGee, then a bunch of lively arms who could develop into 2/3/4 starters. There is also a bunch of very interesting bullpen fodder in the Grade C group. I love the way the Rays develop pitching; I love that they don't rush most of these guys, and let them build up innings and experience at each level.
The hitting is a lot less impressive. Jennings is ready and Anderson should be useful, but they are relying an awful lot on the high school hitters from the 2010 draft to give the system a boost, and even the best of them are three years away of not more. Bailey and Glaesmann from the '09 class got off to poor starts, and tools guys like Rogers and Morrison are high risk. It unbalances the system and a few more polished hitters seem like they would help. Of course, with so much pitching coming up, the theory is that you can trade for hitting if you need it.