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The 2015 Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1.  Daniel Robertson, SS

Born: 03/22/94  Age: 21   Height: 6-0   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Jorge Polanco, Jose Pirela, Yamaico Navarro, J.P Crawford, Marcus Lemon
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 18 R 127 .297 .405 .554 .959 .257 12.6% 11.8% 146
2012 18 A- 104 .181 .238 .234 .472 .053 6.7% 29.8% 45
2013 19 A 451 .277 .353 .401 .754 .125 9.1% 17.5% 116
2014 20 A+ 642 .310 .402 .471 .873 .161 11.2% 14.6% 132

Background: Talk about a fantastic opening round of a draft – Oakland, armed with three of the first 47 picks in 2012, grabbed Addison Russell (11th), Robertson (34th), and Matt Olson (47th), all of whom will likely rank among the game’s top 100 prospects. I was relatively high on the young shortstop heading into 2014, listing him among the Top 25 Breakout Prospects while writing:

“Solid tools across the board on both offense and defense, Robertson’s one of those prospects that gets overlooked and before you know it he’s an above-average big leaguer. He could top out as a .290/.350/.430-type guy with solid defense.”

Well, Robertson had a breakout season last year, hitting .310/.402/.471 with a career best 15 homeruns while finishing with strong peripherals (11.2% BB-rate and 14.6% K-rate). He topped the California League average production by 32%.

Projection: One of the better under-the-radar prospects in baseball. Robertson has complete, well-rounded offensive approach at the plate: improving hit tool with better than average potential, double-digit HR power, and patience. Prior to being acquired as part of the Ben Zobrist deal, Oakland was experimenting a bit with Robertson as second base.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2016/Early 2017

 

 

2.  Steven Souza Jr., OF

Born: 04/24/89  Age: 26   Height: 6-4   Weight: 225   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Matt LaPorta, Andrew Lambo, Scott Van Slyke, Joe Mather, Alex Castellanos
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 23 A 293 .290 .346 .576 .922 .286 7.5% 16.7% 143
2012 23 A+ 107 .319 .421 .560 .981 .242 12.1% 23.4% 173
2013 24 AA 323 .300 .396 .557 .953 .256 12.7% 23.5% 161
2014 25 AAA 407 .350 .432 .590 1.022 .240 12.8% 18.4% 180

Background: Ballsy. There’s really no other way to put it. New General Manager Andrew Silverman wagered an awful lot – his reputation, the team’s present, possibly their future – in dealing Wil Myers just one season removed from slugging .293/.354/.478 en route to being named as the AL Rookie of the Year. But the risk is really two-fold:

  • Did Silverman give up on Myers after an injury-riddled season or sell at the right point?
  • Did Silverman really acquire a soon-to-be 26-year-old prospect with 26 big league plate appearances as the centerpiece in a deal for a potentially elite, young, team-controlled bat?

Again – ballsy. Souza’s sort of like the Tim Tebow or the Johnny Manziel of minor league prospects – a polarizing, potentially talented, but oh-so-risky unproven player. He entered pro ball in 2007 as a third round pick out of Cascade HS, home to former budding superstar Grady Sizemore. And for awhile it looked like Souza would be a minor league washout. He never batted higher than .237 in any of his first four seasons; his OPS topped .700 for the first time in a repeat of Low Class A, and that was after a 50-game suspension for PEDs. Let’s just say more than a question clouded his future.

But something clicked in Souza two years later, 2012, and he hasn’t stopped hitting. Since that year, his respective OPSs: .938, .944, and 1.004. Only adding to the intrigue/frustration/analysis is that fact that he hasn’t topped 419 in any of those seasons.

Again – ballsy.

Projection: Ignoring the elephant in the room for a moment – his age – and just looking at the what the other numbers say, Souza’s a damn good prospect: above-average power, patience, and speed wrapped up with a solid hit tool. His Weighted Runs Created Plus hasn’t dipped below 151 in the last three years. Hell, it improved in every year since, going from 151 to 161 to an otherworldly 180 last season.

And now the age: he was old for his levels in 2012, basically even with the average age in 2013, and old for the International League in 2014.

So what the hell does CAL say? Well, it’s torn. On one hand CAL screams bust – Matt LaPorta, Joe Mather, and Alex Castellanos – and on the other it hints a potentially lethal bat (Scott Van Slyke). In the end, he’s an enigma – a riddle with the potential to be a middle-of-the-lineup thumper a la Van Slyke.

