Last January we performed a meta-analysis of the Rays’ top prospects, in which we built a composite ranking of the top 14 players in the system based on eight different rankings and our own “Trade Value Index“. Let’s take a look back at the list and see how each of those players performed in 2008 and gauge whether or not they are living up to the hype.
1. Evan Longoria (avg. rank: 1.1) It seems like years ago, but Dirtbag was demoted back to triple-A after spring training. But after 10 games, he was back and the Rays never looked back. Despite missing time late in the season with a broken bone in his wrist, Longoria hit .272/.343/.531 with 27 home runs and a 125 OPS+. Add to that 7-7 on stolen base attempts and gold glove-caliber defense and Longoria should be a run-away AL Rookie of the Year…AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR?
2. David Price (avg. rank: 2.2) Not a bad year for King David who made his professional debut at single-A in late May. Five months later Price recorded the final 4 outs of game 7 of the ALCS to beat the Boston Red Sox and advance the Rays to the World Series. In 29 combined appearances (20 starts) between the minors, the majors and the postseason, Price was 13-1 with a 2.23 ERA. He posted 129 strikeouts in 129.1 innings, to go along with an impressive 3.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio…WILL BE TOP PROSPECT IN BASEBALL IN ’09
3. Jake McGee (avg. rank: 3.3) As impressive as Price was, McGee was equally disappointing. In June, McGee was lost for the season with a torn ligament in his elbow. Even before the injury, it was clear that McGee was not his usual dominating self. Prior to this season, McGee averaged 10.8 strikeouts per 9 innings. This season, that number was down to 7.5 at double-A. If he can come back successfully from surgery, Joe Maddon recently indicated that he could see McGee as a power lefty in the bullpen…WILL BE OFF THIS LIST IN ’09
4. Wade Davis (avg. rank: 3.8) Davis is just 1 of 8 starting pitchers in the organization that could start in the majors in ’09. Like McGee, Davis struggled early in the season at double-A. Prior to this season, Davis struck out 9.4 batters per 9 innings and posted a 3.0 strikeout to walk ratio. In 19 double-A starts, Davis posted a respectable 3.85 ERA, but his strikeouts per 9 innings was down to 6.8 and his ratio of strikeouts to walks was down to 1.9. After the double-A all star game, Davis was promoted to triple-A and his numbers rebounded back to his norm. In 9 starts with Durham, Davis struck out 55 in 53 innings (9.3 per 9 innings) and his ratio was back to 2.3. Davis is ready for the majors, but he will have to wait…TOP 20 PROSPECT IN BASEBALL
5. Reid Brignac (avg. rank: 5.3) Two things happened on the way to the majors for Brignac. His glove proved major league caliber, and his bat did not. With the glove, Brignac committed only 12 errors after averaging 28 per season that previous 3 years. He was named the top defensive shortstop of the IL by Baseball America. With the bat, Brignac posted a .250/.299/.412 line. He is still getting an extra-base hit about once every 10 at bats, which is in line with previous seasons, but the 25 walks have to be viewed as a disappointment. He also missed the final two months with a broken bone in his wrist. He did make his major league debut this season, going 0-10 with 5 strikeouts and a walk…PROSPECT STATUS IS SLIPPING
6. Desmond Jennings (avg. rank: 6.9) Another year, another season cut short by injury. This time it was only 24 games before Jennings went down with a shoulder injury. In 2009 Jennings will be 22 years old, have zero experience above single-A and only 685 at bats above high school. The talent is there (.866 OPS in ’07 at Columbus), but he needs to show that he can stay healthy for an entire season before we even consider him major league caliber...DISAPPOINTMENT SO FAR
