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February 12, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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State of the Farm: “Hold your head up, you silly girl, look what you've done. When you find yourself in the thick of it, help yourself to a bit of what is all around you, silly girl.”

Prospect rankings primer

The Top Ten

  1. OF Wil Myers
  2. RHP Chris Archer
  3. RHP Taylor Guerrieri
  4. SS Hak-Ju Lee
  5. RHP Jake Odorizzi
  6. IF/OF Richie Shaffer
  7. OF Drew Vettleson
  8. LHP Blake Snell
  9. LHP Felipe Rivero
  10.  RHP Alex Colome

1. Wil Myers
Position: OF
DOB: 12/10/1990
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 3rd round, 2009 draft (Royals), Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, NC)
2012 Stats: .343/.414/.731 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas (35 games); .304/.378/.554 at Triple Omaha (99 games)
The Tools: Plus hit/power; plus arm

What Happened in 2012: As it turns out, a healthy Myers is a monster Myers, as the 21-year-old put all questions from the 2011 season to rest by mashing at two levels and emerging as a top 10 prospect in baseball.

Strengths: Natural hitting ability; quick/strong wrists; balanced swing; excellent raw strength; plus bat speed; hit tool is easy 6; power potential is 6; middle-of-the-order profile; mature approach; quality athlete; plus arm.

Weaknesses: Not many weaknesses with the bat; swing can get a little wild; two-strike approach could use refinement; hasn’t been tested by high-level stuff yet; needs refinement with his outfield routes; baserunning.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; Myers is major-league ready and a high-level talent.

Fantasy Future: From a corner spot, Myers is likely to hit for average (.285+) with good game power (25-plus HR). Above-average right field profile. 

The Year Ahead: Myers is ready to jump into major-league waters, where his bat is expected to produce immediately. Against high level pitching, holes that didn’t exist in the minors start to open up, and for Myers, quality fastballs on the inner third will be a good test of his hand speed. Anything left out over the plate is batting practice, and he doesn’t miss many opportunities to crush mistakes. But the difference between Triple-A pitching and major-league pitching is extreme, and Myers will need to prove capable of hitting quality offerings to live up to his lofty hype.

Major league ETA: 2013

2. Chris Archer
Position: RHP
DOB: 09/26/1988
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 200 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2006 draft (Indians), Clayton High School (Clayton, NC)
2012 Stats: 3.66 ERA (128.0 IP, 99 H, 139 K, 62 BB) at Triple-A Durham; 4.60 ERA (29.1 IP, 23 H, 36 K, 13 BB) at major-league level
The Tools: 7 FB; 7+ SL; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2012: Archer took a step forward in Triple-A before arriving on the major-league scene, where his potent fastball/slider combo missed more than a bat an inning.

Strengths: Electric arm speed; fastball is lively and loose; routinely works 93-97; can touch higher in bursts; grade 7 pitch; slider is even better than fastball; sharp two-plane offering at 82-84 mph; some sources called it best secondary offering from a prospect; it’s a make-your-name pitch; changeup can show good action; has the arsenal and approach to start; high floor in relief as fallback.

Weaknesses: Below average command profile; arm slot inconsistency; needs grade refinement; changeup can get deliberate; good action, but struggles throwing it for strikes.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; command and changeup need work; high floor in relief; has stuff to close games.

Fantasy Future: Has serious bat-missing stuff in any role; has physicality to hold velocity and log innings; intense arsenal in bursts.

The Year Ahead: Mixed opinions on Archer’s future role, with some falling in love with the promise on the mound, as the 24-year-old has two plus-plus offerings and enough feel for the changeup that it has a chance to play. Others see a dominant reliever in the making, one with the potential to close games at the highest level. Archer will have more value in a rotation, but that assumes he reaches his lofty ceiling, which isn’t guaranteed, especially when you look at some of his command woes and the underdeveloped changeup. But with a patient approach, the payoff of developing  Archer into a rotation arm could be remarkable, and the bullpen will always be there if the outcome isn’t as desirable as intended.

Major league ETA: 2012

3. Taylor Guerrieri
Position: RHP
DOB: 12/01/1992
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Spring Valley High School (Columbia, SC)
2012 Stats: 1.04 ERA (52 IP, 35 H, 45 K, 5 BB) at short-season Hudson Valley
The Tools: 6+ FB; 7 potential CB

What Happened in 2012: One of the highest ceiling arms available in the 2011 draft, Guerrieri might have arrived at the professional level with slightly depressed stuff, but you wouldn’t be able to make that determination from the results.

