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Tampa Bay Rays 2011 MLB Draft in Review
Rays 2011 MLB Draft Selections
Seriously, what can you say? 12 picks in the draft’s top 89 turned into 8 prospects in my personal top 79 and 14 total players within my top 166 list. Even if you think my list is garbage or don’t like being manipulated with arbitrary endpoints (what, top 166’s aren’t the norm?), you have to admit that Tampa walked away with quite a haul this past June. The biggest prize from draft day was first round pick Spring Valley HS (SC) RHP Taylor Guerrieri. Guerrieri has everything you want in a young pitching prospect. Feels like I’ve said that about a few 2011 arms so far. Just when I begin to think I’m being too optimistic about He throws hard yet easy, shows signs of a plus breaking ball, and repeats his mechanics as well as any teenager in pro ball. He also has a long track record of holding his velocity late into games to go along with a much shorter but still promising history of improved overall command.
RHP Taylor Guerrieri (North Augusta HS, South Carolina): 87-90 FB last summer until sudden 97 peak this spring; now sitting 93-94 due to added physical strength with a consistent peak of 97-98, holds velocity late as well as any prep pitcher I remember; FB has plus life; emerging 77-83 CB with plus upside that has turned into a weapon already; heavy FB; very low effort mechanics; FB command greatly improved; mid-80s SL with upside; will show CU with upside and cutter; 6-3, 195 (up from 180)
This is the first thing I ever wrote about Louisiana State OF Mikie Mahtook for this site: “Mikie Mahtook is white. I don’t know why that surprises me, but it does. It really does. I’m not proud of this fact.” Yeah, I was/am a dope. The unintentional but still weak admission embarrasses me to this day. That’s not to say I still don’t occasionally associate certain names with mental images – I blame society for that, in addition to all my other flaws – but I have made a conscious effort since then not to jump to any kind of unfortunate and unnecessary racial conclusions based solely on an individual’s name. Ah, feels good to get that off my chest. No matter what color he is, Mahtook is a really good prospect with one of the higher floors of any 2011 position player. He doesn’t have a single weak tool – maybe his speed/range in center will slip as he ages and bulks up, but both are presently average at worst – while possessing the right mix of power upside and athleticism that tends to get a guy noticed. Mahtook also gets bonus points from me for being a tools-first player who lived up to the hype collegiately; the year-to-year progression from tools to skills was easily seen to anybody lucky enough to watch him play from high school to his junior season at LSU. From a production/skill set standpoint, two comps that I think are fun: peak years Angel Pagan (’09 and ’10 mostly) and 2011 Melky Cabrera (but hopefully with a little more plate discipline).
[above-average to plus speed; good defender; above-average to plus arm; big power potential, but swing holds him back; excellent athlete; good approach; great athlete; 6-1, 195 pounds]
Sierra Vista HS (NV) SS Jake Hager is caught in between two worlds. On one hand, he’s a player with a well-deserved reputation as a throwback scrappy grinder gym rat who always gives 110% and leaves it all out on the field. The guy plays his butt off every game and practice. Hager has worked very hard to get to this point in his career. If we can now ignore my lame attempt at humor in the opening sentence, high effort and hard work are legitimate positives that ought to be lauded and, despite not being quantifiable, are correctly taken into consideration by all thirty MLB teams during pre-draft meetings. That said, man cannot live on scrap alone. Thankfully, on the other hand, Hager’s tools are pretty damn solid. He has tools that are good enough across the board that they ought to be the headliner while his dirtbag persona takes a backseat. Luckily for Tampa, they don’t have to choose between the two – they’ll get the best of both worlds. Hager’s defensive tools and skills (arm, footwork, pre-pitch positioning, and instincts) are particularly strong, especially if he moves to third base. If third is what the future holds, I really think his glove will be strong enough of a tool to carry him, perhaps as a player similar to Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez or fellow 2011 draftee Jason Esposito. If he can combine that with the offensive comp I heard on him pre-draft (the good version of Daric Barton), then you’ve got a star level player, right? I’m not proud of throwing back-to-back sentences beginning with “if” at you, but that kind of comes with the territory when talking prep prospects.
Hager is a shortstop on many team’s draft boards, but I prefer him as a potential defensive star at third base. His arm and reaction time are both perfectly suited for the hot corner. The only downside with moving him off short is the acknowledgement that his bat, specifically his power, profiles better as a middle infielder that at a corner. His approach to hitting and history of hitting with wood assuage some of those worries, but I understand the concern. I’ve heard a Daric Barton comp on his bat that I like.
