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.
For small-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, the trade market is the key to filling in holes on the roster. The Rays are in desperate need of hitting, particularly a first baseman and a DH, which means they will likely need to trade away some of their excellent starting pitching. Fellow starters Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are probably more likely candidates to be traded away, but James Shields trade rumors haven’t totally disappeared. With Shields entering his first club option of his contract coming into the offseason, rumors starting heating up since last season’s trade deadline. After Shields was optioned by the Rays back in October, the trade possibilities started to gradually cool down. However, there are still plenty of teams in need of starting pitching help that they couldn’t find from free agency. Trading James Shields seems to be more like ‘food for thought’ at the moment, rather than a serious possibility. There might not be many clubs who are willing to offer enough for Shields, and the Rays themselves may want to hang on to him. The exciting part about a potential Shields trade is that the Rays would get some serious offensive production out of the deal, while hoping that rookie Matt Moore can replace Shields at some point in the future. The question is, what kind of deals can teams offer to make the Rays bite? Take a look at ten different trade possibilities that may be enough to send the Rays’ ace out of Tampa Bay.
If any team is looking to add a big-time starting pitcher, it’s the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto has been in many discussions to acquire a starter since the offseason began, including being barely outbid on Japanese prodigy Yu Darvish. As far as we, the Jays haven’t been looking into a James Shields trade yet. However, it wouldn’t be a shocker if they show interest in him at some point in the future. What would it take to get the Rays to send their ace out of Tampa Bay? Veteran first baseman Adam Lind could potentially be a start to a deal. With the Rays in desperate need of a first baseman, Lind could be a great addition for the club. The left-handed slugger owns a lifetime .267 batting average and has established himself as a consistent 20+ homer-type player. Blue Jays’ No.1 prospect Travis d’Arnaud would essentially be the center of the trade package. The 22 year-old first-round draftee is one of the best position-player prospects in the American League. He hasn’t reached AAA yet, but his .311 batting average with 21 homers and 78 RBI’s in Double-A last season show that he isn’t far from moving up. d’Arnaud is a catcher, which would be his most attractive asset if the Rays were to pursue him. His defensive skills are pretty impressive, lead by his great arm behind the plate. The most interesting part about the possibility of d’Arnaud being traded is that he may not have a bright future in Toronto. Rookie catcher J.P. Arencebia appears to be emerging as the team’s main catcher. Outfielder Jake Marisnick is one minor leaguer you’ve probably never heard of. Marisnick is also considered one of Toronto’s better prospects, and clearly for a good reason. Marisnick has the ability to a be a five-tool outfielder in the majors. The 20 year-old possesses great fielding and throwing ability, excellent speed, and rapidly rising hitting skills. Marisnick hit .320 along with 14 homers, 77 RBI’s and 37 stolen bases through his 118 games in Class A Lansing.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 1B Adam Lind, minor league C Travis d’Arnaud, and minor league OF Jake Marisnick.
2011 was another disappointing season for the New York Mets, and poor starting pitching has been a big part of their struggles. The Mets simply need at least one more good starter to become a competitive team again. James Shields would give the Mets’ rotation the boost they need, and they may have some offensive players to offer. Daniel Murphy, a first baseman who also can play other positions around the infield, could very possibly be in the interest of the Rays. As Ike Davis appears to be the future first baseman of the ball club, Murphy probably has a much better job opportunity in Tampa. Former star outfielder Jason Bay just hasn’t been the same in the past two years like he was in his glory days with Boston and Pittsburgh. The slugging leftfielder is still only 33, and many wonder if he can put up the ridiculous run production that he did in the past. Bay’s big bat joins Murphy in the main focus of a potential James Shields trade. However, just Murphy and Bay would still probably not be a good enough offer for the Rays to take. A talented offensive prospect like Wilmer Flores is someone the Mets can throw in there to make this deal possible. Though I would think that it would really be a blow to the team to give away a young shortstop like that after losing Jose Reyes this offseason. Flores, who is the Mets’ top hitting prospect, has a while to go before he hits the big leagues. At just 20 years old, Flores still managed to drive in over 80 RBI’s in a full Single-A season. The youngster is progressing in all parts of his game, but his exceptional hitting skills are what could ring bells in Tampa.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the New York Mets in exchange for 1B Daniel Murphy, LF Jason Bay, and minor league shortstop Wilmer Flores.
