Since our last recap nearly two weeks ago, the community has voted on several prospects to add to the 2013 Community Prospect List, and that included a couple new additions to the system. You can check out the original #1-3 recap here.
#1- Wil Myers, OF (100%)
Strengths: Tremendous pure hitter with patient approach; could hit for a high average with 30 home runs annually; strong arm
Weaknesses: Still has to improve in the outfield after just moving there in 2011; may swing and miss a lot
2012 campaign: Myers was named Minor League Player of the Year by many publications. He finished second in the minor leagues in home runs and finished with a .987 OPS across AA and AAA. He improved his stock after an injury plagued 2011 season.
Going forward: Most seem to agree that Myers will and should start the season with AAA Durham, for a couple reasons. With a talent like Myers, it's important for a small market club like the Rays to keep service time in mind, so he likely won't be seen at Tropicana Field until June when they're confident the "super two" deadline has passed. It won't hurt him to get him more experience in right field in a less stressful environment either.
If only Hall of Fame voters could make unanimous decisions like this. Not even a contrarian was against Myers being named the new #1. As a top five prospect in baseball, there was no need for a debate. Some sources may list St. Louis' Oscar Taveras ahead of Myers in terms of best pure hitter in the minors, but at the very least the new Rays' outfielder is probably #2. He not only has an All-Star ceiling, he's knocking on the door of the majors, so there's a lot more certainty compared to players lower in the minors. Fans have been calling for the team to improve the offense, and Myers could be a long-term solution.
#5 Jake Odorizzi, RHP (35%)
Strengths: Has already reached the majors and would start there in 2013 with most organizations; clean mechanics and should be a durable starter; can throw up to three above average to plus pitches; good control
Weaknesses: Toys with slider worse than his fastball, curveball and changeup; inconsistent secondary pitches limits upside; could be a tad home run prone with flatter fastball
2012 campaign: Odorizzi dominated in his second Texas League go-around before being promoted to AAA Omaha where he remained solid. In 107.1 innings there, he struck out 19.1% of batters and walked 8.7% to earn a late season promotion to Kansas City where he closed out the season with two starts.
Going forward: Barring any more trades, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore are guaranteed to start in the rotation. Odorizzi will join Jake Niemann, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer in competing for the final two spots. He's probably at the bottom of that totem pole, but it's a pretty safe bet to say he'll make at least one start for the Rays in 2012.
Odorizzi survived the placement vote to be placed between Hak-Ju Lee and Richie Shaffer. The placement seemed to come down to this debate: will Hak-Ju Lee hit better than he did in 2012? Personally, I really value Lee's defense and baserunning and believe he can make better contact. The skepticism is certainly merited though; Odorizzi has a lot going for him. He's pretty low risk as far as pitchers go since he's a smart pitcher with ML experience, and his upside is pretty solid as a potential #3 starter. The durability of Rays starters has been good in recent years, but it doesn't hurt to have another option if necessary.
#6 Richie Shaffer, 3B (48%)
Strengths: Has the power to profile at any corner on the diamond; strong contact hitter that will hit for a good average; great arm at third base and should field the position nicely
Weaknesses: Defensive reports are somewhat mixed; will have to make the transition to full-season ball in 2013
2012 campaign: Shaffer's platform season at Clemson was his best, allowing him to rise to the top of another weak crop of colllege bats. He walked more than he struck out and continued to hit for a high average in power. After taking until 7/15 to sign, he went to the New York Penn League and finished the season strong with a .308/.406/.487 line in 138 plate appearances.
Going forward: After an unmemorable off-season in the Arizona Fall League as a member of the Phoenix taxi squad, it seems likely that he'll start with high-A Charlotte like Mikie Mahtook did last year. Ideally, he'll also reach AA later in the season. The Rays would like to see him retain his in-game power better than Mahtook did as well. Depending on how quickly he moves through the system, he should be getting some time at other positions because he won't be playing much third base with the Rays unless something has gone seriously wrong.
Shaffer was unable to earn a majority of votes in what was originally the fourth round, but he was close. Alex Colome trailed just behind him with SRQman's posts saying every other player is a joke and doesn't even belong in the discussion finishing in third. I prefer Shaffer to Colome myself, but just looking at upside, making a case for Colome isn't tough at all. Colome's stuff is some of the best in the system, and if he can put it all together, a starter of his caliber can be very valuable. Even though he's higher up in the system though, I feel that Colome has more risk that would prevent him from reaching his upside.
