Alex Cobb - P Sergio Espinosa - P Jeremy Hall - P Neil Schenk - P Jose Ruiz - 1B Henry Wrigley - 3B Leslie Anderson - OF/1B
Normally, there's only one - maybe two - players from the Rays that interest me in the Arizona Fall League. Many fringe prospects go to the AFL to try and increase their value, learn new skills, and hone new pitches and mechanics, so all accomplishments there should be taken with a grain of salt. In order to find out who's doing well, it's best to not trust the stats too much but to listen to the scouting reports.
Last year, Nevin Ashley took the AFL by storm and stole the heart of FreeZo - who will be the next hot player for the Rays? The Rays are sending quite the talented bunch to the AFL this season, and I'm excited to get another look at many of these prospects. Among them, we've got one player that could be a big part of the Rays next season, one dominant pitcher that is moving his way up the Rays' prospect rankings, and a couple other intriguing characters.
Let's take a more detailed look at them, shall we?
Alex Cobb - SP
One of the more exciting pitching prospects in the Rays' system, Alex Cobb is a 23 year old right-handed pitcher that just finished a full year at the Double-A level. He was, as they say, totally friggin' awesome. While starting 23 games, Cobb posted his lowest ERA at any level of the minors (2.71) while striking out 128 batters in only 119 innings. He also only walked 35 batters, giving him an impressive 3.66 K/BB ratio. Going into the 2010 season, he was ranked as one of the top 10 pitching prospects in the Rays' system, and he's likely moved even higher now. Unless he utterly bombs in the AFL, I'd expect him to start the season with Durham.
I'm rather curious why Cobb is pitching in the AFL this season. Do the Rays want a more extended look at him? Do they want him to work on some new pitches or on his mechanics? Or does Cobb simply want some more work?
Leslie Anderson - 1B / OF
After finally reaching the United States and signing with the Rays, Anderson started the 2010 season a bit late, but moved up through the minor leagues quickly. Anderson isn't a real "prospect", considering that he's 28 years old and has been a star player on the Cuban National Team for a number of years, and he's likely one of the candidates to play first base for the Rays next season. Considering he's only had 128 at bats at the Triple-A level, though, the Rays probably want to give him some more experience and to see him for themselves.
I'm very curious to see what his plate discipline is like. During his stint in the minors this season, he had a 6.1% walk rate while striking out around 15% of the time. That's not bad, but his walk rate plummeted at the Triple-A level, hitting a low of 3.9%. What's his true talent level? We'll have to see.
Jose Ruiz - 1B
While Leslie Anderson is older and seems more major-league ready, Jose Ruiz looks to be the Cuban first baseman with the higher upside. He signed with the Rays late, during the middle of the season, so he's had a limited number of at bats in the minors so far. He first spent a handful of games in the Rookie league, but he tore that league apart so quickly (.447/.527/.702 for a 1.229 OPS), he was promoted to Double-A. In only 100 plate appearances at that level, Ruiz flashed a good bat and plate discipline (.272 BA, .358 OBP), but his power disappeared (.348 SLG).
Ruiz's time in Double-A was so short, the Rays likely want more of a look at him to see where he deserves to start the season. He's only 25 years old and there's no need to rush him, so the Rays will likely take this time to evaluate him more fully. From all the scouting reports, his power is legit - he could be a big bat for the Rays as early as September of this upcoming season.
Henry Wrigley - 1B
Let me go on the record right now - this will be FreeZo's new AFL crush. He's one of those odd prospects stuck at the border of the great Non-Prospect / Prospect divide. He had a "breakout" season is 2009, posting the best offensive numbers of his career and developing some real power, but after being promoted to Double-A, his 2010 season was lackluster and disappointing. Wrigley's getting older for a prospect at his level (he's 24 right now), so he needs to make the most of this AFL stint.
Neil Schenk - P
How can you not love that name? Schenk isn't really a prospect - he's a 24-year-old pitching in Advanced-A - but I can't help being impressed by his past season. Coming out of the bullpen, he posted some eye-catching numbers: 67 innings pitched, 86 strikeouts, 25 walks, and a 2.79 ERA. Is he really a prospect? No, but I can't help rooting for him. Maybe if he puts on a strong performance in the AFL and starts the season in Double-A, he could kick his career into a new gear.