The New York Yankees are really one good starting pitcher away from being the best team in the MLB. If the Yanks had a arm like James Shields in their rotation in the last two years, they probably would of won the pennant in both of those seasons. New York is very aware of that, and it’s no surprise that they have been seeking starting pitching this offseason. It doesn’t seem like they’re heading towards any sort of blockbuster trade to get a starter, but they have some young talent that makes a potential swap an interesting idea. Catcher Jesus Montero, who is the Yankees’ top prospect and baseball’s No.1 catching prospect, would be the guy to lead the young trade package for Shields. Montero has very impressive hitting abilities and he is a catcher; something that should obviously attract the Rays. Montero, who hit .328 during his first brief stint in the MLB, has all the tools to become a star slugger in the big leagues. Outfielder Chris Dickerson possibly would be another piece to the trade. Dickerson is nothing special quite frankly, as he spent most of his time with the Yankees down in AAA. The Yankees would need to offer more to make this deal work, and they do have a couple of exciting prospects deep in their farm system. First round draft pick Slade Heathcott and prodigy Mason Williams are two more young outfielders that the Rays would love to add to their minor league system. Both are just in Single-A right now, but their left-handed hitting abilities plus their good defense could be enough to complete a potential trade package for Shields.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the New York Yankees in exchange for C Jesus Montero, OF Chris Dickerson, minor league OF Slade Heathcott, and minor league OF Mason Williams.
The Texas Rangers made it all the way to the World Series in both of the past two years. I think it’s fair to say that starting pitching is what was the difference between a AL Champion Rangers ball club and a World Champion Rangers ball club. Their starting pitching was simply not adequate to prevail on baseball’s biggest stage. The Rangers would surely love to pick up an ace like James Shields, but the question is whether they are able to give away some of their outstanding offense. First baseman Mitch Moreland’s name pops up right away as a player the Rays could definitely use on their roster. The 26 year-old power-hitting lefty is in just his second year in the big leagues, and he already plays the first-base role pretty nicely. Speedy outfielder Craig Gentry had his first year of decent MLB playing time last season, and he could likely be a trade piece for Texas in the future. Gentry is emerging as someone who could be a solid MLB player. His excellent base-running skills and above-average defense are already very impressive, but he’s also improving as a hitter. Don’t be too shocked to see either (or both) Gentry or Moreland be traded away sometime in the future, as Texas may not have too much need for them on their squad. Both David Murphy and Julio Borbon can take over in the outfield, while Mike Napoli could probably fill in at first base. If the Rays were to work out a Shields trade with Texas, they would likely also get pitching out of the deal. With Neftali Feliz and Shields (if they are to make a trade) joining the rotation next season, southpaw Matt Harrison probably won’t have a consistent spot in the rotation, making him another trade piece. The Rays are certainly not looking to add to their starting pitching, but they have been seeking bullpen help throughout the offseason. The Rays would love to use Harrison as an effective left-handed reliever out of their bullpen. Still, I think that the Rangers are going to need to throw in another prospect into the pile to make a deal possible. First-round draft pick Jake Skole, a member of the Rangers’ top 10 prospects, is a thought. The 19 year-old outfielder has plenty of pop in his left-handed bat, which would be a great addition to the Rays’ farm system. Adding Skole as the final player of the trade might be close to enough to pry Shields away from Tampa. Below is the final deal that I think would get Texas the deal.
Trade Possibility: James Shields to the Texas Rangers in exchange for 1B Mitch Moreland, OF Craig Gentry, LHP Matt Harrison, minor league OF Jake Skole, and cash.
First of all, the chances the Arizona Diamondbacks acquire a starting pitcher before spring training are close to none. Even though the D’Backs would like to improve their starting rotation, there are some obvious reasons why a future James Shields trade is unlikely. They already made a big trade for Trevor Cahill earlier this winter, and also used some of their spending money on Jason Kubel. Also, it seems as if rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is making a name for himself in Phoenix. Being a young first baseman, Goldschmidt would probably be the main trade target if the Rays were to discuss trade talks with Arizona. The problem is that the Diamondbacks aren’t looking to give away their future first baseman. What the D’Backs do have to offer is leftfielder Gerardo Parra and third baseman Ryan Roberts. Parra, who won a NL Gold Glove Award last season, is clearly on an upward rise in his three year-old career. The 24 year-old left-hander hit .292 last year and stole 15 bases (caught only once), and was a big part of the Diamondbacks’ successful 2011 season. Ryan Roberts didn’t exactly put up the same numbers as Parra, but he probably should get more credit. 2011 was the best of Roberts’ career, belting 19 homers and 65 RBI’s while batting .249 and stealing 18 bases. You’re probably asking why the Rays would want a third baseman when the have Evan Longoria. The fact is that Robert can actually play at second base and in the outfield. So Roberts could be a fit on the Rays, but in reality the D’Backs would way rather trade away Parra. Two additional top prospects should be enough to make a discussable deal with the Rays. If they were to negotiate a trade, the Rays would probably have a keen eye on both first/third baseman Matt Davidson and outfielder A.J. Pollock. Both sluggers are considered among the organization’s top prospects. Davidson smashed 20 homers and 106 RBI’s in Single-A ball last season, showing off is outstanding power. Pollock spent the whole season in AA Mobile, and batted a high .307 with 73 RBI’s and 36 stolen bases.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for LF Gerardo Parra, 3B Ryan Roberts, minor league 1B/3B Matt Davidson, and minor league OF A.J.Pollock.
