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The Tampa Bay Rays 2011 Draft was not a Garbage Fire

This morning, on the Effectively Wild podcast, Sam Miller requested a fresh look at the Rays 2011 Draft. Ask and you shall receive.

Dan Vogelbach, almost a Ray
Dan Vogelbach, almost a Ray
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2010, the Rays made some sly moves at the major league roster that resulted in several Compensation Draft Picks simply by letting free agents Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, Brad Hawpe, Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate, and the mighty Chad Qualls sign with other teams.

What resulted for the Rays were 10 first round picks, setting up the franchise to re-vitalize the farm system after falling in the draft order through success. Draft Day was expected to be what Andrew Friedman called one of " the most important days in the history of this franchise."

DRaysBay: The organization obviously values draft picks very highly. You're going to have a bounty of picks within the top 100 of the 2011 draft (R.J. Harrison has to be drooling). How much of an edge do you feel that gives you over other teams?

Andrew Friedman: June 6, 7 and 8 will be among the most important days in the history of this franchise. Because young players are so important to us, we have a chance in this year's draft to impact our future in a way that's unprecedented. It's a tremendous opportunity and R.J. and his staff have already been working overtime to capitalize on it.

Among the 60 players drafted in the first round of 2011, sixteen have already played in the majors.

None of those belong to the Tampa Bay Rays, and R.J. Harrison still has his job as Director of Scouting. It's reasonable to ask "why?"

The first 23 picks of the draft were solid for teams drafting high, including several players to covet (in bold), but the Rays didn't start drafting until 24th, limiting their options:

Pick Player Team
1 Gerrit Cole Pittsburgh Pirates
2 Danny Hultzen Seattle Mariners
3 Trevor Bauer Arizona Diamondbacks
4 Dylan Bundy Baltimore Orioles
5 Bubba Starling Kansas City Royals
6 Anthony Rendon Washington Nationals
7 Archie Bradley Arizona Diamondbacks [Compensation 1]
8 Francisco Lindor Cleveland Indians
9 Javier Báez Chicago Cubs
10 Cory Spangenberg San Diego Padres [Compensation 2]
11 George Springer Houston Astros
12 Taylor Jungmann Milwaukee Brewers
13 Brandon Nimmo New York Mets
14 José Fernández Florida Marlins
15 Jed Bradley Milwaukee Brewers [Compensation 3]
16 Chris Reed Los Angeles Dodgers
17 C. J. Cron Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
18 Sonny Gray Oakland Athletics
19 Matt Barnes Boston Red Sox [Compensation 4]
20 Tyler Anderson Colorado Rockies
21 Tyler Beede Toronto Blue Jays
22 Kolten Wong St. Louis Cardinals
23 Alex Meyer Washington Nationals [Compensation 5]

Including the second round, Tampa Bay had 12 of the first 89 picks in the draft, but none of the players above were available by the time the Rays onslaught of choices began.

And just as 2005 was an atypically loaded first round, 2011 was also atypical in that fewer players have become major league pieces than might be expected.

If the plumb line for draft success is major league contributions, only Joe Panik (29th overall), Jackie Bradley Jr. (40th), Andrew Chafin (43rd), Jace Peterson (58th), Brad Miller (62nd), and Andrew Susac (86th) have contributed to a major league roster between the first and twelfth pick made by the Rays in the first two rounds.

We don't have the Rays draft board from 2011, but if we were to rewind and look through the choices made by the front office, can we tell how many mistakes the team actually made?

Moving forward, only draft choices by the Rays are in bold:

Pick Player Team
24 Taylor Guerrieri Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 6]
25 Joe Ross San Diego Padres
26 Blake Swihart Boston Red Sox [Compensation 7]
27 Robert Stephenson Cincinnati Reds
28 Sean Gilmartin Atlanta Braves
29 Joe Panik San Francisco Giants
30 Levi Michael Minnesota Twins

If we are evaluating misses, the conversation begins with Taylor Guerrieri.

At the time he was drafted, his profile looked like a No. 2 starter out of high school with incredible strength, and ranked behind only Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley in pure stuff, according to Baseball America.

Two elbow injuries have slowed his progress to the majors, but you might consider that choice justifiable over Joe Panik, Blake Swihart, or Robert Stephenson.

