Tampa Bay Rays: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Andrew Friedman
Farm Director: Mitch Lukevics
Scouting Director: R.J. Harrison

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

Pitching. Pitching. Pitching. The Tampa Bay organization just keeps churning out mound prospects and the Top 10 list is littered with seven pitchers. The impressive part is that none of the players were taken in the first round; all seven were drafted in the third round or later, save for Lobstein. One other pitcher was signed internationally, while another was acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade with Los Angeles (AL). You can also see signs of excellent scouting when you look at the top prospect, Desmond Jennings, who was acquired out of a small community college in the 10th round.

1. Desmond Jennings, OF, Triple-A
DOB: October 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 10th round – Alabama Community College
MLB ETA: mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

Injuries limited Jennings to just 24 games in high-A ball in ’08 so few knew what exactly to expect from the rusty prospect in ’09. The outfielder did not miss a beat by jumping to double-A and he hit .316/.395/.486 in 383 at-bats. He also saw his strikeout rate drop from 18.8% to 13.6% while his ISO rate rose from .153 to .170. Jennings also stole 37 bases in 42 attempts in double-A. Promoted to triple-A for his final 32 games, the Alabama native hit .325/.419/.491 with an ISO of .167 and 15 steals in 17 attempts. He also posted a BB/K rate of 1.27 and is clearly on the cusp of the Majors. Currently more of a 10-15 homer threat, there is hope that Jennings can develop at least 20 homer power.

2. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Triple-A
DOB: April 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 4th round – Iowa HS
MLB ETA: mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Another impact prospect on the verge of realizing his MLB dream, Hellickson blew through both double-A and triple-A in ’09. Only 22, the right-hander allowed just 41 hits in 56.2 innings of work in double-A, while also posting a strikeout rate of 9.85 K/9. He showed solid control with a walk rate of 2.22 BB/9. Of concern, though, is his 35.3% ground-ball rate, which rose by 10% with the move to triple-A. In the senior league, Hellickson allowed just 39 hits in 71.0 innings thanks in part to a crazy-low BABIP of .228. He didn’t walk anyone, either, and posted a base-on-balls rate of 2.35 BB/9. His 10.99 K/9 rate was outstanding. Hellickson could really stand to improve his ground-ball rate further but a strong outfield defense with the likes of B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, and Desmond Jennings will certainly help the fly-ball pitcher.

3. Tim Beckham, SS, Low-A
DOB: January 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 1st round – Georgia HS
MLB ETA: mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

One full season into his career, it’s still far too early to get worried about this former first-overall pick’s offensive showing. The soon-to-be 20-year-old infielder hit a respectable .275/.328/.389 in 491 at-bats in low-A ball. Beckham’s power is obviously MIA at this point, and his ISO rate was just .114 – a slight improvement over his debut number in ’08 of .102. His 33 doubles hint at future power potential. His base running also needs to improve after he was caught 10 times in 23 attempts. Beckham’ strikeout rate (23.5%) is too high for someone with little power and his allergy to walks (6.5%) hurts his potential as a top-of-the-order hitter. There is a lot of added pressure on first-overall draft picks so the wOBA of .327 is clearly a disappointment for many, but ’09 was a solid foundation season. The organization will look for more in 2010.

4. Wade Davis, RHP, Majors
DOB: September 1985 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2004 3rd round – Florida HS
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, plus curveball, change-up, cutter

It seemed like a long time in coming, but Davis finally made his much-anticipated MLB debut. Both Davis and Jacob McGee (slowed by Tommy John surgery) have been on the Rays’ Top 10 lists since ’05. Davis’ stuff has leveled off a little bit since his early days in the system, but he had a solid season in triple-A in ’09 where he allowed 139 hits in 158.2 innings of work. Davis’ strikeout rate was down a bit at 7.94 K/9 but his walk rate was around career-levels at 3.40 BB/9. He was aided somewhat by a BABIP of .289. On the MLB landscape, Davis made six starts and allowed 33 hits in 36.1 innings. He posted a strikeout rate of 8.92 K/9 and showed respectable control with a walk rate of 3.22 BB/9. According to Pitch Type Values, Davis had a lot of success with his 92 mph fastball, as well as his curveball.

5. Matt Moore, LHP, Low-A
DOB: June 1989 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 8th round – New Mexico HS
MLB ETA: Late-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-94 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

An eighth-round steal, Moore has posted crazy (and oddly consistent) strikeout numbers in three minor league seasons of 12.84, 12.75, and 12.88 K/9. His walk rate, though, rose from 3.15 in ’08 in short-season ball to 5.12 BB/9 in ’09 at low-A ball. Moore made up for the walks by not allowing many hits: just 86 in 123.0 innings of work. The southpaw did not allow a homer to a left-handed batter and posted a 71.2% ground-ball rate in limited innings. His overall ground-ball rate was 45.8%. Moore has a huge upside, but the loss of control in ’09 is worrisome.

