After a little over a month of baseball, the MLB—and MiLB season—is now in full swing. Back in February, I did an evaluation on the Rays’ top prospects on The Rays Rant, and I think it’s about time we check-in how they’re progressing thus far. As you can see from the list, Matt Moore is still technically considered a prospect. However, he’s already pitched nearly 50 innings as a Major Leaguer, so I decided not to include him in this article. Here’s the current status of the Rays’ top five minor league prospects:
It’s been a slow start to the season for 21-year-old shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, who earned a full-season promotion to Double-A Montgomery after a breakout 2011 season. He’s batting .229/.293/.314 as the Biscuits’ leadoff hitter, with 12 RBI and nine stolen bases (caught three times). He hasn’t gone yard yet, but he does have 10 extra basehits including three triples. Lee is not only struggling with the bat, as he hasn’t been sharp defensively either. He hasn’t been smooth at short so far this season, committing seven errors already (.955 fielding percentage). It’s clear that the talented youngster has not yet adjusted to the Double-A level, and seems to still be in the process of getting used to the speed of the game. Hopefully it’s nothing more than a slow start for Lee, as the Rays could really use a shortstop like him as soon as possible on the roster.
The Rays’ top right-handed pitching prospect is probably Chris Archer, who continues to provide the Rays with even more pitching depth down at the farm. After a poor April start to the year, it appears as if Archer is now on the right track. Archer currently owns a record of 3-4 with a 4.71 ERA this season with Triple-A Durham, but he’s had a great start to the month of May. In his three starts this month, Archer has gone 2-0 with an ERA of 2.00, going six innings deep in all three outings. He outdueled Yankees’ top prospect Manny Banuelos on Sunday, shining in the Bulls’ matinee matchup with the Yankees (Scranton/WB) throwing nine strikeouts without allowing an earned run. We know he has good swing-and-miss stuff, but the main concern with Archer is his command. The 23-year-old simply walks too many batters; he’s walked 28 already this season (averaging 3.5 base on balls per start). This is something Archer clearly needs to improve on if he hopes earning a promotion to the big leagues at any point this season.
After a good 2011 season, the former first-overall draft pick has disappointed the Rays once again in 2012. After just 13 games with Triple-A Durham, where he hit .204/.290/.278 four RBI, the 22-year-old shortstop was issued a 50-game suspension from MiLB for his second violation of the league’s drug policy (marijuana). This could not come at a much worse time for Beckham and the Rays, as 2012 was supposed to be a crucial year in his development as he continues to near is MLB debut. The Rays and their fans hope that Beckham won’t become the next Josh Hamilton.
Drafted in the first round of last year’s draft, Mahtook has had a solid start in his first year of full-season ball. He’s put up a .278/.340/.317 line with 13 RBI and nine stolen bases with Class A+ Charlotte in the Florida State League. The only thing that hasn’t come around yet this season is the power, as Mahtook remains homer-less with four extra base-hits after the first 34 games (126 at-bats). He definitely has some pop in his bat, and hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the power arrives.
Also drafted by the Rays in the first round last summer, Guerrieri gives Tampa’s organization another exciting young arm. The 19-year-old is starting the year in extended spring training, and is yet to throw his first pitch as a professional. He’s expected to soon start the season in the Rookie League, with the Princeton Rays. A complete scouting report on the hard-throwing right-hander can be found here.
This is the fourth and final part of The Rays Rant’s evaluation on the Rays’ top prospects. To view part one of the series, click here. For part two, click here. For part three, click here. All rankings are based off MLB.com’s top organization prospect list.
16. Jake Hager
Offensively: Picked in the first round of last year’s draft, shortstop Jake Hager did not hesitate to start his professional baseball career. The 19-year-old quickly joined Rookie League ball, finishing his short season with a .269 average and 17 RBIs through 193 at-bats. Hager’s a pretty good all-around hitter with a great plate approach and some pop in his bat from a smooth line-drive swing. Base-running wise, Hager is a decent runner with average to above-avergage speed. He hasn’t shown much intelligence on the base paths yet, but he’ll likely become a better baserunner with experience.
