Tuesday at 11:59 PM was the Rays’ last chance to add players to their 40-man roster to prevent them from being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, and the Rays took the opportunity to add to their 40-man roster four players with the potential to help their team in a big way moving forward. The players they added were shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, second baseman Tim Beckham, and left-handers Enny Romero and Felipe Rivero.
The player who will likely be ready to help the big league team as soon as the middle of next season is Beckham, who the Rays selected first overall in the 2008 MLB Draft. Beckham, who will turn 23 in January, posted just a .256/.325/.361 line with 6 homers and 6 steals in 72 games at Triple-A Durham, missing 50 games after getting suspended for a second positive test for a drug of abuse (not a performance-enhancing drug), but he has made significant progress smoothing out his swing and has power potential he still hasn’t tapped into. He has moved from shortstop to second base in anticipation for the best defensive fit for him in the big leagues. Beckham has not lived up to his draft slot and is entering his third year at Triple-A, but he still has promise and the Rays hope he can be an above-average big league second baseman.
Lee, who just turned 22 earlier this month already features Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop and the question with him is his bat. Lee posted a .261/.336/.360 line in 2012 with 15 doubles, 10 triples, 4 homers, and 37 stolen bases in 116 games at Double-A Montgomery. Lee doesn’t have much power and strikes out too much (19.1% of his plate appearances) for a player for whom that is the case, but he shows good bat speed with a patient approach, and if he can not just take pitches but be able to recognize pitches to hit and get the barrel of the bat on them more often, he has the ability to be an average offensive shortstop, which is all he needs to be a regular given his defense. Lee is the Rays’ shortstop of the future and will be Beckham’s double play partner next season.
Romero, a 22 year old 6’3″, 165 lefty, is another promising pitching prospect in the Rays organization and flashes as good pure stuff as any pitcher in the system. He throws a fastball that touches 97 MPH and a curveball and a changeup that show plus potential. His problem right now is that he struggles to control and command his pitches right now. In 2012 at High-A Charlotte, Romero went 5-7 with a 3.93 ERA in 126 innings, managing just a 107-76 strikeout to walk ratio. But his stuff is electric and the Rays will give him all the time he needs to sort himself out. Romero could be a number two starter or dominant late inning reliever and the Rays look forward to seeing what he can do.
And finally Rivero, who is 6’0″, 151 and 21 years old, is another lefty with electric stuff, although he spent 2012 down at Low-A. Rivero’s pounds the zone with a fastball that touches the mid-90′s and he throws a nice curveball and a solid changeup. He needs to work on commanding all his pitches. In 2012, he had a nice season, going 8-8 with a 3.41 ERA and a 9-8-29 strikeout to walk ratio in 113.1 innings, and he was even better before wearing down at the end of the year. Rivero gives the Rays another excellent pitching prospect, and Rivero has the combination of polish and room to grow to move relatively quickly through the minors while continuing to improve as a pitcher.
As it turns out, the Rays added four players to their 40-man roster, one each from Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A. No Quad-A players here= all four are legitimate prospects and we can look forward to seeing them making an impact in a Rays uniform at various times over the next couple of years.
The other big news with that the signing of Joel Peralta that we talked about here was made official, and actually a little different than was first reported. It’s a 2-year deal worth 3 million dollars for both seasons, and then there are not one, not two, but three options worth 2.5 million dollars each from 2015 to 2017 with no buyouts if the options are declined. The Rays are essentially guaranteeing that they can keep Peralta in the fold as long as he continues to be an effective reliever whether that’s only two years or three or more. Peralta always said that he loved Tampa Bay and wanted nothing more than to stay, and now it looks like he’ll be ending his big league career with the Rays considering he’s turning 37 in March. It was a vintage Rays contract with all the options, and they hope to see Peralta providing them with the same type of value he has given them the last two seasons however long he stays.