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Top 25 Prospects Part II; #s 20-16


As if you all haven't been saddled with enough prospect lists already, I will continue to present my Top 25 today with numbers 20-16. For the next six days, I will continue to present my Top 25 prospects in a countdown. I submitted my Top 25 too late for consideration in's list, so I decided to go back, refine my rankings, and post them in five increments here, with the first part being yesterday. For the first five days of the week, I will present my Top 25, just the straight list. On Saturday, I will present my list of 'Outtakes'; who barely missed the cut on the list. And then on Sunday, I wrap up the series with a story on what I think next year's version of the list will look like. And then, I promise you, there will be no more prospect lists for awhile. I can't speak for Sam over at Raystalk, but I am pretty sure he isn't going to do a list on his blog.

Here are the first ten, including yesterday's five, for those who do not want to read the details, which follow the jump.

  1. LHP Jarrad Lavergne
  2. LHP Brandon Mann
  3. OF Garret Groce
  4. OF Francisco Leandro
  5. OF John Matulia
  6. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
  7. C Shawn Riggans
  8. 3B Chris Nowak
  9. RHP Matt Walker
  10. LHP Jon Barratt
Interactive Question

Remember this week's Interactive Question, 'Of the Rays' Non-Roster Invitees, which one has the best chance to make it on the final 25 man roster'? I put the poll up on the main page yesterday, but so far, I've only got two responses through email. If you'd like to participate, please email me at

Yesterday-Part I; #s 25-21
Today-Part II; #s 20-16
Tomorrow-Part III; #s 15-11
Thursday-Part IV; #s 10-6
Friday-Part V; #s 5-1
Saturday-Part VI; Outtakes
Sunday-Part VII; Next Year


As we move on down the list to our next five, you will see many players with decidedly higher ceilings than their bottom five counterparts. In fact, if you knew nothing about the players I am mentioning, and looked at their stats alone, you would probably be scratching your head as to why I am including them on this list. Alas, that is good, because I am here to educate all of you casual fans out there about our prospects. Keep in mind though, most of the higher rankings are a result of word of mouth about their talent. I have seen some of the players you see mentioned at instructs, but my scouting knowledge of them is relatively low, so I am relying on Baseball America nad such with these players. As we move farther up the list, you will see more players that combine both talent and stats, which is what got them further up the list. Here are prospects 20-16.

20. RHP Jeremy Hellickson:

Background-Hellickson is certainly a young one, and this pick is based pretty much entirely on word of mouth. Hellickson, who has yet to turn 19, was picked in the 4th round (118th overall) of last year's entry draft straight out of Hoover High in Des Moines. He was a relatively late signee, and thus only has six pro innings under his belt. Still, you've got to believe his stuff is mouth-watering. After all, not many fourth rounders make it onto a good farm system's Top 25 list with the unimpressive brief debut he had, stat-wise.

Last Season-In only four relief appearences spanning six innings, Hellickson gave up four earned runs and six hits, including one home run, but the saving grace came in his control. Hellickson walked only one and stuck out 11, count 'em, 11 hitters that he faced. That would be a strikeout to walk ratio of, oh, 11:1. So you can see a small glimpse into the talent he has through that stat, but only time will tell whether that talent materializes.

2006 Outlook-Hellickson is most likely headed back to one of the short season teams, because while his K:BB is awesome, you don't advance with an ERA of 6 in only four pro innings. I would be extremely suprised if a regime as paitent as this one seems to be lets him go to Southwest Michigan. But I've been wrong before. Oh wait, check that, no I haven't.

19. C Shawn Riggans:

Background-The low draft picks return as Shawn Riggans makes my list at number 19. Born in Ft. Laudedale and drafted in the 24th round (706th overall) of the 2000 amateur draft, Riggans is also the oldest prospect you will see on this list, turning 26 in late June. And as his age rises, his prospect ranking drops, but that is for another time. He made his debut in 2001 with Rookie League Princeton, mashing the ball over 58 games at the end of the season for a batting line of .345/.435/.828/1.263, earning him a promotion to Hudson Valley the next year. The stick cooled off, but Riggans still hit for a decent line of .263/.343/.414 with the Renegades that made his 2003 cseason his first full pro one, three years after being drafted.

His stick cooled off even more as he was promoted to Charleston, as his OPS plummeted down to .732. Still, the Rays saw fit to give him a trial at Double A Orlando towards the end of the season, his first taste of the Southern League, and Riggans did decently, hitting for a .738 OPS in little over 60 ABs. However, the Rays felt that Riggans needed a little stat-padding and Riggans found himself in the California League to start the next season, and that is exactly what he did, absolutely pounding the hell out of the ball to a clip of .346/.417/.551, an OPS of .968, which earned him a promotion to the Rays' AA affiliate, which had since moved to Montgomery. There, Riggans suffered his worst pro season yet, hitting for a .222/.282/.417 line, with the sluggin percentage being the only thing that looked even half decent. At his point, Riggans was almost 25, had a poor batting line above A+ ball, and was not the best defensive catcher. His prospect status was in doubt, and Riggans was teetering on the brink of the usefullness cliff.

