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

Graduated Prospects
#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.

Honorable Mentions
*** 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.

  1. Stephen says:

    I am seeking feedback on how to make this article better for the last few remaining and for next, while also to make the Scouting the Unknown articles better for the up coming season. Any comments, feedback, critiques, etc., are all welcome (both positive and negative). Thanks.

  2. Tom Emanski says:

    Another CS for CarGo. Dude is killing me!

  3. brett says:

    @Stephen: First, awesome job. This is a cool series (and Scouting the Unknown even more so for fantasy purposes). Since you’re asking for feedback, here’s a couple things I’d like to see:

    A list of each team’s top 10, or even a link to the Baseball America rankings would be cool (if it’s not insider information). Every time i read one of these i find myself wondering who the unmentioned guys are, and why they aren’t mentioned.

    For example, presumably McGee, Cobb, Barnese, Cruz, Brignac and Beckham are high on the list but I always wonder where they’re ranked and if there’s a good reason for skipping them (i’m sure it’s usually just that you have limited space/time and more than enough to talk about with the other guys).

    For the players you discuss, it would also be cool if you included the year and round they were drafted.

  4. Stephen says:

    @brett: Brignac is on the major league roster and thus wasn’t mentioned. I am hesitant to post their top 10 prospects from Baseball America because that would feel too much like copy right infringement. I know FanGraphs Marc Hulet has his top 10 lists and they closely mirror Baseball America’s.

    re: to the unmentioned (even when I give them a shout-out – i.e. McGee, etc.): I don’t have the time/space to mention everyone like you assumed. Some teams I struggle finding enough talent, other times – like today – I struggle who to cut out. Furthermore, I selfishly leave a player out because I know I will mention him in a StU (like Beckham). In Beckham’s case though he did really poorly in regards to hitting and thus didn’t make the cut for fantasy purposes.

    re: draft position and year — will be done.

    Thanks for the comment. It’s very much appreciated.

  5. .(). says:

    Wilking Rodriguez on your radar at all? should be IMO

  6. GopherDay says:

    @Stephen: I’ve got Moore and Beckham on my Dynasty league minor roster. When do you think they’ll hit the big leagues?

  7. Stephen says:

    @.().: I would say so. He just finished rookie ball and will need to repeat those same numbers in more innings in the coming years for more than a watchful eye recommendation.

    @GopherDay: My educated guess says no sooner than 2011 – mid season for Moore at the earliest and Beckham a September call up. Moore has to improve his consistency and Beckham needs to hit.

    @Swass: His comments are werth anything. He posted this article today at 11:45 am. I honestly thought this was an article from last year. BS. Grey should write for SI with his knowledge, the world would be revolutionized.

  8. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Swass: That’s hilarious.

  9. Falcon says:

    @Swass: Wow, did he really just boldly predict a breakout season for Matt Kemp? What is he basing that on? :P

    @Grey: Grey, Alcides was replaced by Counsell after 2 AB’s. Is this something to look forward to all season?

  10. Stephen says:

    @Swass: I like your name too. However, when I think of Swass I think of sweaty ass. Thus, from now on, that’s all I am going to be able to think when I see your name (until I decide to answer you question(s)).

  11. Grey

    Grey says:

    @Falcon: Means nothing, was a double switch.

  12. Stephen says:

    @Falcon: The blindfold and ear plugs he was wearing told him.

  13. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Grey: oh Mr jones

  14. Baron Von Vulturewins

    Baron Von Vulturewins says:

    @Swass: Granted, he’s writing for the casual fan, who might not be able to quote CarGo’s OBP of the top of his head.

    That said, this is pretty good:

    4. Matt Kemp. Dodgers’ outfielder is on the cusp of becoming one of the better players in the league.

    As opposed to last year, when he was one of the worser players in the league. Here’s hoping he can crack that 51st percentile.

