We continue our look at how the GCL Rays’ players performed in 2012 with their outfielders. The GCL Rays featured a lot of raw talent in the outfield and the interesting thing will be to see how much of that talent comes out over the next few years. Several of the players you’ll see below have a chance to be stars in the major leagues someday.
Johnny Eierman, who turned 20 on August 23rd, was the Rays’ 3rd round pick in 2011 but did not have a good season in his first extended pro season. Eierman posted just a .213/.299/.319 line with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 10 RBI, 6 of 10 stolen bases, and 32 strikeouts versus 14 walks in 46 games and 182 plate appearances. Eierman was originally a shortstop but the Rays converted him to left field this season and he made just 2 errors in 42 games with 3 outfield assists. Eierman features great speed, although he still needs work using it on the basepaths, and he may even be able to centerfield in the long-term, although he deferred to Bralin Jackson and Clayton Henning on this team. The problem with Eierman is in the batter’s box. Eierman has worked to get his swing more compact, but he doesn’t show consistent bat speed or patience, preventing him from hitting for average at all, and also sapping most of whatever power he has. Eierman is really raw offensively and the Rays are going to have to continue to work with him on that. Eierman should stay in a Short Season league for the third straight year next season.
Bralin Jackson, 18, was the Rays’ 5th round pick in 2012 and showed mix results in his pro debut, posting a .253/.286/.342 line with 5 doubles, 4 triples, 11 RBI, 5 of 8 stolen bases, and 39 strikeouts versus 6 walks in 39 games in 154 plate appearances. He made just 1 error versus 3 outfield assists in 28 games in centerfield, although he was less comfortable in 6 games in right field, making 3 errors. Jackson is very raw, but he has 5-tool potential. Jackson stands out for his bat speed and power potential, but his offensive potential is handicapped by his lack of patience at this point, something that will take time to improve. When he connected, Jackson hit the ball hard, posting a 19.0% line drive rate according to Minor League Central. Jackson’s speed is an asset in centerfield and he still needs to figure out how to use it on the basepaths. He also has an above-average centerfielder’s arm. Jackson lived up to the scouting reports in his pro debut and the Rays will take it slowly with him as he develops his impressive all-around game.
Clayton Henning, 18, was the Rays’ 11th round pick in 2012. He really struggled in his pro debut, but it wasn’t unexpected. He posted just a .168/.262/.177 line with 1 double, 7 RBI, 1 of 3 stolen bases, and 38 strikeouts versus 14 walks in 37 games and 132 plate appearances. Henning made 2 errors against 2 outfield assists in 19 games in centerfield, 11 game in right field, and 5 in left field. If you thought Jackson was raw, wait until you hear about Henning. Henning was primarily a football player in high school. You can’t see it in his stats, but Henning is a burner, running a 4.4 in the 40 yard dash. He’s already started to put that speed to good use in the outfield. But he has absolutely no idea how to use it on the basepaths right now. Henning also needs a ton of work on his bunting. Offensively, Henning shows good potential as well, showing above-average bat speed with at least gap power potential, but his approach at the plate isn’t nearly where it needs to be, although his halfway-decent patience was a good sign. Henning’s struggles in his pro debut probably had to be expected given his rawness, but the Rays will ease him along hoping to put his untapped abilities into use. Henning is just an 11th round pick, but if you give him time, you never know what can happen with him. Remember that back in 2006, Desmond Jennings was a 10th round pick with a football background. Henning is not nearly as advanced as Jennings was even back then, but as long as the Rays are patient with Henning, he has a chance to be that same type of player. Hennings is a longshot, but his raw talent tantalizes the Rays and they hope that he can develop well in coming years.
Yoel Araujo, 19, signed as a free agent with the Rays for $800,000 out of the Dominican Republic back in 2010. Araujo had a pretty nice season for the GCL Rays in 2012 in his first season in America, posting a .286/.339/.410 line with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 1 homer, 11 RBI, 4 of 7 stolen bases, and 35 strikeouts against 6 walks in 30 games and 116 plate appearances. He has made 2 errors versus 1 outfield assist in 22 games in the outfield, 14 in right field, 7 in center, and 2 in left. As we talked about more here, Araujo stands out for two tools, his speed and power potential. Neither of those tools really manifested themselves for Araujo this season. He shows great bat speed at times, but his swing still gets too long and his patience is still far from where it needs to be. Araujo has no idea how to steal bases at this point, although he is a solid bunter. But the good news is that Araujo hit the ball with some authority in 2012 and if he can improve his approach at the plate, improving his consistency with his swing and his patience, his power should come out. His instincts on the basepaths will come with more experience. Araujo’s arm is just average, so he probably fits best in centerfield moving forward, although the Rays hope that he will have the power to profile in a corner outfield spot. Araujo showed some promise in 2012, but he remains a long-term project and we’ll have to see if he can ever put it all together.
And we finish the outfielders with Jiminson Natera, 20, a Dominican signing by the Rays back in 2010, who pathetically led the team with 3 home runs, the only player on the team with more than 1. Natera posted a .247/.311/.401 line with 6 doubles, 5 triples, 3 homers, 17 RBI, 7 of 11 stolen bases, and 64 strikeouts versus 12 walks in 49 games and 177 plate appearances. He made 2 errors against 3 outfield assists in 35 games in right field, 7 in left, and 3 in center. Natera was an unheralded signing by the Rays back in 2010, but he has some talent. He led the GCL Rays in homers, triples, RBIs (and strikeouts by a very wide margin), and it was no fluke. Natera features power to go along with good speed. He actually showed halfway-decent plate discipline, but his swing is far too long and his power is not nearly enough to compensate that. Natera hits rockets when he connects- his 24.5% line drive rate per Minor League Central was tops in the GCL minimum 150 plate appearances. Natera does use his speed decently well on the basepaths, and that should only improve. If Natera can shorten his swing, then we’ll talk about him as a prospect. Considering he didn’t hit for any power at all in 2011 in the Dominican Summer League, 2012 was a little bit of coming out party for Natera, and we’ll see whether he can build on it.
That’s it for the GCL Rays’ outfielders and hitters as a whole. We saw quite a bit of talent, although the vast majority of it was far from evident in the stats, and it will be interesting to see how all these players develop moving forward. We’ll continue tomorrow with the GCL Rays’ pitchers.