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DRaysBay Prospect Predictions Series: Recent Draft Criticism

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Part one can here found here.

It is hard to be critical of a draft after only a few years, especially considering that none of the players from the 2008-2011 Rays' drafts have even reached the majors yet. Despite that, the returns from these drafts already appear to be dismal. From the 2008 draft, only Tim Beckham appears to be a "top prospect." The 2009 draft may even be worse, with few players living up to expectations so far. While 2010 draft, highlighted by Drew Vettleson, Ryan Brett, Derek Dietrich, and Parker Markel (among others), certainly looks more promising, the top two picks, Josh Sale and Justin O'Conner, have both struggled so far in limited playing time.

Today, the panel of prospect experts will share their thoughts on the criticism revolving the recent drafts. After the jump is a list of the participants, today's question, and their answers.

The experts that decided to take part in the series are Jim Callis of Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, Frankie Piliere of, David Rawnsley of Perfect Game, and John Sickels of Minor League Ball.

Here is today's question, followed by the answers:

There has been growing criticism regarding the recent drafts of the Rays. Is it warranted, or are the results of poor luck?If it is warranted, how would you allocate the blame between scouting and player development?

Jim Callis: When you look at the draft, you have to look at the bottom line (talent acquired), and the bottom line hasn't been good the last few years. In 2008, Tim Beckham was a legitimate No. 1 overall pick at the time, but he hasn't lived up to that status and I think his ceiling is solid regular rather than star, and he might not even be a solid regular. The Rays didn't get anything else of note in 2008. The next year, they didn't sign their top two draft choices, LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroeger (Diekroeger was an impossible sign), then gave over-slot bonuses to Todd Glaesmann, Luke Bailey, Jeff Malm and Kevin James to compensate, and that group has been overwhelming. In 2010, they had three picks in the first and sandwich rounds, two of whom (Josh Sale, Justin O'Conner) have struggled mightily with the bat. The good news is the Drew Vettleson, Jake Thompson, Derek Dietrich and Ryan Brett have shown promise. But that's three straight years where they might not get much out of the draft. And even last year, when they had a record 12 picks in the first two rounds, they added a lot of talent, but I wasn't totally blown away by the draft considering all that opportunity.

How to allocate the blame between scouting and player development is always a tricky question. It's like the chicken and the egg. In a dysfunctional organization—something the Rays are NOT—you'll often have the scouting department saying that player development is screwing up the players and player development saying scouting isn't providing enough talent. With the Rays, it's hard to say. Many of their top picks were highly rated guys, but that doesn't mean the development staff has done anything wrong. There's a lot of projection involved with draft picks, moreso with high schoolers, and in many cases guys just prove not to be as good as expected.

Kevin Goldstein: It's absolutely warranted, but I don't know it's time to start placing blame. Few teams draft well year after year after year and the Rays are on a bad run. Those first round picks from 2010 have not looked good, especially O'Conner. The 2009 draft was kind of a disaster at the top, and then the guy they gave money too, Todd Glaesmann, has been pretty bad. Even beyond the Beckham pick in 2008 (which I liked at the time), they gave $1.5 million to Kyle Lobstein and more than half a million to Jake Jeffries and Ty Morrison. It's not a good run, and I have no idea how anyone could say that criticism off their recent drafts is NOT warranted.

Frankie Piliere: I wouldn't get on their case. If they've made some mistakes, they are mistakes that some other clubs would make as well. I think it's just changed a little bit because their draft position has changed, so they're going to take some different routes with these lower picks. I wouldn't judge them just yet.

David Rawnsley: It’s hard for me to criticize the Rays "recent" drafts taken as a whole. The Rays have huge amounts of minor league talent and while the draft is one of only three ways to acquire young talent (international signings, trades), their draft history has contributed significantly to that. Getting David Price and Matt Moore in the same draft (2007) might be the single best draft class of the last five years just by itself. Quality over quantity is a legit measuring point.

The two decisions the Rays have made that are open to criticism are a) picking Tim Beckham first overall in 2008, and b) making bad signability decisions with the first two picks in 2009.

I advocated the Rays selecting Brian Matusz with their first pick in 2008. Hindsight (and plenty of talk then) says that Buster Posey would have been an outstanding choice. Beckham will play in the big leagues and could still be an asset but I thought with where the Rays were as a franchise at that point a "sure thing" pick was the best move.

Picking LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroger with the first two picks in 2009 was just strange and out of character. Washington was a Scott Boras client and Diekroger (who went to the same high school I attended) might have been the most unsignable player in the country.

I wouldn’t criticize the Rays for their two top 2010 picks, OF Josh Sale and C Justin O’Connor, yet despite disappointing rookie seasons. Every team in baseball had them evaluated where the Rays picked them. I’m predicting both have much better 2012 seasons.

John Sickels: The '09 and '10 classes have some problems, with Josh Sale and Justin O'Conner from '10 being quite disappointing for example. But keep in mind that we are still talking about guys who would be college sophomores or juniors right now. It is too soon to conclude that these are busted drafts, but I do think the hitting isn't as strong as the pitching and they need the '11 class to come through.

Once again, I'd like to thank the panel of experts for participating. The next question will be posted tomorrow.