Tampa Bay Rays 2009 Minor League Review
Overall farm rankings via Baseball America (2009)
2009 (4) | 2008 (1) | 2007 (1) | 2006 (10) | 2005 (9) | 2004 (9)
Record of Major and Minor League Teams
MLB: [84 – 78] AL East
AAA: [83 – 61] International League
AA: [65 – 74] Southern League
A+: [71 – 66] Florida League
A: [64 – 74] South Atlantic League
A(ss): [38 – 37] New York – Pennsylvania
R: [36 – 31] Appalachian League
R: [19 – 36] Gulf Coast League
The Run Down
I am sure many of you have been waiting patiently for this Minor League Review. Next year, you’re going to have to wait even longer. With just two graduations last year (2009) – Jeff Niemann and David Price – the Rays are sitting pretty. Everyone knows about Wade Davis by now, but if you don’t, read his Scouting the Unknown. I am not as down on Davis today as I was last year. Other notable players that are going to be missing in this review is Jake MeGee, Alex Cobb, Nick Barnese, and Joe Cruz; oh and some fella named Desmond Jennings (Scouting the Unknown, Grey’s 2010 Desmond Jennings Fantasy Outlook).
The Rays are loaded up and down their farm system, especially in regards to pitching. Their position players definitely lack after Jennings, Reid Brignac and Tim Beckham. Brignac is relatively known, and Beckham has a high profile too. Brignac could see action in the majors sooner vs. later while Beckham didn’t post great numbers and is still in the low minors. GM Andrew Friedman, along with his scouting director R.J. Harrison, have created an assortment of high ceiling prospects that should allow the team to either trade their veteran stars (i.e. Carl Crawford) or become more like the Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, and even the Yankees, where they can acquire the key piece(s) for their championship runs. This winter my friends made a comment that the Twins should just trade Mauer, and I responded, “Only if he goes to the Rays for most of their farm.” Them, or maybe the Rangers, but I would prefer the Rays. Enough rambling, onto the more mundane, yet, important pieces.
Arizona Fall League Players – Phoenix Desert Dogs
Pitchers – (RHP) Matt Gorgen; (RHP) Paul Philips; (RHP) Heath Rollins; (RHP) Mitch Talbot
Hitters – (C) Nevins Ashley; (2B/SS) Shawn O’Malley; (OF) Cody Cipriano
#1 (LHP) David Price; #10 (RHP) Jeff Niemann
Players of Interest for 2010
* All player rankings are from Baseball America Handbook 2009
#5 Desmond Jennings | CF | AA/AAA | 22 | .318/.401/.487 | 497 AB | 52 XBH | 11 HR | .169 ISO | 52/7 SB/CS | 67:67 K:BB | .339 BABIP | 48.6 GB% | 16.3 LD% | 34.2 FB%
What’s left to say? For those of you who don’t get ESPN Insider, here is how he fared during spring training (with my emphasis added as bolded):
”Jennings has had an injury-filled spring; he missed time after taking a pitch off his elbow, and then he sprained his wrist and had to wear a splint for a week. So his chances of making the big league club were kind of derailed before they even got started. That said, he’s pretty close to big league ready, and we’ll see him at some point in the near future, especially with the Rays’ right-field picture being unsettled. Even a half-season of at-bats could still yield 20 steals from him, if nothing else.”
#14 Fernando Perez | CF | has reached AAA | 26 | .289/.375/.402 | 2289 AB | 161 XBH | 25 HR | .113 ISO | 199/68 SB/CS | 565:308 K:BB | .383 BABIP | 57.2 GB% | 14.3 LD% | 28.1 FB% **Injured for most of the year, all stats are career totals
Speaking of injury risk, Perez was once considered on the same level as Jennings, however, Jennings shot above him showing a higher ceiling. Perez is an all-speed, little-pop type player. He doesn’t have the swing or power that projects to hit double digit homers, but his high strikeouts would indicate otherwise. Think Julio Borbon, Rajai Davis, or even Juan Pierre. As the Rays have a stacked outfield, Perez could serve as a fifth outfielder, pinch-runner or as an injury replacement. I could see him starting this year for a cellar-dwelling team, but not with the Rays. Expect to see his name to pop up in trade rumors sooner rather than later as his age is starting to dim his once gleaming shine.
Jeremy Hellickson | RHP | Career | 23 | 9.9 K/9 | 2 BB/9 | 461 IP | 2.71 ERA | 3.20 FIP | 1.02 WHIP | .8 Hr/9 | 7.2 H/9 | .280 BABIP | 44.9 GB% | 15.3 LD% | 37.6 FB%
Here is his Scouting the Unknown, and not much has changed since. I like Hellickson more than most rookies and prospect pitchers (Leake, Chapman, Strasburg, Matsuz, Davis, etc.). There’s not much more to say about him, other than he is officially ranked as a higher prospect than Wade Davis.
#16 (COL) Aneury Rodriguez | RHP | AA | 21 | 7 K/9 | 3.7 BB/9 | 142 IP | 4.50 ERA | 4.72 FIP | 1.28 WHIP | 1.1 Hr/9 | 7.7 H/9 | .253 BABIP | 33.6 GB% | 17.6 LD% | 42.2 FB%
Received in return for Jason Hammel, the Rays may have found a back-end rotation filler with Aneury Rodriguez. Throwing his fastball between 90 and 92 mph along with a deceptive changeup and a workable curve, Rodriguez has shown some upside and potential to make it to the majors. Even with all the positive analysis about how he has changed some mechanics, greatly improved his non-fastball offerings, and that he is able to hide behind other big pitching prospects, I don’t see a lot that I like. His 2009 season was bolstered by an extremely low BABIP (.253). His other ratios seems to induce vomit. A relatively high home run rate (1.1 Hr/9), an unimpressive FIP (4.72) and a low ground ball rate (33.6%) would indicate to me that his 2010 season will see a negative regression. He’ll need to improve his pitching at Triple-A this year to prove that he was worth the acquisition.