I liked Santiago HS (CA) SS Brandon Martin just a touch better than Hager pre-draft. Nothing has happened since that has changed my opinion. I only bring it up to reiterate how close the two players were and are in my mind. The two guys are really similar players, so almost everything said about Hager above applies to Martin here. Martin gets the edge for me because of his slightly better chance of sticking at shortstop (total judgment call there – seems many like Hager as a shortstop way more than I do, and that’s cool) and a slightly more advanced to hitting (e.g. more patience and better pitch recognition). Tracking the progress of these two similar prospects will be a lot of fun in the coming years.
What stands out to me about Martin’s game is his approach to hitting. His speed is good, his arm is good, and the likelihood he sticks at shortstop is, well, good, but it is his potential plus hit tool and professional approach at the plate that separates him from the pack. Regular readers of the site probably realize that certain hitting-related buzzwords — approach, patience, maturity — get my attention more than others — aggressive being the first that comes to mind — and many of my favorites just so happen to be words that scouts often use to describe Martin.
Potential plus defense at the hot corner is what helps St. Francis HS (CA) 3B Tyler Goeddel stand out among the glut of infielders drafted by Tampa in 2011. His bat should play quite well at the position, and his athleticism, quick release, and footwork will continue to earn him sterling reviews with the glove.
Fast rising Tyler Goeddel has emerged as one of the finest prep players in California this spring. He’s shown all five tools in game action, including a really strong hit tool. His arm, speed, and power are all average or better, and his pro frame gives him room to mature physically.
How can you not love Lower Columbia JC RHP Jeff Ames? He fits the classic plus fastball but little else potential shutdown reliever archetype better than any prospect in this year’s draft. One thing to watch: when Ames misses, he misses high. His fastball is really tough from about the elbows/letters down, but when he starts elevating the pitch, it becomes much, much easier to drive. If the Tampa staff can help him continue to progress cutting and sinking his fastball, he’s a keeper.
Lower Columbia JC SO RHP Jeff Ames: 92-95 FB, 97 peak; plus movement on FB; inconsistent offspeed stuff
The buzz on Shorewood HS (WA) LHP Blake Snell grew and grew as the spring progressed. Unfortunately, that buzz wasn’t particularly positive as many scouts and front office types came away believing college might be best for Snell’s long-term outlook. Whether or not the college route was the right course of action is a moot point; Snell is a professional and there’s no looking back now. The flashes he showed as a high school senior – lefties who hit 94 are nothing to sneeze at – give some hope that he’ll flourish as a pro, but he’s not one of my personal favorites from this class due to his lack of any consistent offspeed offering.
LHP Blake Snell (Shorewood HS, Washington): 86-90 FB, 92-94 peak; slow CB flashes above-average; average CU; less polished than expected; good athlete; 6-4, 190
For most of the spring I thought I was higher on Western Kentucky OF Kes Carter than most; that smug satisfaction blew up in my face once I saw I had actually underrated Carter’s upside, at least in terms of draft stock. Tampa selecting Carter in the supplemental first caught me by surprise – had him pegged somewhere between rounds 5-10, though closer to 5 than 10 – but it is easy to see why they liked him so high. His in-game play and consensus scouting reports both remind me of Shane Victorino. A quick search of the archives reveals that I like using Victorino as a comp. Previously compared to Shane Victorino by me: Jackie Bradley Jr. (but only if you are a believer in his bat) and Gary Brown (still like this one a lot). The Victorino comp is basically a proxy for the following: good speed, CF range, plus arm, strong OBP skills, and deceptive power upside. One big difference between Carter and Victorino at similar points in their development: Carter turns 22 in March and has 15 pro plate appearances while Victorino, he of the unusual minor league career path, still managed 1576 plate appearances by the same age. Probably unwise to compare a college draftee to a high school pick, but what’s done is done. Additionally, if you are into making size/power upside judgments (I’m not, but I don’t judge), keep in mind that Carter has a good five inches on Victorino. It should go without saying that the Victorino comp is Carter’s perfect world projection. Also, take the comp as something I find logical for the reasons listed, and not necessarily how I think things will go; intuitively, I just don’t have a very strong feeling about Carter ever becoming an impact player as a pro. I think his more realistic ceiling is as a high-level fourth outfielder. Then again, that’s the same ceiling many fans put on Victorino back in the day. Hmm…
[91 peak FB; plus arm; capable CF; little power at present, but raw power is there; above-average speed; 6-1, 190 pounds]
Pretty much everything about Vanderbilt LHP Grayson Garvin I feel like saying I’ve already said, but I’ll ramble on a bit because I’m a sucker for completeness. Garvin has retained the skills of a soft-tossing lefthander even though he suddenly started throwing much harder this past spring. I’m much more comfortable betting on a pitcher with a clear consistently above-average second pitch than Garvin shows, but he is well-rounded enough that a long career pitching at the back of a big league rotation seems well within reach. A more physical Paul Maholm, maybe?
