The 2012 season is over for the lowest of the Tampa Bay Rays’ American affiliates, the Rookie-level GCL Rays. The GCL Rays, managed by former Rays catcher Paul Hoover, went 28-32 on the season, third place in the Gulf Coast League’s South Division. Let’s look back at how the season went for the Rookie Rays and their players. The big thing to remember before we start is how young these players are- the team’s average age was a little over 20 with 14 players 19 years old or younger. Results for players so early on in the process of being professional players are not always what matter.
In this article, we will look at the stats on the season for each player who spent the bulk of their minor league team in 2012 with the GCL Rays and also talk a little bit about each player’s abilities. Some of these players could be ranked among the Rays’ top prospects next season, while others may not but could still be worth watching as they are just so young and several of them have raw potential still waiting for them to tap into. Let’s begin.
Overall, the GCL Rays were not a good hitting team. They hit just 7 home runs in 60 games, fewest in the league, and finished 3rd from the bottom in doubles. Their 20 triples were second in the league, but they were unable to utilize their speed well on the basepaths, stealing just 56 bases, 9th in the 15-team league, while being caught 35 times, 3rd-most. Overall, their batting line was .238/.304/.309 compared to the average of .242/.318/.338. The GCL is a notorious pitchers league, but GCL Rays hitters had an especially tough time. Let’s break down the performances position by position.
Armando Araiza, a 19 year old signee out of Mexico, saw the bulk of the starts for the GCL Rays at catcher and played pretty well. He posted a .283/.347/.349 line in 34 games and 124 plate appearances with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 10 RBI, and 22 strikeouts versus 11 walks. Defensively, he posted just a .983 fielding percentage in 32 games but did throw out 35% of attempted basestealers. Araiza didn’t show any power this season, but he shows some nice bat speed, hitting balls hard although mostly for line drive singles, and he has nice patience for a player his age. Defensively, he stands out more because of above-average arm strength, although he still needs quite a bit of work on his receiving and blocking balls in the dirt. Araiza has some potential and we’ll have to see how his game progresses in coming years.
Wilmer Dominguez, a 22 year old Venzuelan signee, took 3 years to get out of the Venezuelan Summer League and struggled overall in the GCL in 2012. He did hit .275 in 25 games, but he managed just 2 extra-base hits, a double and a triple, and struck out 17 times versus just 1 walk on his way to a .275/.284/.313 line in 81 plate appearances. Defensively, Dominguez did amazingly throw out 8 of 12 attempted basestealers in 14 games at catcher, showing off his very good arm strength, but his receiving ability was really off the mark and Dominguez saw time at first base and both corner outfield positions as well. Dominguez is a free-swinger without much power, but we’ll have to see how far his one potential plus tool, his arm strength, takes him moving forward.
Taylor Hawkins, 18, was the Rays’ 12 round pick in 2012, signing for a well above-slot $272,500 bonus. Hawkins struggled mightily in his brief pro debut with the GCL Rays, posting just a .182/.211/.218 line in 16 games and 59 plate appearances. He hit 2 doubles and drove in 5, but he struck out 24 times versus just 2 walks. Defensively, Hawkins needs a lot of work as well as he managed a .982 fielding percentage with just a 20% caught stealing rate, allowing 5 passed balls in just 14 games. As we talked about when Hawkins was drafted, Hawkins features big-time power and also strong arm strength behind the plate, but the rest of his game could take a while to come together. Hawkins’ power and overall hitting ability is limited quite a bit by his lack of plate discipline at this point and also the fact that his swing gets long at times. Defensively, Hawkins’ receiving ability and ability to block balls in the dirt is a long way away, and he also needs work on his transfers on stolen base attempts to utilize his arm strength more fully. Hawkins is talented, but we see from his pro debut that he’s going to be a project.
Miguel Beltran, a 22 year old first baseman, was the Rays’ 19th round pick in 2012 and showed improved plate discipline from his original scouting report as a member of the GCL Rays, but little else. In 25 games and 87 plate appearances, the big 6’3″, 225 Beltran managed just a .176/.289/.176, with all 13 of his hits being singles, although he did drive in 6. The good news was that his strikeout to walk ratio was a decent 17-9, but he couldn’t hit anything with authority. Defensively, Beltran made just 1 error at first base, but he’s going to have to hit and he didn’t do that in his pro debut. Beltran is a player with plus raw power but he has to find a way to shorten his swing enough to use it in games.