  15. Tony says:

    who would you rather own this year grey or anyone:

    BAY or PENCE?

    for H2H purposes……i know bay is drafted ahead of pence yada yada yada but gut feeling who would you rather own.

  16. AL KOHOLIC says:

    desmond linedrive straight away center field,great looking power stroke

  17. danimal35 says:

    @Swass: wow, a bunch of really good players just might do really good this year and possibly better than last year…can I get paid to write like that?

  18. Jesse says:

    What’s this Reid Brignac starting at 2B bullshizz?

  19. Jesse says:

    @Swass: Can guys who have struck out 200+ batters in a season “break out”?

  20. AL KOHOLIC says:

    @Grey: the liner was a hr,impressive

  21. Jesse says:

    What’s the over/under on the Indians team OBP this year? I’m putting it at .200, and I dare you to take the over.

  22. AL KOHOLIC says:

    ah baseball is back,youklis hit in the helmet(he,s fine) then jeter gets plunked in the shoulder

  23. Stephen says:

    @danimal35: I hope I can – NOT.

    @Jesse: Ian Stewart? Mark Reynolds circa 2009. So, sure.

  24. Jesse says:

    @Stephen: I was referring to Jon Heyman’s absurd inclusion of Yovani Gallardo on his list of “break-out players” after k’ing 204 batters last year (not to mention Jimenez (196) and Nolasco (195)).

  25. Jesse says:

    Ha! Travis Snider — a man who’s never seen a ball in the dirt he didn’t like — comes up, 2 out, bases loaded… and walks! Our Travis is all growns up!

  26. Stephen says:

    @Jesse: Defense and rest for other players.

  27. Jesse says:

    @Stephen: I don’t think Sean Rodriguez is winded after 1 game.

  28. Stephen says:

    @Jesse: spring training is more than one game. also, if he’s on your roster he needs the at bats too. its part of giving him some playing time.

  29. GopherDay says:

    Napoli up bases loaded…

  30. Professor Chaos says:

    @Grey: Hochevar worth a look in 12 team leagues?

  31. k_wave says:

    What’s with Hamilton ? Seems lost at the plate. 6Ks in 7ab’s.

  32. Steve says:

    @Grey: Only in a Razzball league.

    He killed me today!

  33. Quintero says:

    @Stephen: I guess I am the person who uses your Minor League Review and StU the most, because my home league is a Dynasty league which has limited roster spots and tons of prospect geeks are in it, and I appreciate your insight very much.

    All we “casual” fan can do with “scouting” is reading online but we all know there ain’t much site/writer issue/write in-depth about prospects for fantasy purpose steadily, besides, you know, [email protected]

    If someone were in a yearly NL/AL league, they draft some rookies and stash them. Live goes on. But in Keeper/Dynasty because we don’t wanna wasting a roster spot, timing is everything.

    And I believe your ability to judge timing, unconditionally, especially when it comes to those StU issues. Here are couple examples for last season:

    1. Before Kyle “Rudy Jr.” Blanks got called up, you write a StU about him, we exchanged opinions and I picked him up. Traded him for Napoli, then Napoli for Soto.

    2. U wrote about Junichi Tazawa before he got called up and made his starts, I asked you about him and Poreda. You said Junichi was one or two year away for sure. and you’ll only “look” at Poreda instead of owning him. I traded both for Dice-K without hesitation when the offer came.

    Contrast to StU’s immediately usefulness, MLR is more like an issue about who should we put on radar and google news tab them. I think you too are doing a good job combing every source you have to judge potential useful players. If I have to make a suggestion, I’ll say maybe you can try to make projections about them. You already did player comparison most of the time and usually point out what kind of level will they reach if everything goes well. But to have some sorts of celling about them could really help.

    For example, we both like Hellickson and Wade Davis and maybe Strasburg, but I just can’t get the picture why you like Hellickson the most. So if you can point it out they celling in your mind, it will surely help….and this one really puzzles me…

  34. Quintero says:

    @Stephen: And I can’t believe Mets really put in Mejia as a RP…nonetheless, would like to know your point of view to this matter. This is going to hit Mejia’s value and I got a spare Corey Hart ready to trade for him, make a move? Thanks as always.