One final thought: I wrote this in last year’s book, “Souza could be one of those late blooming sluggers a la Brandon Moss.” Moss, for what it’s worth, has topped the MLB-league average offensive production by 35% since 2012, tied with Freddie Freeman for 19th best in baseball.

Ceiling:  3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

3.  Casey Gillaspie, 1B

Born: 01/25/93  Age: 22   Height: 6-4   Weight: 240   B/T: B/L                                                        
Top CALs: Luke Hopkins, Tyler Burnett, Matt Clark, Matthew Curry, Leonardo Castillo
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 21 A- 308 .262 .364 .411 .774 .148 13.6% 21.1% 129

Background: Analytically speaking, I was sporting a pretty big man crush on the former Wichita State switch-hitting slugger. Gillaspie hit on almost every single analytical checkpoint I look for: he could hit for average and power, sported an elite walk rate, and showed marked improvement in each of his three collegiate seasons. His yearly OPS totals: .813, .958, and 1.201. But the best part of his collegiate career: over his final two seasons Gillaspie sported a 120-to-63 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a .254 Isolated Power.

Tampa Bay grabbed Gillaspie with the 20th pick in the first round last June, 17 picks sooner than his older brother Conor, who was drafted by the Giants in 2008. He spent the entirety of his debut in the NYPL, where he hit .262/.364/.411 with 16 doubles, one triple, seven homeruns, and a 129 wRC+.

Projection: Prior to the draft I wrote, “

My favorite collegiate bat – bar none. Above-average power and patience, improving hit tool, the ability to his from both sides of the plate, and a reasonably strong glove at first. And while he’s not going to be a game changer in the professional ranks, I do think he’s the cream of the draft crop in terms of [collegiate] offensive upside, perhaps peaking around a .280/.360/.490-type hitter.”

Ceiling:  3.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

4.  Willy Adames, SS

Born: 09/02/95  Age: 19   Height: 6-1   Weight: 180   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Wendell Rijo, Carlos Correa, Jonathan Galvez, Andrew Velazquez, Dilson Herrera
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 267 .245 .419 .370 .789 .125 21.0% 16.5% 144
2014 18 A 514 .271 .353 .429 .782 .158 10.5% 24.5% 124

Background: Part of the bounty the Rays acquired for dealing ace David Price in the five-player, three-team mega-deal involving the Mariners, Tigers, Nick Franklin, and Drew Smyly. Adames, along with new org-mate Jake Bauers, spent the year as one of just three qualified 18-year-old hitters in the Midwest League. The 6-foot-1 shortstop slugged .271/.353/.429 between both organizations; adding 19 doubles and eight homeruns to his impressive 14 triples, the second best total in the league, trailing only his other new org-mate Andrew Velazquez. Adames overall production topped the league average mark by 24%.

Projection: Despite some impressive production in full season ball as an 18-year-old, Adames has yet to garner a whole helluva lot of attention. Just for comparison’s sake, consider the following:

  • Francisco Lindor, Age 18, Midwest League: .257/.352/.355,  8% BB-rate,  13.8% K-rate,  102 wRC+
  • Willy Adames, Age 18, Midwest League: .271/.353/.429,  5% BB-rate,  24.5% K-rate,  124 wRC+

Adames’ has a significantly higher K-rate, but that comes with the additional punch as well. As far as CAL’s thoughts, well, it links him to one top prospect (Carlos Correa) and a couple solid second tier prospects (Dilson Herrera and Andrew Velazquez).

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

5.  Blake Snell, LHP

Born: 12/04/92  Age: 22   Height: 6-4   Weight: 180   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Luke Jackson, Yeliar Castro, Chris Archer, Christian Meza, Jordan Walden
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 19 R 47.3 2.09 3.90 10.1 28.0% 3.2 9.0% 0.76 87.0%
2013 20 A 99.0 4.27 4.52 9.6 23.7% 6.6 16.3% 0.73 71.5%
2014 21 A 40.3 1.79 3.14 9.4 26.1% 4.2 11.8% 0.22 80.3%
2014 21 A+ 75.3 3.94 3.19 9.2 23.3% 4.4 11.2% 0.12 64.8%

Background: Part of the organization’s now infamous 2011 draft class which included 10 first round picks, Snell, along with right-hander Taylor Guerrieri, offer the best chance on the club’s initial investment. Snell found himself back in the Midwest League after battling some serious control issues in 2013 and after eight strong starts (40.1 IP, 42-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio) the club promoted him up to High Class A for his remaining 16 starts. In total, the 6-foot-4 southpaw finished the year with 119 punch outs and 56 walks in 115.2 innings.