Vanderbilt JR LHP Grayson Garvin: started 87-89 FB, 90-91 peak; sitting 89-92 now, 93-95 peak; good FB command; 70-73 CB with upside if thrown harder; now up to 73-75 and above-average pitch; average 77-80 CU with room for improvement, could be plus in time; cutter; SL; good athlete; outstanding control; 6-6, 220
Garvin is a classic pitchability lefty (love his FB command and overall control) who has just so happened to grow into above-average velocity from the left side. He doesn’t have a pitch that is a consistent out pitch, but both his curve and change flash above-average enough to give him the upside of a back of the rotation arm.
I can’t decide if Oakland Technical HS (CA) OF James Harris is the high school version of Kes Carter or if Carter is the college version of James Harris. Either way, the two prospects are fairly similar: strong glove, good speed, not much power upside. I prefer Harris based on his youth, superior range in center, and better speed. If you liked Carter because of his strong college production, more advanced hit tool, and an arm strong enough that he could be tried on the mound if need be, I wouldn’t call you crazy. Wrong, but not crazy…
[plus-plus range in CF; plus runner; plus athlete; limited raw power; bat has a long way to go; iffy arm; classic leadoff hitter approach]
It really is impossible to dislike Tampa’s 2011 draft. Sure, you can nitpick a couple selections here and there, but having 12 picks in the draft’s first 89 makes it really hard for a team to out and out blow it. I’m not really sure what it means then that Palmetto HS (FL) OF Granden Goetzman, Tampa’s eleventh overall pick but their first selection outside of the first round, is actually my favorite non- Guerrieri pick, but I think it is a good thing. There’s a really thin line that separates Goetzman from guys like Eierman, Goeddel, and Mahtook. The next tier of Martin, Hager, and Garvin isn’t really that big a step down, either. Of all those prospects, however, I’d take Goetzman over the rest. His pro debut (.173/.262/.213 in 75 AB) betrays his rawness, but you don’t draft a prospect like Goetzman for instant impact. Tampa drafted two similar prospects at different stages of their development in Kes Carter (college) and James Harris (high school). In Goetzman, they have a player with a wide tool base (55’s or better across the board) who reminds a lot of where Mikie Mahtook was as a prospect before enrolling at LSU.
[plus speed; plus raw power; arm enough for 3B or RF; raw; lots of range in CF; bat is raw, but quick; huge upside gamble; 6-3, 200]
With a name like Hawaii RHP Lenny Linsky’s, you are pretty much preordained to be a big league reliever, right? Lenny Linsky is just a great bullpen name. A true plus fastball due to outstanding velocity and movement (that phrase would be redundant if anybody in baseball used the word “velocity” correctly, but that’s a battle I’ve long given up on) is his bread and butter, but his unique hard cut slider is a legitimate weapon in its own right. My not so bold prediction of the day: it won’t be long before Linsky is closing in Tampa.
Hawaii JR RHP Lenny Linsky: 94-97 peak FB with plus sink; plus upper-80s cut SL
Warsaw HS (MO) OF Johnny Eierman’s much discussed move to the outfield could get his bat going a lot quicker than if he was left to fend for himself playing up the middle of the infield. I get that. But can you imagine his upside as an all-around ballplayer if he can stick at either short or second? I suppose he’d also provide plenty of value if he someday proves himself capable of handling center, but visions of Eierman turning two at the keystone keep dancing in my head.
Like Phillip Evans, Johnny Eierman’s a future professional second baseman with a chance of going in the first round. Also like Evans, Eierman has plus raw power, a plus arm, and plus defensive tools. His bat speed rivals that of any player in the class, college or pro, and his athleticism makes him an option at almost any position on the field. He’s an undeniably raw prospect with a complicated swing setup in need of some good old fashioned pro coaching, but if it all clicks for him he has easy big league All-Star upside.
