Prospect #1: RHP Taylor Guerrieri
Background with Player: Industry sources
Who: A first round selection in the 2011 draft, Guerrieri isn’t often mentioned with the likes of fellow high school draftees Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley or Jose Fernandez, but his potential is every bit as promising. A physical pitcher, Guerrieri shows an explosive fastball, thrown on a steep plane anywhere from 92-98 mph. The pitch has good action on it, and profiles as a 7 pitch. It’s easy cheese thanks to an athletic and fluid delivery, one that he shows the ability to repeat and stay in. He shows a very promising curve, thrown with velocity and nice depth. It already flashes plus at present, and has the potential to become a true bat-missing weapon. I haven’t received many reports on the changeup that go beyond its existence, but the reports on the delivery and arm action were promising, and those I spoke with were encouraged that the arm looked good for a quality changeup. Guerrieri has prototypical size, excellent athleticism, a good delivery and a clean arm. He also has a heavy fastball thrown with velocity and a potential out pitch breaking ball, so the sky is the limit for the 19-year-old righty. Now all he has to do is pitch.

What Could Go Wrong in 2012: He has two pitches that will roast short-season hitters, and I think as long as he can throw strikes he’s going to miss bats. He could run into trouble against lefties because the changeup is still a baby, but those are expected hiccups during the early stages of  development. The Rays take it slow and low with their pitching prospects, so Guerrieri won’t be rushed up the chain. He will be allowed to struggle and adjust at each stop, adding elements and refining elements at a simmer. This can be enormously beneficial to the player and incredibly frustrating to the fan, as we often equate promise with promotion, and when that reward isn’t offered, the prospect can lose some shine. With fellow draftees shooting up the prospect rankings and taking big steps towards the ultimate goal by starting their careers in full-season ball, Guerrieri will be in a short-season league and it will be easy to forget that his promise is on par with theirs. This kid has an electric arm, with the chance to have a deep arsenal and a delivery conducive for repeatability and command. He has monster potential.

Prospect #2: SS Hak-Ju Lee
Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources
Who: Signed out of South Korea in 2008, Lee has the type of slick shortstop skills that can carry a player to the majors on defense alone. The 21-year-old is an extremely instinctual player, possessing an almost effortless ability to put himself in good position to make plays. His arm is very strong and his release quick, and his leather is above-average, which gives him all the necessary tools to profile as a plus defender at the next level. He’s a lot of fun to watch in the field. At the plate, he’s a bit empty, showing batting average potential because of a contact-oriented swing and plus-plus speed, but his bat doesn’t have the juice to hit for much power. He has a plan at the plate and isn’t immune to walks, but the higher he climbs, the more exploitable his offensive game will become.

What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Lee is a better hitter than his early season struggles indicate, but he’s not a great hitter and quality pitching can chew him up. He has some bat speed and he shows good bat control and contact ability, but righties can beat him with stuff, and lefties can beat him without stuff. The higher he climbs, the bigger the holes in his offensive game will look. Lee is still a fantastic prospect, mostly based on his defensive ability at a premium defensive position and his speed, which is a well-above-average tool. However, the bat is not an impact weapon, and that could prevent Lee from becoming a major league regular. If the hit tool steps up and he can make contact and take a good approach to the plate, Lee might be able to hit enough to stay on the field, where his glove could make him an above-average everyday player.  

Prospect #3: RHP Chris Archer
Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources
Who: Originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2006 draft by the Cleveland Indians, Archer is playing with his third organization and continues to be a frustrating prospect. Armed with two above-average offerings¾one of which is a 7 slider, considered by a few sources to be one of the best secondary pitches in the minors¾the 22-year-old righty has the stuff to miss bats at any level. His fastball can work in the low-to-mid 90s, and in bursts it can touch even higher. It’s a major league-quality pitch. When he can establish the fastball and use the sharp mid-to-upper 80s slider as his arsenal executioner, Archer looks the part of a frontline starter. The delivery has effort and the arm can get whippy, which affects his command and his changeup, both of which grade-out as below-average. The majority of sources believe Archer is destined for the bullpen, where his power pitches could make him a late-innings weapon, but the command profile is so suspect that major steps are required before any major league success would be possible.

