Every season and every draft we get very excited about our prospects. Obviously, its somewhat a crap shoot trying to figure out who will pan out and who will not. Who will make it through the farm system unscathed by injury? What level will some of these prospects fizzle out? Let's take a fun look at BaseballAmerica's 2008 top 31 Rays prospect list.
Evan Longoria graduated from the list and has fully integrated himself as one of the best players in the majors. Other players reappeared on the 2009 list and have offered contributions to the major league club such as David Price, Jeff Niemann, and Reid Brignac.
The following names also reappear on the 2009 prospects and remain in the farm system: Wade Davis, Jake McGee, Desmond Jennings, Nick Barnese, Jeremy Hellickson, John Jaso, Fernando Perez, Heath Rollins, Mitch Talbot, Alex Cobb, Ryan Royster, and Justin Ruggiano.
Aside from the 2008 draftees, other names have played themselves onto the 2009 prospct list. These names are: Matt Moore, Albert Suarez, Reid Fronk, Chris Luck, Joseph Cruz, Alexander Colome, Kyeong Kang, Shawn O'Malley, and Mayo Acosta.
So what happened to the other fifteen names that disappeared from 2008's Top 31 list. Sit back, as DRB presents Behind the Prospect.
The Buildup: In 2007, then 23 year old RHP Chris Mason went 15-4 with a 2.57 ERA in AA ball with a FIP of 3.10 earning him the #10 Rays prospect slot from BaseballAmerica.
The Prospect: Things did not go so well for Mason, as he went 3-10 for Durham in 2008 with a FIP of 5.09. This was driven by an increase in HR/9 from .39 to 1.57.
Where is he now? Mason in back in AA ball with the Rays struggling to regain his 2007 form. His K/9 is at 5.02 down from 7.59 in 2007. He is FIPping 4.32. He made a spot start in Durham earlier this year with largely the same results as last year giving up 8 hits and 4 runs in 4 innings including a HR.
The Buildup: The Rays traded Elijah Dukes for a former 4th rd southpaw in the Nationals organization, Glenn Gibson. Gibson had posted FIPs of .87 and 2.75 in A- ball prior to being acquired. His K/9 of 9 earned him the #11 Prospect position in 2008.
The Prospect: While still playing in A- ball, Gibson saw his BB/9 rise from 2.33 to 5.82. In 22 games in class A, he 4-8 with a 7.22 ERA for Columbus. His FIP was 5.58.
Where is he now? Gibson will once again find himself in A- ball, trying to reestablish himself with the Hudson Valley Renegades.
The Buildup: In 2007, The Juice took the Durham Bulls by storm with a K/9 of 12.46 and a FIP of 1.47. He pitched most of 2007 with the big league club pitching in 35 games which proved to be a rough go around. His K/9 fell to 6.44 with K:BB of 1.53. Nonetheless he was listed as the #12 prospect in 2008.
The Prospect: In 2008, he was once again excellent in Durham striking out over 10 per 9 with a K/BB of 4.82. His FIP was an attractive 2.28. He finished the year with the Rays pitching 6.1 innings striking out 8 while walking 4.
Where is he now? The Rays traded Salas in February for minor league infielder Isiaias Valasquez. The Indians released Salas in May. Salas was a converted third baseman who had issues with a falsified birth certificate and a PED suspension. In 2008, he had seizure issues and a visa problem.
The Buildup: Morlan, a RHP, was selected by the Twins in the 3rd rd of the 2004 amateur draft. Morlan was a stud on the Minnesota farm system tearing up A and A+ ball with FIPs of 2.80 and 2.65 along with K/9s of 10.58 and 12.61 in 2006-07. He was included in the deal that brought over a head case named Matt Garza and an error prone shortstop named Jason Bartlett. Morlan, along with his near 100 MPH fastball, was named the #15 prospect in the Rays organization.
The Prospect: Morlan battled shoulder issues that shut him down for most of the first half of 2008 in Montgomery. He finished the season with a 3.80 FIP but his K/9 were greatly reduced from 12.61 to 8.62.
Where is he now? Morlan was chosen by the Brewers in the 2008 Rule 5 draft. However, he was designated for assignment in Spring Training and returned to the Rays. He is once again pitching for Montgomery with a FIP to date of 4.02 while his K/9 is down to 8.15.
The Buildup: The RHP was a 2nd round selection in 2006 draft out of the University of San Diego. He fared well through A- and A ball before slowing down the second half of 2007 after being boosted to A+ ball. He was promising enough to earn Baseball America's #16 prospect ranking.
