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Tampa Bay Rays

Original Published Date: Nov. 21, 2012

The Rays had a remarkable run of successful first round draft picks in the early part of the century with such notable talents as B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, Jeff Niemann, Evan Longoria, and David Price. However, starting in 2008 with the selection of Tim Beckham as the number one overall pick, the Rays drafting has been…well, poor.  Consequently, the entire minor league system is down; and for an organization that relies on building from within, it could spell trouble for the team down the road.

In the meantime, there is still talent in the organization and it starts with right handed pitcher Taylor Guerrieri.  While Guerrieri has only pitched in short season ball, he shows a lot of promise with a heavy fastball that generates a ton of ground balls and a curve ball that is a real swing and miss pitch.  Hak-Ju Lee is the top positional player and I believe the glove is ready for Tampa.  However, he’s at least a half a season away as the Rays will not start his clock prematurely.  Chris Archer and Alex Colome have impressive arms but control issues continue to plague them.

Finally, two young lefties are worth keeping an eye on in Blake Snell and Enny Romero.  Both have good arsenals with Snell having great control and Romero able to dial it up to the upper nineties.

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1. Taylor Guerrieri (RHP)

2013 Age: 20 BP: S. Carolina
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 SS 52.0 35 6 0 0.87 7.79 1.04 0.77

While Tampa has struggled in recent years with drafting elite talent, I believe Taylor Guerrieri will be an exception.  With a great pitcher’s body at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Guerrieri has a nice arsenal but most importantly, at only 19 years old, he really knows how to pitch.

Guerrieri throws a heavy fastball that he can run up to 95 MPH.   In 52.0 innings in the New York Penn League, he had a 5.00 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio (G/F).  He also throws what looks like a spike curve to me.  It has a classic 11 to 5 delivery but then really darts indicating that it’s not a classic curve.  I really like the pitch and believe it will produce a lot of swing and misses.  His change-up is emerging and should be a quality pitch down the road.

From a pitching mechanics standpoint, he has a nice easy delivery with good posture and nice balance.  His stride is average which helps his control but also reduces some of illusion that the fastball is jumping up on the batter.  He also produces some whippy action on his delivery as he really reaches back.

So Guerrieri has good stuff, great command, and really good pitching mechanics.  That means the Rays will move him quickly through the system, right?  Unfortunately history says no but if there is a guy who has a chance to cover Low-A and High-A in 2013, it’s Guerrieri.

Fantasy Impact: You have to love rostering Rays pitchers on your fantasy team and Guerrieri is no exception.  He’s an elite talent with the chance for elite strikeout counts and a great ERA.  Since he’s a ground ball pitcher, he’s WHIP might be slightly elevated but everything looks great.  I’d be selecting Guerrieri as a 15-25 minor league pitcher in a Dynasty Draft.

2. Hak-Ju Lee (SS)

2013 Age: 22 BP: South Korea
Ht:6-2  Weight: 170 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2013
2012 AA 475 68 4 37 37 .261 .336 78.5 10.7 .324

Hak-Ju Lee was part of the Matt Garza trade after the 2010 season when the Cubs weren’t sure if they were contenders or pretenders.  While we clearly know that answer now, the Cubs lost was the Rays gain as they acquired an elite defender who should be able to hit at the top of a major league batting order.

Tall and thin, Lee has great speed and actions at shortstop.  He seemingly gets to everything that’s hit near him and has enough arm to play on the biggest stage.   The speed also translates well on the base path as Lee stole 37 bases in 2012 while only getting caught nine times.  While he does have plus speed, the speed plays up as he’s a smart base runner with the ability to read pitchers well.

As a hitter, Lee is a classic slap hitter that is constantly reaching out to make enough contact to use his wheels to get on base.  From time-to-time, he’ll be able to get behind a ball and drive it but for the most part, he’ll have very little power.  He does understand the strike zone and should be able to have decent on base skills at the highest level.

I think Lee is ready for the show, both defensively and at the plate.  He’s also a better option at shortstop than who the Rays currently have on their major league roster.   However, we all know he will not break camp with the team and can only hope that he will be a June call-up.

Fantasy Impact: I like Lee better as a baseball player than a fantasy player.  I think he’ll bat .260 with 20-30 stolen bases, RUNS, but little else.  I think he’ll profile as a late-round middle infielder for teams looking to add cheap speed.  You should bid accordingly in Dynasty Leagues.

3. Chris Archer (RHP)

2013 Age: 24 BP: N. Carolina
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 200 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AAA 128.0 99 52 6 4.36 9.77 3.66 1.26

Chris Archer made his Major League debut in 2012 and pitched pretty well in his 29.1 innings.  He showed his plus fastball that averaged 94.65 and his plus-plus slider that achieved a WHIFF rate of 16.79%.  However, he also demonstrated his below average change up that continues to be his problem and why ultimately Archer may be better served in the bullpen.

Right-handed starting pitchers who have only two pitches are rarely successful at the highest level.  The reason is you need some type of off speed pitch to throw against left-handed batters.  In those same 29.1 innings, Archer had a .164 batting average against right-handed hitters, but lefties hit .300.  While his minor leagues splits were not as severe, it was still significant.

Compounding concerns about Archer effectiveness is his inability to throw strikes.  His career walk rate per nine sits at 5.09 with a slightly better 4.36 BB/9 in Triple-A during 2012.  His mechanics don’t help as his balance can get off as he has a tendency to overthrow his pitches and loose his release point.  Sometimes he is spot on, but it varies from inning to inning or even batter to batter.

Don’t get me wrong, Archer has a great arm but the arsenal is incomplete and his mechanics give him problems with his release point.  However, the Rays have a knack for fixing control issues (see Fernando Rodney as the latest example), so don’t count Archer out just yet.