Arizona State 3B Riccio Torrez represents what I think was Tampa’s attempt to make a “safe” college pick. So much of their draft was focused on upside that the potential reality of rolling snake eyes on all of their high school upside gambles, however small those odds may be, began creeping into the collective consciousness of their draft day decision makers. That’s one theory, at least. Guess it could also be possible that the Rays genuinely liked Torrez as a potential big leaguer someday. He does have some upside as an offense-first utility guy, but he’s never been a big personal favorite. For me, he’s a AAAA bat without quite enough value in his other tools (though, in fairness, versatility isn’t a tool yet he still deserves credit for it) to get him to the big leagues, at least not in any linear developmental path.
Torrez seems to finally have found a defensive home at third base. A team could draft him as a true third base prospect now and hope his bat grows into the role, or, and I think this is the more likely outcome, a team could draft him with the idea that he could develop into a versatile utility player. His only standout tool is his raw power, but even that is mitigated somewhat by a swing that currently lacks the proper loft needed to consistently drive balls up and out.
Elk Grove HS (CA) 3B JD Davis enters college as one of the most intriguing freshman two-way talents. I’m actually thrilled Davis is going to school because he is the epitome of a two-way college guy: just athletic enough to both pitch and play the field, but not quite athletic enough to handle much more than first base; plus arm and plus raw power with questions about command and ability to hit for average. Whoops, think I just previewed 2012 draft prospect Austin Maddox by accident.
Yet another two-way player likely heading off to college. Davis sports a well-rounded skill set, but no plus tool that will get a scout hot and bothered.
Cal State Fullerton RHP Jake Floethe is far more of a scouting pick than a numbers-approved selection. With the potential for three average or better big league pitches, Floethe is an intriguing gamble despite his less than thrilling college stats. His upside falls somewhere between fourth/fifth starter (if his changeup and slider continue to progress) or middle reliever (if it is decided he scrap an offspeed pitch and focus on sharper, shorter bursts). That’s upside, mind.
Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Jake Floethe (2011): 90-93 FB with plus sink; good CU; promising SL; room for growth
You often hear about a prep pitching star who peaked velocity-wise as a teenager – Kasey Kiker being the most recent example – but Gonzaga LHP Ryan Carpenter is the rare example of a college guy doing the same. Guys like this make the whole projection game really difficult. A pessimist might choose to focus on the fact that Carpenter may never recapture his college peak velocity (low-90s sitting fastball, 95 peak). An optimist could then point to his more refined (by necessity) offspeed stuff that complements his still acceptable upper-80s heater quite nicely. I’m not too proud to say I have no idea what his future holds – so much depends on his return to form as he recovers fully from arm troubles.
Gonzaga JR LHP Ryan Carpenter: at one time threw a heavy 92-94 FB, touching 95 with movement; now sits upper-80s, with rare peak of 92; above-average 81-82 SL, dominant at times; inconsistent but quickly improving 77-78 CU; low-70s CB that he uses very sparingly; 6-5, 225 pounds
Let’s squint our eyes together and look far off into Tampa’s future: Goeddel at third, Martin at short, Hager at second, and Glendora HS (CA) 1B John Alexander bringing the power at first? Everything working out just like that isn’t bloody likely, but the fact that we can even pretend it could happen is a testament to the wonderfully ecumenical (a rare SAT word that has stuck with me) approach Tampa took on draft day. For the millionth time, first basemen need to hit a ton to even be considered a viable prospect let alone a potential big leaguer. Alexander has an uphill road because of this, but his power upside, exciting athleticism, and mature beyond his years approach to hitting make him interesting to track. I wasn’t on him pre-draft, but that’s less of a commentary on Alexander’s upside than it is an indictment on my ability to follow everybody that deserves attention.
The Rays were wise to save a little cash by snagging a cheaper senior sign like Western Kentucky C Matt Rice within the draft’s first ten rounds. Rice is a good athlete, good defender, and by all accounts a good guy; it’s easy to see why Tampa would like a guy like this handling their bevy of up and coming arms.
Rice is a definite riser in my mind; very little chance he winds up as 2011′s Mr. Irrelevant (last overall pick in draft) like he was in 2010. He’s still a late-rounder, but he makes a lot of sense in the larger context of the draft. Sure, the ultimate goal is to draft as many potential big league contributors as possible. We all know that much. Come rounds 25 and on, however, you’re mixing and matching prep athletes with upside and signability questions and org players needed to fill out minor league rosters. Rice strikes me as a perfect org guy – great teammate, wonderful influence on his peers, and not totally devoid of talent in his own right.
Gahr HS (CA) RHP Jacob Faria was a really good get as a tenth rounder with significant upside. There’s a large gap between what he is and what he will be, but his promising pro start (14 K/1 BB in 15.2 IP) certainly doesn’t hurt his cause.
