Continuing our analysis of the 2012 Hudson Valley Renegades, we look at the outfielders, including two relatively early picks in the 2012 MLB Draft.
Marty Gantt, 22, was the Rays’ 7th round pick in 2012 and is an interesting story, overcoming an underdeveloped right hand to make it to the professional baseball ranks. In his pro debut, Gantt struggled, posting a .204/.291/.289 line with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 2 homers, 21 RBI, 6 of 10 stolen bases, and 52 strikeouts versus 29 walks in 63 games and 271 plate appearances. Gantt shows four solid tools, standing out most for his speed. Just 5’9″, 167, Gantt doesn’t have much speed, but he features a compact stroke with solid bat speed and a little gap power and he also is patient at the plate. He has some trouble with timing because moving parts in his swing (at least partially because of his hand) and needs work against breaking balls as well. That combination caused him to really struggle offensively in his pro debut. But he was great in the other facets of the game. Gantt has plus speed, and although he needs work reading pitchers on the basepaths, he’s a great baserunner and is starting to learn to bunt to get on base. Gantt’s speed stands out most, though, in the outfield. Gantt is a true centerfielder (Rickard, who we’ll see below, pushed him to left) with great range and a special ability to read flyballs. He even has an average arm despite being a natural righty throwing with his left hand. Gantt has the abilities and intangibles to end up as a Sam Fuld-esque fourth outfielder. Marty Gantt has some talent, and you can’t count him out after everything he has overcome so far.
Joey Rickard, 21, was selected by the Rays two rounds after Gantt out of the 2012 NCAA Champion Arizona Wildcats. Rickard had a nice pro debut with the Renegades, posting a .279/.371/.372 line with 11 doubles, 2 homers, 14 RBI, 11 of 13 stolen bases, and 32 strikeouts against 16 walks in 47 games and 213 plate appearances. Rickard is a solid all-around player whose game is tied together by speed and character. Rickard features a compact swing with solid bat speed and makes a lot of contact. He does need some work on his patience, and he gets into trouble because he hits too many balls weakly in the air- especially when he can beat out a lot of balls on the ground between his speed and outstanding hustle. On the flip-side, Rickard does have gap power when he connects. Rickard uses his great speed to steal bases- he’s a 30-steal threat if he can hit enough to start in the big leagues- in addition to beating out groundballs, although he does need to learn to bunt more often to get on base. Where his speed serves him best, though, is in centerfield, where he downright glides with outstanding range. Rickard has work still to do at the plate, but he has a shot to be a 4-tool centerfielder, and you know the Rays would love to see his speed and hustle on their big league roster someday.
Charles Epperson, 22, was an nondrafted free agent signing by the Rays back in June and saw the bulk of the Renegades’ starts in right field, posting a .194/.272/.282 line with 4 doubles, 1 triples, 1 homer, 9 RBI, 4 of 8 stolen bases, and 34 strikeouts against 8 walks in 32 games and 114 plate appearances. Epperson has a little talent, possessing solid raw power and good speed, but he’s severely limited by a long swing and a lack of patience at the plate. He does have good range and a nice arm in right field, although his throw are inaccurate. The Rays like Epperson’s work ethic, and if he wants to persist in his pro career, he’s going to need to put a lot of work in to utilize his power and speed tools in games.
Joel Caminero, who turned 23 on Wednesday, started 2012 at Low-A Bowling Green before being sent down to Hudson Valley when the New York-Penn League season began. Caminero struggled all season, managing a .226/.243/.300 line during his time with the Renegades with 10 doubles, 2 homers, 21 RBI, 6 of 10 steals, and just 4 walks against 53 strikeouts in 58 games and 224 plate appearances. Caminero actually has some raw tools, power and speed, but he can’t translate at all into games right now. He lacks patience at the plate with too long a swing, and he needs to work on his bunting and basestealing as well. Caminero is a solid defensive outfielder able to handle all three outfield positions. Caminero looks like an organizational player at this point, but the Rays hope he can make the strides at the plate that will allow his pro career to continue.
Deshun Dixon, who turned 21 in September, was the Rays’ 10th round pick in 2010, and had his season marred by a 50-game suspension for substance abuse. Dixon posted a .193/.284/.264 line with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homer, 14 RBI, 5 of 6 stolen bases, and 48 strikeouts versus 17 walks in 38 games and 160 plate appearances. Dixon has some upside, featuring a plus tool in his arm strength and an above-average one in his speed and showing flashes of bat speed and power as well, but his pitch recognition skills are far from where they need to be and his patience could use work as well. Breaking balls completely befuddle him at this point. Dixon also gets into trouble as his swing gets too long as he sells out for power, and on the opposite edge of spectrum his bunting is horrific right now and that has to change. Dixon has some upside, but he’s extremely far from where he needs to be and his suspension only made things worse.
The Renegades’ outfielders weren’t exactly the flashiest group you’ll find, but especially Gantt and Rickard are a couple guys the Rays really like thanks to their combination of abilities and intangibles. We’ll continue next time with the most exciting part of the Renegades, their starting pitchers.
Check out our Minor League Affiliates Analysis page for our thoughts on the prospects of the GCL Rays and Princeton Rays, along with Parts 1 and 2 about the Renegades.