Strengths: Excellent size and present strength; athletic; shows advanced pitchability for a power arm; in short-season ball, fastball worked low-90s, touching higher; pitch shows heavy movement down in the zone; some think a velocity spike is possible; true 6 offering at present with the chance for more; curveball is another 6 offering; tight rotation and heavy action; could end up a 7; shows ability to manipulate the ball; can cut the fastball; shows some feel for splitter-like changeup; very sharp control; plus command profile

Weaknesses: Fastball velocity was often pedestrian; more 90-92 than high school 94-97; some question the return of the intense velocity; fell into trap of aiming the ball; was hard to square up, but struggled at times to finish hitters; change/split still new to the arsenal.

Overall Future Potential: High-6; no. 2 starter

Explanation of Risk: High risk; projectable arm with polish; will need to maintain command profile while adding intensity to the arsenal.

Fantasy Future: Has the body and the command profile to log innings and pound the zone; has the stuff to miss bats; floor is innings chewer; ceiling much higher.

The Year Ahead: The Rays have a history of using a barbeque approach with their young arms (slow and low), and one can assume that will be the case with Guerrieri. He will most likely move up a level to the Midwest League, where his combination of pitchability and stuff will assure him continued success on the field. If the velocity ticks up, he could do serious damage in his full-season debut, and even if he stays in the solid-average to plus velocity range, the movement and command of the pitch will allow it to play up. This could go a number of different ways, from mid-rotation workhorse to top-of-the-rotation behemoth, and if he crushes the competition in the Midwest League, Guerrieri has the potential to be a top tier prospect at this time next season.

Major league ETA: 2016

4. Hak-Ju Lee
Position: SS
DOB: 11/04/1990
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 170 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2008 (Cubs), South Korea
2012 Stats: .261/.336/.360 at Double-A Montgomery (116 games)
The Tools: 7 potential glove; 6+ arm; 7 run; 5 potential hit

What Happened in 2012: With only 24 games of Double-A baseball under his belt, a return trip to the Southern League in 2012 brought about improvements at the plate and continued refinement in the field.

Strengths: Fast-twitch athlete; frame is lengthy and can hold additional strength/mass; high-end defensive profile at shortstop; actions are extremely fluid; soft hands; arm is very strong; first-step quickness and plus range; well above average speed; continues to improve as base runner; hit tool has potential; will work himself into favorable counts; the bat has a chance to play.

Weaknesses: Bat is empty; show some contact ability, but pitchers not afraid to challenge the zone; well below average power; questions about ability to square up velocity, especially stuff on the inner-third.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average player

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; glove is major league quality now; bat might not have the juice to play.

Fantasy Future: Defense-first player with some contact ability and secondary skills at the plate (speed/approach); legit stolen base threat; could turn weak contact into hits.

The Year Ahead: Lee is ready to move up to the Triple-A level, where a step forward at the plate could put him in line for a shot at the 25-man roster in 2014. The defensive profile is very strong, with the instincts and actions to excel at the position at the highest level. The bat is light, but if he can make contact and bring his legs into the equation, he should be able to produce enough batting average and secondary ability to play as a down-the-lineup bat.

Major league ETA: 2013

5. Jake Odorizzi
Position: RHP
DOB: 03/27/1990
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2008 draft (Brewers), Highland High School (New Douglas, IL)
2012 Stats: 3.32 ERA (38 IP, 27 H, 47 K, 10 H) at Double-A Northwest Arkansas; 2.93 ERA (107.1 IP 105 H, 88 K, 40 BB) at Triple-A Omaha; 4.91 ERA (7.1 IP, 8 H, 4 K, 4 BB) at major-league level.
The Tools: 6 FB; 5+ CB; 5 CH; 5 SL

What Happened in 2012: Odorizzi’s deep arsenal was too much for the Double-A level, and after 18 solid starts in Triple-A, the 22-year-old made two starts at the major-league level, setting himself up for a run at a roster spot in 2013.

Strengths: Plus athlete; clean delivery; repeats well; fastball works in the low-90s and can touch a little higher; shows some sink when spotted lower in the zone; curveball looks plus more than it looks average; good shape and vertical action; changeup is similar; is plus offering when he finishes the pitch; shows some arm-side fading action; slide piece adds another average or better pitch to the arsenal; shows feel for strike throwing; feel for sequence and situation.

