A lot of moves involving the Rays have been made over the last 24 hours, and unfortunately most of them have involved players leaving the Rays organization. Let’s recap the moves and the players involved.
According to Marc Topkin, the Rays have signed outfielder Jason Bourgeois to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Bourgeois, who will turn 31 in January, has spent time in the big leagues each of the last five years for the White Sox, Brewers, Astros, and Royals, combining for a .206/.306/.324 line (74 OPS+) in 497 plate appearances. He did play well in his most extended big league look in 2011, managing a .294/.323/.357 line (94 OPS+) with 8 doubles, 1 homer, 16 RBI, and 31 of 37 stolen bases in 93 games and 252 plate appearances. Bourgeois appeared in 30 games for the Royals this season, hitting to a .258/.303/.323 line (73 OPS+). Bourgeois has been a fine defensive outfielder in a limited major league sample, managing a 7.0 UZR/150 in 880.2 innings while being above-average in the corner spots and sub-par in centerfield (but the sample size is to small to conclude anything). Bourgeois is a former infielder who has also played 5 games at second base in his MLB career, recording 4 assists without an error. Bourgeois is an outfielder in the Rich Thompson mold, possessing tremendous speed but little else. He’ll serve as outfield depth at Triple-A.
The Rays gained a minor league free agent and lost one over the past few days, and the one they lost is more notable, at least to Rays fans. According to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, first baseman Henry Wrigley has signed with the Colorado Rockies. Wrigley, 26, had a nice season primary at Triple-A Durham for the Rays in 2012, posting a .282/.331/.489 line with 37 doubles, 20 homers, and 79 RBI in 126 games and 517 plate appearances. Considering the Rays really need hitters on their team and have at-bats open at designated hitter, why did the Rays possibly let Wrigley go? The answer is a complete lack of plate discipline as Wrigley strikeout to walk ratio was just 103-36 in 2012 and 479-155 for his career. As we have talked about before, it’s very difficult to hit for power or hit at all without plate discipline, and Wrigley’s power isn’t all that impressive to begin with, and he looks like a power bat off the bench at best. Still would have liked to see Wrigley return, but his loss is not nearly as big as his numbers would indicate.
Today was the Rule 5 Draft, with teams having the opportunity to select players from other team’s minor league systems who were drafted or signed 4 years ago out of high school or internationally or who were drafted 3 years ago as a college player- on the condition that they keep the player on their major league roster all season or return them to their original team. Before we get to the players drafted by the Rays, why didn’t the Rays make a selection? The answer is that while the Rays’ 40-man roster is at 38 per their official site, that count of 38 doesn’t include tow other players that we know will be on the Rays’ roster next season, Joel Peralta and James Loney, and because the Rays’ 40-man roster was full they could not make a selection in the major league section of the draft. Now to the three players drafted by other teams from the Rays organization.
With the 10th overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft (and the 7th selection actually made), the New York Mets selected LHP Kyle Lobstein from the Rays and subsequently traded him to the Tigers. Lobstein, who turned 23, is coming off a pretty good season at Double-A Montgomery for the Rays in 2012, going 8-7 with a 4.06 ERA, an 8.1 K/9, a 4.3 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 27 starts and 144 innings pitched. His groundball rate according to Minor League Central was just 38.7% compared to the 43.0% league average. Lobstein’s numbers are misleading of his actual ability. He’s not a lefty with a big-time arm and poor control and command. Instead, as his name ironically indicates, he’s a lefty with a fastball in the high-80’s that tops out at 90-91 MPH and he throws it strikes but does not command it well. Lobstein has a little late life on it, but it doesn’t miss any bats at all and relies heavily on his secondary pitches. Luckily for him, they are pretty good. Lobstein’s 1-to-7 curveball features solid depth, but his best pitch is a changeup with good arm action and late sink that he throws to batters from both sides. However, both of those pitches are most effective when Lobstein can pitch off his fastball, and that’s not something he can do consistently. Lobstein pitched especially well against lefties in 2012, holding them to a .261/.314/.378 line with a 48.0% groundball rate and a 40-9 strikeout to walk ratio in 124 plate appearances. The Tigers will hope he can stick as a long reliever and possible situational lefty who can get lefties out now and could do the same versus righties with more work on his fastball command. Lobstein’s lack of a plus fastball and the fact that he wasn’t anything remotely dominant even at Double-A makes the chances of him returning to the Rays pretty high as he seems unlikely to be able to get major league hitters is out consistently, but his upside is there for Lobstein to make an impact for the Tigers next season if everything goes well.
Drafted by the Miami Marlins with the 36th overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft was another Rays left-hander, Braulio Lara, who was the 15th player selected. Lara, who is about to turn 24, had a terrible season at High-A Charlotte in 2012, going just 6-10 with a 4.71 ERA, a 6.6 K/9, a 4.7 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9 in 21 starts, 4 relief appearances, and 112 innings pitched. Lara’s stuff, though, is far better than those numbers. Lara consistently works in the mid-90’s with his fastball, staying primarily 93-94 MPH but touching 97 MPH and even reportedly 100 MPH once in the Dominican Winter League with some movement away from lefty batters, but he struggles mightily to control it, let alone command it, and his problems with his fastball are exacerbated by the fact that his secondary pitches are very inconsistent. His low-80’s curveball has its moments but way too often looks nothing like a strike while his changeup has never been a very usable pitch for him. Despite all that, Lara had some success against left-handed batters, allowing a bad .308/.382/.418 line but forcing a decent 31-17 strikeout to walk ratio and a 55.2% groundball rate in 165 plate appearances as lefties had trouble picking up his fastball and his curveball became a factor. Lara has a ton of work still to do, but his upside could be a closer and the Marlins hope that he can at least do a serviceable job against lefties right now. Lara would usually be a sure bet to be returned to the Rays, but if the Marlins are really determined to go nowhere in 2013 and try to build for the future, they may keep him like the Astros did with Rhiner Cruz- but Cruz had a 6.51 ERA in 2012 and Lara’s 2013 numbers if he stays in the big leagues could be equally ugly.
Finally, in the Triple-A section of the Rule 5 Draft, the San Francisco Giants selected the Rays’ Scott Shuman. Shuman, who will turn 25 in March, had a horrific season at Double-A in 2012, posting an 8.83 ERA in 29 appearances, striking out 54 but walking 47 in 34.2 innings pitched. If he could throw any strikes at all, he would be an interesting prospect thanks to mid-90’s fastball that touches 98 MPH and a sharp slider, but he has no idea where the ball is going and hitters were content to just let pitch after pitch pass them by out of the zone. Good luck to Shuman trying to get his career together, but the Rays don’t think there’s any chance his career is salvageable and Shuman is nothing more than a lottery ticket for the Giants. The Giants will not have to return Shuman to the Rays even if they demote him below Triple-A.
All in all, the Rays lost a few recognizable players but no one with too much potential and the Rays could very well get Lobstein and/or Lara back and signed a player who could make a modest impact for them next season. No reason to be too negative from a Rays standpoint after what has happened over the past 24 hours and the Rays will continue their efforts to fill their organization with players with the ability to help their major league team in the present and future.