What a season B.J. Upton had in what more than likely will be his final season as a Tampa Bay Ray. In recognition of his offensive performance, which included 28 homers, 78 RBI, and 31 stolen bases, all of which led the team, Upton has been nominated for the Hank Aaron Award for the best offensive player in each league. You can vote for Upton, or whoever you want to vote for, here, and good luck to Upton in the voting.
Baseball America has been ranking the top prospects in each minor league and Rays shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee was ranked the #8 prospect in the Double-A Southern League, where he played for the Montgomery Biscuits. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about Lee.
Part of the trade that sent Matt Garza from the Rays to the Cubs in January 2011, Lee ended that season and spent all of this year in Double-A. His bat has leveled off during that time—he has hit .249/.325/.351 with the Generals—but he has maintained his standing as a quality defender and baserunner.
Lee positions himself well and has the quickness to track down balls with ease. He augments his strong arm with a quick release. He has well above-average speed and succeeded on 80 percent of his SL steal attempts.
At the plate, Lee sprays lots of line drives to the opposite field. He’s a slap hitter with no power, so Double-A pitchers aren’t afraid to challenge him. Showing more patience and working more counts might help his cause, but he projects to bat toward the bottom of a big league lineup.
Lee won’t exactly be an offense savior for the Rays, but he will certainly shore up the shortstop position defensively for the Rays when he arrives in the big leagues and provide a decent bat with a nice amount of stolen bases. Lee is a player Rays fans can definitely look forward to as he advances towards the big leagues.
And finally, Fangraphs’ Carson Cistulli talked about the top players in the Independent Atlantic League this season and a familiar face was ranked the number one hitter: corner infielder Chris Nowak, who the Rays selected in the 19th round of the 2004 MLB Draft. Nowak, 29, spent six and a half years in the Rays system from 2004 through 2010, peaking in 2006, when he posted a .308/.397/.478 line with 45 doubles, 11 homers, 103 RBI, and 17 of 23 stolen bases in 130 games at High-A Visalia, but he was never able to perform at Triple-A, managing just a .235/.315/.332 line in 102 games at the level between the Rays and Brewers organizations. But this season with the York Revolution in the Atlantic League, he had an unbelievable season, posting a .285/.391/.570 line with 28 doubles, 34 homers, 107 RBI, 10 of 13 stolen bases, and 87 strikeouts versus 71 walks in 129 games. Nowak is a completely liability defensive at third base and is just barely passable at first base, but as a power-hitting corner infielder with good plate discipline, Nowak will have suitors this offseason for at least a spot on someone’s Triple-A ballclub, and the Rays might be interested in a reunion. Nice to see Nowak persevering to get his career back on track, and good luck to him wherever he ends up.