Weaknesses: Lacks knockout pitch; arsenal is solid-avg, but lacks upside; fastball can flatten out when elevated; secondary offerings aren’t consistent enough to back hitters off fastball; gets loose in the zone and struggles to put hitters away.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; already achieved major-league level; mature arsenal; athletic with good mound IQ

Fantasy Future: Nothing fancy, but athletic enough to make adjustments and strong enough to log innings; won’t be big bat-misser at major-league level, but will compete and take ball every fifth day with intensity.

The Year Ahead: Odorizzi is ready for an extended major-league look, and with some pitchability and a deep solid-average arsenal, he showed be able to stick around for a ling time. He will often walk a tightrope, as the sum of his parts is greater than any one attribute. But as long as expectations are properly managed, Odorizzi should be a player that can contribute to a major-league rotation for a very long time. It’s not going to be flashy, but it’s going to be something positive.

Major league ETA: 2012

6. Richie Shaffer
Position: IF/OF
DOB: 03/15/1991
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Clemson University (Clemson, SC)
2012 Stats: .308/.406/.487 at short-season Hudson Valley (33 games)
The Tools: 6 arm; 5+ potential hit; 6 power potential

What Happened in 2012: The 25th overall player drafted in 2012, Shaffer wasted little time living up to the hype, showing an advanced bat and approach in the New York-Penn League.

Strengths: Mature approach to the game; fundamental swing; good bat speed and power potential; has a plan at the plate; track pitches very well; hit tool could play as solid-average; power could play as plus; strong arm at third; has enough athleticism to handle right field move (if necessary).

Weaknesses: Mixed opinion on defensive profile at third; glove is below-average (present); bat will be ticket to majors; has some miss in his bat; timing kick can leave him behind quality stuff; can let pitchers set the agenda; power utility is question mark.

Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular

Explanation of Risk: High risk; defensive limitation put pressure on bat; power will need to play.

Fantasy Future: Could end up as prototypical corner bat, with .~270 batting average and 20-plus home runs.

The Year Ahead: Shaffer is a mature offensive player that could move quickly, although his final landing spot is still very much up in the air. Organizational needs aside, his profile at third is fringe-average at best, and a move to right field or first base might be necessary at full maturity. His bat has the potential to play off third, but the power will need to become a part of his game. He has a good swing and a very good approach, but over-the-fence power will need to be the carrying tool if he wants to have value at the highest level.

Major league ETA: 2015

7. Drew Vettleson
Position: OF
DOB: 07/19/1991
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Central Kitsap High School (Silverdale, WA)
2012 Stats: .275/.340/.432 at Low-A Bowling Green (132 games)
The Tools: 5+ potential hit/power; 7 arm

What Happened in 2012: Making his full-season debut, Vettleson impressed with his bat in a pitcher-friendly league, showing the ability to make hard contact and game power.

Strengths: Good baseball skills; good athlete; hit tool projects to be above average; clean and short to the ball; shows good bat speed and ability to put barrel on the ball; good overall approach; power projects as above average ; swing conducive for over-the-fence production; 5 run; 5+ glove in right field; arm is very strong.

Weaknesses: Well rounded, but lacks loud offensive tools; hit/power have to play to projection for value; struggled some against quality spin; swing has some miss.

Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular

Explanation of Risk: High risk; bat needs to max out; has yet to pass Double-A test.

Fantasy Future: Could be .~275 hitter with good secondary skills (power/OBP); has the potential to hit 20 bombs; can swipe a few bases.

The Year Ahead: Vettleson is ready to move up to High-A, but won’t face the real test until he reaches the Double-A, level. Vettleson is a five-tool talent, but the utility of those tools might only play as solid-average. The swing gets good reviews, with a quick trigger and clean path to and through the ball. He is a good defensive outfielder with a very strong arm, and despite not being a burner, can steal a few bases, which adds a dimension to his overall offensive profile. He’s a good all-around prospect, but the end result is most likely solid and not special.

Major league ETA: 2015

8. Blake Snell
Position: LHP
DOB: 12/04/1992
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Shorewood High School (Shoreline, WA)
2012 Stats: 2.09 ERA (47.1 IP, 34 H, 53 K, 17 BB) at rookie-level Princeton
The Tools: 6 FB; 6 potential SL; 6 potential CH

What Happened in 2012: In 11 Appalachian starts, the highly projectable southpaw showed pitchability and stuff, missing bats and keeping rookie level hitters around the Mendoza line.

Strengths: Long, projectable body; room to add strength/weight; very good feel for pitching; arm/delivery works well; fastball works low-90s with some late vertical movement; can touch a little higher and projects to work in standard plus range (92-94); turns over a quality changeup that looks to have above-average potential; slider can miss bats; can show sharp tilt and wears a fastball disguise; good command profile.