Fantasy Impact: Archer is only draftable in a 2013 draft and hold league format, but still should be owned in Dynasty Leagues.  He’s not a Top 100 talent for me but falls just outside.

4. Blake Snell (LHP)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Washington
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2016-17
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 SS 47.1 34 11 4 3.23 10.08 2.09 1.08

Blake Snell was part of the massive 2011 draft class of the Rays that consisted of 10 of the first 60 picks.  For the record, Snell was pick number 52 and I have him ranked as the second best prospect from that class.

In 2012, Snell took a big leap forward as his secondary pitches improved from his amateur days.  His arsenal starts with a low 90’s fastball that has a lot of late movement.  He keeps the ball down in the zone and consequently generates a ton of ground balls (2.38 G/F).  He looks like he’s ditched his curve and is focusing on his slider, where he is able to generate plenty of swing and misses.  His change-up is fringy at the moment but I’m hopefully that this will become an average offering if not more.

Snell’s delivery is old school in that he throws basically overhand.  This approach helps him keep good posture, which in turn helps him with his balance in order to maintain his control of his pitches.  I wouldn’t call it the most athletic delivery I’ve ever seen, but it definitely works.  With good mechanics and an emerging arsenal, I think Snell has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter if not more.

Fantasy Impact: I’m not ready to draft Snell on a Dynasty League, but he is one of a number of young prospects that I’m monitoring.

5. Alex Colome (RHP)

2013 Age: 24 BP: D.R.
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AA-AAA 91.2 81 35 3 4.24 8.88 3.45 1.36

Alex Colome is one of those prospects that we’ve been talking about for seemingly forever.  Blessed with a great arm, Colome has yet to put together a season that has pushed him to the upper echelon of talent.

He has a nice arsenal that begins with a sinking fastball that he can pump up into the mid-90’s.  However, it doesn’t have a lot of movement and therefore it’s hittable.  Fortunately, he limits the damage by keeping his pitches down in the zone.  His curveball is a plus pitch that can get a lot of swing and misses but the change-up is fringy.  The results seem to match the arsenal as Colome does get a lot of strikeouts but the ground ball rate should be better indicating the problems he’s having with movement on his two seamer.  Plus, there are platoon splits that indicate the lack of a quality change-up.

In reviewing Colome’s delivery, there are problems there as well.  First, he definitely slings the ball which is causing him to loose his release point.  Without a consistent release point, good control is nearly impossible and that also shows up in his statistical profile (4.24 BB/9).  The balance is pretty good though but I’m not sure the delivery will work long-term.

If you wrap it all up, Colome does have a good arm but that arm is probably destined for the bullpen.

Fantasy Impact: I’m not a huge fan of Colome and believe he should only be owned in the deepest of Dynasty Leagues.

6. Mikie Mahtook (OF)

Taken as the 31st pick in the 2011 draft, Mikie Mahtook has a solid hit tool with contact ability and plate discipline.  He also has some speed but I’m not convinced he profiles as an above average center fielder.  On the other hand, he doesn’t have the power to really play a corner and therein lays the problem.  I think he profiles as a .270 hitter with mid-single digit home run power who could swipe 20 bases a year.  He’s ok, even good, but for me, he’s a second division talent given his lack of power and concern about where he will play in the outfield.

7. Enny Romero (LHP)

When doing the research for this Top 10, I asked my contacts “Who should I know more about?” and Enny Romero was mentioned several times.   He has an electric arm that allows him run his fastball up into the mid to upper 90’s.  While his curve ball is inconsistent, it does have potential.  The big problem is he essentially doesn’t know where the ball is going.  He walked 76 batters in 126.0 innings in High-A.  Usually control comes from poor mechanics and that seems to be the case with Romero.  His windup looks good; big, some would call it old school.  However, he speeds up the release and then slings the ball causing his balance to be inconsistent.    That said there is clearly something there as lefties who throw hard do not grow on trees.

8. Richie Shaffer (3B)

The Rays are notorious for drafting high-ceiling high school athletes, but in 2012 they drafted Richie Shaffer, a polished college hitter as their top selection.  I’ve not seen him play live but looking at his swing on tape, it’s your typical long power stroke; lots of pull side leverage.  The bat speed looks good so it will come down to his contact ability which wasn’t great (74%) in a limited sample size of 117 at-bats in the NY Penn League.  Bear in mind that right handed power typically takes a while to develop, so you’ll need to exhibit some patience with Shaffer.

9. Jeff Ames (RHP)

Jeff Ames defines projectable and how continuing to work on your mechanics and adding strength can payoff.  Ames was drafted three times: in the 46th round in 2009, the 30th round in 2010, and finally by the Ray in 2011 as the 42nd overall pick.  The wait and hard worked earned him a 650K signing bonus.  Ames arsenal consists of a fastball that can top out in the mid 90’s with a slider that looks above average.  His delivery looks repeatable and his 2.80 BB/9 in 64.1 innings in 2012 supports the scouting report.  While Ames still has a long way to go, he could develop into a back of the rotation starter or reliever.

10. Tim Beckham (SS)

By now, we all know the draft story.  Tim Beckham was taken as the number one overall pick in the stacked 2008 draft class and has a career slash line of .264/.330/.361 in five years in the minors.  In that same year, Pedro Alvarez was taken with the number two pick and hit 30 home runs last year.  The Kansas City Royals are building their team around Eric Hosmer (#3), and oh yeah…some guy named Buster Posey (#5) has collected a ROY and MVP award.  The big question is will Tim Beckham ever contribute at the Big League level.  I think yes, but he’s not going to be an star but instead a second division starter or a utility player.

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