Late Sunday night, the Rays traded James Shields and Wade Davis for a impressive package of prospects, highlighted by Wil Myers. Since Steve has already covered Myers, here's some information on the remaining three prospects that the Rays acquired: Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, 22 years old
While most of the focus of the trade will be fixated on Wil Myers (and rightfully so), Jake Odorizzi is not a prospect to gloss over.
Drafted by the Brewers out of high school in the first round of the 2008 draft, Odorizzi performed solidly in 2008-2009, looking like a high upside arm. He rated as the Brewer's #11 prospect after the 2008 season, and their 9th best prospect a year later. Reports praised his athleticism, but noted his fastball was not as good as it was in high school, as it sat in the 89-91 range and touched 93. He also threw a curveball that flashed plus, and a slider and changeup that both were promising but needed work.
In the 2010 season, Odorizzi took a step forward, throwing 120.2 innings with a 3.43 ERA, 10.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. The advancement went beyond a statistical level though; his stuff made similar strides. Some scouts even compared him to a lesser version of Grienke, which is ironic considering the Brewers traded Odorizzi and a collection of other young players for Grienke later that off-season. Baseball America's report noted his strong stuff, saying:
He consistently commands a fastball that ranges from 89-95 mph and seems even quicker because he throws with such ease. He maintains his velocity deep into games, and his fastball also features good sinking and boring action that makes it difficult to lift. Odorizzi's fastball is so effective that he has been able to thrive without a secondary pitch that presently grades as plus. He's working on two different breaking balls. Scouts like his curveball better, saying it could develop into an above-average second pitch, and his slider is really more of a cutter. He shows some feel for a changeup, though he sometimes tips it off by slowing his arm speed.
Side note: A high school pitcher experienced a velocity dip in professional ball but later regained his prior velocity? Take note, those who are overly concerned with Guerrieri's lowered velocity.
Baseball America rated Odorizzi baseball's 69th best prospect, and he was one of the main pieces that brought Grienke from the Royals to the Brewers.
In 2011, Odorizzi climbed the ladder to AA in what amounted to another solid season. His scouting report remained similar, with Baseball America predicting that once he refined his off-speed pitches, he would be a 2/3 starter.
Although he did not take a step backwards in 2012, his season was a bit lackluster, probably due to the lack of advancement in the quality of his off-speed pitches. The fastball remained plus, but the lack of a swing and miss off-speed pitch limits his realistic ceiling to a middle of the rotation starter. While his ceiling in not high, his floor is.
Although Odorizzi pitched over a hundred innings in AAA this past year and reached the majors, he could use some more developmental time to work on sharpening his offspeed pitches. Most will probably give Archer the nod in terms of who is the better prospect, but they are close. It will be interesting to see whether Archer or Odorizzi is first in line for a major league call up. Look to see him later in the year if an opening becomes available. When he does reach the Rays MLB club, he figures to be a middle of the rotation innings eater. Currently, Odorizzi ranks somewhere in the top 5 in the Rays' farm system.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, 23 years old
Of all the guys the Rays received in the trade, Montgomery is the most interesting. He is the wild card of the deal, the guy who most likely fizzles but has the potential to shine. Remember, it was only a year ago that Montgomery was rated a better prospect than Myers by Baseball America.
Taken by the Royals out of high school in the first round of the 2008 draft, Montgomery statistically dominated the low minors, holding the opposition to low run totals while seeing his strikeout rate steadily climb. His scouting reports matched his statistics, prompting Baseball America to rate him the Royals' top prospect after the 2009 season. Baseball America had nothing but praise for the young left handed pitcher, saying:
For a 20-year-old lefty, Montgomery is close to a complete package. His fastball is already a plus pitch that sits at 90-92 mph and touches 94-95. Considering his lanky frame, there's a good chance he'll add velocity as he fills out. When his fastball was on last year, he buzzed through lineups even when he was struggling to control his offspeed pitches. When he located his curveballs, he was untouchable. He throws two different types, a traditional downer that he's still mastering and a palm-curve that he's been throwing for years. While some scouts question how effective the palm-curve will be at higher levels, Class A hitters struggled to pick it up and took lots of ugly swings. The true curveball has the potential to be more effective in the long term. When he gets on top of it, it grades as slightly above-average. His changeup shows flashes of being a plus pitch that some scouts believe has more potential than his curveball. Montgomery's mechanics are solid. He shows the ability to repeat his delivery and has excellent arm speed.