Last Season-It didn't help his cause any when Riggans got injured early last season and missed about two months, but he sure made up for it after his return. In jumping back onto the prospect map, Riggans slammed five home runs and drove in 53 in 313 ABs. His hitting clip of .310/.365/.454, an .819 OPS, in a league that favored pitchers, brought Riggans off of life support and allowed him to make his way onto this list. He further impressed me at instructs, not only by being the only player to engage me in conversation, but also the raw power that he showed. His defense and plate paitence need work, but Riggans proved last year that he can hit.

2006 Outlook-Riggans is most likely headed to Triple A Durham, as he proved all he needed to with the Biscuits last year. With Pete LaForest gone and Kevin Cash either likely making the final roster or being cut, the catching position in Durham is all Riggans', and with a decent performance, he could see time in St. Petersburg in the second half of the season.

18. 3B Chris Nowak:

Background-Chris Nowak makes the list at Number 18, a product of Milwaukee and drafted in the 2004 amateur draft with the Rays' 19th round (55th overall) pick out of the University of South Carolina-Spartanburg. His pro debut came with the Hudson Valley Renegades in '04. In 219 ABs with the 'Gades, Nowak hit sufficiently, to a batting line of .279/.347/.402, a .749 OPS. He also drove in 32 runs for Hudson Valley, earning himself a promotion to Southwest Michigan of the full season leagues for the next year.

Last Season-Last year was what really gained Nowak admittance to this list. In his first full pro season, Nowak appeared in 105 games for the M-Rays (368 ABs), homering seven times and driving in 65. He also showed excellent plate paitence, striking out only two more times than he walked, and his batting line read .304/.398/.443, an .843 OPS. Nowak proved he could hit strong MWL pitching, and with a stint in the Cal League forthcoming, I doubt his batting line will get any worse.

2006 Outlook-After spending a full season rippiing MWL pitching to shreds, is there any way Nowak does not get the call to Visalia? Anyways, when he does get the call, he will likely feast on Cal League pitching, so don't expect his numbers to get any worse. If he does well enough, maybe he will be promoted to Motgomery at midseason. That is when we're going to finally discover Nowak's true ability.

17 RHP Matt Walker:

Background-Now Matt Walker is someone I know even less about. Hell, I couldn't even find a picture of him. Raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, another find of former Rays scout Benny Latino, Walker was drafted in the 10th round (285th overall) in the 2004 entry draft, but signed too late to play in the 2004 season. Thus his first career action was in the 2005 season, which wasn't all that impressive, though he gets the nod on the list for his supposed 'stuff'. Named by Baseball America as having the best curevball in the Rays' system, next year will be key as to whether he gets on this list again. The larger the data set, the more stats I have to judge by.

Last Season-At the age of 19, Walker made his pro debut with the Princeton Devil Rays, going 2-3 with a 5.31 ERA in 12 starts and one relief stint. His 1.47 WHIP didn't yield much excitement, but looking elsewhere for some sign of progress, he had an extremely low HR/9 ratio, just two in 57.2 innings, and his K:BB ratio was a little over three. His 11.08 K/9 is also very impressive, so if you look hard enough at the peripherals, you can see the makings of a good pitcher. Whether that translates to his ERA next year is another matter.

2006 Outlook-Walker will probably be once again relegated to a short season league next year, most likely Hudson Valley if the Rays can ignore that turn off ERA. But be it Princeton or Hudson Valley, don't expect to see Walker on the P-Rays come April.

16 Jon Barratt:

Background-Now, even if someone had some of the best stuff in the world, in terms of pitches, they still would not have made my Top 25 over a full season with a 6.59 ERA. Alas, these were special circumstances, and not only does Jon Barratt make my Top 25, he goes straight up to the middle of the pack.  Drafted in the fifth round (128th overall) of the 2003 entry draft out of Hillcrest High in Springfield, Missouri, Barratt made his debut with Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League in 2004. And he absolutely dominated the short season league. Though he went 2-3, Barratt amassed a 2.74 ERA in 10 starts, striking out almost 4.5 batters for every one that he walked. He had a low home run rate while having a high (10.55) K/9 ratio, and had a low WHIP of 1.15. His numbers led the old DRO to do something that they had never done before, and that caused Barratt's disasterous 2005.

Last Season-To be fair, almost everyone was in consensus with the old regime's decision to skip Barratt over the A- Midwest League and stright up out to California. It just looked up to that point that Barratt had the skills to succeed in the notoriously hitter-friendly league. Looks can be deceiving. Barratt ended up getting chewed up and spit out by Cal League hitters, going 2-6 with a 6.59 ERA in 36 games, all but five of them relief stints. He still managed a mediocre K:BB, but his 1.14 HR/9 rate was disasterous, and his large number of hits and walks given up led to an astronomical 1.93 WHIP. In short, no, Barratt was not ready for the Cal League. However he is still just 20, so he's got time. But the question is, do you leave Barratt out west in California with what should be a significantly better supporting cast, or do you drop him down a peg to Battle Creek and take it by baby steps?

2006 Outlook-Right now, it is just too close to tell what the DRO will do with Barratt next year. My gut instinct says that he will remain in Visalia, but I have been wrong before. Rats! I shouldn't say that, it is false information! But anyways, I would not surprise me if the DRO sent him to Battle Creek, but I think he will eventually remain out west, and that is what I would do. If he does stay out west, it will be interesting to see how he pitches with a strong supporting cast. If not, you may not even see him on this list next year.

Photo Credits:
Hellickson-Aflac All-American
Riggans, Barratt-RaysBaseball
Nowak-Peach Belt Conference