A follow-up to the New York Penn League graduates piece from two weeks ago, today's article is entirely devoted to Rays prospects who played for the Hudson Valley Renegades in 2012-13. This time, a few of the players included made their professional debut before New York Penn League. Their development makes more sense to review at this point now that we have more information. More is expected, and the adjustments are clearer.
As with the last list, I watched them play in 2012-13, but haven't seen any of these players this year. The review is based on statistical information, mixed with observation from those two seasons.
Darryl George - The Australia native's debut in the Penn League concluded with the honor of being named the Renegades team MVP. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2010, he played in 24 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2011 (.243/.360/.284), following that up with a season in the Appalachian League in '12 (.260/.314/.355). His production increased as the at-bats did and he showed consistency throughout the 2013 season, hitting .286/.363/.339. 2014 hasn't gone as well: he's hitting just .231/.282/.329 in 225 at-bats for Low-A Bowling Green in the Midwest League.
His ability to do a lot of little things made him a valuable part of the lineup for Hudson Valley in '13. An alert base runner with average speed, he's a good percentage stealer going 9-for-9 last year and 7-for-9 this year. Defensively he's got versatility. The right-handed hitter is able to play first, third, shortstop, and right field, and when he signed it was as a pitcher. He spent most of his time at shortstop in 2013 (32 games), but this year the bulk of his time has been played at first base, with 26 games there. The versatility is very useful of course, but he doesn't really have the bat to project well as a first baseman.
He has some power up the middle, but it was his ability to make consistent contact that was most impressive in 2013.
Julian Ridings - Ridings came to the Rays via Western Carolina University, a 2013 18th round pick for the team. He hit .377/.441/.663 in with 11 homers in his junior year of college. His scrappy style of play quickly became a marked characteristic with the Renegades. He hit .255/.288/.338 in 216 at-bats last year. More of a contact hitter, he didn't show a lot of power compared to what he did in college, but could develop a bit more with adjustments to his swing. He also put on some weight this year and that's a plus as he advances.
The left fielder started 2014 on the DL, then was assigned to Charlotte in the Florida State League. In 29 games, he hit .272/.299/.456 with 29 hits, eight RBI, and two home runs in 103 at-bats, but with a poor 3/22 BB/K ratio. He was recently sent down to Low-A Bowling Green, and in seven games in the Midwest League he's at .286/.355/.429.
Lefty hitting Ridings is still tapping his potential, but he'll need to increase his ability to make contact and drive in runs to impress the Rays. He's an aggressive player learning the value of patience. There were a lot of questions about his mentality when he came into the system last summer, but he proved much of that criticism wrong as the 2013 season progressed. If his aggressiveness was a problem at times, he learned how to temper it by the end of his first pro stint. He's a good gap hitter, with strong defensive abililty that he was known for in college, and showed plenty of with Hudson Valley. He committed just one error all last season, this season has just one, and runs and throws well enough to play all three outfield positions.
Taylor Guerrieri - One of the top prospects in the organization, Guerrieri has been hyped hard. The Rays 2011 1st round pick is included here solely due to his organizational value. Since playing in Penn League in 2012, he's had Tommy John surgery and been suspended for a banned substance (though never confirmed, the substance was not steroid-related). His season ended in July of last year when he underwent surgery, but his playing time this year, though limited, also factored in to his inclusion.
Guerrieri was arguably the best player in the Penn League in 2012 (he posted a 1.04 ERA with a 45/5 K/BB in 52 innings). It wasn't just what he was able to do upon arrival, but what he did in the span of the Short-A season. He improved with each start, showing better command of a mid-90's snapping fastball that had consistently good movement, as well as improved mound composure. His temperament was an issue early on in the season, but while his confidence was a plus, he needed to cool his tendency to let mistakes affect him. By end of the season, that concluded with the team taking the league title, he appeared far more mature and focused.
In 2013, the righty made fourteen starts for Bowling Green before hurting his elbow, finishing with a 2.01 ERA, 51 strikeouts, and allowed just 12 walks through 67 innings. He is now rehabbing in the Gulf Coast League and looks good, with a 10/2 K/BB in his first 9.1 innings and good reports about his velocity.
Guerrieri is consistently ranked as the top Rays pitching prospect, with rankings varying but never outside of the top five. This year, he's doing exactly what he needs to get back on the developmental track. The personal issues will need to be resolved, but he proved early on in his career that he was teachable. Guerrieri is a possible impact player for the Rays, and how he advances to the next level matters.
Jaime Schultz - With a good lively fastball that clocked routinely between 92-94 mph, Schultz was a reliable starter for the Renegades in 2013. He was a 14th round pick out of High Point University last year. He just came off the DL for the Bowling Green Hot Rods after spending most of July on the list, but his results to the end of June showed he was adjusting to the next level. The right-handed power pitcher's 2013 pro debut was a showcase of his ability to keep hitters guessing with a strong repertoire, and the confidence to attack the strike zone. He ended the season with a 1.36 WHIP, 3.05 ERA with a 55/29 K/BB in 44 innings. This year he has a 1.87 ERA with a 53/13 K/BB in 34 innings for Bowling Green. Note the high strikeout rate.
With the Renegades, he kept the ball low in the zone, inducing a healthy amount of ground ball outs. He used a combination of breaking pitches, a curveball and a hard, power slider that was very effective in a few of his late-season starts.
Schultz made a successful transition from the bullpen to the rotation in 2013, but the recent DL stint interrupted an important period in his development. He's got to prove that he can maintain velocity and pitch deep. Though limited to three and four innings in Penn League, that was to be expected. Getting his innings in is key to developing a more consistent approach. If last year proved anything, it's that he never looked over-matched, even when he made mistakes. He rarely allowed players to capitalize on those mistakes.
The Rays rewarded his efforts with an opportunity to participated in their Winter Development Program. He was off to a great start this year before the DL stint, but he made his first return outing Friday night.