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Sleeper Prospects for 2012

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We talked about the top prospects, but in a system as deep as the Rays the conversation can continue to 20, 30, and beyond. Today we focus on the "beyond," the prospects who aren't like to show up on a lot of Top 30 lists but you (or I) feel warrants mentioning nonetheless. Here are two of mine, plus some other possibilities:

RHP Scott Shuman - It's been so long since last year's lists, who can remember who ranked Shuman as the 13th-best pitching prospect in the system? I certainly don't. What's that? It was me? Huh. In 2010, Shuman struck out just under 37% of hitters, which translated to a 13.9 K/9. He boosted that to an insane 15.0 in 2011 with Charlotte, but only because his BB% jumped from a borderline-acceptable 12.8% (4.9 BB/9) to a Neighborgallian 24.2% (10.3 BB/9). Yes, he walked more than a hitter per inning, 59 in 51.2 innings.

With a fastball and slider that rate at least as plus pitches from a pure stuff standpoint, it's pretty easy to like Shuman as a sleeper. In 147.2 career innings, he's allowed only 96 hits while striking out 229. The hope here is that he can get his walks down to at least the 2010 level, where he'd be the proverbial "effectively wild." (Shuman escaped 2011 with a 4.70 ERA despite all the walks, but he owes a lot of that to the relievers who stranded his runners when he couldn't finish innings). It's possible he does get consideration for the tail-end of some top 30 lists just because of his stuff, but as a 24-year-old reliever whose control fell apart, it's unlikely. But he's worth keeping an eye on and holding out hope that he can become Craig Kimbrel-lite: Kimbrel struck out 242 and walked 95 in 151 minor-league innings.

SS Juniel Querecuto - When the Rays have success in the Latin America market, it's been with lesser-heralded players such as Alex Colome and Enny Romero. Their bigger-ticket players have mostly flopped so far in their careers, most notably Million-Dollar-Man Cesar Perez, who's hit .160 in two seasons so far. Querecuto, the son former minor-leaguer Juan, got a bonus of more than $500k in 2009. Playing with Hudson Valley, he posted an anemic-looking 241/.292/.303 line, but my reason for optimism is this: Before a terrible month of August, he did hit .274 with twelve walks in 38 games. He's small at 5-9/155 and doesn't hit for power nor project to, but he show an ability to put the bat on the ball as he struck out 45 times 70 games. Querecuto isn't in a position to suddenly burst on the scene, but with continued development of his body and tools, he could slowly start to climb up the team's prospect ranks.

Quick Hits:

2B Robby Price - OBP nerds rejoice! Price walked 86 times in 127 games for Bowling Green and has a .429 OBP in 184 games.

IF Taylor Motter - The next Tyler Bortnick? The two share an alma mater in Coastal Carolina, and Motter hit .314/.425/.479 in his debut.

LHP Matt Moore - You know, I'm not sure why more people aren't talking about this guy. Stats look good and I've heard his stuff is all right.

1B John Alexander - He'll be overlooked by all the first rounders from the 2011 draft, but he's big and athletic. Of course, as a 1B prospect he'll need to mash.