The pressure was on Tyler Goeddel from the start. Despite being the Rays’ 5th selection at 41st overall in the draft, Goeddel got the second-highest bonus that the Rays gave out, 1.5 million dollars. We heard all about his raw potential both at the plate and in the field in the aftermath of the draft. A lean 6’4″, 180 Goeddel showed outstanding bat speed with power potential, outstanding speed, and smooth actions defensively at third base. After signing at the draft deadline, Goeddel’s pro debut was pushed off until 2012. The Rays decided to start him in full season ball at Low-A Bowling Green. Even on a prospect-laden team, all eyes were on Goeddel.
The Rays tried to take a little pressure off the 19 year old Goeddel, batting him 9th in the Hot Rods’ order. But the pressure suddenly mounted even more when Goeddel caught fire. In his first 14 games, Goeddel posted a scintillating .380/.415/.620 line with 3 doubles, 3 homers, and 9 RBI. Looking back, he struck out 14 times versus just 2 walks, but we completely ignored that. That turned out to be a serious trend. Goeddel has seen his seasonal line drop to .250/.324/.390 with 9 doubles, 4 homers, and 21 RBI in 50 games. Goeddel has swiped 13 bases in 15 tries. However, he has struck out 50 times, a bad 27.4% of his plate appearances, while walking just 15 times, just a decent 8.2% mark. Goeddel has hit just .185 while striking out in 30.6% of his plate appearances. He has 13 more strikeouts than hits. Is there serious reason for concern regarding Goeddel?
The thing to keep in mind is that Goeddel has a ton more maturing that he needs to do, not just in terms of his game, but physically. Goeddel is still 6’4″, 180. He has shown flashes of power, including a 2 homer, 6 RBI game, but until he fills out a little more we can’t expect him to hit for consistent power. Hopefully that process starts soon. He has made the most of his abilities right now, swiping bases and he has been very good defensively. He has moved well and shown a great arm, and he hasn’t had too many defensively lapses either- his .939 fielding percentage is fourth among Midwest League third baseman, with the three others all older than Goeddel and two of them a year and a half or more older than him. At the plate, we’d love to see more power and more contact, but Goeddel is hitting the ball hard. His 22.1% line drive percentage according to Minor League Central, is the 9th-highest in the Midwest League minimum 100 PA’s. Every player ahead of him is at least 2 years older than he is. Those line drives will translate into more homers as he fills out. Goeddel has somewhat bizarrely hit more line drives than flyballs to the outfield, the only player with as many or more line drives as he does for that to be the case. That’s an aberration that is bound to change. When Goeddel has made contact, he has done absolutely fine. But the question has been the strikeouts and walks. Goeddel has struck out at the 12th-highest rate in the entire Midwest League. His walk rate was… 106th. But looking at players under 21 years old, his walk rate was exactly the median (the 25th value out of 49). His strikeout rate is an issue, but his approach at the plate is still a work in progress and it’s impressive that he’s still making hard contact and drawing walks, and as he gets used to hitting breaking pitches he should be fine.
Has Goeddel torn it up thus far this season? Definitely not. But he’s holding his own and showing all the abilities that give him a chance to be a great major league player someday. Goeddel is not going to be a player that is going to rise up quickly through the minor leagues. He has a lot of work still to do. But all the potential is clearly there and 2012 is just the start of a long process. The Rays challenged Goeddel starting him at Low-A and while he hasn’t dominated, he has been about as good as the Rays could have realistically hoped for given the development he still needs. There is no reason to worry looking at Goeddel’s numbers. There may even be reason to smile.