The sad part about the 2012 Bowling Green Hot Rods is that they will be remembered for all the wrong reasons- that four players, including top prospects Josh Sale and Ryan Brett, tested positive for meth. Those incidents may very well cost Hot Rods manager Brady Williams his job. But at the same time, this was a very talented team. The Hot Rods finished 80-60, the second-best record in the league. They led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS at .269/.350/.405/.756. They led the league in runs scored and were in the top 5 in doubles, home runs, stolen bases, walks, and fewest strikeouts. They did that all while having the second-youngest group of hitters in the entire league. On the pitching side, they ranked in the top 5 in the league in ERA, strikeouts, and fewest home runs allowed. They were a great team, and they featured prospects with the potential to be franchise cornerstones for the Rays someday. Immaturity was definitely an issue on this team. But the talent is undeniable and let’s take a look at what the 2012 Hot Rods have to offer.
Matt Rice, 23, was the Rays’ 9th round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and enjoyed a nice season with the Hot Rods, posting a .301/.390/.402 line with 9 doubles, 4 homers, 33 RBI, and 39 strikeouts against 31 walks in 74 games and 290 plate appearances. Those stats have to be taken with a grain of salt because Rice was 2 years older than the Hot Rods’ team average for their position players and 1 year older than league average, but are still pretty impressive. He doesn’t have much power, but he makes a lot of contact and shows great plate discipline. Defensively, though, Rice was pedestrian, posting a .993 fielding percentage but allowing 8 passed balls while throwing out just 19% of attempted basestealers. Rice is a bigger catcher at 6’3″, 195 and is a solid receiver but has to work on getting down for pitches in the dirt. His arm, though, will always be below-average. Rice does get high marks for calling games behind the plate and did a good job working with the Hot Rods’ young pitchers in 2012. Rice has a chance to be a backup catcher in the Jose Lobaton mold who features a good walk rate but is unimpressive in every other regard.
Can you name the Hot Rods’ leader in slugging percentage and OPS in 2012? The surprise winner was 22 year old catcher Alejandro Segovia, who the Rays signed out of Venezuela back in 2007. Segovia had a huge offensive season, posting a .269/.362/.527 line with 14 doubles, 15 homers, 45 RBI, and 36 strikeouts versus 29 walks in 70 games and 284 plate appearances. Segovia’s combination of power and plate discipline make him very intriguing, although his bat speed is just average and he hits a lot of balls weakly in the air. He has good pitch recognition skills but will have to do a better job discerning which pitches to drive if he wants to keep hitting and hitting for power moving forward. Segovia’s biggest concern right now is his defense. He posted just a .979 fielding percentage, allowing 6 passed balls while posting a 25% CS%. Segovia features a strong but erratic arm and his receiving needs plenty of work. Segovia might have the bat to profile at first base and played 38 games there between 2008 and 2009, but that would subtract significantly but his value and put all the pressure on his bat. Segovia put together one great season and will have to make significant improvements defensively and also adjustments at the plate to reach his upside of a power-hitting catcher. Segovia has plenty of question marks around him, especially defensively, but in a Rays system that can’t find an impact catching prospect, Segovia could be the best of the bunch right now.
Jeff Malm, who turned 22 at the end of October, was Rays’ 5th round pick in 2009, signing for an above-slot $600,000 and he continues to show potential but not the consistency the Rays have hoped for. Malm had a solid season for the Renegades in 2012, posting a .263/.356/.438 line with 36 doubles, 13 homers, 61 RBI, 6 of 9 stolen bases, and 127 strikeouts versus 61 walks in 128 games and 540 plate appearances. Malm played in 71 games at first base, managing a nice .996 fielding percentage, and appeared in 22 games in the corner outfield spots, notching 6 outfield assists. Malm is a big 6’3″, 225 power bat with tantalizing ability. He shows great bat speed with flashes of big-time power, and he also has nice patience at the plate. The combination of power and bat speed gives Malm the chance to hit for nice power without too many strikeouts. That certainly did not happen in 2012. Malm does a good job at finding fastballs to drive, but he struggles recognizing breaking pitches, accounting for quite a few of his strikeouts. And Malm’s hitting is especially important because although he has a great arm, hitting 90 MPH off the mound in high school, he doesn’t have the athleticism to profile in the outfield. Malm has a chance to hit for 30-homer power to go along with a good average and on-base percentage and the Rays keep waiting for something to click and jolt him forward towards that upside.
Cameron Seitzer, who will turn 22 in January, was the Rays’ 11th round pick in 2011 and had a nice season in 2012 for the Hot Rods although his limitations were clearly present. Seitzer posted a .307/.386/.429 line with 36 doubles, 4 homers, 54 RBI, and 83 strikeouts versus 55 walks in 118 games and 488 plate appearances. Defensively, Seitzer managed just a .988 fielding percentage, playing a lot of DH with Malm at first base. Sietzer is interesting because he features good bat speed and nice plate discipline. The problem for Seitzer is that despite being a big guy at 6’5″, 220, his power has been close to non-existent the past couple of years. It’s nice that Seitzer is a pretty good pure hitter, but if he doesn’t develop solid 15-20 home run power, there’s no way he can profile as a regular in the big leagues. Seitzer also needs work to be passable defensively at first base. Seitzer has some ability but he essentially has to add an entire extra dimension to his game to be any real prospect.
We’ll stop here for today after seeing a couple of players to watch moving forward in Segovia and Malm and two more possible big leaguers in Rice and Seitzer. We’re just getting this series revved up with plenty of talented players still to come.
For our earlier discussions of the GCL Rays, Princeton Rays, and the Hudson Valley Renegades, check our Minor League Affiliates Analysis page.