What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Archer’s mechanics allow him to generate excellent velocity and sharp angles, but his mechanics also hinder his ability to repeat, and to maintain consistent release points, which limits the effectiveness of his changeup and causes his control to be well-below-average. The fastball and slider are fantastic individual offerings; the fastball has juice and the slider can be a soul crusher. But when Archer loses his delivery and can’t locate, the positive characteristics are nullified. Archer isn’t going to be a plus command type, but his stuff will play as long as he shows some control, which just means he can be effective by throwing strikes. Until he can find more consistency in the delivery (release points, etc.), he’s going to struggle against more advanced hitters, ones that have the patience to let him create his own misfortune.

Prospect #4: LHP Enny Romero
Background with Player: Industry sources
Who: Dominican southpaw signed in 2008, Romero sits on the bubble of breakout year after year, showing the explosive arsenal to make you dream and the inconsistent delivery and secondary offerings that snap you back into reality. Even when his mechanics are off, the 21-year-old lefty can miss bats, mostly due to his lively mid-90s fastball, which can just explode on the hitter, with good life to the arm side. He will also flash a hard curve and a late-fading changeup, both of which can miss bats, but the mechanical profile is so inconsistent that his secondary arsenal is hit or miss. Romero has a huge upside, with the chance to have three above-average pitches from the left side, including a plus-plus fastball, but the command/control issues could eventually push the arm into the bullpen.

What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Romero’s delivery is a bit of a mess, looking uncoordinated at times (despite being very athletic), with his long arms and lanky frame struggling to find fluidity and rhythm. His arm is special, and sometimes it produces beautiful things, like mid-90 mph fastballs with explosive late-life, or hard curves with tight rotation and bite, or changeups that feature both sinking action and arm-side fade. But the inconsistencies in the delivery don’t allow for control much less command, and as the delivery goes, the arsenal goes. If Romero can’t find consistency with his delivery, his control will continue to struggle and the developmental progress of his secondary arsenal will stall. Romero is only 21 years old and his body still has some physical projection, so as he matures, it’s possible that he can bring more strength and coordination to the delivery and, as a result, more consistency. If he can put it together, this kid has an impact arm, regardless of the future role.

Prospect #5: 3B Tyler Goeddel
Background with Player: Industry sources
Who: A supplemental first-round selection in the 2011 draft, Goeddel was paid like a top talent, receiving a well-above-slot bonus of $1.5M, and so far in the 2012 season, he is performing like one as well. Tall and athletic, Goeddel looks the part of a high-ceiling prospect, showing fluidity and coordination in his movements. In the field, Goeddel has made the transition from amateur shortstop to professional third baseman, but a few scouts mentioned that his skill set would look nice in center field, where his instincts, speed, and plus arm would play nicely. The only concern is the body and how much additional mass he will put on his frame, and how much that additional weight will affect his speed/quickness in the field. At the plate, the 19-year-old shows potential to hit for both average and power, with a leveraged swing capable of loud contact. It’s a five-tool package. Goeddel is a legit prospect.

What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Goeddel shows excellent bat speed, but his path to the ball isn’t especially short, so if pitchers can get in his kitchen, they can take advantage of his swing. The professional sample is small, and I’m only working off of a few scout observations—the majority of which were glowing—so it’s hard to accurately pinpoint Goeddel’s exploitable weaknesses. Goeddel is a big kid with a big swing, and he likes to take the bat off his shoulder and use it. I like an aggressive approach, but we shall see if it’s too aggressive, to the point where he can’t adjust to sequence. Looks like I need to plan a trip to the Midwest League as soon as possible.