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DRaysBay 2014-2015 Offseason Simulation: Prospect Analysis

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Eric Jokisch - an ace in the making?
Eric Jokisch - an ace in the making?
Tom Lynn

We encourage all of our writers to discuss what they find most interesting in baseball. It provides motivation, and distracts from burnout. This week I've been taking my own advice and working out a series of article's on SB Nation's offseason simulation, which the previous two years were worked through with little pomp or circumstance. In the end, I hope you found all of this entertaining and engaging to read. - DR

When the dust has settled on all the wheeling and dealing Hatfield and I (Danny) had run through the simulation, we had completely overhauled the farm system, and mostly by happenstance. It was easiest to acquire prospects and we traded out the surplus at the major league level, and that required even more dealing to replenish what was (or was planned to be) lost in reconstructing a competitive roster.

Yes, none of this is real life, but it's not less entertaining. Here's where it all landed.

Prospects Traded: SP Taylor Guerreri, SP Alex Colome, SP Enny Romero, SP Ryne Stanek, 2B Ryan Brett, SP Blake Snell, 3B Richie Shaffer, OF Mikie Mahtook, IF Tim Beckham, RP Steven Geltz, OF Kes Carter

Prospects Gained: OF Albert Almora, 1B Dan Vogelbach, IF Orlando Arcia, SP Eric Jokisch, OF Victor Roache, OF JaCoby Jones, OF Andrew Lambo, SP Sam Selman, SP John Lamb, SP Ben Lively, SP Ismael Guillon, RP David Goforth, RP Preston Claiborne, and OF Ramon Flores

To help you make sense of it all (as requested!), I've enlisted our prospect guru (he hates it when I call him that) Scott Grauer to assess how Hatfield and I performed in our transactions.

Where did these prospects come from? 

Following is an analysis of the deals made by GM Hatfield and VP D-Russ involving prospects, and Scott's thoughts on whether they were actually a good deal:

***

Rays trade P Jeremy Hellickson and OF Mikie Mahtook to the Pirates for OF JaCoby Jones, OF Andrew Lambo and P Jared Hughes

Scott: Hellickson's value has no doubt declined over the last two years, but this still seems a bit underwhelming to me, especially factoring in the loss of Mahtook. Hughes is the kind of guy the Rays would probably trade away as a 29 year old arbitration eligible middle reliever, but his ground ball ability does provide a great contrast to the Rays' current bullpen.

Lambo has certainly mashed in Triple-A the last couple years, but he has little defensive value and may only be a first baseman. Pittsburgh's first base production in 2014 was poor, but he was still unable to get much big league action. Just based on that, I'm a bit skeptical.

Jones is interesting. He joined LSU as a pretty heralded prospect, but his performance didn't really meet expectations. He performed well in 2014 though, hitting 23 home runs and stealing 17 bases with a .856 OPS. He can't stick at shortstop, but maybe he has a future bouncing around a number of different positions as a bat-first bench player.

Danny: This was a deal completely built by GM Hatfield in his search for power - he wanted some big sticks coming up next in the depth, and GM really liked what Hughes had to offer the 'pen.

Industry reports are pointing toward Mahtook becoming a legit CF defender, which is a position of strength for the Rays, but perhaps we sold too early on him, and too early on Hellickson as well. The cost of pitching by Day 3 of the simulation sky rocketed, and this was our first move. Turning Hellickson and Mahtook into Gattis and Peraza from Atlanta might have been more difficult, but more worthwhile.

***

Rays trade IF Ben Zobrist and P Taylor Guerreri to the Cubs for OF Albert Almora and 1B Dan Vogelbach

Scott: To me, this one is a nice return even if Almora's stock has dipped a bit over the last season. His aggressive plate approach is detrimental, but that doesn't stop him from playing a good center field. With Zobrist entering the final year of his contract and the presence of some other infield options in the organization, he could be seen as expendable.