The next year, 2010, was another successful campaign for Montgomery, and he ranked as the 19th best prospect in baseball after the season. His fastball velocity actually jumped a few ticks, now touching the upper 90's. His changeup also developed, becoming a true plus pitch. His 5th overall ranking in the Royals system was more indicative of the farm system's incredible talent than that of his own.
2011 was the first time Montgomery really experienced any trouble, as his stock dropped slightly, even though he was still rated baseball's 23rd best prospect and the Royals' best, ahead of Wil Myers. His ERA jumped to 5.32 in AAA and his peripherals regressed. Most sources seemed unconcerned though, citing mechanical issues, which led to poor command, as the real problem.
This past year, Montgomery took a major step backward. His stuff slipped, his statistics were glaringly bad to the point of demotion, and he suffered a minor elbow injury. He failed to even make the Royals' top 10 prospects this year. In a chat, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America said the following:
The biggest concern to me is I can't find anyone who saw him this year who thinks they've figured out what was wrong and know how to fix it. The Royals moved his arm slot down last year to help his command, but his stuff wasn't as good after the adjustment and he didn't exactly start painting the corners either. The plan as I understand it now is to go back to his more over the top delivery again and hope he can more consistently throw the 92-94 mph fastball he's shown in the past. There are still some pieces there, very good fastball for a lefty, very good changeup, so in the worst case scenario, maybe he ends up having to air it out as a power lefty in the pen, but the Royals have no need to make that move yet. He gets another chance to try to figure it out as a starter.
Some tension has existed between the Royals and Montgomery, arising from their handling of him. An advocate of long toss, Montgomery was forced to cut back on the program due to disapproval (of the amount) from the Royals. The Royals have also experimented with his pitching mechanics, lowering his arm slot.
Although Montgomery experienced an elbow injury, he has never undergone a surgery on the elbow. Another potential factor in his recent struggles is the PCL, and infamous hitting-friendly league that has given Montgomery fits during the last two years. A move to Durham should only help him in that regard.
By acquiring Montgomery, the Rays are taking a shot on a pitcher who is nothing short of a project. Although he is blessed with an incredible left arm, he has yet to make use of his potential. With the Rays' glut of starting pitchers, Montgomery will have plenty of time to work out his struggles. Friedman already expressed his excitement in working to fix Montgomery, saying, "I'm intrigued to see Mike Montgomery and get him with our guys and see what happens." If there is any coaching staff in MLB best suited to fix a pitching project, it is that of the Rays.
Patrick Leonard, 3B, 20 years old
2012 season (19 yeard old): 62 games, 268 PAs, .251/.340/.494, 30/55 BB/K, 14 HR.
The "throw in" of the deal, Leonard offers the Rays another quality 3B prospect (behind Shaffer and Goeddel) with plus raw power and good plate discipline. Drafted by the Royals in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, he signed over-slot for $600,000. Because he signed late, he did not accumulate any playing time in the 2011 season.
Beginning his professional career in the Appalachian league (rookie league), Leonard displayed improvement from his draft days, launching 14 home runs in only 62 games. Despite only batting .251, he managed to control the strike zone, leading to a .340 OBP.
Baseball America noted the strides in his game, writing:
Leonard offers profile power at third base, a quick bat and the controlled hitting approach and pitch recognition to continue hitting homers as he moves up. He can turn on inside fastballs and drive them for distance -- he pulled 10 of his 14 homers to the left of center field -- but he also hits breaking balls and seldom chases outside his zone. A comfortably below-average runner, Leonard won't leg out many infield hits, but he can raise his average and cut down on strikeouts if he learns to use the whole field instead of looking to pull everything.
While he is not a blue chip prospect by any means, Leonard should fit in the 10-20 range in the Rays farm system and help fill one of the system's gaping holes: a power hitter. For a comparison, he ranked as the 16th best prospect in the Appy, one spot below Rays' prospect Andrew Toles.
In trading James Shields and Wade Davis, the Rays strengthened their farm system, which now ranks among the top in the game. Wil Myers is a top 3 prospect in all of baseball and provides the Rays a potential middle-of-the-order bat for years to come. Odorizzi provides more depth to the rotation, and Montgomery and Leonard are lesser pieces that both have potential. All things considered, it is a very impressive haul of prospects, balancing upside (Montgomery and Leonard) with assurance (Odorizzi).