While many factors go into a prospects ranking, no factor is more important than tools. Tools are a certain physical, and sometimes mental, aspect of a baseball player's game, such as the ability to hit for average, a certain type of pitch, or even plate discipline. Tools get players drafted, and tools cause scouts to rave. While chicks may dig the long ball, scouts dig the tools. In today's edition of this predictions series, the panel of experts list the best tools in the low levels among Rays prospects.
After the jump is a list of participants, today's question, and their answers.
The experts that decided to take part in the list are as follows: Jim Callis of Baseball America, Kevin Goldsteinof Baseball Prospectus, Frankie Piliere of Scout.com, David Rawnsley of Perfect Game, and John Sickels of Minor League Ball.
Here is today's question:
Which Rays' positional prospect in the low minors has the best tool, and what is it? Which Rays' pitching prospect in the low minors has the best tool, and what is it?
Jim Callis: Among the position prospects, outfielders Johnny Eierman and James Harris have plus-plus speed and catcher Justin O'Conner has plus-plus arm strength. Those are the ones that immediately jump to mind. Among the pitchers, Taylor Guerrieri's fastball and curveball are both plus-plus pitches when he's at his best. Enny Romero's fastball is in the same class.
Kevin Goldstein: The Rays don't have a ton of toolsy guys around, but they do have some guys who can really hit. Drew Vettleson has an excellent hit tool, and while he doesn't have the same upside, so does Ryan Brett.
Frankie Piliere: This is a bit of a gamble, but I like Vettleson's hit tool. I'm sure some other raw tools trump his hit tool, but I want to give credit to a more usable current tool.
David Rawnsley: Tyler Guerrieri’s curveball is a beautiful thing to watch and a good part of the reason he has a potential #1 starter’s ceiling. He throws it in the low 80’s and it is big and sharp when it’s on. His release point on his curveball is very consistent with his fastball, too, which isn’t always the case, especially with younger pitchers.
My good friend John Sickels and I disagree on Enny Romero’s relative prospect status but his fastball and his ability to miss bats stands out as well.
The thing that stands out for me in the lower minors is that aside from the middle infielders (Hager, Martin, etc.), the Rays are hunting for power. Josh Sale has huge power and once he gets his head on straight you’ll see it. Mahtook and Kes Carter both can play centerfield but can be power bats at a premium position. Drew Vettleson will have power, he squares the ball up too much not to. Granden Goetzman is a classic right field power guy. Jeff Malm is starting to develop. So it really isn’t one player, it’s the focus on that one tool.
John Sickels: Questions like this frustrate me, to be honest. How do you compare different tools and decide which is "best"? Is Derek Dietrich's raw power "better" than Tyler Bortnick's plate discipline, assuming you even consider plate discipline a "tool" which many traditionalists do not? How meaningful is it to say that Josh Sale's raw power "better" than Ryan Brett's, even though Brett showed he could actually use his tool and
It is an easier question to answer about the pitchers, with the pitchers you can make much more accurate and meaningful comparisons. Among the lower level pitchers I think Taylor Guerrieri's fastball stands out for both velocity and movement, with Parker Markel and his evil sinker up there too.
Once again, I'd like to thank Jim, Kevin, Frankie, David, and John for participating. The series concludes on Thursday.