Pick Player Team
31 Mikie Mahtook Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 8]
32 Jake Hager Tampa Bay Rays
33 Kevin Matthews Texas Rangers [Compensation 9]
34 Brian Goodwin Washington Nationals [Compensation 10]
35 Jacob Anderson Toronto Blue Jays [Compensation 11]
36 Henry Owens Boston Red Sox [Compensation 12]
37 Zach Cone Texas Rangers [Compensation 13]
38 Brandon Martin Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 14]
39 Larry Greene Philadelphia Phillies [Compensation 15]
40 Jackie Bradley, Jr. Boston Red Sox [Compensation 16]

Next are the choices of Mikie Mahtook, Jake Hager, and Brandon Martin between picks 31-40. The former two players profile as gamers who might reach the major league bench, but each are unlikely to do more, while the latter is out of baseball.

Hidden in this bunch are strong draft choices Henry Owens and Jackie Bradley Jr., neither of whom are contributing to the major league team beyond JBJ's early 2014 flash in the pan, but Owens has shown a lot of promise, ranking in the Top-50 of some prospect lists.

Through the rest of the first round draft choices, 41-60, only Giants starting prospect Kyle Crick stands out as an impressive piece, and none have reached the majors.

Pick Player Team
41 Tyler Goeddel Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 17]
42 Jeff Ames Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 18]
43 Andrew Chafin Arizona Diamondbacks [Compensation 19]
44 Michael Fulmer New York Mets [Compensation 20]
45 Trevor Story Colorado Rockies [Compensation 21]
46 Joe Musgrove Toronto Blue Jays [Compensation 22]
47 Keenyn Walker Chicago White Sox [Compensation 23]
48 Michael Kelly San Diego Padres [Compensation 24]
49 Kyle Crick San Francisco Giants [Compensation 25]
50 Travis Harrison Minnesota Twins [Compensation 26]
51 Dante Bichette, Jr. New York Yankees [Compensation 27]
52 Blake Snell Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 28]
53 Dwight Smith, Jr. Toronto Blue Jays [Compensation 29]
54 Brett Austin San Diego Padres [Compensation 30]
55 Hudson Boyd Minnesota Twins [Compensation 31]
56 Kes Carter Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 32]
57 Kevin Comer Toronto Blue Jays [Compensation 33]
58 Jace Peterson San Diego Padres [Compensation 34]
59 Grayson Garvin Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 35]
60 James Harris Tampa Bay Rays [Compensation 36]

Within this cluster it's hard to say the Rays made any true mistakes, but if there was hope that the Rays could have done more, the answer is actually hiding in the second round.

Brad Miller (62nd), Dan Vogelbach (68th), and Daniel Norris (74th) were all available when the Rays picked James Harris (60th), which certainly feels like a blow, and Granden Goetzman (75th) may even look like a miss too with Austin Hedges (82nd) a few picks behind.

There are always gems hiding later in the draft. Cincinnati picked up Tony Cingrani 114th overall, Cleveland found Cody Allen in the 23rd, but the Rays benefited just as well by finding their center fielder in the 31st round of the 2010 draft: Kevin Kiermaier.

There's no denying that the Rays made several choices that have yet to materialize into respectability, but the injury bug is also somewhat to blame.

Taylor Guerrieri, Grayson Garvin and Lenny Linsky (89th - the twelfth choice) all had Tommy John surgery, and among the three, Linksy's injury is not only recent, but has been coupled with a suspension for a drug of abuse at the end of 2014. Guerrieri at least had the good sense to get suspended for his drug of abuse during rehab.

Meanwhile,  Kes Carter and Jeff Ames have also had their development slowed by injuries. Ames even needed Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery, possibly ending his career.

Among those five, Guerrieri and Garvin could play roles in the rotation, with Garvin profiling as a No. 5 guy, and Kes Carter is an incredible defender that could serve a bench role, even if he has yet to learn where the minor league affiliates store their lumber.

Furthermore, Mikie Mahtook has likewise proven himself to be a capable outfielder and looks to be headed for a major league role as soon as this season, with a projection somewhere between a 4th outfielder and what Justin Ruggiano has become.

Among the high school draft choices mentioned above, there are several yet to be mentioned that hold enough promise to still be considered worthwhile decisions, starting with lefty Blake Snell.

Blake Snell is an unheralded piece of the Rays farm system, but he deserves some recognition. The Shoreline, Washington, southpaw finally reached High-A last season and now stands as the strongest left handed starting prospect in the system.

The Rays are notorious for slow development with their pitching, choosing to marinade their starters as long as possible, so it's no surprise Snell has yet to crack the roster, but he's a promising arm nonetheless, placing in the 10-13 range on most Rays prospect lists, and as high as 5th by Kiley McDaniel.

As for Tyler Goeddel, the third base prospect is ranking in most Top-30 lists for the Rays, and though he has yet to stand out among the rest, has put up respectable numbers while playing younger than his class, posting a .757 OPS at High-A Charlotte last season, keeping in step with Justin O'Conner and Patrick Leonard with 39 XBH.