Cesar Perez, a 19 year old corner infielder, was a high-profile Venezuelan signee by the Rays back in 2009, signing for 1 million dollars and reporting to the GCL Rays for his first pro season back in 2010. Now in his third tour of duty in the GCL, Perez still hasn’t lived up to expectations. This year, he has managed just a .175/.230/.233 line with 6 doubles and 12 RBI, striking out 27 versus just 8 walks. Defensively, Perez’s fielding percentage has been a horrific .970 in 18 games at first base and a just-as-bad .891 in 16 games at third base. Perez is still pretty young, but the big-time power he was supposed to have has never shown up and his game has not come together in the slightest bit.
Ben Kline, 23, was the Rays’ 32nd round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and the Rays have to have liked what they saw from him in the GCL. Kline posted an outstanding .347/.393/.419 line with 6 doubles, 1 homer, 16 RBI, 10 of 15 stolen bases, and 15 strikeouts versus 7 walks in 36 games and 135 plate appearances in the GCL. Kline did that even while playing a multitude of different positions, seeing time at first base (9 games), shortstop (9 games), second base (8 games), third base (7 games) and left field (5 games). Kline did not make a single error at first, second, or short. Kline is a natural shortstop, but the presence of 2012 second round pick Spencer Edwards (see below) on the GCL Rays’ roster sent him all over the place. However, Kline lived up to the challenge and even earned a spot on the 2012 GCL All-Star team– as a first baseman. Kline has since moved on to Low-A Bowling Green, going 6 for 13 in his first 3 games with the team. Kline stands out for his line drive stroke, his speed, and his all-around athleticism out of a 6’3″, 200 frame. His power had been almost non-existent for a couple of years now and his patience is still really lacking, but he fits a utility role well if he can continue to hit as he’s athletic enough to slot all over the field.
Ryan McChesney, 22, was an undrafted free agent signee of the Rays this season. He appeared in 17 games for the GCL Rays, posting a .205/.333/.250 line in 54 plate appearances with 2 doubles and 3 RBI while playing first base (9 games) and catcher (3 games) and struggling at both positions. The one good thing with McChesney was that he walked 9 times verus just 7 strikeouts. McChesney’s plate discipline is good, but he has a very poor arm for the catcher position and won’t hit nearly enough to stick at first base.
Adderly Rosa, who turned 21 in July, was signed as a free agent out of the Dominican back in 2008. In his first US season following 3 in the Dominican Summer League, Rosa has struggled offensively, managing just a .228/.286/.276 line with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 10 RBI, and 2 stolen bases. He has posted a decent 22-10 strikeout to walk ratio. Defensively is where Rosa has really stood out as his .965 fielding percentage in 36 games at second base is excellent for such a young player and he also saw time at third base (4 games) and first base (1 game). Rosa’s glove is good, and he also shows nice speed- although he can’t use it on the basepaths yet- but he’s going to have to find a way to hit the ball with some authority.
Douglas Duran, 19, was a Venezuelan signee by the Rays back in 2010. Duran posted a .164/.268/.182 line in 40 games and 131 plate appearances for the GCL Rays with 2 doubles, 8 RBI, 4 stolen bases, and a 34-16 strikeout to walk ratio. Defensively, Duran was good considering his age in 22 games at shortstop, posting a .942 fielding percentage, and he was great at second base, making just 1 error in 19 games for a .986 fielding percentage. Duran is fast, draws his walks, and is promising defensively, but he has trouble making contact and doesn’t hit the ball very hard when he does.
Leopoldo Correa, 20, was another Venezuelan signee, in his case back in 2008. Correa was one of the best hitters on this extremely weak-hitting GCL Rays team, posting a .256/.336/.314 line in 39 games and 139 plate appearances with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 7 RBI, and 29 strikeouts against 15 walks. Defensively, Correa posted a decent .935 fielding percentage at third base. Correa does not profile well at third base at all, but he shows solid bat speed, plate discipline, and fair defensive ability.
And we close out Part 1 of this post by talking about Rays 2012 second round pick Spencer Edwards, a 19 year old shortstop. Edwards did not see his pro debut go as well as he would have hoped as he posted a .188/.250/.281 line with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 1 homer, 7 RBI, 8 of 12 stolen bases, and 42 strikeouts versus just 9 walks in 33 games and 141 plate appearances. He also struggled defensively at shortstop, posting just a .917 fielding percentage, although given his age that’s not too surprising. Edwards is still very talented. He’s extremely fast and has shown very good bat speed with power, but his approach at the plate is a complete work in progress. Edwards moves well and has a strong arm at shortstop, but his hands are not the best and he could be a better fit in centerfield. Edwards has a ton of raw ability but it could take a while for him to hone his skills and get onto the path of becoming the player the Rays know he can be.
That’s where we’ll stop for today and we’ll continue with the outfielders, the pitchers, and a general assessment of the team over the next few days.