There’s a reason it’s called “High-A.” Once you get there, you’re out of the low minors and potentially a big season away from ending the year in the big leagues. Once we get to the Stone Crabs in the Rays system, we’re talking about players we could potentially see in the big leagues before we know it. Combining solid polish with otential, the Rays are excited to see what the 2012 Stone Crabs can do.
Luke Bailey, who will turn 22 in March, was a 4th round draft pick by the Rays in 2010 (17 picks after Wil Myers), and was the fifth-youngest player on the Stone Crabs in 2012. Bailey is the Rays’ only real catching prospect above Low-A, and unfortunately his risk is as high as anyone in the system. While Bailey’s abilities are interesting, his continued rawness makes his future extremely far from a sure thing. In 2012, Bailey managed just a .231/.277/.393 line with 15 doubles, 7 homers, 28 RBI, and 67 strikeouts versus just 8 walks in 67 games and 256 plate appearances. Defensively, he threw out 30% of attempted basestealers, but he allowed 11 passed balls and made 18 errors. Bailey stands out most for good bat speed and raw power and also plus arm strength. But at the plate, he’s severely handicapped by a lack of patience and plate discipline as he got befuddled by breaking balls all season and missed too often when pitchers made mistakes with fastballs. When Bailey connected, he hit the ball pretty hard, but he just could not do that at anywhere near a consistent basis. Defensively, Bailey’s arm strength may be good, but he’s also inaccurate as he gets caught up trying to do too much behind the plate. Bailey’s athletic at 6’0″, 198 but is an inconsistent receiver, and his offensive struggles only made things worse. But all that being said, Bailey’s tools are real and all he may need to rectify his issues is to stay on the field. Bailey played in just 67 games in 2012 after playing 74 in 2011 as injuries sidelined him from April to mid-June. Bailey actually got better as he got more playing time, managing a .240/.280/.453 line with 7 doubles, 3 homers, and 9 RBI in 82 plate appearances between August and September to close out the season. Bailey has done nothing as a pro and the risk with him is only getting higher, but if he can stay on the field, maybe everything could come together. The Rays will stay patient with Bailey knowing how talented he is, and he will likely begin 2013 back at Charlotte with the Rays hoping he’ll make a breakthrough and arrive at Double-A before long.
Philip Wunderlich was released after a year where he posted a .230/.278/.359 line with 21 doubles, 9 homers, 47 RBI, and 75 strikeouts against 21 walks in 436 plate appearances. I wrote final thoughts on him as a member of the Rays system here.
Hector Guevara, the youngest player on the Stone Crabs as he just turned 21 years old, caught the eyes of evaluators when he slammed 8 homers in the Venezuelan Summer League back in 2007 but has hit just 8 combined home runs in 905 plate appearances since then. In 2012 for Charlotte, Guevara managed just a .234/.281/.297 line with 12 doubles, 3 homers, 35 RBI, 6 of 12 stolen bases, and 44 strikeouts against 24 walks in 100 games and 406 appearances. Guevara, who is 5’11”, 170, is a good defensive second baseman with nice range and a strong arm, and he even saw time at shortstop after Derek Dietrich was promoted to Double-A Montgomery in the latter part of the season. But offensively, he doesn’t do anything right now but make contact. His bat speed is solid and he’s able to put the ball in play, but his indiscriminate approach causes him to make too much contact and make a lot of weak contact, especially in the air. The thing that stands out about Guevara’s 2007 performance was that his strikeout to walk ratio was 21-16. Since then, his strikeout to walk ratios have been 31-15, 37-14, and 44-24. He didn’t strike out at all in 2012, striking out in just 10.7% of his plate appearances, but his plate discipline is simply non-existent and it doesn’t matter if he makes contacts if he can’t hit the ball with authority. Guevara is likely in line for a return to Charlotte next season, and the Rays will try to completely readjust his approach in an attempt to see if his power showing from back in 2007 is indicative of anything. Guevara still has youth on his side, but if he can’t fix his approach at the plate, it won’t make a difference.