Like the Diamondbacks, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals also don’t have high odds of a James Shields trade. With the team’s ace Adam Wainwright returning (who missed all of last season due to injury) and the same starters from last year, the Cards’ rotation looks pretty set. It seems as if St. Louis will enter the spring with Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook. To reel in James Shields to St. Louis, the Cardinals would need to sacrifice much of their talent that they would use to replace Albert Pujols. Right off the top, Allen Craig’s name comes to mind. Craig, who plays in the outfield and first base, batted an impressive .315 average in his second big league season. Craig would probably be someone the Rays would like to add to their roster, but his offseason knee injury could have them thinking otherwise. The Rays have emphasized their focus on strengthening the bullpen this offseason. Considering that, right-handed reliever Fernando Salas could be a player that the Cards could add to the trade package. The 26 year-old Mexican-native posted a 2.28 ERA last season through 75 innings pitched out of the ‘pen. Craig and Salas are a pretty good start to a potential Shields trade, but the Cards would probably need to throw in a couple of high-ranked prospects. 19 year-old phenom Oscar Taveras would be an exciting addition to the Rays’ system. The left-handed outfielder has just started his venture in professional baseball, but he has proven that he can flat-out rake the baseball. Prospect first baseman Matt Adams is also a big left-handed bat. The 23 year-old slugger has some big-time raw power, which he displayed in AA Springfield by smashing 32 homers with 101 RBI’s and a .300 average. With the loss of Pujols, the Cardinals are most likely going to want to get a grip on Adams rather than trade him away. That’s another reason why this trade seems unlikely. The Rays would probably demand a first baseman, and Adams would be vital to a possible deal.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF/1B Allen Craig, RP Fernando Salas, minor league OF Oscar Taveras, and minor league 1B Matt Adams.
The Colorado Rockies have been aggressively seeking help for their starting rotation this offseason, and have even had interest of Rays pitchers. James Shields would be dream acquisition for Colorado considering their situation. The Rockies’ have two outfielders, Seth Smith and Charlie Blackmon, who would make a a decent start to a deal. The Rockies don’t seem to mind parting ways with Smith, as he has already been a hot topic amongst MLB trade rumors for a while now. Smith had probably his best season of his career last year for Colorado, batting .284 with 59 RBI’s and 15 homers. Rookie Charlie Blackmon would be every bit as much valuable as Smith in this trade. The 25 year-old only has 27 games of MLB experience under his belt, but his great minor league numbers can’t be overlooked. Blackmon played his first season of AAA baseball last year, hitting .337 through his 243 at-bats. It’s debatable, but I think one really good prospect could complete the trade package. Colorado’s No.1 prospect Wilin Rosario is a name that should surely light up eyes in the Rays’ front office. The 22 year-old phenom catcher has all the tools to be a successful big league backstop. Rosario doesn’t hit for a high-average like Smith and Blackmon, but he sure has plenty of power. His great arm behind the plate is also impressive. Rosario spent most of his season in Double-A last year, where he hit 21 home runs with a .249 average in his 102 games. Despite not experience AAA baseball yet, Rosario still earned himself 16 MLB games with the Rockies last season. In his brief 54 AB’s, Rosario was able to knock out three homers and drive in eight RBI’s.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for OF Seth Smith, OF Charlie Blackmon, and C Wilin Rosario.
