Matt Moore once used to be just a sleeper prospect in the lower minors - David Banks
In this edition of the Rays Roundtable, we look at the staff's picks for sleepers in the lower minor leagues (below AA)
Picking sleepers in the minor leagues is obviously an inherently subjective process. It's not a science, but an art. As we all know, a far greater number of prospects flame out than achieve even modest success in the major leagues, especially at the lower levels, where projecting performance is notoriously hard. If you pick a lower minor league prospect, he will, without a doubt, be more likely to fail than be a star. Still, by looking at the whole staff's conclusions, we can take note of a few names to follow closely the next few years.
Preet: My pick is Drew Vettleson. Vettleson's numbers this year weren't the most inspiring (.275/.340/.432, 117 wRC+) but they weren't bad either. In his first year in full season ball, he put up an across the board season, slightly above average in literally every facet of the game, but exceptional in none. He's still very young though, and there's a pretty good chance he starts mashing the ball next season, as his swing still looks beautiful.
Michael: My favorite breakout/sleeper prospect is Josh Sale. This year, Sale showed glimpses of his power but was unable to maintain a strong performance throughout the entire year. With the ability to absolutely launch a ball (I saw him hit a home run to dead center on Milb.TV that went well beyond the wall) and an idea of the strike zone, Sale has the raw potential to be a middle of the order bat. Swing mechanics and the mental side of hitting are apparently giving him some issues, so he is not a prospect without significant risk. The Florida State League will try to contain his power this year, so Josh Sale will have to make noticeable strides to increase his prospect stock.
Ian: I'm on the Sale boat, too.
Jason: Jacob Partridge - love that he's in the family.
Daniel: Jake Hager. Given the linear depth of quality short stops in the Rays system, the line is Tim Beckham at AAA, Hak-Ju Lee at AA, and Hager at A. This year is his opportunity to establish himself as a quality SS of the future, and to give the Rays confidence in his ability. Zobrist is capable of holding down SS, and the time his contract expires would be when Hager should arrive at the majors. If his talent becomes trustworthy, the Rays will be able to spend their resources elsewhere and give him the star role. If not, the Rays need to start planning now around HJL. Can the front office trust Hager? This is his chance to shine, and I think he will.
Steve K.: I like Lenny Linsky to be a breakout candidate. I thought he'd be a quick flyer up through the Rays system but he was slowed by injury. I believe his stock is quite depressed to a point that not much will be expected of him but as long as he's healthy and his ball has some bite to it he'll make tremendous strides in 2013.
Kevin: Jesse Hahn: He won't pass Taylor Guerrieri on prospect lists but he's going to work his way into the top 10 with a big year at Bowling Green. He was great last year with Hudson Valley and should be completely recovered from his Tommy John surgery for 2013.
Scott: I'll go with Andrew Toles. He didn't end the 2012 season with Princeton very well, but overall the 3rd round pick had no problem transitioning to wood bats in professional baseball. He hit seven home runs in 51 games with the P-Rays to finish second on the team behind Brandon Martin, a player I considered writing about here. At 5'10 and 185 pounds, he doesn't have the size that lends itself to hitting for power, but he is able to drive the ball with authority. He's a tremendous athlete that can steal bases and play a really good center field. He's a bit of an aggressive swinger at the plate, but even though his walk rate is a bit low, he doesn't strike out much either. He'll be 21 years old for most of 2013 and should be ready for Bowling Green.
Do you have a sleeper pick from the lower half of our minors? Now's your chance to make it known in the comments for bragging rights down the road!