A few days ago a small discussion broke out in the comments over the struggles of the Durham Bulls who are just 9-19 on the season. And one reason given is that most of the Rays’ best prospects are now in the big leagues, with players like Matt Moore and Desmond Jennings. And a couple of the better prospects still in Durham (Chris Archer, Alex Torres) have struggled. In fact, Torres has been so bad, he was recently moved to the bullpen permanently.
Another reason for the lack of top-level talent in Durham is the slow pace of prospects from recent draft classes.
Here’s a look at players drafted by the Rays in the first ten rounds since Andrew Friedman has been running the show. The numbers on the right represent the number of draft picks that have reached at least the double-A level. Numbers on the left represent players that have not, including players that did not sign with the Rays…
The concern starts with the 2008 draft class. Just one of the players selected in the first ten rounds has reached triple-A. And that player (Tim Beckham) is currently suspended.
And things start getting very bare in 2009. We are now three years removed from that draft, and only one player (OF Brett Nommensen) has reached double-A, and he has been on the DL all season, and is not considered a big-time prospect. And the one player from the 2010 class (Merrill Kelly) is now a reliever.
We’re not saying the Rays have failed in these drafts. There are some good reasons for the slow pace of prospect progression including a preference for drafting high school players (e.g. the top 5 picks in 2009), as well as the Rays’ extreme patience, especially with pitchers.
The good news is, one of the Rays’ best prospects, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee should be in triple-A by the end of the season. Also, the Rays had 12 picks before the end of the second round last year. And just out of sheer luck, a few of those guys should fill out the upper-levels in the next few years.
Still, as this season moves along, it will be interesting to see if more of the players from 2008 and 2009 start to step up. Otherwise, things might be bleak in Durham for a while.
[NOTE: there have been players from these draft classes selected outside of the top ten rounds to reach double-A. However, these players typically are not legit prospects, and success in the later rounds of the draft is at least in part luck. If the Patriots really thought Tom Brady was going to be a Hall of Fame quarterback, they wouldn't have risked waiting until the sixth round to draft him.]
(Data via TheBaseballCube.com)