We continue our analysis of the Hudson Valley Renegades’ relievers, including a bunch of 2012 draft picks and several players who are much more talented than your average A-ball bullpen arms. The Renegades got great contributions from all over in their championship season, and don’t forget about the bullpen.
Kris Carlson, who turned 23 at the end of October, was the Rays’ 35th round pick in 2012 and had an even season spent primarily with the Renegades, going 1-2 with a 3.74 ERA, a 6.2 K/9, a 5.0 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 in 17 appearances and 21.2 IP with the Renegades and making an appearance each with the GCL Rays (where he was perfect) and the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs (where he struggled mightily). His groundball rate, according to Minor League Central, was 42.5%, a few percentage points below the league average of 45.6%. Carlson, a 6’3″, 190 right-hander, has intriguing pure stuff but is severely limited by issues with control and command. Carlson throws a low-90 fastball with late sink to go along with a slider that flashes nice tilt. The problem is that he has a lot of trouble figuring out where his pitches are going, struggling with control and don’t even think about command. One good sign was that 9 of his 15 walks on the season came in only 3 games, but the fact that he had 3-walk total implosions in 19 total appearances is still extremely concerning. Kyle Farnsworth‘s control was terrible for the Rays this season and he had only one game with 3 or more walks. Carlson also got hit hard by lefties, allowing a .908 OPS compared to just .545 by righties, but his strikeout to walk ratio was basically the same, 8-8 compared to 8-7 by righties. Carlson has some potential, but he has to find some control and command before we can begin to think about him as any sort of prospect.
Shay Crawford, a lefty who will turn 25 years of age in December, was the Rays’ 41st round pick in 2011 and had a solid season as a situational lefty between 14 games with the Renegades and 7 with the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods, going 1-0 with a 3.42 ERA (2.76 in Hudson Valley), a 7.5 K/9, a 3.1 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9 in 26.1 innings. Crawford was drafted extremely low and was a couple years too old even at Low-A, but his stuff and left-handedness gives him a chance. Crawford, 6’2″, 190, throws a fastball around 90 MPH with some light bite and also a slider, his only pitch that really flashes plus, and a changeup. Crawford’s groundball rate was only 41.8%, but he was able to throw a lot of strikes and force weak contact, although too much on the air. Crawford was very death on lefties, holding them to a .152/.282/.152 line with 15 strikeouts versus just 2 walks, while righties had their way with him, slamming him for a .822 OPS, as his changeup isn’t nearly as good as his slider and he could not miss any bats. Crawford has a chance to move up up the minor league ranks as a situational lefty type and although he’s too old to be a prospect, so many lefty specialists don’t debut in the big leagues until their late 20′s anyway.
Rob Finneran, who turned 23 in September, was the Rays’ 37th round pick in 2012 after a career as the best pitcher in the history of Bentley University, and had his moments in his pro season, going 0-0 with a 3.70 ERA, a 7.8 K/9, a 5.2 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9 in 19 relief appearances and 24.1 IP. That does not sound very good at all, but his groundball rate was 48.1% and he actually had a 1.25 ERA in his last 16 appearances. Finneran, who has a nice pitcher’s frame at 6’3″, 215 is a little interesting. He throws a fastball in the 90-91 MPH range that features nice late sink when Finneran is able to get on top of it, which he struggled to do at the beginning of the season (including when I saw him in July), but he was able to do that more often as the season progressed. His two secondary pitches, a slider, and a changeup, showed transient flashes of being swing-and-miss pitches but being extremely inconsistent. (When I saw Finneran, he flashed a nice changeup in terms of both arm action and movement- it featured nice sink- but his arm slot was different between his changeup and fastball and hitters may have picked up on that as the season progressed.) Both secondary offerings did force a decent amount of weak contact, but Finneran was very dependent on his fastball all season. Finneran does throw out of a deceptive arm slot. Finneran has some upside as a middle reliever and shows flashes of effectiveness but needs significant improvement to all three of his pitches to make that possible moving forward.
Can’t say these first three pitchers are the best prospects you have ever read about. The second half of this article gets more interesting.
Dylan Floro, who turns 22 in December, was drafted by the Rays for the second time in 2012, in the 13th round to be exact, and had a very positive pro debut for the Renegades, going 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA, a 6.3 K/9, a 1.2 BB/9, and a 0.0 HR/9 in 18 relief appearances and 30 IP. He didn’t miss many bats, but his groundball rate was an outstanding 64.1% and he kept hitters off-balance just about all the time. Floro, who is 6’2″, 175, is an interesting story. When the Rays selected him for the first time back in 2009 as a high schooler, Floro was a well-regarded prospect with a fastball in the low-90′s and a sharp slider that flashed plus, falling so far in the draft only because of a strong commitment to Cal State Fullerton. But after arriving on campus, Floro’s stuff began to fade. His fastball was just in the 88-91 MPH range while his slider lost its bite. But that forced him to perfect his control and command and develop a deceptive delivery in order to continue to succeed at Cal State Fullerton, and Floro put all those adjustments he made on display with the Renegades as hitters could not square up anything against him in 2012. That alone gives Floro a chance to be a middle reliever who can get out of jams with double plays. But then there’s always the chance that Floro’s previous stuff comes back to go with his newfound command, and if that falls into place, the Rays will have a possible mid-rotation starter on their hands. Floro is not the same pitcher he used to be, but he still has the ability to make an impact in the big leagues as what he is now and if his previous stuff comes back he will be an even more intriguing prospect.
