Coming into 2013, the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs were possibly the most hyped up of the Rays’ minor league clubs. Charlotte had many top prospects coming into the season, and were expected to compete for the Florida State League title. The Stone Crabs ended up 67-65, a fairly disappointing record considering the talent on their roster. However, there are very many players from the 2013 Charlotte team that provide reason to be excited about in the future.
From on offensive standpoint, Alejandro Segovia and Willie Argo led the way. Segovia has never been considered much of a prospect until a breakout 2012 season in Low-A in which he put up a .269/.362/.527 line. Upon being promoted to High-A to start off the 2013 season, Segovia followed up his 2012 season well, hitting to a .281/.376/.457 line. An industry source praises Segovia’s plus raw bat speed, but worries about Segovia’s dead pull tendencies. The source also worries about his lack of a defensive home. Segovia has played catcher in the past, but spent 2013 playing designated hitter and first base where his defense is fairly poor. While no longer a catcher, his bat still gives him a chance to be an impact player in the major leagues. Double-A will be a good test to show his ability as a player, and if he can learn to use the whole field, he could provide value as an offensive-first player. Argo, drafted by the Rays in the 22nd round in 2012, was not considered much of a prospect coming into the year. However, Argo managed a solid .308/.404/.420 line with 37 steals in 2013. Argo is a plus runner and while that’s the only skill that wows you, he is a solid all-around player. The industry source praises Argo’s ability to find a way to help his team out every night, and also says that he is a solid defender. Argo is a player that Joe Maddon will appreciate down the line. He is a fringy major league player, but the Rays seem to get the most out of guys like him.
On the pitching side, Felipe Rivero and Jesse Hahn led the way. Rivero, despite being inconsistent, has been ranked one of the system’s top pitching prospects, pitched to a 3.40 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 52 walks in 127 innings. A source who saw Rivero had this to say: “Rivero is a good arm that I’ve seen struggle and also seen throw well. He has shown improvement with mound presence and command. Tampa moves their guys methodically and this guy will benefit from their approach.” Rivero has a solid fastball that sits around 93 MPH, as well as a curveball and a change-up. Rivero has good command of his fastball to both sides of the plate, but struggles to locate his other two pitches as consistently. His curveball is said to be above-average when it is on, but other times he cannot locate it enough for it to be effective. His change-up will likely never be better than average. Rivero has struggled with command, but improved in 2013. The Rays would still like to see him lower his walk rate and improve his strikeout rate even more in 2014. Jesse Hahn was rated very high coming into the 2010 draft, but hurt his elbow during his Junior year, requiring Tommy John surgery–but also dipping him far enough in the draft that the Rays could get him in the 6th round. Hahn has been on a strict innings limit since coming back, but has pitched very well. In 2013, Hahn threw 67 innings for the Stone Crabs, pitching to a 2.15 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 18 walks. With a solid 4-pitch arsenal, Hahn’s fastball is easily his best pitch, coming in at plus. Hahn also throws a curve, slider, and change-up, with the curve being a tick above the rest. Hahn has the chance to rise quick as the Rays ease him in to pitching more innings. He could end up in the bullpen because of injury concerns, but he certainly has the arsenal to start if he shows the ability to stay healthy when pitching more innings. Shay Crawford was excellent the bullpen for Charlotte, pitching to a 1.34 ERA in 31 appearances.
The Stone Crabs did have disappointments from top prospects during 2013. Both shortstop Jake Hager and third baseman Richie Shaffer did not hit to their talent level. Hager, a first round pick in 2011, disappointed with his bat. A player believed to have above-average raw power, Hager only slugged .305 for the Stone Crabs, and got on base at just a .318 clip. Hager has never been a player that will wow you with his tools, but he has always been average or slightly above average across the board. This year, Hager set career lows in batting average and slugging percentage. Hager has the ability to stick at shortstop, but will never wow with defense. Hager could start 2013 at either High-A or Double-A, but he will need to start harnessing his power and refining his plate approach to draw a few more walks. Shaffer, a first round pick in 2012, came with the expectation of big power. Shaffer has easy plus raw bat speed, but his power did not show up in games as much as the Rays would like. Shaffer has a flaw in his swing that he will need to fix in order to reach his full potential. Overall, Shaffer hit .254/.305/.399 in his first full pro season. Shaffer’s plus bat speed still gives him the chance to hit 30+ home runs in the big leagues, but he will need to refine his mechanics and plate approach to become the player he has the ability to be. Shaffer plays third for now and continues to improve at the position, but he will likely end up at first base or right field due to a lack of range.
On the pitching side, Parker Markel was the Stone Crabs’ most disappointing player. Markel had three solid years under his belt in the Rays system before pitching to a 6.37 ERA in 82 innings. Markel struck out 71 batters and walked 35, both not terrible numbers, but they both have room to improve. However, Markel is credited with a fastball that can reach 97 MPH as well as a plus slider and a change-up that is well behind the other pitches. Markel got hit hard in 2013, as shown by his 1.634 WHIP. He could end up going into the bullpen, where his fastball and slider profile well, but the Rays will likely give him another chance to start before giving moving him to the pen.
Prospects To Watch
There are many exciting prospects to watch from the 2013 Charlotte team. Even after down years, keep an eye on Hager and Shaffer. Hager is not a player that will wow you, but he has the potential to be average or slightly above average as both a hitter and a defender and you hope that he can rebound from his tough 2013 to start showing that soon. Shaffer, meanwhile, has plus bat speed that needs to manifest itself as power in games. If he can refine his approach, he could break out in 2014. Drew Vettleson is also a player to look out for. After posting a good .772 OPS in 2012 at Low-A, Vettleson posted a .718 OPS in 2013. Vettleson may not quite have prototypical right field power, but he has good bat speed or could hit for a solid average with his fair share of walks. Vettleson has a reputation as a good defender with a plus arm.
From a pitching standpoint, River0 will be a very interesting pitcher moving forward. If he can gain better control of his secondary pitches, Rivero could be in the big leagues in the next couple of years. Jesse Hahn could also be a fast riser through the Rays system, especially if moved to the bullpen, but he needs to stay healthy. It will be interesting to see how the Rays use him in 2014 after he was on a strict innings limit in 2013. Also look for Parker Markel to bounce back in 2014. He has the potential to start, but his lack of a good change-up could end up moving him to the ‘pen, where his fastball-slider combination could be lethal.
The Stone Crabs had their fair share of excitements and disappointments in 2013, but overall, the players that played in Charlotte give the Rays plenty of reason to be excited. With bounce-back seasons in 2014 from a couple of prospects that had down years in 2013, this team could produce quite a few impact major leaguers. These players will enter a key point in their development as they rise to Double-A in 2014, and the Rays have to be cautiously optimistic that good things are ahead.