Weaknesses: More control than command; can get loose up in the zone; has a lot of length to control in the delivery; will show multiple breaking ball looks, but curveball is behind slider; needs more secondary consistency.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Explanation of Risk: High risk; long way to go; yet to play at full-season level.

Fantasy Future: Could develop into legit mid-rotation arm (and maybe more); has clean delivery and good body; deep arsenal to work with; innings/strikeout potential.

The Year Ahead: Snell is ready for a full season in the Midwest League, and based on his pitchability and present arsenal, should have no problem moving up the prospect ranks in 2013. The fastball keeps improving, and the feel for the changeup is more advanced than the average young arm. The Rays will take it slow with Snell, and he will have time to refine his secondary arsenal and his command, and has the potential to develop into the next big arm in the system. At this time next season, we might need to adjust the conservative projection and attach a frontline ceiling. Long way to go, but this kid has a lot of potential.

Major league ETA: 2016

9. Felipe Rivero
Position: LHP
DOB: 07/05/1991
Height/Weight: 6’0’’ 150 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2008, Venezuela
2012 Stats: 3.41 ERA (113.1 IP, 115 H, 98 K, 29 BB) at Low-A Bowling Green
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6 potential CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2012: Slow and low, Rivero made the jump to full-season ball and made 21 starts and logged over 113 innings, almost twice the workload from the previous season.

Strengths: Loose and easy arm action; really smooth/effortless release; fastball is jumpy in the low-90s; good overall command of the pitch; can work north/south and east/west; curveball shows plus potential; hammer qualities that can miss bats; changeup might end up on same level; good arm speed on pitch and some arm-side fading action; pitchability; competes.

Weaknesses: Limited size/strength; can lose angle when he elevates; finds barrels in the zone; secondary arsenal is more flash than fire; changeup is behind other offerings; questions about workload potential/ultimate role. 

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Explanation of Risk: High risk; body not ideal for heavy workload; secondary arsenal behind fastball.

Fantasy Future: Could develop into legit rotation arm, with pitchability and plus three pitch mix; floor of bullpen arm.

The Year Ahead: Sources are mixed on Rivero’s ultimate role, but everybody agrees that the arm is of major-league quality. It’s not an ideal starter’s profile because of the body, but the feel for pitching is very present, and the arsenal has a chance to feature three above average pitches. That’s a promising package, and if he can add some strength and stamina without sacrificing the stuff, sticking around in the rotation is very possible.

Major league ETA: 2015

10. Alex Colome
Position: RHP
DOB: 12/31/1988
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2007, Dominican Republic
2012 Stats: 3.48 ERA (75.0 IP, 69 H, 75 K, 34 BB) at Double-A Montgomery; 3.24 ERA
(16.2 IP, 12 H, 15 K, 9 BB) at Triple-A Durham
The Tools: 7 FB; 6 potential CB

What Happened in 2012: A return trip to the Southern League lasted 14 starts before the Dominican arm was promoted to the International League where a strong performance put him in the discussion for a major-league role in 2013.

Strengths: Big arm strength; quick arm; fastball is easy plus and can often work in the 94-97 range; lively offering that is hard to square up; curveball looks to be a future plus offering; sharp pitch in the upper-70s; will flash a short cut-slider that can be effective as weak contact pitch.

Weaknesses: Poor command profile; delivery has effort; struggles to stay mechanically consistent; tendency to overthrow secondary stuff; pitchability is a question mark.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; setup potential

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; has late-inning stuff, but command is fringe and secondary arsenal inconsistent.

Fantasy Future: In bursts, fastball could play up and his command woes play down; has late-inning potential; should miss bats.

The Year Ahead: Sources seem to agree that Colome’s future will be in the bullpen, as the short-burst potential could make him an impact arm in a late-innings capacity. He has a deep arsenal, but a command profile that forces that arsenal to play down. In a max-effort role, he could work the fastball in the mid-90s and use multiple breaking ball looks to miss barrels. He should get a chance to make a name for himself at the major-league level in 2013, most likely working out of the bullpen.

Major league ETA: 2013

Prospects on the Rise

1. SS Jake Hager: A candidate for the top 10 this year, Hager just missed the list because of questions about his long-term profile at shortstop. A balanced, skill-oriented player, Hager can do a little of everything and has a very good chance of developing into a major-league player, with a utility future as a floor.

