Last February 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. David Price, 2007-1st rd (avg. rank: 1.0) 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA is a decent year for any rookie starting pitcher, but fell short of the preseason expectation in which many pegged King David as the odds-on favorite for Rookie of the Year. In the end, he wasn’t even the best rookie pitcher on the Rays. As a power lefty, his strikeouts per 9 innings (7.15) needs to be closer to 9.00 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.89) needs to be closer to 3.00. He did show improvement down the stretch with a 3.82 ERA and a 2.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the final two months. With the reigns ready to come off in 2010, the expectations will be higher. Another so-so season and many will wonder if his future is in the bullpen…YET TO SHOW DOMINANCE AS A STARTER
2. Tim Beckham, 2008-1st rd (avg. rank: 2.9) As a 19-year old in the South Atlantic League, Beckham’s .275-5-63 with a .717 OPS and .350 wOBA is respectable for his first full pro season. The lack of power (42 extra-base hits) is not a concern as he should fill out and get stronger as he gets older. And as he matures, he will improve on the 13-23 stolen bases. The biggest concern of course is the defense and his 43 errors. The optimist points to Derek Jeter’s 56 errors at the same age in the same league. The naysayer points to BJ Upton’s 42 errors at age 18 in the SALy. He needs to improve his OBP (.328), base stealing and defense, but there is nothing yet to suggest Beckham can’t be a big leaguer…LONG WAY TO GO BUT STILL ON TRACK
3. Wade Davis, 2004-3rd rd (avg. rank: 3.0) Big Dub made 28 starts in Durham and did not show the dominance many expected. His strikeouts per 9 innings went down from 9.34 (in AAA in ’08) to 7.94 but was better than the 6.77 rate he showed in 19 double-A starts in 2008. Some thought he would fill the same role (RP) in 2009 that David Price filled in 2008. But with the Rays out of contention, he was promoted in September and made 6 starts. The early returns were promising, including a 4-hit shutout and two 7-inning starts in which he allowed just 1 run. Of course, the best news is with 194 ip this season, he won’t have the same restrictions in 2010 that Price had this season, and will be free to throw 200-220 innings and be the workhorse the Rays expect…COULD BE ROOKIE OF YEAR CONTENDER IN 2010
4. Reid Brignac, 2004-2nd rd (avg. rank: 5.8) A .278 average in 31 games with the Rays is decent, but he needs to be much better than the .301 OBP and .323 wOBA if he ever wants to be an everyday player on a good team. His .311 and .329 wOBAs the past two years in AAA suggest that he may never be the big league hitter many had hoped. His defense should be fine, although a -3.1 UZR as a big league shortstop is not a good start. The small ballparks in the California League and his 2006 season might still have Brignac convinced that he is a power hitter when he should be trying to punch the gaps…NO LONGER A TOP PROSPECT
5. Jeremy Hellickson, 2005-4th rd (avg. rank: 5.9) He missed a month and a half early in the season, but never missed a beat, going 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 132 strikeouts to only 29 walks in 20 starts combined between double-A and triple-A. And all at the age of 22. No longer the too-small-for-a-righty, or too-slow-fastball, Hellboy has jumped to the top of the Rays pitching prospect ranks. And one need look no further than the 4.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.0 is considered good) to see that Hellickson projects very well as a big league pitcher. He will begin the 2010 season in triple-A, but should be the first one off the minor league bench should a starter be needed on the parent club…NOW ONE OF TOP PROSPECTS IN BASEBALL
6. Desmond Jennings, 2006-10th rd (avg. rank: 6.1) Jennings 2009 season was the hitter’s version of what Jeremy Hellickson did. He was great at double-A and even better in triple-A. In his first injury-free season as a pro, Jennings went a combined .318-11-62 with an .888 OPS and 52 of 59 stolen bases. The only thing holding Jennings back is experience. Due to injuries, he still has only 311 games as a pro in 4 seasons. Jennings is the heir apparent somewhere. We just aren’t sure if that is center field or left field. Eventually the Rays will need to move Carl Crawford or BJ Upton, and when they do, Jennings will be ready to step in…RAYS NEXT GREAT OUTFIELDER