A trade for a James Shields would likely put the Detroit Tigers over the top. The Tigers have been seeking a starter to complete a pretty good rotation lead my AL MVP Justin Verlander. I doubt they are looking for an ace-type pitcher like Shields though, but rather a fifth-spot starter. Detroit probably wouldn’t want to trade away a chunk of their young talent, but they have the right players to make a big deal work. Former Ray and outfielder Delmon Young could be a potential trade piece for Detroit. Last season in his first year as a Tiger, Young didn’t meet the expectations that were brought upon him after the blockbuster Tampa-Minnesota trade before the 2008 season. Young did a pretty good job producing runs, but his .268 average was the lowest of his career by 16 points. Also, his RBI total dropped 48 runs from the previous year. All reasons way a future Delmon Young trade is by no means impossible. Rookie outfielder Andy Dirks seems to have a bright future in the big leagues. Dirks played 78 games in his first season last year, batting .251 with seven homers and 28 RBI’s. Dirks holds a career AAA average of .343 (2010 and 2011) with 41 RBI’s and 11 homers through his 63 games in Toledo. Young and Dirks would make up the offensive part of the trade package, but the Tigers would probably also have to sacrifice their No. 1 prospect Jacob Turner. The first-round drafted right-handed pitcher has been surrounded by scout hype for years now. To acquire an ace like James Shields, that would mean giving up a potential future ace like Jacob Turner.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for OF Delmon Young, OF Andy Dirks, and minor league SP Jacob Turner.
The Washington Nationals have been the center of offseason excitement this winter. They came into the offseason in search of starting pitching help, and may of found their guy when they acquired Gio Gonzalez in a trade. The Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo are definitely not a team that shies away from big moves, but getting James Shields to Washington seems unlikely. If a trade were to work out, the Nats would probably have to send their slugging outfielder Jayson Werth to lead the trade package. The Rays could use his offensive production, and it’s possible he would be a demand in this deal. Even though Werth had an off-year last season batting .64 points lower that 2010, I doubt the Nationals would be willing to trade him. They signed him for a mega seven-year contract last year, and they probably don’t see any reason to give him away while they’re looking for as much outfield talent they can get. This trade possibility is more of a “what if” situation, rather than a trade rumor. Shortstop Ian Desmond and relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez would be the additional pieces to complete the trade package. Ian Desmond would be a very intriguing acquisition for the Rays. It’s amazing how well Desmond could fit in Tampa; he’s an absolute textbook Tampa Bay Rays player. For starters, Desmond is a speedy infielder (25 steals last season) who plays well defensively and does all the little things right on the baseball diamond. He puts his best efforts into the game every night, which was acknowledged when he won the Nationals’ Heart and Hustle Award. These are all traits of a Rays ballplayer. In addition to all this, Desmond was born and raised less than an hour away from Tropicana Field. Henry Rodriguez, the final piece to the potential deal, is a key part of the Nationals’ bullpen. The 24 year-old right-hander was a MLB Futures Game Selection and posted a 3.56 ERA through 65.2 innings last season. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the Rays are still continuing their bullpen rebuilding process and wouldn’t mind adding some relief help in their ‘pen.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Washington Nationals in exchange for OF Jayson Werth, SS Ian Desmond, and RP Henry Rodriguez.
Just like the Boston Red Sox regular season last year, Boston’s offseason with new GM Ben Cherington has been a failure so far. The Sox have some good starting pitching, but there’s no arguing that they need to improve their rotation. Although the Sox will likely want to sit tight with their rotation for the rest of the offseason, they may have enough young talent to pry Shields from Tampa Bay. Ryan Lavarnway and Darnell McDonald are two interested names that probably would be thrown into a trade for Shields. Lavarnway, who played 17 MLB games in his short 2011 stint, is catcher/DH with outstanding hitting skills. Through 116 games in the minors last season (AA and AAA), Lavarnway batted .290 with 93 RBI’s and 32 home runs. Darnell McDonald, who’s played five seasons in the majors, might not have a future in Boston anyway. The 33 year-old corner outfielder struggled hitting .236 for the Red Sox last year, but hit .270 in 2010. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is unanimously ranked the top prospect in the Red Sox organization. Middlebrooks has the ability to be an all-around excellent baseball player, which he displayed while making huge amounts of progress in the minor leagues during 2011. Because third is the only position he plays, I’m not sure what kind of future he would have alongside Evan Longoria and the Rays. First baseman Lars Anderson may not be a big name, but he would be a crucial part of this deal. As the Rays are in search of a first baseman, the big left-handed slugger would be an attractive asset in the deal. Anderson batted .265 with 14 homers and 78 RBI’s last season for AAA Pawtucket.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for OF Darnell McDonald, C/DH Ryan Lavarnway, 3B Will Middlebrooks, and 1B Lars Anderson.
