The Tampa Bay Rays were once considered among the best in the business at drafting and developing their own players. But, that perception has changed drastically. Out of all the players that the Rays have drafted from 2008-2013, only Tim Beckham and Kevin Kiermaier have seen any big league time. A couple of days ago, I had a reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, ask me to do some research on just how much different the Rays system could look if they had drafted better in 2010 and 2011. So I’m going to go back and “re-draft” the Rays first 2 rounds worth of picks in 2010 and 2011 to see if there could have been a huge difference. I will take a realistic look at how things could have turned out on draft day- for example I won’t go back and draft an 8th rounder that has established himself better than a 1st rounder.
The Rays had their choice in a trio of high school hitters here in Sale, Kaleb Cowart, and Yelich. They decided to choose the best power bat (Sale) over the best pure hitter (Yelich). But that was a regretful decision, as Sale continues to disappoint in High-A while Yelich is presenting himself as one of the best young hitters in the big leagues, though he doesn’t hit for much power.
The Rays decided to pick another high school hitter here, but O’Conner has been a bust. He still has immense raw power, but he can’t make enough contact to make it show up in games. Sanchez, picked just three picks later, has put up a 3.28 ERA in the minors and is a top-35 prospect. To make it worse, Noah Syndergaard and Anthony Ranaudo all went later in the supplemental 1st round as well, so the Rays could have picked any one of them and made this a better pick.
Walker is a budding frontline starter and is a top-15 prospect in baseball. The Mariners wouldn’t even part with him to acquire David Price. Vettleson meanwhile has been traded, and is going to be a backup or fringe-average big league starter at best. Nick Castellanos went 44th, and he is currently starting at 3B for the Tigers, so even if the Rays were set on taking a high school hitter he would have been a better pick.
The Rays went with a college pitcher here, but they chose the wrong one. Thompson struggled as a starter before moving to relief, though he has dominated there this season. But Smyly has put up a 3.24 ERA as a starter and reliever with the Tigers the past three years, so he clearly would have been a better pick.
#79- Actual Pick- 2B Derek Dietrich. Re-draft- Dietrich
I actually don’t havea problem with this pick. Dietrich got the Rays Yunel Escobar in a trade, and he could be a good second baseman in the big leagues. Justin Nicolino was taken with the next pick, but Dietrich has already reached the majors, and Nicolino has struggled at Double-A.
Guerrieri has been very good in his minor league time, but he is currently recovering from Tommy John and has major character issues. Stephenson has dominated the minors and is now pitching in Double-A as a consensus top-25 prospect.
Mahtook is re-establishing himself in Triple-A after two disappointing years, but he is still probably just a career backup and the Rays don’t have room for him. Owens, meanwhile, is one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball.
#32: Actual Pick- SS Jake Hager. Re-draft- Hager
Hager hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been particularly good. He is average across the board, and is playing better in Double-A this year than he did in High-A last year. You can consider other players here, but there aren’t any realistic picks that are any better than Hager.
Martin has showcased his defense and power in the minors, but his hit tool is so bad he is almost surely not going to amount to much. He also hasn’t played this year, and wasn’t in spring training with the Rays, the reason for which is unknown. Bradley has shot through the minors and is playing in the big leagues with the Red Sox.
#41: Actual Pick- IF Tyler Goeddel. Re-draft- Goeddel
Goeddel was mediocre in two years with Low-A Bowling Green, but has mashed at High-A this year. His great tools are finally turning into production, so I think this is going to end up being a decent pick for the Rays.
Ames has seen good results in the lower minors, but his underwhelming stuff is going to struggle as he moves up the ladder, and a move to relief is likely. Crick, on the other hand, has dominated in the lower minors and is a top-40 prospect in baseball.
#53: Actual Pick- SP Blake Snell. Re-draft- Snell
Snell has a great arsenal, but poor control has held him back in his career. However, he is continually improving it, and is still young. He could be a decent no. 2 or a good no. 3 pitcher if he can keep improving his command, so I would pick Snell again if given the chance.
If the Rays wanted a college bat, they should’ve taken Miller. Carter can’t stay healthy, and even when he is he can’t hit. Miller has already seen big league time with the Seattle Mariners and despite underwhelming stats so far, he should be a decent everyday middle infielder in the future.
#59: Actual Pick- SP Grayson Garvin. Re-draft- Garvin
I like Garvin’s potential enough to risk his injury issues, and the Rays thought the same when they took him in the draft. Watching him in person, I thought his stuff looked much better than he gets credit for, and he has pinpoint command. But, he’s barely pitched because of injuries, and might never reach his potential if he doesn’t get healthy quick.
This pick didn’t really even make sense at the draft. Harris is athletic, but he never hit much in high school, and hasn’t hit at all in pro ball. Vogelbach is a big guy and is limited defensively because of it, but he has hit well in the minors so far in his career.
Goetzman is raking in Low-A this year, but it took him too long to start hitting and I’m not convinced it is going to hold up against better pitching. Johnson, meanwhile, was a top-100 prospect heading into the year, has a career 2.32 minor league ERA, and has seen time in the big leagues.
Linsky has been decent as a reliever in the minors, but he can’t stay healthy and is currently recovering from Tommy John. The problem here is that there aren’t really any great realistic picks to replace him, but Dickerson has hit decent in the minors, so he is at least a better option than Linksy.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but it is evident that with a combination of better luck and better decisions, the Tampa Bay Rays could have turned two disappointing draft classes into two outstanding ones. The Rays tried to put these two drafts behind them in 2012 and 2013 and we will just have to wait and see if those players can fare any better. They have another chance to add to their system with the quickly approaching 2014 draft, so let’s hope they can make the most of it.