To kill boredom on weekends, I have decided to routinely update things going on in the Rays Minor Leagues. Not wanting to slam Rays fans on info about players who may never reach the majors, I'll will try to keep things short and to the point.
Princeton Devil Rays(Rk)
Basically, the only prospect worth note in Princeton right now is Desmond Jennings. Very raw in baseball talent(prominently a football player), he's exceeding in Princeton on ability alone. Looks to me very much like a Gathright clone, just with a bit more pop projectability.
Another prospect worth a look in Princeton is Tyree Hayes, the son of former MLB'er Charlie Hayes. Decent arm from what I've heard and you may even get a chance to meet his father at a game...
Hudson Valley Renegades(SS)
If you're a fan of the Renegades, you're definitely not a fan of offense. The glut of college pitchers that the Rays drafted in the recent amatuer draft were sent here to pitch and not get many notches in the win column. However, as we know being Devil Rays fans, Wins are generally overrated anyways(Lurch was our reigning wins leader before we traded him).
One prospect I picked from the onset of the 'gades season to keep an eye on his Lewis "Heath" Rollins. A graduate from Winthrop, he pitches alot like another former Winthrop grad....Kevin Slowey. The greatest indicator of that is the eerily similar K/BB and K/9 ratios. Even though he may not get a great share of wins this season, I'd consider Rollins to be one of our better pitching prospects overall as long as he maintains consistency.
Ryan Reid is another college pitcher draft that I believe we should keep an eye on, but it appears that he's (a) overmatched in SS or (b) suffering from a tired arm due to a somewhat heavy workload.
Southwest Michigan Devil Rays(A-)
Pretty much a mirror image of what's going on in Hudson Valley, but I'd give the M-Rays the nod on being the better team of the 2. The M-Rays have a good enough pitching staff that, if supported by 3-4 runs, can get them wins. Led by Wade Davis and Jake McGee, the M-Rays have done better than expected with little-to-no offense to back them up. Had McGee or Davis been supported by last season's offensive line-up(which is now in Visalia), we'd be an almost "lock" for the play-offs.
One pitcher that is being ignored is Greg Dupas, a reliever who has pitched exceptionally well so far. At 22, he seems a bit old for the league, but still worth notice. Matt Walker is another personal favorite, who is probably the rawest in talent of the Rays Big,Young Trio(Davis/McGee/Walker), but could very well end up being the best.
If you're wondering where all the Rays young hitting prospects are, this is where you'll find them. From top to bottom, the Oaks have a talented assortment of hitters. Brignac, Jaso and Longoria are the surest things(to scouts) to keep progressing and make it to the majors, but there's a few prospects that have gone unnoticed.
The 2 prospects that are "on the cusp" of breaking out are Shawn Cumberland and Chris Nowak. Right now, Cumberland seems like a hack-happy, HR or nothing hitter. Had it not been for a hit-happy day a week or 2 ago, Cumberland's batting average would still be hovering between .250 or .260. Chris Nowak, on the other hand, seems to be really turning into something. With a near .900 OPS without being a true HR threat, he seems to be something to watch. What gives me an indication of a possible increase in the future is the 29 doubles. With a .395 on-base percentage, Chris appears that he waits for the right pitch to hit and if he doesn't...he'll take the walk just as well.
Chris Mason and James Houser seem to have set themselves apart as the top pitchers for the Oaks, with occasional glimpses of excellence from Jon Barratt and Brandon Mann. Mason seems destined to make the majors for the Rays, however his small stature gives the probability that he'll probably be a reliever. Houser's make or break year seems to be next year, where he'll be in pitcher-friendly Montgomery. If he exceeds, his projectable body and decent assortment of pitchers, he'll force himself into the Rays' future plans.
Free Elliot Johnson and Andy Sonnanstine!!!
In one of the weirder moves of the week, the Rays chose to promote Wes Bankston to AAA in addition to him moving back to 1B. Must've been an error with the fax machine, seeing that Elliot Johnson have been playing extremely well and probably deserved a promotion more than Bankston.
Elliot Johnson has hit like his future depends on it, with 30+ XBHs for the season in a very pitcher-friendly league. He's maintained a .300 average for most of the season to go along with above-average plate discipline. Let's not forgot, the Rays' current 2B is Jorge Cantu, whose only tool is power. For EJ, he's got plate discipline, fielding and power. He's the leadoff hitter for Montgomery, as a 2nd baseman!!!
Andy Sonnantine is like watching a roller-coaster, seeing that he's got plenty of peaks and valleys...however, it seems to be only going up right now for Andy. Not gifted with a high-90s fastball, he gets batters out on deception and great secondary stuff. He's the ace of the Montgomery staff and has nothing else to improve upon in Montgomery.
Jeff Niemann's weeks in Montgomery may be numbered, if he stays healthy and continues to pitch well.
Hopefully we get a glimpse of Mitch Talbot soon...
Like watching Cheers for Rays fans, everybody knows their names.
I've dubbed Durham "Reliever University" recently, due to the glut of the Rays top relief prospects all being grouped together in Durham. Orvella, Salas and Ridgeway are sure to see time in St. Pete by year's end and Seth McClung V. 2.0 is sure to be coming up with them.
Hitter-wise, only Kevin Witt is the unknown hitter that has surprised everyone. However, he seems to be no more than a "journeyman" hitter to me.