  35. Stephen says:

    @Quintero: I wrote this in today’s (4-8-10) comments about Mejia:

    Jenrry Mejia struggled at Double-A last year and should be back there and not in the majors. He isn’t completely ready. He’s still a thrower and not a pitcher. His fastball is awesome (tops 98 mph) but his slider is inconsistent. During the Arizona Fall League, he was lit up to the tune of 12.56 ERA with 13 walks in 14 innings. I don’t like what the Mets are doing with Mejia and would stay away.

    I honestly think Mejia needs to be in the minors for another season.

    Response to feedback about projections: I am working hard at keeping it fantasy relevant and informative at the same time, that’s the trickiest part. Thanks for the compliment in regards to this as well. I will see what I can do with the projections, I try to give ranges for homers, batting average, steals, k-rates, walk-rates, homer rates, etc. Is there something more you’d like to see? To me, Hellickson is like a Roy Halladay.

    What did you do with Dice-K?

  36. Quintero says:

    I put Dice-K on the DL and pretend that he gonna come back alright, while doing a little praying on the side.

    Altho I also think Mejia needs another Minor season at least, I was thinking about trading for Mejia and then trade him away in a package after he get on Post or Times. Now, maybe not.

    Wow, Hellickson as Doc? I was thinking Oswalt. It must be his arsenal then. Top of my head, Doc didn’t have the greatest early years in his career striking people out. Do you see something like that as well?

    BA, Homers and steals would be great. K-rate and BB-rate for pitchers are good enough too. (homer rates is just too hard to do regularly and you usually cover GB-rate if player is good or bad at that.) Either you do those celling projection or player comparison on Minor League Review, those will simply put this beyond awesome.

  37. Stephen says:

    @Quintero: The Roy Oswalt sounds closer to his comparisons. Hellickson doesn’t get a ton of ground balls like Halladay.

  38. Quintero says:

    Hellickson is vertical challenged, but I shall not discriminate base on heights.

    (Speaking of heights, do you have a comparison for Strasburg yet? I couldn’t come up with even one.)

    560 comments and counting. Master Grey’s workload is off the chart..

    I traded Scott Baker and Andrus for Sandoval today. Just wanna brag a bit. Actually, you are part of this heist because you suggested me don’t trade Wade Davis for Beckham. Voila!

  39. Stephen says:

    @Quintero: I think most people are expecting Strasburg to be able to do what Randy Johnson was doing in his prime – except from the right arm instead of the left.

    re to Davis/Beckham/Sandoval — How did the Davis recommendations help the Sandoval trade? I think Beckham will be good (as I do Davis), you just don’t find as many Davis’ as you will Beckham’s.

    Was the Baker and Andrus for Sandoval in a one year league?

  40. Quintero says:

    @Stephen: No. In a H2H Dynast, but I also have Reyes and Rollins who are pretty un-trade-able due to their health concern and advancing age. And we have ten categories for hitting(R,H,HR,RBI,SB,BB,TB,FPCT,AVG,OPS) which is favoring power over speed a tier more than 5X5.

    I totally agree with you on Davis is rarer than Beckham analysis, so I just passed on Beckham. And here is a tough one for you if you see this: Sandoval, A-Gonzo, and Ryan Zimmerman. Who would you want in this league. The other manager has great interest in Sandoval, so those two are offered. I want to swap Sandoval for Gonzo since Gonzo is the true “power guy/country strong” type of hitter within the group and he might just get unleashed from Petco no later than this year. Also, Panda’s body type puts the risk on his future. Talking about I shall not discriminate based on appearance.

    re Strasburg – then he is really over-hyped, because people are buying him like he guarantees to register two Ks an innings everywhere I see.

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