This summer, MLB.com ranked the top 10 prospects of all 30 Major League teams. This is a continuation of my last article, Rays Top Prospects: #1-10. In the previous post I evaluated the top 5 prospects, which included some pretty impressive names. To nobody’s surprise, Matt Moore was #1, followed by Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Archer, Alex Torres, and Josh Sale. Here are the evaluations on the Rays’ top prospects, 6-10.
Brandon Guyer– Brandon Guyer was another Major League-quality player 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 a combination of speed and power to the table.
Alex Colome– Alex Colome is not exactly a well-known name among baseball’s top prospects, or even the Rays’ prospects. He’s one talented arm, and this is his second year ranked at #7 on the prospect list. 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. Like most of the Rays’ pitching prospects, Colome’s main issue is command.
The 22 year-old right-hander still has a lot of baseball left in his minor league career, as he looks like he’ll be starting in high single-A in 2012. Colome’s 2011 season includes a string of games in both high-A Charlotte and AA Montgomery. 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. Despite all this, Colome’s electric stuff is what makes him a hit with the scouts.
Justin O’Conner– Justin O’Conner was the Rays’ second 1st-round draft pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, after Josh Sale (#5 on the list). Unlike most of the Rays’ top prospects in their talented farm system, O’Conner is a catcher. At just 19, he’s the youngest of all the prospects on the list and is just starting his journey through the minors. O’Conner played 48 games this year for Princeton in his first year of professional baseball. He batted .157 but hit 9 dingers and 29 RBIs.
O’Conner has some great natural power and pop in his bat, similar to his draft-mate Josh Sale. There are still many areas in his swing he needs to work on to become a better hitter, and the low average is the proof of that. Defensive is a different story, as O’Conner is surprisingly new to his position. O’Conner’s first year as a full-time catcher was 2011, after moving from shortstop (his drafted position). O’Conner has a great arm behind the plate, and his great athletic skills allow him to move quickly as well. After finishing just his second year as a starting catcher, O’Conner obviously still has many things to learn about playing the position. The Rays aren’t rushing anywhere with a 19 year-old kid straight out of high school, but they see a lot of potential in him over time.
Drew Vettleson– Drew Vettleson may be the most intriguing of the Rays’ prospects. Vettleson was the Rays’ third 1st-round draft pick in 2010, following O’Conner and Sale. Like Josh Sale, Vettleson is an outfielder 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 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 fast legs. The most interesting part about Vettleson’s scouting report, is that he is 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 arm is at least average, and he should be able to play pretty good defense there if he’s not in center.
Tim Beckham– Former #1 overall draft pick Tim Beckham comes in at #10 on the list. Beckham is a well-known name within the baseball scouting world, and he’s slowly building his way up the Rays’ farm system. The young shortstop started his career a couple of years ago with high expectations, and Beckham has definitely needed time to adjust. His slow start to his professional career has caused many experts to overlook him, but the Rays know the value of patience. 2011 was a crucial year for Beckham’s development, who spent most of the season playing for AA Montgomery.
He played a total 131 games in 2011, including finishing the season with 24 games as a Durham Bull. He batted .271 and scored 94 runs, and was one of three Rays to be selected into the 2011 Futures Game in Phoenix. Beckham is a player with leadoff hitter-type talent; a guy with little power and pretty good speed. 2011 was a big year in the development of Beckham’s defensive game too. Fielding has been a problem for him in the past, and addressing it in 2011 was one of his main priorities. Second base may be his starting position in the future, but for now Beckham is working on becoming a better shortstop. A lot of people tend to forget that Beckham is just 21 years of age, so he’s still well ahead of the pack. At such a young age, the Rays should still have plenty of confidence in him.
The Tampa Bay Rays have always been a team forged by young talent. Most of the big faces of the franchise today are homegrown stars; such as Evan Longoria, David Price, James Shields, Ben Zobrist, and others that were brought up through the Rays’ prestigious farm system. The list of young stars doesn’t look like it’s going to shrink anytime soon, as the Rays have a wave of high-grade rookies upcoming in these next few years. A few of the exciting top prospects have already seen big league playing time in 2011. Some of those names include Matt Moore, Alex Torres, and Brandon Guyer. MLB.com has ranked the top 10 Rays prospects. Here are the evaluations of the top 5 prospects:
1.) Matt Moore– Out of all the late-season call-ups that made a splash this season, phenom Matt Moore made the biggest. Moore’s brief 2011 lived up to all the hype that was built up. His regular season stats included 9.1 IP, a 2.89 ERA, 15 K’s, and a scoreless start (win) in Yankee Stadium. But the Postseason is where Moore really had his chance to shine, when he was called to start game 1 of the ALDS. Moore shutout the Rangers in Arlington through seven innings in just his second career start. He would end up with a astounding 0.90 ERA through 10 innings for the postseason.