Back in 2012 we conducted a round table with some folks around the baseball writing industry, and many came away impressed with the pick at No. 41:

In the 2011 draft, the Rays possessed a historic seven supplemental first round picks. Which of these picks was your favorite?

Jim Callis: I'll go with Tyler Goeddel, and not just because he had the highest price tag ($1.5 million). He's an ultraprojectable player who really fits the third-base profile with bat speed, power potential, arm strength and athleticism. I also like Brandon Martin and Grayson Garvin a lot as well.

Kevin Goldstein: I like Goeddel the best of the group, but I do think we have to be realistic about what all of these picks mean. I wrote an article last year about these picks and how they anything but guarantee a bunch of future big league players for the Rays. There's just not a good track record for picks in the 30-50 range.

Frankie Piliere: I'm a big Tyler Goeddel fan. I love the combination of athleticism, projection, and present hit tool.

David Rawnsley: The Rays paid a big chunk of money for him ($1.5M) but I'm a big fan of Tyler Goeddel. We first got to know the Goeddel family at Perfect Game when his brother, RHP Erik Goeddel (now with the Mets), was a freshman back in the early 2000's. David Goeddel, Tyler and Erik's dad, is a legend in the biotech field and it's a great family.

Tyler has huge projection and can probably play almost any position on the field athletically. He's a 6.6 type of runner with the arm strength to play any position and a smooth, low tension right handed swing. All he's lacking right now is physical strength; if he'd gone to college scouts would have immediately tabbed him as a sure-fire first round pick in three years.

I also like Grayson Garvin in much the same way I liked Lenny Linsky as a second round pick. The Rays pick plenty of young toolsy high school players and have a tremendous depth in starting pitching. Drafting high chance potential mature pitchers fills in potential holes in the system and creates assets for Andrew Friedman to deal with.

John Sickels: [...] I like Kes Carter too as a guy with solid across-the-board tools although he might end up as a tweener type. Tyler Goeddel's tools and offensive potential would have gotten him into the regular first round in many draft classes, so he's not really a sleeper, but I like him a lot too.

As for the other high school picks yet to be mentioned, James "Junebug" Harris (60th - end of first round) and Granden Goetzman (75th - second round) are sleepers if there ever was one. Each topping six feet and near 200 lbs, both outfielders look great in a uniform, but haven't been wearing the affiliates you'd recognize while reading the draft list above.

Goetzman struggled with a promotion to Class-A in 2013, then after rocking the same level last season to the tune of 145 wRC+ in 60 games, he was unable to hit in High-A last season -- slowed by injuries along the way. It's a long draw, but he has the power and speed to still be something productive.

Meanwhile, Harris has been on an even slower development, playing full years at Rookie league in 2012, Low-A in 2013, and Class-A in 2014. Possibly behind developmentally, the Rays chose to release him in March of 2015. Not much reasoning was given.

Mikie Mahtook - Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

All in all, the Rays only took three players out of a four-year institution among their twelve picks: Mahtook (who repeated a year at Double-A), then Garvin and Linsky, each of whom succumbed to Tommy John. The rest were either Junior College (Jeff Ames) or high school (everyone else).

Going back through the list, the only real mistakes through the draft seems to be Brandon Martin all the way up there at 38th, in line with choices like Tyler Story but not a success. Could removing Martin from the equation have allowed them to draft Dan Vogelbach? It's possible, and might help the draft be more palatable.

Several mocks, including Goldstein and Piliere, had the Rays taking Vogelbach at one of their choices in the 31-32 range, but the Rays allowed him to drop into the second round, skipping the thumping big man eight more picks until he was drafted by the Cubs.

In the end you would have liked the Rays to have done more with so much value in the draft, but looking through the decisions made I'm not convinced the Rays had much to work with. Joe Ross, Brian Goodwin, and Dan Vogelbach all might have been preferable picks, but none of those misses are egregious. There might have been more impact if the Rays had so many choices in a class like 2009, but this was the deck the Rays had to play with.

At the end of the day, Tampa Bay did well to line up twelve draft picks in such quick succession, and did well further to take decent players with signability - not a single draft choice turned them down. The Rays did so well that MLB changed the process on Compensation picks after the 2011 draft, and not by coincidence.

The 2011 draft may still yet produce major league players, with Taylor Guerrieri, Mikie Mahtook, Blake Snell, and Grayson Garvin all strong bets to find their way to the Tampa Bay Rays, with players like Goetzman and Goeddel having the tools to blossom as well.

Just give it time.