Rookies on the 2011 Playoff Teams: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays rely heavily on young talent for their success. Here is a look at rookies who contributed to the 2011 American League wild card winners, and how they may be used in the future.
Russ Canzler, 1B-3B-OF: This 25-year-old was originally drafted by the Cubs in the 30th round in 2004 from high school in Pennsylvania. Signed by Tampa as a minor league free agent, he hit .314/.401/.530 for Durham and was named MVP of the Triple-A International League this year. He went 1-for-3 for the Rays in September. He offers power and some defensive versatility, but has no clear place to play entering 2012.
Robinson Chirinos, C: A 27-year-old Venezuelan acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade, Chirinos hit .259/.343/.376 for Durham, but just .218/.283/.309 in a 55 at-bat trial for the Rays this summer. His best bet at this point is to find a spot as a reserve catcher.
Alex Cobb, RHP: Drafted in the fourth round in 2006 from high school in Vero Beach, Florida, the 23-year-old Cobb posted a 1.87 ERA with a 70/16 K/BB in 67 innings in Triple-A, then performed very well in nine major league starts (3.42 ERA, 37/21 K/BB in 53 innings, 1.47 GO/AO) before going on the shelf with a rib injury. He should be healthy by spring and has a good chance to be an effective inning-eating mid-rotation starter.
Dane De La Rosa, RHP: A hard-throwing 28-year-old, De La Rosa posted a 3.20 ERA with an 83/26 K/BB in 70 innings for Durham, but gave up 10 hits and eight runs in 7.1 major league innings. Huge and intimidating at 6-7-, 245, he was signed off the independent ball scrapheap in 2009 and has been very effective ever since. He could be a very useful relief asset going forward.
Brandon Gomes, RHP: Age 27, Gomes was drafted by the Padres out of Tulane in the 17th round in 2007, then was traded to the Rays last fall for Jason Bartlett. He was excellent in Triple-A (1.07 ERA, 40/7 K/BB in 25 innings) and remained effective after being promoted to the majors, with a 2.92 ERA and a 32/16 K/BB in 37 innings. Gomes' 90 MPH fastball, slider, and splitter give him a good shot at holding a middle relief role.
Brandon Guyer, OF: Another component in the Matt Garza trade, Guyer was drafted by the Cubs from the University of Virginia in the fifth round in 2007. He hit .312/.384/.521 with 16 steals for Durham this year, but hit just .195/.214/.366 in 41 major league at-bats. He's a good athlete with power/speed potential, and he could get a shot at regular playing time in 2012.
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP: One of the most highly-anticipated rookies in the 2011 class, the right-hander from Des Moines (fourth round, 2005) went 13-10, 2.95 with a 117/72 K/BB in 189 innings over 29 starts. At age 24, he's just getting started and could improve even further if he lowers his walk rate closer to what it was in the minors. His FIP was much worse than his ERA this year at 4.44, but he has the aptitude to make the needed adjustments.
Desmond Jennings, OF: Drafted in the 10th round in 2006 from Itawamba Community College, Jennings hit .259/.356/.449 with 10 homers and 20 steals in 247 at-bats after taking a regular spot in the outfield in July. His power/speed combination is potent, and at age 24 he has room to improve further even further; he could become an All-Star caliber regular. The Rays did not miss Carl Crawford.
Elliot Johnson, UT: A switch-hitting 27-year-old utility man signed as an undrafted free agent in 2002, Johnson hit just .194/.257/.338 with four homers and six steals in 160 at-bats off the Rays bench. His best attribute is defensive versatility, but he'll have to hit better than this to hold his job. He hit .319/.375/.475 in Triple-A in 2010, so improvement is not impossible.
Jose Lobaton, C: A 26-year-old Venezuelan originally signed by the Padres, Lobaton hit .293/.410/.489 in 184 at-bats in Triple-A, but went just 4-for-34 (.118) in 15 major league games while battling injuries. He has a solid glove and could be a nice option as a backup catcher going forward.
Jake McGee, LHP: The hard-throwing 25-year-old southpaw was drafted in the fifth round from Sparks, Nevada, in 2004. Expected to take a major role in the bullpen, he posted a 4.50 ERA with a 27/12 K/BB in 28 innings and spent part of the year back in the minors due to command issues. He has nothing left to prove at Durham (2.70 ERA, 38/8 K/BB in 33 innings) and still has the stuff to develop into a major league closer if he can sharpen his command.
Matt Moore, LHP: The best pitching prospect in baseball, Moore was drafted in the eighth round in 2007 from high school in Moriarty, New Mexico. The 22-year-old southpaw went 12-3, 1.92 with a 210/46 K/BB in 155 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, then posted a 15/3 K/BB in nine major league innings. He will start the first game of the playoffs tonight, and while that may seem like a bold decision by Rays management, he has exceptional stuff and has dramatically improved his command. I think it is a good gamble. If he stays healthy, Moore can become a number one starter.
Cesar Ramos, LHP: Acquired from San Diego in the Bartlett deal, Ramos is 27 years old and was drafted by the Padres in the supplemental first round in 2005 from Long Beach State. He posted a 3.92 ERA in 44 innings for the Rays, with a 31/25 K/BB. There is nothing exceptional about his low-90s fastball, changeup, curveball arsenal, but he's a competent pitcher who can start or relieve with average results.
Alexander Torres, LHP: Age 23, Torres was signed out of Venezuela by the Angels in 2005 and traded to the Rays for Scott Kazmir in 2009. He posted a 3.08 ERA with a 156/83 K/BB in 146 innings in Triple-A, then fanned nine in eight major league innings, while walking seven. He gets excellent movement with his fastball, changeup, and curveball, and for many teams he would be a strong rotation candidate in 2012.