7. Jeff Niemann (avg. rank: 6.9) Niemann made his major league debut for the Rays with one good start and one not-so-good start back in April. In triple-A, Niemann made 24 starts going 9-5 with a 3.59 ERA and a respectable 2.6 strike out to walk ratio. He did seem to get stronger as the season went along. Of course, the good news is that 2008 marked his second consecutive (relatively) healthy season. Niemann will be out of minor league options in 2009 so he will either be in the Rays’ bullpen or in the Royals’ (or another team’s) rotation…COULD BE A SOLID #4/5 STARTER WITH A LONG CAREER
8. Jeremy Hellickson (avg. rank: 8.2) We have always said that we are hesitant to get excited about a prospect until he does something above single-A. After a solid 2008, Hellickson is very much on everybody’s radar and he could give the Rays 3 starting pitchers in the top 20 prospects in baseball. Between single-A and double-A, Hellboy made 27 starts, going 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA and a ridiculous 8.1 strikeout to walk ratio. We also saw how much Hellickson is now valued in baseball as many teams at the trade deadline insisted on his inclusion in any deal with the Rays making it very clear that he would not be dealt. He should be #3 on the Rays’ list next season…TOP 20 PROSPECT IN BASEBALL
9. Eddie Morlan (avg. rank: 9.4) The best relief pitcher prospect in the system, Morlan posted a solid 3.0 strike out to walk ratio to go with 45 Ks in 47 innings. Morlan was selected to participate in the Futures Game during the All-Star break…COULD MOVE UP A SPOT OR TWO IN 2009
10. Ryan Royster (avg. rank: 11.1) Royster was a big disappointment in 2008. One year after hitting .329-30-98 with a .981 OPS at Columbus, Royster regressed to .265-9-58 with a .691 OPS at Vero Beach. Royster will need to prove that 2007 was not a fluke or he will soon become an afterthought…NOT LIKELY TO BE ON LIST IN 2009
11. Chris Mason (avg. rank: 11.1) As disappointing as Royster was with the bat, Mason was equally disappointing on the mound. After winning 15 games with a 2.57 ERA in 2007 at Montgomery, Mason’s ERA skyrocketed to 6.21. He was eventually demoted to the bullpen. Without a dominating fastball, Mason relies on control and that escaped him this season. After averaging 2.6 walks per 9 innings prior to this season, Mason walked 3.4 per 9 inning this season and the pitches in the strikezone were very hittable. Like Royster, Mason needs to prove that 2008 was the exception and not the rule…NOT LIKELY TO BE ON LIST IN 2009
12. John Jaso (avg. rank: 11.4) Jaso’s defense has improved considerably, but there is still improvement needed before he is considered a legitimate major league catching prospect. On the other hand, there is little doubt about his bat. For the fifth straight season, Jaso posted an OPS of greater than .800 and boasts a career minor league OBP of .381 (.386 in 2008). 2009 will be a big season for Jaso. If he can show continued progress behind the plate, he could become one of the top catching prospects in baseball…WILL BE IN RAYS TOP 10 IN 2009
13. Fernando Perez (avg. rank: 12.6) He still strikes out way too much (156 in 129 triple-A games) but his athleticism and speed cannot be ignored. He clearly left an impression on Joe Maddon during a September call-up. With a possible opening in right field for 2009, Perez will certainly receive consideration for that position. But we suspect that Perez is being groomed to replace Carl Crawford in left field. If Crawford is traded this off-season, the Rays would save nearly $8 million on the payroll, and only take a small step backwards in talent…COULD BE EVERYDAY MAJOR LEAGUER IN 2009
14. James Houser (avg. rank: 14.1) It is not easy to go 3-3 in 20 starts (double-A) but Houser’s 2.86 ERA indicate the lack of wins was not his fault. The 76 to 40 strikeout to walk ratio needs improvement (94.1 innings) but the 69 hits allowed was very impressive. A big lefty (6’5″), Houser still needs to add meat to his bones (185 lbs). Once he does, he could step up as one of the top prospects in the system. In the meantime, Houser’s future in the big leagues could be as a relief pitcher…SLOWLY CLIMBING THE BOARD
A Meta-Analysis Of Top Tampa Bay Rays Prospects [Rays Index]