*** I am trying something a bit different. While scrolling through the Rays minor league players, I struggled finding some players that I wanted to mention. Brignac and Beckham were options, but I went even deeper and found some foreign players that looked to standout from their competition. Only one (Salas) made the cut. Comparing his slash line to the rest of the league and his own team showed that he was a monster.
- Venezuelan summer league slash line average : .264/.345/.381 | .117 ISO
- Rays Venezuelan team average slash line: .284/.368/.439 | .155 ISO
Roan Salas | 1B | Foreign Rookie – Venezuela | 19 | .338/.409/.653 | 222 AB | 37 XBH | 15 HR | .315 ISO | 31:25 K:BB | .339 BABIP | 41.6 GB% | 17.8 LD% | 40.6 FB%
At 5’11” and 175 pounds, Salas doesn’t have much more body to fill out (I am a very similar size). However, even against sub-par competition, Salas displayed good plate discipline (31:25 K:BB), lined the ball around (17.8 LD%) and had a BABIP that helped some, but not overly inflated. He will be a player I keep an eye on, especially since he was the first foreign player I have highlighted (foreign meaning, scouting strictly from the foreign academy leagues).
#6 Matt Moore | LHP | A | 20 | 12.9 K/9 | 5.1 BB/9 | 123 IP | 3.15 ERA | 3.18 FIP | 1.27 WHIP | .4 Hr/9 | 6.3 H/9 | .303 BABIP | 45.8 FB%| 14.5 LD% | 32.6 FB%
Say hello to the new Clayton Kershaw, except Moore has slightly poorer command through the same levels. Last year, Moore led the minors with a 176 strikeouts by throwing a 90 to 93 mph sinking fastball, a “nasty curve” and an improving changeup. As with Kershaw, command is an issue. Moore walked 33 batters in the first 35 innings of his season last year, but only had 35 more for the remaining 88 innings of his season. If you’re a sucker for high strikeouts and stomach the command issues, Moore is going to be your man. He was able to produce stellar numbers last year. His FIP and BABIP levels would indicate that he wasn’t lucky. With a decent ground ball rate and few homers allowed, Moore is on the fast track to the majors. Optimistically, he’ll reach Double-A sometime in the middle of the summer. That will be his first large hurdle. Until then, let him cool your house with those strikeouts.
#6 (LAA) Alex Torres | LHP | A+/AA | 21 | 9 K/9 | 4.9 BB/9 | 156 IP | 2.77 ERA | 3.72 FIP | 1.33 WHIP | .3 Hr/9 | 7.1 H/9 | .295 BABIP | 57.9 GB% | 12.7 LD% | 21.7 FB%
Received in the Scott Kazmir trade, Torres is much like Kazmir, except not injured. Torres throws a 88 to 91 fastball with tremendous amounts of movement, a tight slider, and a biting curve. His control is lacking due to a couple of reasons. One, his arm slot is inconsistent, and two, the movement of his pitches is extraordinary. With a ground ball-to-air out ratio of nearly 2.5 GO/AO, Torres just needs to keep the ball near the strike zone to succeed in the minors. To thrive in the majors, he’ll need to be able dictate where the ball is going and not just hoping. Changing from a thrower to a pitcher is going to be the key to his development. Throwing 121 IP at High-A in 2009, Torres looks poised to dominate Double-A if his control is harnessed even just a little bit. If that happens, he could reach Triple-A by the end of the season.
David Newmann | LHP | A+ | 24 | 8.8 K/9 | 3.2 BB/9 | 131 IP | 3.44 ERA | 3.10 FIP | 1.18 WHIP | .4 Hr/9 | 7.4 H/9 | .280 BABIP | 56.9 GB% | 13.3 LD% | 26.2 FB%
Not your typical 24-year-0ld prospect. Newmann has had Tommy John’s surgery take up two of his seasons while at college. When he was drafted, he signed too late and during the following season after he was drafted, he torn a ligament in his knee in 2008 while in training camp. Thus, 2009 was his first full season in a long time. He needs to stay healthy again in 2010 for his stock to rise, and if so, it could rise sharply. He has a good strikeout rate, an average walk rate, and has a great ground ball rate. Keep an eye on this lefty. He should start at Double-A next year with another lefty, Torres. Hopefully, the infield can keep the error rates down while reaching for a good percentage of the ground balls.
#24 Alex Colome | RHP | A(ss) | 20 | 11.1 K/9 | 3.8 BB/9 | 76 IP | 1.66 ERA | 2.55 FIP | 1.03 WHIP | 0 Hr/9 | 5.4 H/9 | .267 BABIP | 50.3 GB% | 8.7 LD% | 29.2 FB%
Here is a “sky-is-the-limit” type pitching prospect. He has a fastball that sits at 94 to 95 mph and can top it out at 97 to 98 mph. He also has a plus 11-to-5 hard biting curveball. He lacks a changeup, but is currently working on developing this pitch. If he can’t get the feel for the changeup, he may be a dominating reliever. As with Moore, command is an issue and he needs to learn how to pitch and not just throw. Few batters were able to hit for solid contact (8.7 LD%) against Colome and more often than not were hitting the ball on the ground (1.57 GO/AO). He should be at Single-A next year and possibly rising to High-A if all goes well.