Ryan Garton, who will turn 23 in December, was the Rays’ 34th round pick in 2012 and had an outstanding pro debut with the Renegades, going 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA, a 10.3 K/9, a 2.7 BB/9, and a 0.0 HR/9 in 21 relief appearances and 27 innings pitched. His groundball rate was a nice 55.1%. The nice groundball rate was no fluke as Garton controls his fastball very well, but he throws it in just the high-80′s, topping out at 90 MPH. But it also serves another purpose: to set up his outstanding changeup. Garton also throws a curveball. Hearing about Garton’s arsenal, I immediately thought to compare him to Jeremy Hellickson. It seems that Garton won’t be a starting pitcher in pro ball like I thought back then, but Garton has a lot in common with Hellickson as a shorter pitcher at 5’11″, 170 with a fastball-changeup-curveball arsenal headlined by the changeup. Another more intricate similarity is that Garton’s changeup was considerably more effective against right-handed batters than lefties in 2012, as has been the case for Hellickson. Per Brooks Baseball, verus righties Hellickson’s changeup has been a strike 67.8% of the time during his time in the big leagues, generated a 23.5% whiff rate, and had a 1.33 groundball to flyball ratio compared to being a strike 66.6% of the time, generating a 14.7% whiff rate, and forcing a 1.41 groundball to flyball ratio to lefty batters. That difference has made Hellickson’s fastball a crucial pitch for him against lefties and the question is whether Garton could do the same with a worst fastball. Garton allowed just a .475 OPS to lefties compared to .449 to righties, but his strikeout to walk ratio was just 9-5 compared to a ridiculous 22-3. But this is less of an issue because Garton won’t be starting and he likely doesn’t have the fastball to be a late-inning reliever. But between his fastball, changeup, and developing curveball, Garton has the ability to be a middle reliever who can enter games and rack up strikeouts and force a lot of weak contact against right-handed batters. Garton fits a very similar physical profile to David Robertson, both being 5’11″ and although Robertson weighs 25 pounds more, Garton may continue to fill out (which would also presumably help his fastball velocity). Garton’s money pitch is a changeup as opposed to the slider for Robertson, and it’s doubtful that he’s going to gain velocity the way Robertson has in the big leagues (his fastball was 91.55 MPH when he debuted in the big leagues in 2008 but average 92.79 MPH in 2012 according to Brooks Baseball), he has a chance to be the type of reliever that Robertson was in 2009 and 2010 when he racked up the strikeouts although he walked too many batters and was enigmatic at times. The Rays were able to get an interesting sleeper way down in the 34th round in Garton, and he has the ability to start moving quickly through the minor leagues and be an impact middle reliever in the big leagues before long.
Marcus Jensen, who turned 21 in August, was the Rays’ 30th round pick in 2009 and had a good season in Hudson Valley, going 6-1 with a 3.58 ERA, an 8.8 K/9, a 3.3 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 22 relief appearances and 32.2 IP. Jensen’s groundball rate was a sub-par 37.5%. Jensen, 6’3″, 170 and the son of the ex-big league catch with the same name, features a nice fastball in the low-90′s with late life up to go along with a solid changeup and a breaking ball that has never made much progress. He forces a lot of weak contact, although most of it in the air, something that he needs to rectify moving forward. Bizarrely, Jensen had a reverse platoon split, allowing just .522 OPS to lefties compared to .721 to righties with an 8-2 strikeout to walk ratio compared to 19-10. His lack of a usable breaking ball is the biggest reason for that. Jensen is still young and the Rays hope he can continue to develop his arsenal to give him a chance for a middle relief role in the major leagues.
Jose Molina, not to be confused with the Rays’ primary catcher in 2012, was signed by the Rays out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007 and had the lowest ERA in the Renegades bullpen, going 3-1 with a 1.41 ERA, a 7.3 K/9, a 3.4 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 in 22 relief appearances and 32 innings pitched. His groundball rate was a nice 54.1%. Molina, 5’11″ and 160 pounds, throws a high-80′s sinker that he commands pretty well down in the zone and also throws a slider and a changeup. The changeup looked much better than the breaking ball as Molina was the lefty version of Jensen although to a lesser extent, allowing a .589 OPS and a 9-5 strikeout to walk ratio to lefties compared to a .539 OPS and an 18-7 strikeout to walk ratio. The Rays hope Molina can fill out a little more and add some velocity while polishing his secondary pitches. They hope he can be another major league middle relief candidate at some point.
That’s it for our analysis of the 2012 Hudson Valley Renegades. They were the champions this season and moving froward they have considerable potential. We saw top prospects like Taylor Guerrieri and Richie Shaffer, still impressive prospects a step below like Jeff Ames and Jesse Hahn, sleepers that the Rays hope can reach their potential like Justin O’Conner and Matthew Spann, and plenty of players coming out of college with the chance to contribute in the big leagues someday, with a few of them, like Tommy Coyle and Dylan Floro in this installment, having the chance to be even more. Hope you enjoyed this analysis of the Renegades, and we’ll continue with the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods as we continue break down the entire Rays minor league system.
For our analysis on the Renegades along with the GCL Rays and Princeton Rays (so far), please check our Minor League Affiliates Analysis page here at RCG.