Between his versatility, speed, and offensive potential, Soriano will be an interesting prospect for the Rays moving forward. (Credit: Flickur user BeGreen90)

Analyzing the 2012 Princeton Rays Part 2

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We continue our look at the Rays prospects who spent 2012 at the Rookie-level Princeton Rays. Plenty of upside to be found here, but also a lot of raw ability that has yet to come out. Let’s continue.

Third Basemen

Darryl George, 19, was the Rays’ first ever signing out of Australia. A 6’1″, 213 third baseman, George showed some good signs in his first extended US time, posting a .260/.314/.355 line with 10 doubles, 2 homers, 28 RBI, 6 of 6 stolen bases, and 27 strikeouts versus 13 walks in 50 games and 186 plate appearances. Defensively, he posted a .915 fielding percentage at third base, decent for a player his age, and also saw some time at first base and left field. George has the ability to be a lot more than just a token Aussie signing for the Rays. George shows good bat speed and makes a ton of contact, and he has plus raw power that hasn’t yet shown up in games. That has happened for two reasons: sub-par plate discipline and a lack of consistent of lift in his swing. If George can rectify those issues, he has a chance to be a nice offensive player. Defensively, he has a plus arm (he pitched for a time in Australia) but an erratic one and needs work on his hands. He has average speed at this point and could potentially profile in right field if third base doesn’t work out. George is still very raw, but his ability is real and the Rays hope he can continue to progress towards the player he has a chance to be.

Daniel Duran, who just turned 24 years old, was the Rays’ 24th round pick in 2012 after a big senior season at Cal State Los Angeles in Division II. Duran did not have nearly that type of performance in his pro debut, posting just a .238/.273/.286 line with 3 doubles, 9 RBI, and just 4 strikeouts versus 3 walks in 19 games and 67 plate appearances. The good news was that Duran didn’t swing and miss at all. The bad news: no power, no plate discipline, and just a .833 fielding percentage at third base. He actually has a strong arm, but he’s incredibly inaccurate and his overall actions don’t foot the bill. Duran’s ability to make contact makes him a little interesting, but he may not be able to handle third base and his complete lack of power even if he gets some plate discipline hinders him if he’s forced to play first base or a corner outfield position.

Ariel Soriano, 21, played mostly third base for Princeton this season. Is he a third baseman? Not at all. Soriano, who is 5’11”, 160 and was signed by the Rays out of the Dominican Republic back in 2008, is a player who the Rays dream is the next Ben Zobrist. In 2012, he saw time at five positions: third base (13 games), shortstop (11 games), right field (11 games), left field (8 games), and second base (4 games). Oh, and by the way, his primary position in 2011 was second base, the position he played the least this year. Go figure. And Soriano isn’t just a forgettable minor league utility player. This season, he posted a .255/.291/.365 line with 10 doubles, 3 triples, 2 homers, 28 RBI, a perfect 19 of 19 stolen bases, and 34 strikeouts versus 11 walks in 52 games and 213 plate appearances. Soriano is dichotomous in that parts of his game are pretty polished- his ability to play everywhere and his basestealing ability, and everything else has a long way to go. His plate discipline is the most immediate concern as he’s vulnerable against breaking balls and although he makes a good amount of contact, he has trouble hitting the ball with any sort of authority. Soriano has at least raw gap power if not more, but it hasn’t come out too often in games. Soriano also needs to learn to bunt to take advantage of his great speed. Defensively, Soriano has a true right fielder’s arm (a la Zobrist) to go along with great range wherever he goes, but he needs to work on his actions all over the place. Soriano is a little old for a player who is raw in a lot of ways, but he has the ability to be a big league contributor someday, and if his offense can develop he could something more.

Shortstops

Brandon Martin, who turned 19 in late August, has big-time defensive upside. Don’t get to say that too often. Martin, 5’11”, 185, was one of the Rays’ supplemental first round picks in 2011 and got mixed reviews in his first extended pro time. He posted a .209/.272/.402 line with 11 doubles, 4 triples, 10 homers, 32 RBI, 8 of 9 stolen bases, and 73 strikeouts versus 21 walks in 63 games and 279 plate appearances. He also posted a .951 fielding percentage in 63 games at shortstop, which is absolutely off the charts for someone his age, and he has the defensive talent to back it up, featuring smooth actions, quick reflexes, and a strong arm. But the Rays are more concerned about his power. Martin’s 10 homers led the P-Rays easily- only one other player had more than 4- but he was a pure power hitter and swung and missed like crazy. Breaking balls befuddled him and even too many fastballs got by him as his swing got long because he sold out for power. And his patience needs improvement as well. Between his power and defense, Martin has the ability to be a special all-around shortstop someday. The Rays have to hope his hitting progresses enough to make that happen.

We’ll stop here for today after covering a trio of players who are significant prospects for the Rays. Funny how three of these players made a lot of contact while whiffs were a major problem for the fourth. Part 1 is here.

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