Defensively: Hager is a solid overall defender at short, and probably has the tools to stick to the position in the future. He has a strong arm and good reactions, which is why a future at third base is also possibility at the moment. His range is a bit below average, which is one reason why he could have better futures at second or third.
Conclusion: If one thing has been established during Hager’s brief time in the minors, it’s that he is a true hard-worker. Hager puts in 110% into every game and practice and always plays with hustle. His outstanding worth ethic makes him a great fit in the Rays’ organization, and gives him a pretty good shot at a shortstop future. I believe Hager has what it takes to take up the challenge of playing shortstop at the big-league level, but he’ll still be a talented player at second or third.
17. Felipe Rivero
Scouting Report: Yet another hard-throwing arm in the Rays’ system, southpaw Felipe Rivero can whip a fastball up into the mid 90’s. His live heater seems to be very likable amongst scouts, but his secondary pitches—the fastball and changeup—could definitely use some work. The 20-year-old Venezuelan-native pitched 60.1 innings in Rookie League ball last last season, posting a 4.62 ERA with a 3-3 record. Rivero had a great start to the year, and then seemed to lose his touch towards the end of the season. His walk and strikeout ratios were a plus side to his U.S. debut last year; as he finished the season with an 8.5 K/9 and a 1.9 BB/9. His command and pitch selection was pretty good last season considering he was just 19, which is something that will help him as he continues to mature.
Conclusion: The six-foot 151-pounder’s size disadvantage may be the biggest thing holding him back. Rivero increased his strength last year, and needs to continue that while increasing his size and weight. Rivero will be promoted to Class-A Bowling Green in 2012, where he’ll have his first chance to prove what he can do in his first year of full-season ball. He has a long way to go, so it’s hard to say whether his big-league future is as a reliever or a starter. Either way, he’s a prospect to watch in 2012.
18. Justin O’Conner
Offensively: The former first-round draft pick has plenty of potential, he just hasn’t played to it yet after his first two seasons of pro ball. O’Conner moved from 10 spots down from last year’s list; a .157 average with a .234 OBP will do that to you. O’Conner has big-time natural power, which he displayed last season by hitting nine homers with eight doubles and 29 RBI through his 48 games in the Rookie League. He has holes in his swing—78 strikeouts is evidence—and clearly needs to work on making more consistent contact.
Defensively: Drafted as a shortstop, O’Conner is still in the process of learning the art of catching; which is now his now his full time position. The 20-year-old (turned 20 on Saturday) has a strong arm and his athletic skills give him the ability to move pretty well behind the plate. He should be able to stick to the position as he progresses through the minors.
Conclusion: When it’s all said and done, O’Conner is a work in progress. We need to remember that he hasn’t played a season in his twenties yet, so it’s really not fair to call him a bust at this point. Offensively, contact hitting is what he needs to improve on, and is probably his main issue as of now. As I said before, I think he has a future at catcher, as he seems to have the tools. The Rays are very patient with their prospects, which we have seen with O’Conner over the past couple of years.
19. Jeff Ames
Scouting Report: Another first-round draft pick, right-handed pitcher Jeff Ames adds yet another good arm into the Rays’ farm system. He hasn’t proved much at the professional level yet, posting a 7.12 ERA through 30.1 inning pitched with Rookie League Princeton in his first pro season last year. He has some good stuff, though, and has the ability to strikeout batters. Ames has a live fastball with great movement that reaches up into the mid-90’s. His slider can be effective at times, and is still developing as his main secondary pitch. Ames is also working on his changeup, which has been inconsistent. He’ll have to improve the changeup if he wants to be a starter at the higher levels.
Conclusion: At the end of the day, Ames does have pretty high potential. High strikeout rates are a sign that he could be good in the future. The key for him moving forward are his secondary pitches; especially his changeup. His future as a starter or a reliever will be determined by his ability to use his offspeed pitches as he progresses through the Rays’ system. I think his future looks much brighter as a reliever, as he was already a closer during his college baseball career.
