Minor League Review: Drew Vettleson Features a Golden Arm- In The Outfield

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays knew they had something when they drafted Drew Vettleson. Vettleson, 6’1″, 185 out of Central Kitsap High School in Washington, immediately attracted interest thanks to his ability as a switch-pitcher, able to pitch with either arm. But thanks to more promise in the batter’s box, the Rays have used him as an outfielder full-time as a pro, playing him primarily in right field. But his arm continues to stand out.

Let’s say that Drew Vettleson has a right fielder’s arm. Thus far in 2012, playing for the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods, Vettleson has been throwing out runners like crazy. He has gunned down 15 runners trying to advance against him, the most in professional baseball at any level. He has started 7 double plays. When will runners learn? The Hot Rods as a whole have 26 outfield assists. No outfielder other than Vettleson has as many as 5. Vettleson has made a couple of errors, 3 on the year, but he has shown excellent arm strength and for the most part, great accuracy. He has won games for the Hot Rods with his glove alone. There is little doubt that Vettleson’s arm strength is a plus tool for him. And Vettleson is far from just a defensive player.

The Rays liked Vettleson’s arm. But what they liked more was his bat. Vettleson features a smooth swing from the left side with impressive bat speed and rockets come off his bat. He slams line drives all over the field, mostly for singles and doubles, but he shows flashes of home run power with more to come. And he has showcased a lot of his offensive ability to 2012 as well. Vettleson has posted a .288/.360/.441 line so far this season with 15 doubles, 3 triples, 5 homers, and 28 RBI in 64 games. According to Minor League Central, 18.7% of Vettleson’s batted balls have been line drives, well above the 15.2% league average. He has also walked 27 times, a nice 10.2% mark, although he has struck out 52 times, a 19.7% mark that is a little bit too high. One place where Vettleson needs some work is on the basepaths, where he has gone just 6 of 11 in stolen base attempts after going 20 for 26 in 2011. Vettleson isn’t a burner by any means, but he has shown nice instincts on the bases in the past, and he has the ability to be a better basestealer than that. Vettleson has put together quite a season thus far in 2012, and the Rays are excited for what the future holds for him.

The Rays love defense. Usually you think of elite outfield defenders as the speedy, athletic types who can cover a ton of ground. Vettleson is not that. But he moves well in the outfield and he happens to have a rocket for an arm and he could have Gold Glove potential in right field. Vettleson’s combines his impressive defensive ability with a smooth swing and nice all-around potential in the batter’s box. Vettleson is a long way from the major leagues down at the Low-A level. But his all-around package makes him one of the Rays most talented prospects, and hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more from him someday.