Robby Price, who will turn 25 in April, was old for High-A in 2012 but had an interesting year for the Stone Crabs while playing second base, third base, and left field. Price posted a .268/.374/.342 line with 14 doubles, 3 triples, 3 homers, 30 RBI, just 5 of 14 stolen bases, and 36 strikeouts against 45 walks in 112 games and 473 plate appearances. Price is a one-tool player and that tool isn’t one of the typical five. His plate discipline is off the charts, and you can add in that he has a talent for getting hit by pitches. In all three of his minor league seasons, he has walked more than he has struck out and gotten hit by at least 15 pitches as well. Price is able to use his plate discipline to make some solid contact but still has no power at all. Defensively, he has a good arm and decent speed, but poor hands prevent him from playing shortstop and that really hurts his utility profile. Price’s age and lack of power makes him a longshot, but if his plate discipline persists at higher levels he could make the big leagues.
Derek Dietrich had a nice year for the Stone Crabs, managing a .281/.343/.468 line with 21 doubles, 9 triples, 10 homers, 58 RBI, and 78 strikeouts against 25 walks in 98 games and 417 plate appearances before getting promoted to Double-A Montgomery. Montgomery has since been traded to the Miami Marlins for Yunel Escobar. I talked about Dietrich one last time in an analysis of that trade here.
Robi Estrada, who turned 24 in October, finally earned a promotion to Charlotte in 2012 after three three straight seasons at Low-A Bowling Green. Estrada was a year too old for the level but did have an OK year, managing a .253/.310/.357 line with 15 doubles, 3 homers, 25 RBI, 6 of 7 stolen bases, and 43 strikeouts against 22 walks in 75 games and 279 plate appearances. Estrada, 5’10” and 170 pounds, has always been a tap hitter but found a way to find a little pop in 2011 and carried it over into 2012. Estrada actually shows good bat speed from a compact swing, and his pitch recognition is even decent, but he’s way too aggressive within the zone and may actually have a little more power in him if he can fix that. Already 24, though, it may be too late. Estrada’s shows good speed, although he could use work on his basestealing, and his speed gives him solid range defensively, and pairing that with an average arm gives Estrada a chance to profile all over the field. In 2012, he saw time at both middle infield spots along with a couple games in the corner outfield positions as well. Estrada has a chance to be a big league utility player someday, but he has continued improvements to be made offensively and on the basepaths, and given his age that seems unlikely to happen.
Riccio Torrez, who turned 23 in October, was the Rays’ 4th round pick in 2011 but did not have the type of full-season pro debut he was hoping for. Torrez managed just a .219/.287/.335 line with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 9 homers, 50 RBI, 7 of 9 stolen bases, and 86 strikeouts against just 27 walks in 123 games and 492 plate appearances. Torrez didn’t swing-and-miss so much, striking out in just 17.5% of his plate appearances compared to the 19.1% league average, but like several of the players above, his fatal flaw was a lack of plate discipline that prevented him from doing anything at the plate. Torrez, a right-handed hitter, was a bit better against lefties than righties, managing a .699 OPS compared to .567, but his lack of patience really holds him back against pitchers of both sides. The good news is that Torrez has already started to make an adjustment, managing a 7.4% walk rate in 288 plate appearances from June to the end of the year after just a 3.0% mark in 198 PA’s in April and May. At his best, Torrez shows solid bat speed with decent pop, and he’s also an average runner with good instincts on the basepaths. Defensively, Torrez shined even amid his offensive struggles, showing a strong arm and good reflexes, and while he played exclusively third base in 2012, he should be able to handle second base and the corner outfield spots while also being able to fake shortstop in a pinch. There is clearly a lot of work for Torrez to go, but it’s good to know that he adjusted as the season went on and he does a lot of things well. Torrez fits a great utility profile as long as he can prove that his plate discipline breakthrough is real, and the Rays hope he can get his numbers in line with where they should be likely back at Charlotte to begin next season with a quick promotion to Double-A a possibility if he plays well.
We’ll stop here for right now. The Stone Crabs’ infielders don’t exactly knock your socks off- the best prospect, Dietrich, was traded- but the Rays could end up with a big leaguer or two out of this group within the next couple of years, and it will be very interesting to see what happens with Luke Bailey. We’ll continue next time with the Stone Crabs’ outfielders.
For more of our scouting reports on the Rays’ minor league affiliates check out our Minor League Affiliates Analysis page here at RCG.