20. Wilking Rodriguez
Scouting Report: The Rays have another prospect pitcher with good stuff in Wilking Rodriguez. Rodriguez went 1-4 with a 5.00 ERA in Short Season A Hudson Valley and Low A Bowling Green. The stats aren’t good, but it’s not fair to judge him by them because he was struggling with shoulder issues throughout the year. The young power pitcher has rotation-worthy stuff; including as an excellent fastball that consistently sits in the mid-90’s. He also has a sharp curveball and a changeup that’s developing. Rodriguez is going to have to learn to be more effective with his secondary pitches if he wants to be a starter at the big-league level. Command is another part of his game that he needs to refine, as sometimes Rodriguez tends to overthrow. He has improved his command and has overthrown a lot less more recently, though, and hopefully he will continue that in 2012.
Conclusion: It will be interesting to see how Rodriguez fares in 2012, a year that’s very important for him. He’ll start the season now healthy in Class-A+ ball, where he hopes for better numbers than he had in the past. Whether he’s a reliever or a starter once he’s ready for the big leagues, we can probably expect to see his Major League debut sometime in 2014.
This is part three of The Rays Rant’s evaluation on the Rays’ top prospects. To view part one of the series, click here. For part two, click here. All rankings are based off MLB.com’s top organization prospect list.
11. Parker Markel
Scouting Report: The Rays could have a future reliever in right-hander Parker Markel. The 21-year-old started 13 games last year in the New York-Penn League, and pitched pretty well in his first season as a starter. Markel went 3-4 with a 3.14 ERA through 57.1 innings pitched. The six-foot-four 220-pounder has pretty good stuff, including a quality fastball. His heater ranges in the low 90’s, while generating plenty of ground outs. Markel also has a plus changeup to complement his fastball, but his secondary pitches are a bit of a question after that. He does have a slider with potential in his arsenal, but he didn’t show it much at all last year. Markel’s stuff is not one of his main areas of concern. Most scouts can agree that his mechanics are lacking, which doesn’t help his case at all for a starting role. Markel also needs to continue to improve his command, even though it appears as if he’s going in the right direction in that department. Low strikeout rates are another red flag for Markel, which is a big strange considering scouting reports’ admiration on his stuff. Strikeout ratios may not be a big deal at the MLB level, but they sometimes can be a foreshadowing sign for pitchers in the early stages of the minors.
Conclusion: Chances are that Markel ends up becoming a reliever with the Rays’ organization, rather than a starter. Although he may have good enough stuff to become a big league starter, a relief role is clearly the best fit for him. Markel doesn’t have the stamina for a starting role; at least that’s what his 2011 short-season numbers reflected. Markel’s three-pitch arsenal and groundball-inducing abilities are other reasons why his future’s brighter as a reliever. From the Rays’ perspective, a good young reliever is really just as great as another starting pitcher. Tampa could use a lot more help in that department, and they have a lot to like about Markel when he joins their ‘pen.
12. Josh Sale
Offensively: Former first-round draft Josh Sale hasn’t been written off just yet after his poor professional debut. The 20-year-old slugger hit .210 with just four homers and 15 RBI last year with the Rookie League Princeton Rays. Sale was drafted for his big-time offensive ability. He possesses huge raw power and excellent bat speed from his big left-handed swing, giving him the potential to become a very good hitter. As the stats show, it’s clear that Sale needs to work on his plate approach in order to make more contact. Once the ball starts meeting the bat, Sale’s homerun-power will quickly shine on the baseball field. Baserunning wise, Sale has never excelled at all in that department. The muscular six-foot 215-pounder lacks athletic ability to some degree, and is a below-average runner overall.
Defensively: Defense is probably Sale’s biggest weakness on the diamond. Although he has improved at his corner outfield position, he’s still probably a below-average outfielder overall. Sale has a naturally strong arm, and his overall throwing abilities are about average and could become above-average if he continues to improve. He has worked hard to fix some issues with his arm action, and will hopefully convert his raw strength into a decent throwing arm in the outfield. As I said before, Sale lacks speed. Although he’s not slow, he doesn’t have much range at all in the outfield.
Conclusion: At 20 years of age, Sale has ways to go. Time and experience is really what he needs to reach his full potential. Sale knows what he needs to needs to do in order to progress through the minors, and he eventually his outstanding hitting abilities will break through with hard work.