The Prospect: Butler made 3 starts for the Rays in A+ in 2008 posting a FIP of 4.02 and striking out 5.29/9. He was then traded to Milwaukee for Gabe Gross, a key cog in the Rays 2008 AL Championship run. Butler went on to struggle in A+ ball for Milwaukee with a FIP of 5.07. He struggled with his control as his walk rate climbed to 4.37/9.
Where is he now? Butler has had a solid year for the Brewers. He has made 9 stats in A+ ball, 1 start at AA, and 3 starts at AAA. In double A and triple A combined he has struck out 21 batters in 21 innings while walking just 2. His FIPs are 3.53/2.20/3.53 from A+ to AAA in 2009.
The Buildup: Houser was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2003 draft out of Sarasota High School. BaseballAmerica immediately named the southpaw the #4 prospect in the organization. Houser began his ascension through the farm system one year at a time from 2005-07 going from A ball to AA in Montgomery. In Montgomery, the still 22 year old Houser posted a FIP of 3.99. Following 2007, he was ranked as the #18 prospect.
The Prospect: Houser stuck around in AA and took a step backwards as his K/9 fell from 7.81 to 7.25 while his BB/9 rose from 3.39 to 3.82.
Where is he now? Despite the setback , Houser was promoted to Durham where he has really struggled. In 12 starts his BB/9 has increased up to 6.43 while his K/9 is down to 5.3. His FIP is 6.11.
The Buildup: Walker was the Ray's 1th round pick in 2004. He got off to a very fast start at Princeton for an 18 year old striking posting a K/9 of 10.8 and a 2.64 FIP. The right hander with a big curveball struggled somewhat with control in 2006 with a K:BB of 1.66 at A Ball. In 2007 at the A+ level Walker declined greatly walking 7.71/9 innings. During the same year, his best friend was killed in a house fire. Still, Walker was young and earned the #20 prospect ranking for 2008.
The Prospect: Walker continued to struggle with his control in a repeat of A+ ball walking 6.35/9 while FIPping 5.43 before he was suspended for 50 games for amphetamines.
Where is he Now? Walker was released by the Rays in May and has not been picked up by another team.
The Buildup: McCormick, a catcher was selected out of high school in the 5th round of the 2005 draft. McCormick had a solid season in rookie ball for a high schooler putting up a slash of .252/.339/.441. In 2006, also at Princeton, the right hander improved his OPS to .864. IN 2007 he converted from 3B to catcher at Hudson Valley where he continued to mash with an OPS of .821 with 8 HR. He was named as a representative in the NY-Penn League's all star game. BA selected McCormick as their #21 prospect in 2008.
The Prospect: McCormick slowed down in A Ball with a slash line of .216/.276/.365 with 13 HR. He struggled mightily against left handed pitching OPSing just .536.
Where is he now?: McCormick is in Bowling Green in Class A where his numbers have continued to decline. He is OPSing just .511 on the season with a K% north or 30%.
The Buildup: Will Kline was drafted with the first pick in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft out of Ole Miss. The right handed pitcher had already undergone a Tommy John surgery but recovered to have a successful college career. Kline had a fair debut in A ball with a FIP of 4.37 with a K/9 of 8.38. BA listed him as the #23 prospect for 2008.
The Prospect: Kline missed all of 2008 with a shoulder injury which was his second major surgery on his throwing arm. It is unclear how he will recover.
Where is He Now? raysprospects.com believes Kline will either make his return with Bowling Green or Charlotte.
The Buildup: Townsend was the Rays first round selection in 2005 out of Rice University. The right hander had been selected 8th overall in 0-4 by the Orioles but instead returned to Rice. Townsend struggled as a 22 year old in Hudson Valley mostly with velocity and control as he walked 5.36/9. His FIP came out to 5.17.Townsend was forced to miss all of the 2006 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He made his return in 2007 in A ball where he posted a FIP of 5.39. His numbers were pretty poor but his draft stock still left him at BA's #24 prospect.
The Prospect: Townsend began the year in AA with Montgomery where his struggles were much worse. His FIP rose to 6.82 allowing 17 walks and 17 strikeouts in 23.2 innings. He also was tagged for 5 home runs. He quickly was demoted to A+ ball where he did post a more respectable but not buzz worthy 4.69. Townsend underwent shoulder surgery in the Fall and is expected to miss all of 2009.
