Baseball had a new award come onto the scene this year, the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award for each team. The Rays first recipient of the new award will be catcher Jose Molina. Molina may not be the defensive player he used to be, but he managed a .994 fielding percentage and a 33% caught stealing percentage, and although he allowed a few too many passed balls (6), his pitch framing ability is renowned as the best in baseball. Congrats to Molina on winning the award. Because he has basically always been a backup catcher, Molina has never won a Gold Glove, but now he finally has some hardware for his defensive efforts.
Baseball America’s Bill Balew did a chat about the Rays’ prospects following Baseball America’s ranking of the Rays’ top 10 prospects yesterday, and he had some interesting comments about several players. The link is certainly worth the read, praising Rays prospects such as Jeff Ames, Jesse Hahn, and Nick Sawyer. Here’s a quick sample on Sawyer.
"Sawyer is guy I really like and he’s definitely a reliever to keep an eye on. He had a great start to his pro career, and he’s an example of the Rays’ dedication to indepth scouting. He has a relatively fresh arm after not pitching a ton in junior college and his stuff is really electric. He also seems to have the mindset to be a major contributor in the bullpen at higher levels. Some relievers come out of the gate strong and then fizzle after scouting reports are created, but I think Sawyer has a chance to be an impact guy down the road."
And finally, also courtesy of Baseball America, the Rays have released 15 players while re-signed one other. Let’s go down the list, listing all the players with a few brief comments.
Re-Signed: UTIL Shawn O’Malley– O’Malley, who turns 25 in December, was the Rays’ 5th round pick in 2006 and split 2012 between Double-A and Triple-A. O’Malley features nice speed and defensive versatility, being a solid defensive shortstop and second baseman with experience at the corner outfield spots and third base as well. He has never been a great hitter and has little power, but he could fill a Drew Sutton/Brooks Conrad type role for the Rays in 2012 if the needs arises.
Released: RHP Daniel Bream– Bream, 24, was the Rays’ 33rd round pick in 2011 but was still at Rookie Ball this season. He throws a low-90’s fastball with late life, but he fails to control it and his breaking pitches have not progressed at all.
RHP Zach Butler– Butler, 23, was the Rays’ 34th round pick in 2011 but was Bream’s teammate with the Princeton Rays. His fastball is unimpressive, although he throws a solid curveball and a halfway-decent changeup. He could catch on with another organization.
RHP Shane Dyer– Dyer, 24, was the Rays’ 6th round pick in 2008 and pitched OK at Double-A before getting shelled at Triple-A. He features a well below-average fastball right around 90 MPH, depending heavily on his good cutter. He also throws a curveball and a changeup, neither of which are very impressive. Dyer doesn’t miss any bats and doesn’t force enough weak contact at this point, although some team may see some promise in him.
RHP George Jensen– Jensen, 22, was the Rays’ 46th round pick in 2010, got hit hard at High-A this season and features unimpressive stuff, a fastball around 90 MPH and a halfway-decent breaking ball.
RHP Alex Koronis– Koronis, 24, was the Rays’ 11th round pick in 2009 and struggled between High-A and Double-A this season. He is an extreme flyball pitcher, featuring a low-90’s fastball that he fails to control very well, a halfway-decent curveball, and a changeup that has never really developed. He’s interesting enough that he could sign elsewhere.
RHP Kyle Pelchy– Pelchy, 23, was a non-drafted free agent signee by the Rays this season and struggled with the GCL Rays. His fastball hits just the high-80’s although his curveball is a solid pitch. He was going to join the Air Force before the Rays signed him, so he wil likely head into service there and best of luck to him.
RHP Stayton Thomas– Thomas, 23, was the Rays’ 43rd round pick in 2011. He throws a decent high-80’s sinker but has never really progressed with a breaking ball or changeup.
LHP Brett Blaise– Blaise, 22, was a non-drafted free agent by the Rays this year and struggled with the GCL Rays. He throws a low-90’s fastball and a solid curveball, both of which show flashes but neither of which he can control at this point, but the reason he was released right now as an amphetamine suspension.
LHP Dayne Quist– Quist, 23, was the Rays’ 28th round pick in 2012 but was sent just to the GCL Rays, although he did pitch well there. He features good control of his three-pitch arsenal, a fastball, a curveball, and a changeup, but his pitches are unimpressive in terms of movement and command. I thought his control gave him a chance, and another team could pick him up.
LHP Justin Woodall– Woodall, 25, was the Rays’ 26th round pick in 2010 but didn’t pitch very well at Low-A before getting suspended for meth. He throws a fastball around 90 MPH with a halfway-decent breaking ball and a changeup.
C Michael Williams– Williams, 22, was the Rays’ 30th round pick in 2012 and didn’t hit at all at Short Season-A and didn’t inspire much confidence defensively even though that was his calling card at Kentucky.
1B Miguel Beltran– Beltran, 22, was the Rays’ 19th round pick in 2012 but was overmatched even with the GCL Rays. He features big-time raw power but a very long swing that did not cut it in pro ball.
1B Philip Wunderlich– Wunderlich, who turned 24 a few days ago, was the Rays’ 12th round pick in 2010 but completely fell apart at High-A, failing to show any hitting ability, power, or plate discipline, which has always been his fatal flaw. His solid bat speed and raw power is still there and some team could pick him up and try to start over with him in terms of his approach at the plate to try to make his tools materialize in game action.
3B Daniel Duran– Duran, who turned 24 in September, was the Rays’ 24th round pick in 2012 but had a disastrous debut with the Princeton Rays. He shows a little bat speed and makes a lot of contact, but his power is severely lacking, especially considering he profiles best defensively at first base or in an outfield corner.
OF Deshun Dixon– Dixon, who turned 21 in September, was the Rays’ 10th round pick in 2010 but didn’t do much at Short Season-A before getting suspended for substance abuse. He’s a good athlete and pretty fast but he has never hit at all.
OF Chris Murrill– Murrill, 24, as the Rays’ 35th round pick in 2009 and was released by the Rays after last season before struggling when they re-signed him this year. He’s a one-tool player with great speed but he is a groundball hitter who hasn’t gotten on base consistently enough to use his speed the past two years.
All in all, it’s a little bit alarming that four 2012 draft picks have already been released, but all four were mid-round picks, and the Rays were just taking shots for upside knowing that most of them would not succeed. There were a few relatively high picks released from the past several years but nothing too notable (I was most disappointed in the performance of Wunderlich that prompted his release), and it is nice that they re-signed the former 5th rounder O’Malley, who we could see in some capacity in the big leagues in 2012. The Rays also have 16 players eligible for minor league free agency and we will cover them later today.