13. Brandon Guyer
Offensively: Acquired in the Matt Garza trade, Guyer quickly excelled during his first year in the Rays’ organization. In his first ever big league at bat, Guyer blasted a homer into the seats of Camden Yards. That would be the first of 15 games he’d play for the Rays in 2011, as Guyer spent most of the season in Triple-A Durham. In his 107 games in AAA, he batted .312 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI. A career .297 hitter in the minors, Guyer is a very good all-around offensive player. The 25-year-old has the ability to make good contact, hit for power, and steal bases with great speed. The Rays could really use a guy on the roster like Guyer, who brings the uncommon combination of speed and power to the table.
Defensively: An excellent athlete, Guyer’s a good defensive outfielder overall. His fast legs help him run down balls in the gap well, and his accurate throwing is also a plus. Guyer’s arm strength is about average, which is probably the main reason why he profiles better as a corner-outfielder in the majors. Still, Guyer has plenty of experience at center and will be able to fill in there when needed.
Conclusion: As Guyer nears a big league breakthrough, he’s one guy the Rays will definitely keep an eye on. A crowded outfield is the only thing that has kept him away from significant playing time in the majors, and his five-tool abilities will continue to inch him closer to a spot on the roster. Guyer appears to be developing into a better hitter overall, especially power-wise. If he continues to succeed in the minors, Guyer could very possibly be a key player for the Rays as early as this season.
14. Alex Colome
Scouting Report: Alex Colome is not exactly a known name among baseball’s top prospects or even the Rays’ prospects, but he’s one talented arm. Colome is a power pitcher, depending heavily upon his hard fastball and sharp curveball. The changeup is another pitch that Colome likes to mix up in his arsenal, but it’s still a developing pitch for a him. His secondary pitches will be crucial for him as he progresses through the Rays’ system. Like most of the Rays’ top pitching prospects, Colome’s main issue is command. Colome had stints with both Class-A Charlotte and Class-AA Montgomery last year. His combined stats included a 3.82 ERA, a 12-9 record and a terrific 9.6 K/9 ratio. The command was what contributed to the mediocre ERA, but Colome showed that he can be a great strikeout pitcher. Colome’s electric stuff is what makes him a hit with the scouts.
Conclusion: At just 23 years of age, the six-foot-two right-hander still has a lot of baseball left in his minor league career. It looks like he’ll be starting in high Single-A in 2012, where he hopes it won’t take him too long to move up from there. Even with the Rays over-crowded pitching depth, Colome could very possibly make his debut sometime during the 2013 season.
15. Ryan Brett
Offensively: The Rays drafted a scrappy second baseman in Ryan Brett during the third round of the 2010 draft. His old-fashion, aggressive approach to the game makes him a perfect fit in the Rays’ organization. The 20-year-old switch hitter posted a .300/.370/.471 line along with three homers and 24 RBI during his 61 games in Rookie League ball last season. Brett has shown the ability to make consistent contact at the plate, with plenty of solid line drives. He has more pop in his bat than he appears with his five-foot-nine 180-pound stature, but still won’t provide much power in his career. As for base running, Brett has great speed and the knack to steal bases. He swiped 21 bags last year, and his good instincts on the basepaths should lead to more stolen-base success in the future.
Defensively: Brett has improved a lot over the past year defensively, as second base continues to appear as his position as he starts his pro baseball career. His overall defense is somewhere around average, and most scouts agree that he needs to improve his overall fielding. I expect Brett to move forward defensively in 2012, as he has a chance to become a solid second baseman in the future.
Conclusion: Brett is no Dustin Pedroia, but there’s still a lot of upside to him. He has several years ahead of him in the minors, and 2012 will be important for him as he starts his first full-season of work. Brett will probably continue to be one of those under-the-radar prospects because of his size, but his great offensive approach should eventually get him some notice as he moves up the ranks.