Vogelbach has been talked a bit quite a bit here over the last few seasons. He hasn't slugged above .450 since he hit full-season ball, and I'm not sure if that's going to cut it as a DH. The Midwest League and Florida State League aren't the best for hitters though.

Danny: We saw Almora as a chance to add a second legitimate Grade 7 prospect to the Rays system (the other being Adames). The power is real, and imagining him roam Crawford's Corner was too much to pass up. Landing the great Dan Vogelbach in the deal satisfied more of GM's power mandate for our offseason, and brought in a fan favorite. Once this deal was settled, we couldn't resist.

***

Rays trade OF Matt Joyce to the Reds for P Ben Lively and P Ismael Guillon

Scott: I like this for the Rays. Joyce is very expendable at this point, and the Reds provide a nice return here. With his combination of control, a decent arsenal of pitches and deception, Lively could carve out a nice career in a big league rotation. Guillon is a nice lottery ticket as a former solid prospect who hasn't gotten it together, but he will be 23 years old next year with no experience above Class A-Advanced yet.

Danny: What's neat about this deal was selling an expiring contract from a loaded outfield, and picking up two of Cincinnati's top ten prospects (No. 6 and 9 on mlb.com's midseason list). It was even more fun to later sign the player they opted to cut (Ryan Ludwick) to go after Joyce to a minor league contract at the end of the sim.

Lively grades five across the board, in command of his four pitch mix and control of the zone. The fastball and change are real on Guillon's arm. I might have been happy with just one of these guys for Joyce, so this was one of our best.

***

Rays trade 1B James Loney, P Alex Colome, P Steven Geltz, IF Tim Beckham to the Brewers for IF Orlando Arcia, OF Victor Roache, and P David Goforth

Scott: Something built around Loney for Arcia would work for the Rays, but with all of the extra players thrown in beyond that, I'm not sure about it from the Rays perspective. Arcia can probably play shortstop, and he's not an automatic out at the plate. He has a great feel for contact, and he's coming off his best professional season.

Roache is a former first round pick that dealt with a serious wrist injury a few years ago, but we're moving further and further from that, and his performance hasn't gotten better. Goforth is a pretty ordinary relief prospect, so beyond Arcia, I wouldn't be thrilled with the return. Colome, Geltz and Beckham should provide more value than Roache and Goforth.

Danny: This trade happened when the Brewers were willing to deal for Loney in general, and we saw it as a cost saving measure to go do something else. Unfortunately, there was a run on the first base market immediately after the trade and we went hard for Cuddyer in response. We'd correct that error a few moves later with a more tantalizing solution at first base, but this deal was critical to get us there.

Again looking for power, Roache has it in buckets, so that was the hope of trading previously injured Colome for previously injured Roache. I'd rather bet on the power bat than the power arm surviving. All in all, I like what this trade did for the system, but it did require us to go in search of rotation depth in later deals.

***

Padres trade OF/1B Yonder Alonso to the Rays for OF Kes Carter

Scott: Alonso adds little, but Carter probably doesn't either.

Danny: The Padres had just signed Tomas and were selling Alonso - a very real bat and decent defender at first base - for anything people would offer. Former first rounder Carter has tools to defend, but the bat is suspect. I love this deal for the Rays, because I don't expect Carter to contribute down the road, but Alonso complimented the Cuddyer deal beautifully. And he has a great baseball name.

***

Cubs trade 1B Paul Goldschmidt, P Eric Jokisch, P Justin Grimm to the Rays for P Chris Archer, P Enny Romero, P Ryne Stanek, 2B Ryan Brett, P Blake Snell, 3B Richie Shaffer, and P Grant Balfour

Scott: Now this is interesting. Goldschmidt would add some serious punch to the Rays lineup, but it comes at a high price with the loss of Archer. Arms like Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi can still form a nice rotation, but cost-controllable pitching has been so huge for the Rays.

