Over the next couple weeks, Scott and I will be reviewing the DRaysBay off-season community top prospect list. Keep in mind these rankings are from roughly a year ago, and the emphasis right now is on how they performed relative to expectations in 2012 (there'll be plenty more on tools and future projection and likely 2013 affiliates down the road). Today we begin with numbers 41-50...
50. Jesse Hahn, RHP - The Rays made a splash by signing Hahn for $525,000 out of the sixth round back in 2010, but Tommy John surgery delayed his pro debut until this summer, leaving him a mostly-forgotten prospect as evidenced by his #50 ranking. That won't be the case any longer, as a strong campaign with the Hudson Valley Renegades will shoot him up the rankings this off-season. He finished with a 2.77 ERA and 55 strikeouts to 15 walks, and over his final four regular-season starts, tallied 20 innings, seven hits, two walks, and 24 punchouts.
49. John Alexander, 1B - He's big and athletic, but he's still a project. Alexander's tools translated to just a .230/.260/.353 line for the Princeton Rays this summer. He didn't swing and miss an exorbitant amount -- 39 strikeouts in 235 at bats -- but he also didn't draw many walks (just nine), and his .259 BABIP probably isn't just a matter of bad luck. The hope is that he can follow the precedent of Jeff Malm, who followed up a .220/.296/.310 year in Princeton with an .844 OPS in Hudson Valley the next summer.
48. Albert Suarez, RHP - Well, the good news is Suarez stayed healthy: He tossed 125.1 innings for Charlotte this year, nearly matching his combined total from 2008 through 2011. Unfortunately, he wasn't terribly effective, racking up only 62 strikeouts -- or just 4.4 K/9. A Tommy John survivor, it seems like his control at least is back, but if his strikeout rate -- not to mention the fact he was designated for assignment to be removed from the 40-man roster in August -- is any indication, his stuff may not be.
47. Jason McEachern, RHP - Oh, Jason McEachern. He's long been one of my favorite sleeper prospects, but the breakout has thus far failed to materialize. With the Hot Rods possessing a glut of pitching, he was shifted to the bullpen this season where he fared pretty well: 68 strikeouts and a 2.80 ERA in 61 innings. He did walk too many and it was his third tour of the MWL, but he just turned 22 this month so the shift to the bullpen may not be the death sentence it seems.
46. Braulio Lara, LHP - His strikeout/9 rate dropped from 8.3 with Bowling Green in 2011 to 6.6 with Charlotte this year, while his walk rate rose from 4.1 per 9 to 4.7 (and it was 3.4 in Princeton two seasons ago). Those are not good trends for the 23-year-old, though he's a lefty with a very live arm, so hope springs eternal.
45. Nick Barnese, RHP - If 2012 did nothing else, it dug up the Matt Moore vs. Nick Barnese debate to hammer yet another nail in that coffin. Moore improved throughout his season with the Rays, while Barnese battled injuries and wound up pitching 61.2 ineffective innings, mainly with Montgomery. He struck out 35 and walked 26 while pitching to a 5.40 ERA and looks like a good reminder that most sleepers don't wake up.
44. Cameron Seitzer, 1B - Seitzer showed surprising power in his 2011 debut with Princeton, but it fell back to expected levels with Bowling Green this year. While he did hit .307 with decent on-base skills, 1B are generally expected to hit more than four home runs. Seitzer looks like he'll be a decent org bat, but unless he can surprise with his power again, his big league prospects seem pretty dim.
43. Blake Snell, LHP - Snell was probably ranked too low here as a supplemental 1st-rounder in 2011 who had a nice debut, but wherever he was ranked he was probably this year's breakout prospect. He dominated the Appalachian League to a 2.09 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 17 walks in 47.1 innings and was rated the circuit's top pitcher in BaseballAmerica's post-season rankings.
42. Jeff Ames, RHP - Another of the bounty of 2011 supplemental picks, Ames was another part of Hudson Valley's three-headed pitching monster (with Hahn and Taylor Guerrieri) that helped them to a NYPL title. Ames struck out 70 and walked 20 in 64.1 innings, allowing just 44 hits while posting a 1.96 ERA. He still relies mainly on big fastball which clearly overpowered short-season hitters, but 2012 looks like a nice step forward and should postpone the starter vs. reliever debate for at least a little while.
41. Yoel Araujo, OF - He received an $800,000 bonus back in 2010, played in the Dominican in 2011, and made his stateside debut with the GCL Rays this year. After a slow start, he hit .362/.431/.483 in August to pull his season line up to .286/.339/.410. With six walks and 35 strikeouts in 105 ABs he's still obviously a work-in-progress, but his strong finish is encouraging.
Scott will be by later in the week to break down numbers 31-40, and then we'll trade groups of five from there.