6. Taylor Guerrieri
Scouting Report: The Rays continue to invest in young pitching. Tampa drafted right-handed pitcher Taylor Guerrieri in the first round last summer, adding another talented arm into the Rays’ organization. Guerrieri features electric stuff, throwing up to speeds of 97 MPH. Besides his dominant fastball, Guerrieri also throws an impressive power curveball, providing him with a great secondary pitch. For good reasons, he hardly ever used his changeup in high school, but most scouts seem to believe he can develop it into a usable pitch. Guerrieri also has a hard cutter in his arsenal, which goes along with his live two-seamer. As for mechanics, there are a few basic things in his delivery that he needs to tweak. Still, nothing that should be a big problem moving forward.
Conclusion: At just 19 years of age, Guerrieri will experience his first professional season this year. Being so young with such little experience and a lot of talent, it’s hard to say exactly what to expect out of Guerrieri in the future. If one thing’s for sure, he has great stuff which can translate into big-time potential. Guerrieri won’t be arriving in the big leagues any time soon, but he’s definitely a prospect worth watching as he progresses through the minors.
7. Alex Torres
Scouting Report: Alex Torres, who was acquired in the 2009 Scott Kazmir trade, has made steady progress through the Rays’ farm system during the last year. The 24-year-old spent the 2011 season with AAA Durham, ending the year with a strong second half which earned him a September callup. Torres went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA through 146.1 innings pitched for the Bulls last season, and allowed one run through his eight innings out of the bullpen with the Rays. Torres has good stuff, featuring a quality fastball and two main off-speed pitches; a changeup and and a curve. His secondary stuff is apparently effective, because he’s keeping hitters off-balance enough to post a high SO/9 ratio of 9.6 last season in the minors. One of the things that makes Torres a high-ranked prospect is his ability to have three quality pitches once he’s fully developed. The only thing that’s been holding him back his whole career has been his command issues. Torres will simply need to improve his strike-throwing ratios if he wants to break in as a starter in the Major Leagues.
Conclusion: Torres has a promising future in the big leagues, and will probably contribute to the ‘pen this season. The biggest question surrounding Torres is whether he has a brighter future as a starter or a reliever. He has good enough stuff for both, but he’s going to have to improve his command if he wants a starting role with the Rays. I see him as a reliever if he stays with the Rays’ organization, but a starter if he plays for another team in the future.
8. Drew Vettleson
Offensively: Drew Vettleson may be the most intriguing of the Rays’ prospects. Vettleson was the Rays’ third 1st-round draft pick in 2010, drafted out of the Pacific Northwest region. What the Rays see in Vettleson is pure, quality baseball player. He has great skills at the plate, and most scouts believe he has the ability to be a good average hitter in the future. He puts up great at bats, and hits the ball hard and often. Vettleson hit .282 with seven homers and 40 RBI through 61 games in his first pro season for Princeton this year. His homerun power has been a debate amongst scouts, but most agree that the lefty can be a double-digit homerun hitter down the road. Vettleson’s baseball intelligence is another strength he possesses on the diamond. Good baseball instincts is something that the Rays highly value in their prospects, and Vettleson is a great example. His baseball smarts really come in handy on the base pads, as he doesn’t have very fast legs. Last year, Vettleson managed to collect 20 stolen bases
Defensively: The most interesting part about Vettleson is that he’s also a pitcher. But not just any pitcher, a switch pitcher. Vettleson can both pitch with his right and left hand; something that is very rare these days in baseball. Although he could try professional baseball as pitcher, most experts agree that the outfield is where he belongs. His pitching arm makes him a good fit in the right field, where Vettleson spent the entire 2011 season.
Conclusion: Vettleson is ways away, but he should be making progress through the minors this year after an impressive first season. We can probably expect to see Vettleson make his big league debut in 2014.
9. Enny Romero
Scouting Report: Southpaw Enny Romero makes the Rays’ stack of talented arms even higher. The 21-year-old throws a great fastball, reaches speeds in the mid-90’s with plenty of movement. His secondary pitches don’t have the same kind of effect on opposing hitters, but both his changeup and curveball have the chance to become great pitches. Just like most 21-year-old hard-throwing lefties, Romero needs to improve on his control and command. If Romero can improve his command while maintaining his great strikeout stuff, the Rays will have another scary pitcher down in the farm. Statistically speaking, Romero went 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA and 140 strikeouts last year with Class-A Bowling Green. The numbers are nothing special, but the outstanding strikeout rates show the type of ability he has.