Jokisch and Grimm clearly aren't the focus on this return, but they can provide a bit of value too, likely in relief roles. Jokisch has never been a top 30 prospect, but prior to this season, he did get a bit of Rule 5 draft buzz as a solid minor league performer.

Danny: In truth this was a three way deal with the Diamondbacks that never ended up sending anything to them from the Rays when the deal was settled. What a monster this was to work out, it required the Red Sox and the Nationals bailing on the deal the Cubs offered them first. Archer was the center piece for Chicago in this trade.

Let's not sleep on Jokisch, who Bill James has given a healthy projection for the major league level. He could be more effective than Colome and has already pitched well at The Show. I've been an unabashed Grimm fan as well, and think he deserves another opportunity to start. Decent for a swingman or No. 5, and better than other options the Rays have trotted out in recent history (hello, Fausto).

We gave up a ton, but we also replaced much throughout the sim, and bringing in the MVP candidate was big for us.

***

Royals trade P Louis Coleman, P Sam Selman, and P John Lamb to the Rays for IF Sean Rodriguez and $1.4 million

Scott: If the Rays decide to move Rodriguez, they could probably manage a return like this. Coleman struggled in 2014 after a great 2013 season in the Royals bullpen, so maybe a change of scenery could help him get on track. Selman has major command problems, but there's still something for the player development staff to work with there.

Back in the heyday of the Royals having an unbelievable farm system a few years ago, Lamb may have been their best pitching prospect. After an elbow injury in 2011, he hasn't been able to get back on track. Despite his struggles, he is on Kansas City's 40 man roster.  His good control has yet to return to pre-injury levels.

Danny: I'm glad you like this deal, because I thought it was quite a haul for an expiring contract and a bit of cash. The Fake Rays will miss the versatility of Sean, but the move did much to stock up the arms in the farm, and we were pretty happy with the opportunity to turn Coleman into gold again.

***

Rays trade P Brandon Gomes and OF Brandon Guyer to the Yankees for P Preston Claiborne and OF Ramon Flores

Scott: Gomes doesn't seem like a great fit in Yankee Stadium to me, but if the Yankees want him, that's their prerogative. Claiborne can probably be a major league reliever, and Flores has been a decently productive minor league hitter. He's a bit of a tweener with probably not enough bat for a corner spot and fringy defense in center field, but a major league career isn't out of the question.

Danny: Funny enough, Gomes was a demand to make any deal work. The must see what Ian sees in him. I think the Flores bat will carry and Claiborne had a devastating change that needs minor tweaking to get back in shape for relief work.

***

The New Top 30

To help paint a picture of what all these moves did to the farm system, here's Danny's would-be Top 30 for the Fake Rays Farm:

  1. OF Albert Almora
  2. SS Willy Adames
  3. C Justin O'Conner
  4. SS Adrian Rondon
  5. INF Orlando Arcia
  6. RHP Nate Karns
  7. LHP Eric Jokisch
  8. 1B Dan Vogelbach
  9. OF Victor Roache
  10. RHP Ben Lively

  11. OF JaCoby Jones
  12. 1B Casey Gillaspie
  13. RHP Brent Honeywell
  14. C Nick Ciuffo
  15. C Oscar Hernandez
  16. SS Jake Hager
  17. LHP Ismael Guillon
  18. OF Ramon Flores
  19. OF Andrew Lambo
  20. SS Hak-Ju Lee

  21. RHP Matt Andriese
  22. 2B Kean Wong
  23. OF Andrew Toles
  24. 1B Patrick Leonard
  25. LHP Sam Selman
  26. LHP Grayson Garvin
  27. RHP Cameron Varga
  28. RHP Jose Mujica
  29. 3B Tyler Goeddel
  30. RHP Dylan Floro

Two potential All-Stars lead the new list, and the full top ten I would expect to contribute at the major league level, with high hopes for the next ten. Not bad, in my opinion, but let's turn to Scott for his appraisal.

Scott's verdict on the Fake Farm System: It's better.