7. Alex Colome, RHP (50%)
Strengths: Has two plus pitches; fastball can reach the mid 90's with very good movement; curveball is very sharp; changeup shows some flashes and has helped him get left handed batters out
Weaknesses: Shoulder injury caused him to miss most of 2012; hasn't been able to hold fastball velocity later in starts in the past; command has always been shaky; changeup not very consistent
2012 campaign: Injuries limited Colome to 91.2 innings this season, but he was able to reach AAA at the end of the year. When he was pitching, the results were mixed. His walk rate was the highest it has been since he entered full season ball, but his strikeout rate rebounded after a down 2011 season. For the third straight season, Colome was promoted during the season and pitched at two levels.
Going forward: Colome will start 2013 in AAA, and at some point that season he will make his ML debut. Whether that's a starter or reliever long term is the question; if he can refine his command, he will be a very effective starter. If not, he'll make a fine reliever. He could be in the mix for a spot in the Rays' rotation in spring training, but it's hard to envision him beating out some of the more experienced arms at this point in time.
Colome was able to secure half the votes to earn this spot in the list, but he had to fight off a tough challenge from Blake Snell supporters. Colome's positives are well documented with great stuff and the strikeouts to show for it. That goes for the risks too. The likelihood that Colome has to become a reliever is higher than other pitchers voted on so far, and it's fair to value him a little less because of it. It was only a few seasons ago that Baseball America ranked Alex Colome in the top 100, and his stuff is still very good. He's also very close to reaching the majors with a healthy season.
8. Blake Snell, LHP (43%)
Strengths: Fastball velocity has improved and is now more consistent; fastball also has the sink to get ground balls; control has been solid
Weaknesses: Secondary stuff needs improvement; was temporarily shut down with fatigue and only has 73.2 innings under his belt; can be inefficient
2012 campaign: Snell came out on fire with Princeton in 2012, not allowing a run until his fourth start of the year. He struck out an impressive 28% of batters he faced and walked 9%. He was effective when he wasn't out with fatigue, and a sharp decline in BABIP led to a much better hit rate compared to his professional debut in 2011. He probably could have competed in low-A, but at this point we all know about the Rays' pitching development pace.
Going forward: Durability will be the key thing to look for moving forward. Aside from the fatigue, like any young pitcher, he's going to have to show he can handle a full workload over the course of a long season. That is certainly a gradual process though. As he advances through the system, he's going to have to improve his secondary pitches. He's certainly going to make an impressive one-two punch with Taylor Guerrieri with Bowling Green in 2013.
Snell is a bit high on here for me, but he's certainly intriguing right now. His performance was certainly very good, and it was better than I was expecting. The fastball velocity improvement is encouraging, and his control was good too. I'd like to see him handle more innings sustaining his stuff in 2013 before I'm fully on board, but I don't totally disagree with those that already are. There's a reason the organization trusts Paul Kirsch the way that they do. I voted for the following pitcher on the list, and I totally understand the concerns surrounding him.
9. Enny Romero, LHP (38%)
Strengths: Impressive mid 90's fastball velocity for a lefty; curveball is plus when it's on; frame to have the durability necessary for a starter
Weaknesses: Command is all over the map; strikeout rate was down in 2012 but control was no better; changeup needs work
2012 campaign: Romero wasn't able to gain any consistency in 2012 and had very uneven results for the second straight season. His BB% went up a tick from 13.5% to 14.1%, and the drop in K% for a pitcher with his stuff is troubling. That went from 27.8% to 19.9%, but it's fair to wonder if they were working with him to throw more strikes and not be concerned with contact. His IP per appearance was a touch over five, so he was able to last a little deeper in games.
Going forward: He'll move up one more level to AA in 2013, and the Rays hope he can figure out the strike zone like Matt Moore did in AA in 2011. He certainly has a lot of work to do, and it's possible that never happens. He has to be more efficient, and pretty much all of the command concerns with Colome apply to Romero, just to a much larger degree. AA will be a really tough test for him.
Even though I'm a Romero supporter, I can't pretend the risks aren't there. Two straight seasons of struggling to be able to find the strike zone is troubling, and it's very possible if not likely that he's unable to work out those issues. I'm still a little optimistic though, most of that irrationally riding on a great short season stint with Princeton in 2010. It's a small sample size and really appears to be an outlier at this point, but I want to give him one more year before I'm ready to throw in the towel.
Please come back and continue voting as the community list goes on.