7. Nick Barnese, 2007-3rd rd (avg. rank: 8.5) Along with Matt Moore, Barnese is one of the Rays’ two big pitching prospects in the low-minors. Only 20, Barnese did not make his ’09 debut until June but pitched well in the second-half, going 6-5 with a 2.53 ERA in 15 starts. However, his 4.00 tRA and 3.43 FIP suggest he did not pitch as well as his ERA would leave you to believe. You would like to see more than 62 strikeouts for the right-hander in low-A, but that may have been due to the extended vacation early in the year. Should still be a top-10 prospect for the Rays, but another so-so season in 2010 and he will start to slip…NEEDS A STRONG 2010
8. Matt Moore, 2007-8th rd (avg. rank: 8.8) Also only 20, Moore proved in his first full-season of pro ball that he is the real deal. The lefty went 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA and an impressive 176 Ks in only 123 innings. In the coming years, you would like to see him cut back on his walks (5.12/9 inn), but that is only a minor concern at this point…WILL MOVE UP A COUPLE OF SPOTS NEXT YEAR
9. Jake McGee, 2004-5th rd (avg. rank: 9.3) McGee, once one of the Rays’ top prospects, made his return from Tommy John surgery late in the year and made 11 limited appearances for Charlotte in high-A. His 26 strikeouts to only 9 walks in 22.1 innings is promising, but we won’t know if he is back to his old self until this spring when he should be 100% for the first time. Many feel his future is as a closer. It will be interesting to see if he is moved to the bullpen sooner rather than later…NEEDS TO PROVE AGAIN THAT HE BELONGS NEAR TOP OF THE THIS LIST
10. Jeff Niemann, 2004-1st rd (avg. rank: 9.3) Niemann slipped on this list after 2 mediocre seasons in triple-A, but surprised many with his strong showing in his rookie campaign for the Rays. His 13-6 record and 3.94 ERA will garner him votes in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Joe Maddon’s most dependable starter in 2009, we still need to see if the Giraffe can take the ball and be effective every 5 days. In 2009 he made 16 starts on extra rest (3.67 ERA) and only 14 starts on normal rest (4.09 ERA)…PROVED HE CAN BE GOOD, BUT CAN HE BE GREAT?
11. John Jaso, 2003-12th rd (avg. rank: 11.1) Jaso is the toughest guy on this list to gauge, because we just don’t know enough about his defense. When we talked to a member of the Montgomery staff, the word was that he has shown steady improvement, but that there was still work to be done. What we do know is that he only threw out 17% of would-be basestealers, and that is not good. Offensively he will never be an all-star, but his .350 wOBA and 49-to-46 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests that he should adapt well to the big league level. The problem is he probably doesn’t have enough power to play a position other than catcher and at 26 his prospect clock is about to expire…PROBABLY NOT ON THIS LIST IN 2010
12. Fernando Perez, 2004-7th rd (avg. rank: 11.8) His 2009 season was cut short when he broke his wrist in the spring. That was a huge setback as Perez’ ticket to the bigs seems to depend on his ability to learn to hit left-handed. When he finally returned in September, it was obvious that all he could do from the left-side was bunt. He will be 27 in 2010 and his prospect years are behind him. He is also running out of seasons to take advantage of his speed…NO LONGER A TOP PROSPECT
13. Mitch Talbot, 2002-2nd rd (avg. rank: 12.4) Talbot will be out of minor league options in 2010 and has been passed by younger and better prospects. Unless the Rays think he can fill a need in the bullpen, his days in the Rays organization are almost over…WILL NO LONGER BE ON THIS LIST
14. Jake Jefferies, 2008-3rd rd (avg. rank: 16.0) All we know about his defense is that he threw out 26% of basestealers. Offensively, he hit .261-8-50 with an anemic .686 OPS and a .328 wOBA. It was his first full season as a pro and their is still a lot of development to go through…STILL A FRINGE PROSPECT