Conclusion: It should be fun to watch a player with so much potential like Romero develop in the minors throughout the next couple of years. It’s debatable whether his future is brighter as a starter or a reliever, but either way he’s a pretty exciting prospect. The Rays have mastered the art of turning young talents like Romero into quality pitchers, and hopefully the trend will continue here.
10. Blake Snell
Scouting Report: Yet another talented left-handed pitcher, the Rays drafted Blake Snell in the first round of the MLB draft last summer. The 19-year-old features three main pitches in his arsenal; a fastball, a changeup, and a curve. Snell’s heater is his best pitch, which he throws in the low-90’s down in the zone, enticing lots of groundballs. He needs to work on his secondary pitches, though, as his curveball lacks sharpness a bit. Snell played his first professional season last year, posting a 3.08 ERA and 26 strikeouts through 26.1 innings pitched.
Conclusion: Like I said before, the Rays have a reputation of developing young pitchers like Snell. Improvements in command and control will come with time, as Snell has a long ways to go in his minor league journey.
It’s hard to argue that any team in Major League Baseball utilizes their prospects as well as the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have a knack of producing farm-grown starts from their organization, and it looks as if they will continue this trend. It’s pretty well-known across baseball that the Rays have an absolutely stacked farm system. Young talent is the core of the Rays success. Every year it seems, the Rays have have at least one prospect come up to the big leagues to make an impact. Last year, Desmond Jennings, Wade Davis, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, and Rookie of the Year Award winner Jeremy Hellickson all contributed to the team’s memorable season. So, who which top prospect will make in impact in 2012? Many of the Rays’ top prospects won’t make a big league appearance this season, but let’s take a look at four who could very possibly make a splash.
Matt Moore- If anybody’s ready for The Show, it’s phenom pitcher Matt Moore. It’s very rare to discover any young baseball player with the talent like Moore; the kid’s an absolute natural. The young fireballer is considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball, being ranked No.3 overall (No.1 pitcher overall) by MLB.com’s top 50 list. Moore is also titled as the Rays’ top prospect by numerous sources, including Baseball America’s top 10 list. Moore features some wicked wicked stuff in his arsenal, which is a nightmare for hitters. The young flamethrower lives off of his outstanding fastball, which effortlessly reaches blazing speeds in the upper 90s. He also features a nasty curveball, along with a plus curveball. As expected, the 22-year-old lefty enjoyed success in his first Major League season. After pitching ridiculously well during his 27 starts for AAA Durham (12 wins, 1.92 ERA, and 210 Ks), Moore finally got his chance to shine on the big stage. And shine he did, in most of his 19.1 cumulative innings of his 2011 experience. Moore really made his mark when the playoffs started, though. He had an unbelievable outing in Arlington after being called on to start Game 1 of the ALDS (just his second MLB start). He was looking like the ace of the Rays’ rotation, dominating Texas’ big bats by shutting them out through seven strong innings. Moore would finish his brief 2011 season with a combined ERA (including postseason and regular season) of 2.09 with 23 strikeouts. If Moore is able to stay healthy, he’ll be the future ace of an already-great Rays rotation, which includes David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Moore gives the Rays every reason to believe that their contract extension decision with him was a no-brainer, and will be well worth it. Moore has a lot of pressure on him, and I’m sure he’ll respond positively, just as he did last October. A lot is expected from him, and I won’t be surprised to see the major rookie impact from him that everyone is anticipating. It’s early, but it looks like the Rays are possibly on their way to a second straight Rookie of the Year Award winner.
Brandon Guyer- Brandon Guyer was one of a handful of Major League-quality players acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade. Guyer was one of three Rays on the top 10 prospect list to get big league playing time in 2011. Out of all three, nobody started off his career with a bang like he did. In his first ever big league at bat, Guyer blasted a solo homer into the seats of Camden Yards. That would be the first of 15 games for the Rays in 2011, as Guyer spent most of the season for Triple-A Durham. In his 107 games in AAA, he batted .312 and knocked in 61 runs. From what Guyer has displayed in his years in the minors, he definitely has the tools for a successful MLB career. Not only is Guyer a tremendous athlete, but he is also a potential four-dementional player. The 25 year-old outfielder has power, speed, good defense, and the ability to hit for average as well. The Rays could really use a guy on the roster like Guyer, who brings the uncommon combination of speed and power to the table. At 25 years old, Guyer is older than most of the Rays’ top prospects. 2012 will probably be the year Guyer will get to prove himself in the big leagues, and emerge as a full-time MLB player.