6. Nick Barnese, RHP, Low-A
DOB: January 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 3rd round – California HS
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

A personal favorite of mine, Barnese got a late jump on the season thanks to an injury. Once he got going, though, the right-hander pitched well in low-A ball. The 21-year-old hurler posted a 3.43 FIP and allowed 56 hits in 74.2 innings. His ground-ball rate was just shy of 52%. He showed OK control, especially considering is loss development time, with a walk rate of 3.01 BB/9. On the negative side, he was aided by a .263 BABIP and his strikeout rate hit a career low of 7.47, down from 11.45 K/9 in ’08. His stuff isn’t electric, but Barnese has a good chance of developing into a middle-of-the-rotation starter, if he can stay healthy.

7. Reid Brignac, SS, Majors
DOB: January 1986 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2004 2nd round – Louisiana HS
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

Brignac’s prospect status has stagnated a bit in the past two seasons in triple-A as he’s posted wOBAs of .311 and .329. This past year, he hit .282/.327/.417 in 415 at-bats. His ascent to the Majors was also slowed by the emergence of Jason Bartlett, who currently mans the shortstop position for the big league club and is the superior fielder and hitter. Brignac will have to wait for A) a trade, B) a position switch (to second?), or C) Bartlett to get injured/become ineffective/too expensive. In truth, Brignac does not offer much power (.135 ISO) or speed (five steals in 10 tries), and he has hit more than .260 just once in the past three seasons. Now 24, it’s up to him to force the organization’s hand with some above-average play.

8. Alexander Colome, RHP, Short Season
DOB: December 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 90-95 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

A casual observer may have taken one look at Colome’s debut numbers in ’08 that featured a 6.80 ERA… and looked the other way. However, his FIP was just 4.49 and he was hurt by a BABIP of .364 (not to mention his 5.05 BB/9 rate). After taking a year to acclimatize himself to North America, Colome also received some better luck in ’09 with a BABIP of .277. His control also improved and his walk rate improved to 3.79 BB/9. The strikeout rate jumped from an already-good 10.10 to 11.13 K/9. Colome allowed just 46 hits in 76.0 innings and he did not have a ball leave the yard. His 50.3% ground-ball rate was encouraging, as was the miniscule 8.7% line-drive rate.

9. Kyle Lobstein, LHP, Short Season
DOB: August 1989 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2008 2nd round – Arizona HS
MLB ETA: Late-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-92 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

An ’08 second-round pick, Lobstein did not make his mound debut until ’09 in short-season ball and he established himself amongst the top arms in the system. He posted a 2.95 FIP, while allowing 55 hits in 73.1 innings of work. He gave up just four homers (0.49 HR/9) and his walk rate was solid at 2.82 BB/9. Lobstein also missed a fair number of bats, with a strikeout rate of 9.08 K/9. He’ll likely jump to low-A ball in 2010, where he should spend the full season. Lobstein is not a flame-thrower, but he has middle-of-the-rotation potential thanks, in part, to a solid ground-ball rate (51.2%) and good numbers against right-hander (9.73 K/9, .204 batting-average-allowed).

10. Alexander Torres, LHP, Double-A
DOB: December 1987 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-91 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

Obtained in the surprising Scott Kazmir trade, Torres narrowly edges first baseman Matt Sweeney in terms of present prospect value amongst those obtained from Los Angeles in the swap. Torres made three minor-league stops in ’09, including seven double-A starts (two with Tampa Bay). He showed some rough edges, though, with a walk rate above 5.00 BB/9. Torres misses a good number of bats, though, with an overall strikeout rate of 8.49 K/9 and his ground-ball rate was excellent at 57.9%. He’s also equally effective against both left-handed (.218 average) and right-handed (.221) batters. Despite his below-average stature (5’10, 160 lbs), Torres showed his durability in ’09 with 155.0 regular-season innings pitched.

Up Next: The Florida Marlins

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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14 years ago

I think it is going to be very interesting what happens with Colome, his rankings are all over the place. Of course part of the reason they seem to be all over the place is KG going out and giving him 5 starts suggesting he is a top 25-50 spect when nearly every other analyst is taking a bit more conservative approach wanting to see 1 more year of data before jumping on the bandwagon. I think part of KG’s grade is trying to be the first person to hype someone up (he and many of his readers keep pointing to Feliz and his aggressive grading of him very early) but the kid certainly has some talent.

This isn’t really a comment on your rankings here but I think Barnese is incredibly underrated on the net.

14 years ago
Reply to  jfish26101

Barnese’s ERA and WHIP were fine in 2009, but his injury and his strikeout rate falling are both mild concerns. I expect his K/9 to rebound if he’s healthy with Charlotte this year though.