Projection: A lot like Chris Archer, Snell has battled control/command issues early in his career. The swing-and-miss ability – he’s whiffed 24.5% of the batters he’s faced in his career – hint at a potential big league career, whether it’s as a #2/#3-type arm a la Archer (his #3 CAL) or in the back of a bullpen remains to be seen.

Ceiling:  3.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

6.  Alex Colome, RHP

Born: 12/31/88  Age: 26   Height: 6-2   Weight: 210   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Vin Mazzaro, Marco Estrada, Tyler Robertson, Jae Kuk Ryu, Zach Phillips
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 23 AA 75.0 3.48 2.85 9.0 24.0% 4.1 10.9% 0.24 72.9%
2012 23 AAA 16.7 3.24 3.94 8.1 22.1% 4.9 13.2% 0.54 77.7%
2013 24 AAA 70.3 3.07 3.49 9.2 23.8% 3.7 9.6% 0.64 74.2%
2014 25 AAA 86.0 3.77 3.25 7.6 19.8% 3.1 8.1% 0.21 68.5%

Background: Perhaps no other player has more available data to analyze than the 6-foot-2 Dominican-born right-hander who finished his eighth season in the minor leagues. Colome, who’s tallied nearly 700 minor league innings, spent the year back in Class AAA, something he’s done the previous two years, where he fanned 73, walked 30, and posted a 3.25 FIP in 86.0 innings of work. For his minor league career, Colome has fanned 23.5% and walked 10.6% of the batters he faced. The hard-throwing right-hander has also totaled 39.2 innings in the big leagues, posting a run of the mill 4.33 while showcasing a lively mid 90s fastball.

Projection: Sort of the Steven Souza Jr. of pitching prospects. Colome has spent what is seemingly a lifetime in the minor leagues and has looked like a budding stud at point, a potential backend starting pitcher at others, and a solid reliever some of the time. CAL links him to Marco Estrada, another late-blooming pitching prospect who once topped 3.0-WAR in a season and looked like a backend reliever at one other point and barely MLB passable at other instances. Seems spot on.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2013

 

 

7.  Jake Bauers, 1B

Born: 10/06/95  Age: 19   Height: 6-1   Weight: 195   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Ronald Guzman, Mitch Dening, Michael Ortiz, Jean Carlos Valdez, Samir Duenez
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 188 .282 .341 .374 .715 .092 7.4% 16.5% 102
2014 18 A 467 .296 .376 .414 .789 .118 10.9% 17.1% 128

Background: One of the more memorable lyrics from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was, “It’s a tale as old as time…” Well, Bauers’ 2014 campaign falls well into that category. The 2013 seventh round pick out of Marina HS got off to a rip-roaring start, hitting .354/.429/.523 with nine doubles, three triples, and six homeruns in his first 55 games. And just like we’ve seen countless times before with many a young prospect – this is where the lyric enhances the background build up – Bauers faded in the second half, putting together a .242/.325/.313 triple-slash line over his final 57 games.

The left-handed first sacker still managed to finish the year 28% better than the Midwest League average offensive production, trailing only new org-mate Andrew Velazquez for best production in the league for a player under the age of 20.

Projection: Because of his later birthday, Bauers enters his third professional season – and likely his first taste in High Class A – at the ripe ol’ age of 19. His power really seemed to be developing at the onset of his season when he was sporting a .169 ISO, but really trailed off after that. Either way, though, he’s slugged just nine homeruns in his first 159 games. If the power takes a step forward, he has a chance to be a middle of the lineup thumper. If not, maybe like an Eric Hosmer-post-hype.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

8.  Andrew Velazquez, 2B/SS

Born: 07/14/94  Age: 20   Height: 5-8   Weight: 175   B/T: B/R                                                        
Top CALs: Delino DeShields, Addison Russell, Jonathan Villar, Angelo Gumbs, Gustavo Pierre
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 17 R 56 .220 .286 .300 .586 .080 8.9% 21.4% 53
2012 17 R 139 .319 .406 .500 .906 .181 12.9% 25.2% 138
2013 18 A 257 .260 .319 .336 .655 .077 8.2% 23.0% 87
2014 19 A 622 .290 .367 .428 .796 .138 10.0% 21.9% 129

Background: A fantastic little find by the Arizona scouting staff for unearthing the pint-sized shortstop in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. Velazquez rebounded in his second go-through in the Midwest League, improving his triple-slash line from .260/.319/.336 to .290/.367/.428 last season. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 29%, the top showing among all sub-20-year-olds in the Midwest League.