Chris Archer- Chris Archer has been one of the biggest names in the Rays farm system, swiftly surging through minor leagues . Archer was another top prospect that was included in the Matt Garza trade. According to MLB.com, Archer is the Rays’ third-best prospect and is ranked at No. 38 in the top 50 list. With all the pitching talent in the Rays farm system, Archer leads the pack of right-handed arms. He features an impressive fastball, with great movement and velocity. The hard slider is the next good pitch in his arsenal, which he also throws very well. Then there is the still-developing changeup, which can also become an effective pitch. Like Matt Moore, Archer’s fastball command is the key to his big league success. The command was the only main issue Archer had this year, but it is clearly improving as he gains experience. Archer’s stats for the year (in AA Montgomery and AAA Durham) include 4.09 ERA, a 9-7 record and 130 strikeouts. Archer started 27 games in 2011, two of them in Durham. The best news is that he ended the season strong on a high note. After being promoted to Triple-A late in the season, Archer posted an ERA of 0.69 in 13 innings pitched. Archer could be a big help to the Rays bullpen at some point in next season, as that will probably be his best chance to contribute to the team in 2011. With the stable and talented rotation that the Rays have, the ‘pen may be Archer’s best opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation anytime in the near future. Whether he’s pitching out of the bullpen or starting games, I think Archer will impress a lot of people in 2012. Archer is a player destined for a career in the MLB, and his potential is sky-high. This is definitely a guy Rays Republic should be excited about.
Alex Torres- Torres is another impressive young arm on the Rays’ prospect list. The 23-year-old lefty was acquired from the Angels in the Scott Kazmir trade. In his first full season in the Rays organization, Torres started 27 games for the Durham Bulls and pitched eight innings for the Rays. His minor league numbers in 2011 were pretty good, as he went 9-7 for Durham with a 3.08 ERA and 156 K. He didn’t do poorly in his first crack at the big leagues this year, either. He posted a 3.38 ERA through eight innings pitched out of the bullpen. Torres’ main arsenal includes a solid and live fastball, a pretty decent changeup and a developing curve. The curveball has been sort of his “x-factor” pitch in the past. When he has a feel of the curve, opposing batters are doing a lot of swinging and missing. Like Moore and Archer, Torres is good at striking out batters. Unfortunately, his command issues are worse than Moore and Archer. Not only does Torres have problems placing his fastball where he wants it, but he also walks far too many batters. Torres knows that his command is not adequate for an effective Major League starter, and is working hard to fix it in Venezuelan winter ball. Torres is preparing to pitch another season in a terrific Durham rotation, but there’s also a good chance he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen for the Rays. The front-end of the ‘pen could use as much help as it can get next season, meaning Torres may be an important piece.
Russ Canzler- 2012 will probably be the year Russ Canzler will get his chance to prove himself as a big league quality player. Canzler definitely did his job in AAA Durham last year, winning the International League MVP award. Canzler, another successful minor leaguer out of the Cubs’ farm system, put up some terrific numbers in Triple-A last season. The 25 year-old batted for a high .314 with 83 RBI’s and 18 homers. Considering how well Canzler has hit in his minor league career, it seems a bit strange that he’s not considered one of the Rays’ top prospects. A high strikeout rate (23.5% in the minors last season) and lack of defensive value likely have a big part to do with it. Canzler spent most of his 2011 season at first base, but can also play a little in the outfield as well. Assuming that the Rays acquire a first baseman later this offseason, Canzler will probably be used mostly as a pinch hitter and DH in the majors this year. Although Canzler probably won’t get a huge chunk of big league playing time, his big bat could come through in clutch situations. Timely hitting is something that will play a major part in the Rays’ success in 2012, meaning the Canzler will have his chance to be an impact rookie.