It’s always fun to watch who will be the next to have a breakout season in the Rays’ farm system. In an organization teeming with young talent, it’s only a matter of time before someone will transform from an unknown minor leaguer into a well-known top prospect. Last year, we saw both Matt Moore and Hak-Ju Lee enjoy breakout seasons, which changed the future outlook of the club in a way. So, who down at the farm could have a breakout season this year? It’s obviously hard to predict after just a month of baseball, but it’s safe to say there are at least six good legitimate candidates already.
Consistency is the name of the game for 20-year-old Ryan Brett, who’s emerging as one of the organization’s top hitting prospects. The switch-hitting second baseman is an outstanding contact hitter, and also has the ability to make solid contact with the ball. He hit at least .300 in his previous two seasons in the Rookie League, and he’s started off the 2012 in right direction. In his first year of full-season ball (Class A Bowling Green), Brett has posted a .296/.342/.417 line with nine RBI and five stolen bases. At five-foot-nine and 180 pounds, he doesn’t generate much power, but he’s shown a bit a pop thus far with a pair of homers in the first month of the season. As I said before, Brett’s consistent and likely won’t fall into any major slumps this year. If he keeps up the pace he’s at now, he’s bound for a breakout year.
It’s been one hot—and surprising—start for third baseman Tyler Goeddel, who came into the season as somewhat of an overlooked draftee. Picked in the first round of last year’s draft, Goeddel’s making his pro debut with Single-A Bowling Green. Not only is he starting his professional baseball career in full-season ball at the age of 19, but he’s also thriving in it. Although he’s cooled off as of late, Goeddel’s still hitting .294/.341/.471 with 13 RBI and three homers in 85 at-bats. He also has good speed, stealing five bases (caught once) so far this season. Power has really been the main surprise this year for Goeddel. He is six-foot-four, but he weighs only 180 pounds. Once he manages to buff up a little, he could turn into a serious hitting prospect for the Rays.
Power is one thing the Rays’ farm system is lacking, but it clearly can be found in outfielder Kyeong Kang. The 24-year-old hitting .279/.393/.706 with 19 RBI and an impressive home-run total of eight (already only three less than last year’s amount) through 24 games with Double-A Montgomery. Kang is really starting to heat up now, and I think this is the year that his big-time longball ability will finally lead him to a breakout season. Hopefully, his nice start will earn him a promotion to Triple-A Durham sometime soon.
Drafted in the seventh round of last year’s draft, southpaw Ryan Carpenter hasn’t put up any bad number yet in the pros. After posting a 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched (four starts) last season with short-season Hudson Valley, Carpenter has picked up where he left off with Class A Bowling Green this year. Carpenter is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 27 strikeouts through six starts (seven appearances) thus far. If one things for sure, promotions will come calling soon if Carpenter can keep up the great start.
Drafted in the first round of 2010’s draft (42nd overall), outfielder Drew Vettleson is now making his full-season debut with Bowling Green after spending 61 games with Rookie League Princeton last season. He’s hitting .267/.336/.371 so far this season with 11 RBI, two homers and five stolen bases. Vettleson’s a good all-around ballplayer, with the ability to be a balanced hitter with a pretty good game on the base paths and on the field. He doesn’t have big-time power in his left-handed bat, but he definitely can knock in runs and hit for extra bases. It hasn’t been a good last couple of weeks for Vettleson, but there’s plenty of reasons to believe he’ll make big progress in the minors this year.
Fellow left-handed slugger Josh Sale was Vettleson’s draft mate in 2010, as well as teammate at Rookie League Princeton last year. He made a bad first impression with some disappointing numbers there, but he looks to be headed in the right direction for the 2012 season. The 20-year-old outfielder made his season debut with Bowling Green on Saturday, joining them after starting the year in extended spring training. In two games (six plate appearances), he has one hit through six at-bats. The Rays must of saw good things out of Sale in extended spring training these past months, as they seemed confident putting Sale in full-season ball to start his season.