As we gradually approach the cream of the crop in the organization, I'll continue with prospects 21 through 25. If you've missed any of the segments Kevin and I have done so far, here they are:
I hate to be the bearer of bad news for the second straight week, but this group of five prospects did not impress much more than last week's 10 in 2012. In fact, only one of them even managed to play an entire season.
25. Robinson Chirinos, C - In spring training, Chirinos suffered a concussion after taking a foul tip off his mask. It was expected to keep him out a few days, but that became a few weeks and then the entire season. While some players are able to come back quickly, Chirinos appeared to suffer some of the worst symptoms possible. With serious brain injuries, it's better safe than sorry, and it took a long time for him just to be able to live close to normally. Football and hockey are perhaps more closely associated with concussions, but the issue is becoming more and more prevalent in baseball.
The good news is that while he missed the entire regular season, Chirinos has been in action for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League this winter along with former Rays farmhands Carlos Hernandez, Chris Nowak and Erold Andrus. For Chirinos, the stats don't matter; not only is it an incredibly small sample so far, but he's competing against players who have been playing baseball all year. Baseball is already a challenging game, and it's even tougher for someone who couldn't sit in a room with lights on for most of the year. More impressively, he's been able to get behind the plate and play catcher. However, the fact remains that he missed an entire season, and 2013 will be his age 29 season. He's facing an uphill battle, but the Rays could certainly use his bat if he's able to fully recover.
24. Matt Bush, RHP - There's obviously not much to say here. Bush was released by the Rays earlier this month, and his baseball career is over. I was unable to find an update on victim Tony Tufano since early April when he was discharged from the hospital and allowed to return home, but hopefully he's making progress on his long road to recovery.
23. Ryan Carpenter, LHP - At #23, Carpenter generated some high expectations for a 7th round pick out of college ball, and I was certainly one of his biggest backers. With a great pro debut at Hudson Valley that saw him post a 0.76 ERA and 0.55 WHIP in 23.2 innings combined with his great size (6'5, 235) and potential for fastball improvement, it's easy to see why many were optimistic. I feel that there are two ways of looking at his season. The pessimistic observer would say that an experienced college pitcher from the West Coast Conference should have done better. He had a 4.09 ERA, and a fly ball pitcher with a 6.8 K/9 may not have the stuff to continue advancing through the system.
Someone whose glass is half full would say that his numbers beneath the surface were better. His control was great with a 4.91 K/BB, and his WHIP was just 1.18, 8th among qualified pitchers in the Midwest League. He's going to be 22 for most of the 2013 season, and that means he'll be about the league average age in the Florida State League. For me, I'm probably a bit closer to the pessimistic side. Allowing a home run nearly every 10 innings for a 6'5 pitcher in the Midwest League is concerning, especially since he wasn't striking out too many batters. It's hard to tell just looking at stats, but I wonder if he's an example of a pitcher with good control but not good command. He was obviously filling up the zone with plenty of strikes, but with a .440 SLG against, 60 points above the league average, he might've been getting too much of the plate. I'll split the difference and say...
22. Lenny Linsky, RHP - It seems like I've written about Linsky every week here. For those that need a refresher, he missed half the season with an elbow injury and was completely ineffective after that with the GCL Rays and Charlotte Stone Crabs. His heavy sinker and slider should give him the stuff to pitch in the late innings, but this season was a big step back. Despite his 3.07 ERA with Charlotte, he walked 19 in 29.1 innings with only 12 strikeouts and a 1.60 WHIP. It's only a half inning of data, but more walks than strikeouts is absolutely concerning. A former college closer and high draft pick should have the stuff to do much better than that, but of course elbow injuries can be serious, and he deserves a bit of a pass for that.
Again with the small sample size caveat, his start in the Arizona Fall League has not been good. In 5.2 innings, he's allowed nine runs (five earned) on 13 hits and three walks with five strikeouts. The AFL is a hitter's paradise so a pitcher struggling is far from unusual, but continuing struggles are still concerning. After the AFL wraps up, an off-season of rest for his elbow should be very helpful, but once he's healthy he's going to have to perform much better. The bar is set high for relief prospects, and he has a lot of work to do to get back over that bar.
21. Granden Goetzman, OF - After a groin injury slowed Goetzman down in his 2011 debut, limiting him to 25 unproductive games in the Gulf Coast League. In 2012, he was the invisible man again, playing in only 12 games for Princeton. He is still rehabbing from whatever caused him to miss so much time, and at this point, the most important thing is for him to get and stay on the field. His stats weren't very impressive in 2011, but with fair K and BB rates, it's possible to make an argument that he was BABIP'd to death, although his lack of power would suggest he wasn't making hard contact.
His 12 games in 2012 were good; he posted a .814 OPS with a solid plate approach (13.5 K%, 7.7 BB%), and he remained an efficient base stealer. Goetzman offers a lot of potential in all aspects of the game, making his injury battles even more frustrating. He needs all the reps he can get to develop his tools into in-game production, and he can't afford to fall further behind.
Come back Tuesday when Kevin will pick up the list with players #16-20. That includes two more 2011 draft picks as well as The Oscar.