Will Mikie Mahtook be wearing this uniform regularly in the near future? - Jim Donten
In the continuation of the look back at the DRaysBay community prospect list from last season, here are prospects #6-10.
Tuesday, Kevin opted to exercise his civic duty, and no prospect review appeared. I'll pick up a second set of five in a row. The series will end with the top five next week.
There's definitely some positive news for this segment of the top prospect list.
10. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP - While top high school arms from the 2011 draft such as Dylan Bundy, Jose Fernandez and Archie Bradley flourished in full-season leagues this year, the Rays took a more conservative approach with Guerrieri. He finally debuted with Hudson Valley in June, and he showed he probably could've succeeded with Bowling Green. As a New York-Penn League All-Star, Guerrieri was arguably the best pitcher in short-season baseball with a 1.04 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 52 innings. Only 45 strikeouts in those 52 innings may be disappointing to some, he walked just five batters for a miniscule 0.9 BB/9.
In August, Jason Parks reported that Guerrieri's fastball didn't have the same velocity it did in high school (Baseball Prospectus $), but it's still above average in the low 90's and can generate a lot of ground balls. His curveball still has plus potential, and his success against lefties in 2012 could suggest that his changeup is improving. Maybe the stuff is a bit down, but it could be a good tradeoff for Guerrieri with improved control and command. He has the frame to be a durable workhorse, and he could take a big step forward in 2013 pitching more innings in a full-season league.
9. Drew Vettleson, OF - Fellow 2010 Washington draftees Josh Sale and Ryan Brett were suspended at the end of 2012, but Vettleson was able to avoid any trouble. He delivered a steady performance in his first year in full-season ball, posting monthly OPS' that ranged from .685 to .877 to finish with a .772 OPS in 562 plate appearances. With a 9.1% walk rate and 20.8% strikeout rate, his plate approach appeared to remain consistent with his rates at Princeton in 2011. He batted .275, and that's a good sign with his more than acceptable strikeout rate. He hit 15 home runs which had him tied for 9th in the Midwest League, and he was younger than every player tied or ahead of him except powerfulprospect Miguel Sano.
Facing concerns that he was a bat-only player, Vettleson worked on staying in shape and improving other areas of his game, and it appears to have paid off. His defense in right field improved, especially his arm which resulted in an absurd 20 outfield assists. He stole 20 bases for the second consecutive season, but it was at a low percentage (64.5%), and steals probably won't be a significant part of his game in the future. He's going to have to hit for more power, but getting out of the Midwest League while maturing physically should help in that regard. His season was more good than great, but fans should still be satisfied.
8. Chris Archer, RHP - After a 2011 season that could be best described as not very good, Archer got off to another rough start in April with a 6.74 ERA and more walks than strikeouts. He quickly put those struggles in the rear view mirror, and he would go onto make his Rays debut in June, the first of six solid appearances he would make with Tampa Bay over the course of the season. In the 104 innings with Durham after April, Archer walked 41 batters, good for a league average 3.5 BB/9. Some might scoff at league average, but it represents a huge improvement for him who has a 5.1 BB/9 in 719.2 minor league innings in his career.
His strikeout rate was also way up from 2011, sitting at 9.8 per nine innings, just short of his single season high of... 9.8 in 2009 (2009 was about .05 higher without rounding.) If Archer's second half improvement is for real, and there is plenty of optimism in that regard, he won't have to move to the bullpen like some previously suspected. He gives the Rays yet another arm with top of the line of potential, opening up plenty of trade options if that's the route they choose to go this off-season.
7. Brandon Guyer, OF - Guyer only accumulated 104 plate appearances between Tampa Bay and Durham in 2012 before the rest of his season was lost due to labrum surgery in May. While this may not be the death sentence it is for pitchers, it can still be difficult to come back from, but this is around the time he should be able resume all baseball activities. Guyer's 2012 season was in turmoil on and off the field as he was named as a defendant involved in Matt Bush's spring training hit-and-run lawsuit. He admitted this affected his play early in the season, but he finished with a .823 OPS in his 97 plate appearances with Durham.
With another season in the books where the Rays were below average against left handed pitching, if Guyer can get back to 100% health, he can play a key role for the team in 2013. With three of the team's top five home run hitters against lefties in 2012 set to hit free agency (B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena and Jeff Keppinger), he should have an inside track to a roster spot in his age 27 season.
6. Mikie Mahtook, OF - After a strong one month stint in the Arizona Fall League before officially making his pro debut in 2012, fans were hopeful for a quick transition from his days as a star at LSU. He started slowly with Charlotte, but he eventually heated up to post a modest .777 OPS before a second half promotion to Montgomery. His play matched up pretty closely with the scouting report; none of his tools really stand out, but he was solid in all areas. He was mostly a singles hitter at Charlotte, and that's okay as long as he's playing center field. Unfortunately, that might not always be the case.
His power production did pick up with the Biscuits, hitting four home runs in 169 plate appearances after needing 386 to hit five with Charlotte. If his power out of the Florida State League is the true indicator of his potential, he should hit enough to be a solid starting left fielder pretty soon. He batted just .248 with Montgomery, but his strikeout rate was just 18.3% which means he was putting the ball in play. His 7.2% walk rate could be a little better, but he's turned getting hit by pitches into skill, and that will always help his OBP.
Come back next week for the conclusion of the 2012 top 50 wrap-up. Then it'll be time to look forward to 2013, and the list could look very different.