There’s no secret of why the flame-throwing lefty is so effective in the big leagues. His arsenal includes a blazing fastball, plus an effective curveball and changeup. Moore’s outstanding fastball can reach up to 100 MPH, and he’s very capable of going deep into games maintaining speeds up in the high-90’s. The command of his heater is the most important ingredient to Moore’s success, and the improvement is clearly noticeable. The left-hander also has an above-average curveball, which has plenty of movement and break to it. The changeup is another pitch Matt uses to keep hitters off balance, and is a big part of his success versus right-handed batters. The player that Moore most resembles is his teammate David Price. Price was also a top-prospect rookie just like Moore in 2008. He too was called up later in the season and made his impact in the playoffs. Both Moore and Price are fireballing lefties, with future Cy Young-type talent. The 22 year-old already has a collection of accolades; including a Futures Game selection, #3 ranked prospect, the MLB.com Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year award, and the 2011 Spink Award (Top Minor Leaguer). The Rays are very lucky to have young arm like Matt Moore in their bright future.
2.) Hak-Ju Lee– Hak-Ju Lee is not a household name among Rays fans, but it won’t be too long before he gains recognition in professional baseball. The 21 year-old Korean was acquired in the Matt Garza trade, and is on the top 50 Prospect list at #48. Lee was one of three players that represented the Rays at the MLB Futures Game this July. He was promoted in August to class AA after spending most of his 2011 season playing for the Charlotte Stonecrabs (class A+). Lee’s 2011 combined Minor League stats included a .292 average, 30 RBI’s, and 33 stolen bases. Lee is still adjusting to AA baseball, as he batted a low .190 through 100 at bats up in Montgomery. Lee is a left-handed batting shortstop (throws right) that is still improving in all parts of his game. His plus attributes include great speed, good contact hitting, and the ability to have quality at bats. Although Lee will probably never be a hitter with power, there are other weaknesses in his game that can improve. His defense at shortstop is probably the biggest thing that needs to be worked on.
Like most young Minor League shortstops, Lee played some rather sloppy defense. His error total was too much considering his high expectations as a defensive player. His gradual improvement in the field is noticeable though, and many scouts see Lee as being a good defensive shortstop in the future. Baserunning is another area of improvement for the speedy infielder. Although Lee has great wheels, his decisions on the basepads are not so intelligent yet. He was caught stealing 16 times out of 49 attempts this year in the minors. Just like on defense, these faults are not a rarity at all for 20 year-old prospects. Experts believe that he will get much better in the following years, and baserunning will be one of Lee’s fortes during his big league career. Overall, Hak-Ju Lee is work in progress with a bunch of potential.
3.) Chris Archer– Chris Archer has been one of the biggest names amongst Rays prospects. Archer was another top prospect that was included in the Matt Garza trade, and is ranked at #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 as well as velocity. The hard slider is the next good pitch in his arsenal, which he also throws very well. Then there is the changeup, which is a pitch that Archer is still developing. 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 about Chris, 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. Chris Archer is a player destined for a career the MLB, and his potential is sky-high. This is definitely a guy Rays Republic should be excited about.
4.) 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. In his first full season in the Rays organization, Torres started 27 games for the Durham Bulls and pitched 8 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 Ks. Torres didn’t do bad in his first crack at the big leagues this year. He posted a 3.38 ERA through 8 innings pitched out of the bullpen. Torres’s 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 chance he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen for the Rays.
5.) Josh Sale– The Rays picked up a big bat in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft. Josh Sale is a left-handed batter who has some great natural power, and scouts love how the ball explodes of his bat. 2011 was the first professional season for the 20 year-old. Sale played 60 games for the class A Princeton Rays, batting .210 with just 4 homers. Besides hitting, Sale isn’t strong in many other areas. His defensive in left field is mediocre but he has improved a lot as a left fielder this year, especially with his pretty strong throwing arm. Sale isn’t exactly Carl Crawford on the basepaths either, and also needs some work on his baserunning. He is only 20 though, and he has plenty of time to develop into the quality player that the Rays drafted in the 2010 Draft.