Earlier this offseason, former Rays ace left-hander Scott Kazmir signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians as he attempts to return to the major leagues after getting released by the Angels in early 2011. Joining Kazmir as a minor league free agent with the Angels will be one player who finished 2012 with the Rays and another who is a Tampa native that had been liked to the Rays previously: Ben Francisco and Ryan Raburn.
Francisco, 31, returns to the team that drafted him in 2002 as he tries to restore the continuity that his career has completely lost. Francisco has played with the Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros, and Rays over the last two years and while he wasn’t a total disaster, managing a .242/.317/.373 line (89 OPS+) with 24 doubles, 10 homers, and 49 RBI in 500 plate appearances, as a corner outfielder who plays sub-par defense, he has to hit well to remain a major league player and that simply hasn’t happened the last two years. The Rays non-tendered Francisco back in November after he put up a .228/.270/.421 line (91 OPS+) with 2 home runs in 63 plate appearances for them in December, but he could have been a fit to return on a minor league contract based on the Rays’ need for a right-handed outfielder to pair with the lefty-hitting Matthew Joyce and Sam Fuld and maybe see some time at DH. But Francisco is heading back to Cleveland and the Rays will look elsewhere.
You can cross another name off the right-hand hitting outfielder list with Raburn also signing with Cleveland. Raburn, who will turn 32 on April 17th, was an excellent platoon player from the Detroit Tigers from 2009 to 2010, managing a .285/.348/.498 line (123 OPS+) with 36 doubles, 31 homers, and 107 RBI in 701 plate appearances including an incredible .286/.373/.580 line with 19 home runs vesus left-handed pitching. However, he slipped to a .256/.297/.432 line (96 OPS+) in 2011 and then just a .171/.226/.254 line (30 OPS+) in 222 plate appearances in 2012 as he watched his career completely come apart. Raburn was an interesting target for the Rays this offseason as a player who would be available on a minor league deal but had the upside of an excellent platoon player who would not be terribly against righties either (.257/.300/.400 career line against them), and in addition to playing the corner outfield spots, Raburn has the versatility the Rays love, able to play any position on the field but shortstop, pitcher, and catcher. Raburn seemed like a great fit for the Rays on so many levels- his Tampa Bay roots, his low value, his strong hitting versus lefties, and his versatility- but he decided that the Indians gave him the best opportunity for playing time and will look to get his career back together as a member of their organization.
Marc Hulet of Fangraphs covered the Rays today in his rankings of each MLB team’s top 15 prospects, and he provided an interesting look at several of the Rays’ most promising minor leaguers. Here was his ranking:
1. Wil Myers
2. Chris Archer
3. Hak-Ju Lee
4. Taylor Guerrieri
5. Alex Colome
6. Jake Odorizzi
7. Richie Shaffer
8. Enny Romero
9. Drew Vettleson
10. Felipe Rivero
11. Blake Snell
12. Jake Hager
13. Jeff Ames
14. Mikie Mahtook
15. Tyler Goeddel
Hulet’s analysis of Alex Colome was especially intriguing as he praised his mid-to-high-90′s fastball, blistering slider, and solid changeup and considering him to have a possible ceiling of a number two starter. Colome is a pitcher who Rays fans may have seen in September if not for a late-season shoulder injury, and we’ll have to see whether he can improve his command at Triple-A and make an impact for the Rays by the end of 2013. He also quoted a contact on Hak-Ju Lee who not only praised his defense (as does everyone) but described as a “quick-twitch guy with foot speed, arm speed, and bat speed.” Always great to see different perspectives on the Rays’ system, and reading Hulet’s analysis has to make you very excited about the talent set to come out of the Rays system over the next few years.
In other Rays prospects news, outfielder Granden Goetzman, who was the Rays’ second round pick in 2011, has gotten into just 37 games the last two years because of injuries, eliciting plenty of questions about his future. Goetzman talked to the Princeton Rays’ official website about the injury and how he plans to overcome it.
“We found out I had a small stress fracture in my back and the doctor said it was something I’d had for quite a while, maybe even back to high school. It was just the daily grind of pro ball that finally made the problem totally show itself.”
“I am hoping to make one of the full-season teams out of spring training. Even though my time in Princeton was shorter than I planned, I felt I proved myself and showed what I could do,” Goetzman concluded.
We Hideki Matsui Retires, Rays Get New BP Cap, Chris Archer Is A Good Guy” href=”http://rayscoloredglasses.com/2012/12/28/rays-notes-hideki-matsui-retires-rays-get-new-bp-cap-chris-archer-is-a-good-guy/” target=”_blank”>heard a while back about the Rays getting a new batting practice hat, and Marc Topkin filled in a little more details, showing us the regular and alternate versions of the hat.
The new BP cap is certainly different than what the Rays are used to, but they look good and it’s nice to see the Rays finally use the starburst logo on a cap and reintroduce the color black for the first time since the Devil Rays years.
Coming up as a promising prospect at the end of those Devil Rays years was outfielder Elijah Dukes, but an attitude problem got him traded to the Nationals, and before long, he was out of baseball. Unfortunately, more bad news on that front as Dukes was arrested last night for failing to appear in court on several drug charges. Dukes, even after all this time, is still just 28 years old. It’s sad how so much potential can so easily go to waste.