Projection: It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Oakland A’s end up with Velazquez at some point. Meaning: it’s an organization that places production over package. And let’s be honest, Velazquez is wrapped up in a pretty tiny package. Standing 5-foot-8 but a hefty (for that size) 175 pounds, the switch-hitting shortstop possesses a complete offensive package: plus-speed, better-than-average hit tool, surprising power that could eventually turn into 10 homeruns down the line, and a decent eye at the plate. CAL likes the kid’s odds too, linking him to Delino DeShields, Addison Russell, and Jonathan Villar.

Ceiling:  2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

9.  Justin O’Conner, C

Born: 03/31/92  Age: 23   Height: 6-0   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Kellin Deglan, Alex Lavisky, Andrew Knapp, Jorge Alfaro, Daniel Rams
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 19 R 197 .157 .234 .354 .587 0.197 8.6% 39.6% 55
2013 21 A 439 .233 .290 .381 .671 0.148 7.1% 25.3% 88
2014 22 A+ 340 .282 .321 .486 .806 0.204 4.4% 22.9% 127
2014 22 AA 84 .263 .298 .388 .685 0.125 1.2% 23.8% 91

Background: The former prep bat finally took his offensive game to the next level last season, four years after entering pro ball as the 31st overall pick in the draft. O’Conner, a 6-foot, 190-pound backstop, opened the year with Charlotte by hitting .282/.321/.486 en route to tally a 127 wRC+. His 31 doubles were the fourth best total in the Florida State League last season, despite playing in just 80 games. Tampa Bay pushed O’Conner up to Class AA in early August, presumably to get his feet wet for the full audition in 2015, and he performed well, without truly standing out (.263/.298/.388).

Projection: As impressive as his showing in High Class A was last season, O’Conner’s numbers actually improve when adjusting for Charlotte’s home ballpark (.286/.324/.496). He’s always shown solid-average pop, but it took another step forward. The hit tool and walk rate are questionable, but he can control the running game like few others in the minors; he’s thrown out 43% of would-be base stealers throughout his career.

Ceiling:  2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

10.  Burch Smith, RHP

Born: 04/12/90  Age: 25   Height: 6-4   Weight: 215   B/T: R/R                                                         
Top CALs: Andrew Heaney, Alex Cobb, Yohan Pino, Ryne Miller, David Huff
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 22 A+ 128.7 3.85 3.59 9.6 25.7% 1.9 5.1% 0.77 68.0%
2013 23 AA 31.3 1.15 1.88 10.6 31.4% 1.7 5.1% 0.29 72.0%
2013 23 AAA 61.0 3.39 3.18 9.6 26.3% 2.5 6.9% 0.59 73.1%
2014 24 AAA 5.3 18.56 10.26 5.1 9.4% 8.4 15.6% 3.38 46.1%

Background: Also part of the three-team deal involving the Nationals and Padres, Smith, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander, has taken a curious path to – and through – professional ball. He began his collegiate career at Howard College, where he lasted two years, and then transferred to Oklahoma, where he stepped in and paced the pitching staff in strikeouts. San Diego uncovered him in the 14th round in 2011 and within two years he was making his big league debut. The big right-hander lasted just 5.1 innings last season over two PCL stints in April before coming down with a forearm injury.

Projection: As if gambling on Souza as the centerpiece of the Myers trade wasn’t enough, new GM Andrew Silverman felt the need to include the promising/injured right-hander. When he’s healthy Smith features the standard three-pitch mix: a low 90s fastball, mid 70s curveball, and change up. Prior to the injury, he totaled 228.1 innings while averaging 9.7 strikeouts and just 2.2 walks per nine innings. CAL thinks he has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter, something along the lines of a 2.0-win player.

Ceiling:  2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2013

 

 

 

**All Statistics Courtesy of FanGraphs**

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.


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