Each year, there are wholesale changes for each team’s top 30 prospects according to Baseball America. Players are promoted to majors, traded, replaced by top draft choices, or just plain don’t cut it. Twelve Tampa Bay Rays prospects who were on the Top 30 list in 2013 exited this year. Three more who made the list–Jesse Hahn, Felipe Rivero, and Drew Vettleson–were traded away. Today we’ll discuss the players who missed the list outright and the reasons why they didn’t make the cut in 2014. The number to the left of the player’s name was his Baseball America ranking from after the 2012 season.
#15 Mike Montgomery: He has gone from a #1 prospect with the Kansas City Royals to off the list with the Rays. In his first year in the Rays organization he threw 168 innings with a 4.72 ERA and 77-48 strikeout to walk ratio at Triple-A Durham. That’s not going to get it done for the pitching-rich Rays. Although the Rays will use him as a starter again to begin the year, his low-90’s fastball and plus changeup probably will get him big league work as a reliever.
#17 Brandon Martin: A slick-fielding shortstop, Martin has hit below .210 his last two years in Short Season and Low-A. He can’t seem to hit curveballs and that has done in many young players. Shortstops have to hit in today’s game and Martin has not shown that skill. Unless Martin can inject some sort of magic into his offensive game, he won’t advance beyond A-ball.
#21 Todd Glaesmann: What a weird series of turns this young man’s career has taken. He went from Rays minor league player of the year in 2012 to being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks to announcing his retirement. What a story!
#24 Josh Sale: Could this former #1 draft choice do anything more to screw up his career? Sale got off to a terrible start in 2011 before seemingly righting the ship in 2012. Little did we know that his season would end with a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs and another suspension for character issues would cost him 2013. He is very quietly back on the field this spring, but he has fallen way behind in his development.
#25 Parker Markel: Once a promising starter, Markel’s career path was slowed by a terrible performance at High-A last year. In 82 innings, he had a 6.37 ERA before injuries ended his season. Part of Markel’s problem is that he can’t develop a third pitch. If he has a big league future, it will probably be as a reliever.
#26 Patrick Leonard: An extra in the James Shields/Wil Myers deal, Leonard was seen as a potential power threat from the right side. However, you have to hit the ball to generate power and Leonard’s Low-A .228/.303/.345 slash line with 118 strikeouts in 2013 was not impressive. He also made 19 errors while playing mostly first base. He’ll probably repeat Low-A and better do significantly better in his second go-around.
#27 Bralin Jackson: Jackson is an athlete first and a baseball player second, and he has a lot of development is needed. His biggest assets are bat speed and raw talent. He got off to a decent start in Rookie Ball but only hit to a .216/.281/.299 line last year at Princeton. That’s not enough to keep him in the top 30. He’s only 21 years old, so he has time to get his game together and move back up on the prospect list.
#28 Ty Morrison: Scouts have always thought highly of Morrison but injuries and lack of a breakout year have caused him to drop and finally fall out of the top 30 list. He has been in the organization six years and yet to play a full season of Double-A ball. Injuries limited Morrison to 71 at-bats at Montgomery last year and he only hit .211/.275/.268. He will return to Double-A this year and time is running out for him to come together.
#29 Spencer Edwards: Spencer was a second round draft choice in 2012 but he has yet to find his game in organized ball. He hit under .200 in the Gulf Coast League and put up only a .232/.290/.330 line at Princeton last year. But there is reason for optimism. Edwards was the hero of Wednesday’s Rays spring training game, showing off blazing speed as he scored from first on a single and stole a base. He also been moved from shortstop to centerfield, where he could have less pressure on him defensively. Edwards has a long way to go, but it will be interesting to see how his 2014 season plays out.
#30 Nick Sawyer: A former 40th round pick, Sawyer looked like a steal after dominating in 2012. This season, though, was a different story. Sawyer has the pitches with a 94 MPH fastball and a sharp-breaking curve, but he has major issues getting them over the plate. At Bowling Green this year, he posted a 4.22 ERA, striking out 80 but walking 59 in 59.2 innings pitched. Sawyer still has lofty potential, but that type of control issues made it impossible to keep a pure relief pitcher among the Rays’ top prospects.
Baseball is a tough game–yesterday’s top prospect can be today’s afterthought. Myers and Archer made it out of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Top 30 and into the majors. Will the others claw their way back up the ladder and make it to the show? Most will probably not, but every once in awhile a Kevin Kiermaier can break through and give others hope.