That finally covers Tampa’s first ten rounds. Haven’t bothered to do a word count, but I’m willing to bet there is more here on just their top ten rounders than what I’ve written on some teams’ entire drafts. Crazy. Thankfully, the expenditure from the first ten rounds made the later rounds a little bit lighter than normal, but there are some interesting names worth noting.
Oklahoma 1B Cameron Seitzer (Round 11) has gotten more attention than your usual later draft selection because of his famous last name. Like Faria above, his pro start was pretty darn encouraging, so long as you ignore the whole age/development/league/sample size issues of a college guy tearing up rookie ball.
Power and bloodlines will help get Seitzer through the door, but it could be the development of his already much improved two-strike approach that makes or breaks him as a pro.
Shorewood HS (WA) 1B Trevor Mitsui (Round 12) goes to Washington to prove that his bat is strong enough to carry him as a professional first base prospect. St. James HS (SC) OF Tanner English (Round 13) takes his awesome speed, center field defense, and solid hit tool to South Carolina. English is the better prospect, but either guy would have been a fine signing for Tampa. Consider these losses the downside of having 33 (give or take) first round picks.
I’ve run out of nice things to say about Coastal Carolina SS Taylor Motter (Round 17). Nice original things, that is – I could say nice things about him all day, but I’m pretty sure at this point I’m just repeating myself. He’s a stat-head favorite who has just enough going for him in the raw tools department to get the unfortunate stat-head only stigma attached to his name. Here’s something nice I don’t think I’ve said about him before: you can win a championship with Taylor Motter as your starting shortstop. The flood of upcoming Tampa middle infield prospects could push him aside. I think he’s holding onto because, at worst, he looks like a valuable utility infielder to me.
I can’t even begin to guess where Motter will actually go on draft day, but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that whatever team winds up with him will get one of the draft’s underrated gems. Like Brandon Loy ranked just below him, Motter’s biggest strengths are his plus glove and plus throwing arm. Any above-average tools besides those two are gravy, though it certainly doesn’t hurt that Motter has an average hit tool and good speed. A couple of really nice things I heard about Motter after talking to people in the know included a description that included ”he simply does not waste at bats” and a glowing report on “his professional knowledge of the strike zone.” Motter obviously doesn’t profile as a Troy Tulowitzki type of power hitter, but with his defense, speed, and command of the strike zone, he won’t have to hit the ball out of the ballpark to someday get a chance as a starting big league shortstop.
Tennessee RHP Matt Ramsey (Round 20) could be a fast riser if healthy. His fastball peaks in the mid- to upper-90s and his curve is a plus offering when on. The former catcher’s mechanics have improved significantly over the past calendar year, so there’s some hope that there’s even more velocity to be had. I’m not so sure about that – if he’s peaking 96-98 already, how much higher can he realistically go? – but I could see his current fluctuating velocity become more consistent.
Tennessee JR RHP Matt Ramsey: low-90s peak in HS, now up to 96 peak FB; low-80s CB that flashes plus; converted catcher who PG compared to Russell Martin in high school; 5-10, 200
I’m totally in the bag for Dexter HS (MA) RHP John Magliozzi (Round 35) because, as any long-time readers know, very few things excite me more than short righthanded pitchers. Magliozzi may be undersized, but his fastball (sits low-90s, peaks 94) is plenty tall. His changeup is a strong second pitch and he worked in both a slider and a curve at times while in high school. If he is draft-eligible as a freshman as Baseball America claims (and I have no reason to doubt them, just highlighting the pain in the neck that is determining draft eligibility at times), then we’ll likely be talking about him again in a few months.
RHP John Magliozzi (Dexter HS, Massachusetts): 90-92 FB, 93-94 peak; good 80-81 CU; SL; 5-10, 175
Kansas RHP Tanner Poppe (Round 37) heads back to Kansas hoping to rebound after a disappointingly lackluster sophomore season. Poppe has the size, stuff, and mechanics to get himself drafted in the single digit rounds in 2012, but it’ll take a drastic turn in performance this spring.
Kansas SO RHP Tanner Poppe (2011): 90-93 FB with late life; solid 74 CB; 80 CU; easy mechanics; extremely projectable; 6-5, 220 pounds; (4.82 K/9 – 4.82 BB/9 – 4.51 FIP – 61.2 IP)
UC Irvine 1B Jordan Leyland (Round 44) has big raw power, but that’s about it when it comes to average or better tools. Texas C Kevin Lusson (Round 45) also returns to school. At bats could be hard to come by in an improved Longhorns lineup. Despite having played third base and catcher in the past, his best bet for college at bats could be at first.