Where is He Now? Townsend is expected to miss all of 2009. Wikipedia actually has Townsend retiring on today's day of June 23. 2009 though I have been unable to confirm it.
The buildup: Ashley was selected in the 6th round of the 2006 draft. The right handed hitting catcher tore up rookie ball with a slash of .333/.440/.477 with 4 HR. He also threw out 12 of 23 base stealers. In 2007, Ashley found himself in A ball where he went for .280/.354/.431 with 12 HR and 20 steals. Ashley was named as a South Atlantic all star representative. He was named as the #26 prospect by BA.
The Prospect: Ashley began to slow down in 2008 at A+ ball where he batted .235/.348./315. He did walk a very nice 13% of appearances but his slugging disappeared.
Where is he Now? Ashley began the year in Charlotte in A+ ball batting .212/,293/.314. He was nonetheless named to the All Star team. However he was promoted to AA Montgomery before the All Star Game. To date in Montgomery he is batting .132/.313/.158. Ashley was been slow to prove he can provide slugging at the advanced levels of the minor leagues. He has also struck out in 12 of his first 35 at-bats in AA.
The Buildup: The 1B Hughes was selected in the 8th round out of community college in the 2004 draft. The left hander performed well in 2005 in Hudson Valley putting up a slash of .279/.335/.470 with 8 HR. In 2006 at A ball Hughes hit for a disappointing .231/.294/.321 with only 3 HR. He would really develop in 2007 playing most of the year at A+ Vero Beach going for .331/.392/.516 with 12 HR. Hughes won the batting title and was named the FSL's best defensive 1st baseman by BaseballAmerica. Hughes had a cup of coffee in August at Montgomery in AA OPSing .804. He was named BA's #28 prospect for 2008.
The Prospect: Hughes played all of 2008 at Montgomery posting a slash of.268/.356/.448 with 14 HR. His K% rose to 28.4%. All in all pretty respectable stuff. However, split became a factor as Hughes batted only .165 with an OPS of .622 vs LHP.
Where is he now? Hughes once again remained in Montgomery to begin the year, but he took the league by storm forcing a promotion to Durham. He posted a .260/.351/.521. His OPS vs lefties improved to .712. He led the Southern League in HR at the time of his promotion with 15. He has handled the promotion well going .288/.327/.500 since being called up. Hughes K% did climb in AA to 35.4%, but he has it back down to 24.5% in Durham. Hughes still deserves the prospect label.
The Buildup: Guzman arrived as the headliner in a package deal for Julio Lugo. Guzman is a large 3B standing 6'6 250 Lbs. The former international free agent played at Durham in 2007 hitting .243/.281/.308 with 16 HR. Guzman was a free swinger with a BB% of 5.3% and a K% of 28.3%. He had a 16 game call up with the big league club where he OPSed .660. BA named him the #29 prospect.
The Prospect: Guzman played all of 2008 in Durham where he did OPS .714 while hitting 2o HR.
Where is he now? Guzman was signed away as a free agent by the Nationals. He began the year in AAA where he OPSed a beastly .293 in 12 games before being demoted to AA. He has done well in AA OPSing .774 while getting his K% all the way down to 14.6% when it has been in the mid-20s all of his career.
The Buildup: Jones was a toolsy high schooler from Alabama selected in the 11th round of the 2007 draft. Based on his tools, he was named BA's #30 prospect in the Rays organization.
The Prospect: Jones was 21 on opening day for Princeton in 2008. His overall slash was extremely mediocre at .229/.297/.306. He did fare much better in his 25 at-bats vs left handed pitching OPSing .810. His struggles vs the righties is a bit surprising given that he is a lefty.
Where is he now: Jones season just got underway in Hudson Valley. To date, he is 1-6 with 3 Ks.
The Buildup: Newmann, a 6'2 lefty, was selected in the fourth round of the 2007 draft out of Texas A&M. He had missed all of 2006 with Tommy John surgery at A&M, but rebounded to go 11-1 with a 2.98 ERA as a senior. Newmann was named the #31 prospect in 2008 by BA.
The Prospect: Tough luck Newmann tore a knee ligament in Spring Training and missed the entire season.
Where is he now? Tomorrow Newmann will turn 24. He has pitched extremely well for Charlotte this season in A+ ball and has put himself back on the prospect map. He is FIPping 2.94 with 65 strikeouts in 61.2 innings while allowing 23 walks. He is inducing an attractive 61% ground balls. Unfortunately, Newmann went on the 7 day disabled list last week with a finger injury. He is definitely one to keep an eye on.