About a week or so ago, Kevin Goldstein and Baseball Prospectus profiled the Rays system and did a Top 11 list. Within that hour, I sent Kevin a Q&A regarding it. -Jake
Jake Larsen: 5 5-star prospects in the Rays farm system? Wow, is our system THAT stacked where we've got 1/2 of our top prospects being of the "blue-chip" variety? Will any other system come close to competing with that?
Kevin Goldstein: Yes, they're that stacked. It's the best system in baseball - so relish in it. More importantly, hope it leads to some winning years at the big league level soon (I certainly think it will). I don't think anyone else will have five - and I know people who that it should be six, with McGee. Looking at your questions, I see we're getting to that later on.
JL: Ryan Royster had a great season in the SALLY league, but I personally think he was far too old and experienced for his league and that was the main reason for him being so dominant of a hitter. Are we finally seeing him live up to his talent and potential or was he just showing that he was more experienced than any other prospect?
KG: I'm not sure I agree with either argument. While I understand where you are coming from, as Royster was an '04 draftee, he didn't turn 21 until the end of July, and it was also his first exposure to a full-season league. I'd be more concerned if he was repeating the level. The bigger concern for me is his aggressive approach which is going to have to tone down.
JL: Nick Barnese made your "just missed the cut" list. How close was he to making it in at #11? I've heard that he's got a very cocky and aggressive personality, which makes him sound like a excellent sleeper prospect for 2008(if he gets the chance at a full season league).
KG: He was awfully close. He absolutely pounds the strike zone with his fastball, but his secondary stuff is still a work-in-progress. He could put up a big season in Low A just with the fastball and command alone, but he's going to have to develop better offspeed stuff as well as figuring out how to set up hitters down the road.
JL: Sergio Pedroza overcame eye problems and position-changes to put together another good season. Does he have any major league projectability (mainly due to his OBP and power skills) or are is OF defensive skills ranging on the Jonny Gomes level?
KG: He's really not a good outfielder at all, and I don't think he's much of a prospect either. He's got some power and OBP skills like you say, but age is a factor here. He turns 24 before Spring Training - when Gomes was 24 in spring training, he was getting ready for a big league job, while Pedroza is merely ready for Double-A.
JL: I do not see all the hoopla over Chris Mason and all the overlooking of Heath Rollins. Chris, in my eyes, is no better than the pitcher that got bombed in the Cali League and his "stuff" and "command" are nowhere near Rollins'. What are your thoughts on both prospects?
KG: You can really go both ways here. Rollins has the better fastball (by a bit), and the better breaking ball (slider - by a good margin), but Mason as the far better change - therefore giving him the more all-around arsenal, while have having (and this should not be ignored) proven that he can get it done at Double-A. If I ranked deeper than 11, they'd be very close, and I'd accept any reasonable argument that one should be slightly higher than the other.
JL: Are Brignac's "tools", raw as they might be, THAT good or is the minor league SS class THAT weak?
KG: As Barton Fink once said, "Both . . . maybe?" Like I wrote, the most important thing to take away from Brignac's 2007 season was the defensive improvements, which were considerable. He's gone from a guy that most people projected a move (to 3B or LF) for, to a guy that most think can stick there as an average defender. Average defensive shortstop who knows how to draw a walk and be good for 25+ home runs a year? I'll take a dozen.
JL: Wade Davis Vs. Jake McGee? Jake seems to get more respect due to his top-notch fastball, curveball and his leftiness but it seems that Davis "matured" as a pitcher and is finally getting the respect that he deserves. Are both primed for the rotation or should a decision be made on moving one to the bullpen in the near future?
KG: As a basic rule, you don't move a player from starter to reliever until you absolutely have to, as the move instantly reduces his value both to your team, and in trade possibilities with other teams. I think that McGee's combination of velocity and left-handedness are hard to find, but I also think that Davis is the more complete pitcher.
JL: More primed for future role as closer: Niemann, Salas or Morlan?
KG: I don't think Niemann would suddenly throw harder in shorter stints like some, and I'm just not sure his style would lend itself well to the closer job. Morlan has more closer-worthy stuff in the end, and is the most likely to fill that role, so I guess I'll pick him. Salas for me is a one-pitch pitcher. It's a helluva pitch, but for me his ceiling ends as a set-up guy.
JL: Issues regarding Garza possibly not being a front-line starter? Care to continue?
KG: He's not at 1, he's probably a 3, but he could end up a 2. I'd still rather have Delmon - not that Garza is all Tampa got.