2. RHP Jesse Hahn: Finally healthy, this high ceiling arm looked the part in the New York-Penn League, showing off his heavy plus fastball and deep secondary assortment. Hahn has the type of arm strength that every team in baseball covets, and if he can take a step forward in full-season ball in 2013, his prospect stock is set to soar.

3. C Oscar Hernandez: On the prospect radar since he did unsightly things to a baseball in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011, Hernandez took his swing to the Appalachian League in 2012, where the results were very mixed. A promising bat, the 19-year-old backstop can absolutely demolish left-handed pitching, but arm-side stuff ate his lunch and spoiled what could have been his stateside breakout. Full-season ball might be too aggressive at this stage of the game, but a return trip to rookie ball might help coax the potential out of the stick and propel Hernandez up prospect lists.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013)

1. IF Tim Beckham: He will never be able to shake the stigma that comes with being 1:1 in the amateur draft, but Beckham is good baseball player and he’s going to play in the majors in 2013. Although far from the impact player most thought he would develop into, Beckham has legit baseball skills and has a chance to emerge as a utility option in the short-term and a second-division second baseman in a perfect world projection.

2. OF Brandon Guyer: On a roster with promising young outfielders like Jennings and Myers, Guyer will be hard pressed to find playing time at the major-league level. But in the event of injury or inconsistency, the 27-year-old has the potential to step into an outfield spot, with enough stick to keep pitchers honest and versatility on defense.

3. LHP Mike Montgomery: Only 12 short months ago, Montgomery was the top prospect in a very crowded Kansas City organization. Thanks to mechanical setbacks and stuff that seemed to stall in the high minors, Montgomery became a bargain bin arm and was included in the Myers/Shields blockbuster this offseason. If he can return to form, the Rays might just have another quality rotation arm to add to their seemingly never-ending conveyer belt of quality rotation arms.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)

  1. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
  2. Matt Moore, LHP
  3. Wil Myers, OF
  4. Chris Archer, RHP
  5. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
  6. Alex Cobb, RHP
  7. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
  8. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
  9. Richie Shaffer, 3B
  10. Drew Vettleson, OF

No longer one of baseball’s youngest teams, the Rays don’t have an abundance of under-25 players on their big-league roster. They certainly aren’t old, either; the team’s core––most notably 27-year-olds Evan Longoria and David Price––is in the prime of its career. While Tampa doesn’t have a position player under 25 with major-league experience, the pitching side is stacked with exciting young arms.

Perhaps the most intriguing debate on the Rays’ under-25 list comes between rotation-mates Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore. In a sense, it’s a classic pitchability-versus-stuff question. Hellickson, 25, shows an ability to manipulate and locate his low-90s fastball while mixing in one of the game’s best changeups. On the other hand, the 23-year-old Moore attacks hitters with an overpowering three-pitch mix––including a consistent mid-90s fastball and hard curve––with a much less refined feel for command. Despite their differing approaches, both Hellickson and Moore have the talent to become consistent no. 2 starters; Hellickson is much closer to that reality than Moore at present.

Even though the Rays’ roster isn’t extremely young, six players on this list are likely to play a role in Tampa at some point this season––Hellickson, Moore, OF Wil Myers, RHP Chris Archer, RHP Alex Cobb, and RHP Jake OdorizziThe 25-year-old Cobb may have cemented himself as a regular member of the Rays’ rotation last season, filling in for the injured Jeff Niemann by posting a 4.03 ERA in 23 starts. A likely no. 4 starter with a mid-rotation ceiling, Cobb can induce ground balls with his 90 mph-ish sinker and miss bats with his plus mid-80s split-changeup. His curveball is an average third offering.

While Archer, Myers, and Odorizzi enter the year with little or no major-league experience, all three have the talent and polish to make an impact on the AL East race this summer. Archer is likely the only of the three with a legitimate shot to crack the Opening Day roster; he’ll compete for a rotation spot in spring training. Even if he doesn’t win the job in camp, his wipeout fastball/slider combo should help the Rays in some role this season. Myers and Odorizzi are both coming off dominant Triple-A performances in 2012. Tampa Bay is counting on Myers to become the organization’s long-term answer in right field, and he could begin fulfilling that role by mid-season. —Jason Cole

A Parting Thought: With an impressive top tier of talent and a deep layer of role 5 types, the Rays have one of the better farm systems in baseball.

Last year's Rays rankings

Special thanks to Nick Faleris, Chris Mellen, Mark Anderson, and Jason Cole for their input and influence on this list. 

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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