Rays Prospects

Takeaways From Tampa Bay Rays’ Winter Ball Results Part 4

By Robbie Knopf
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Oct. 14, 2014; Mesa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics outfielder Boog Powell plays for the Mesa Solar Sox during an Arizona Fall League game against the Scottsdale Scorpions at Salt River Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Granden Goetzman: His tools still mean something

Even when Goetzman was putting it all together at Low-A Bowling Green, hitting to a .315/.349/.515 line in 249 plate appearances, his strikeout to walk ratio was just 53-10 and we knew he was in for a rude awakening at higher levels. Sure enough, he managed just a .213/.259/.287 mark in 185 High-A PA’s, and his status as a prospect was back in question.

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Goetzman’s Australian Baseball League stint began as an even crazier version of that sequence of events. Through his first 144 plate appearances of the season, Goetzman had a bizarre .244/.292/.480 line, hitting for a ton of power and also stealing 9 bases yet striking out 28 times against just 6 walks. That isn’t the type of performance that is sustainable, and it looked like Goetzman’s ABL performance would just leave us shaking our heads.

Since, then, however, Goetzman has made 56 plate appearances that have been an entirely different story. He has hit to an insane .426/.518/.660 line, and best of all, he has walked 8 times against 8 strikeouts. His overall numbers look much better as well – .293/.358/.529 with 10 doubles, 9 homers, 26 RBI, 16 stolen bases, and a 36-14 strikeout to walk ratio in 45 games.

Granden Goetzman’s hot streak to end the ABL season doesn’t mean that he has suddenly turned a corner, but it at least demonstrates that we should not give up on him yet. If he can find more consistent plate discipline, he can still reach his upside as an everyday corner outfielder. Of course, there is no guarantee that he will, but after his finish in the ABL, let’s enter 2015 with cautious optimism regarding Goetzman.

Boog Powell: That approach truly is advanced

Powell is about the exact opposite of Goetzman as an outfield prospect. He does have some tools, specifically the defensive chops to stay in centerfield and good speed, but between his lack of power and inability to steal bases successfully, there is reason to doubt that he has the abilities to be an impact player in the major leagues.

Luckily for Powell, his excellent plate approach gives him a chance to make the most out of his talent and exceed expectations. However, his 53-61 strikeout to walk ratio in 2014 could only take him so far–it came primarily at Low-A, and his season was halted from July 7th to August 29th after a 50-game suspension for an amphetamine.

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Powell had much to prove in the Arizona Fall League as he hoped to show that his plate discipline could continue against more advanced pitching. He proceeded to deliver as good of a performance as anyone could have hoped, hitting to a .300/.402/.429 line with 12 walks against 11 strikeouts in 82 plate appearances. He still hit for little power and went just 3 for 7 in stolen bases, but he hung in there and delivered strong results.

Powell is currently listed on the Charlotte Stone Crabs’ roster, and that would make sense given that he made just 69 plate appearances at High-A. Powell just turned 22 and will be a touch below the average age in the Florida State League next year. However, given the Rays’ current outfield picture at High-A and Double-A, there is an opportunity for Powell to move up before long.

The Stone Crabs need to find playing time for Goetzman, Andrew Toles, Justin Williams, and Powell. That is certainly doable using the DH slot, but why should the Rays deal with that arrangement for long when they only have two surefire prospects in the Double-A Montgomery outfield?

Joining Johnny Field and converted outfielder Tyler Goeddel will be one of Kes Carter, Josh Sale, and Willie Argo on any given night. One of the remaining two or an infielder like Leonardo Reginatto will also need to see time at designated hitter. The Rays can certainly do better than that, and there is playing available for a prospect like Powell in that mix.

If Boog Powell can continue his strong approach at High-A for a couple of months to begin 2014, expect him to head straight to Double-A and receive a further chance to prove himself as a prospect. He still has plenty of questions hanging over him, but between the 2014 regular season and the Arizona Fall League, he deserves a chance to answer them.

Jaime Schultz: Don’t describe him as anything more than a sleeper

Since the moment that the Rays selected him in the 14th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Jaime Schultz has been a sleeper in the system. Is there a better word to describe a player that was available so late in the draft despite a fastball touching 96 MPH?

Schultz has since struck out 11.6 batters per 9 innings in his 104.1 professional frames, inspiring further confidence that he could become a real prospect. Of course, he also has walked 5.0 batters per 9 and dealt with injury issues for much of 2014, two factors going against him. His AFL numbers are a third.

Seven starts and 27.1 innings pitched is far from a big sample size, but it can’t be a good thing that Schultz managed just a 4.71 ERA and a ghastly 28-23 strikeout to walk ratio. He had his moments, including one start where he struck out 7 while walking 2 in 5 one-run innings, but when your stuff is as electric as his, you’re supposed to look better on the whole.

Schultz will turn 24 in June and has just 23 innings above High-A under his belt. His fastball and sharp breaking ball give him a chance, especially in a relief role, but he has a long way to go before he winds up on the prospect map. The AFL could have been the start of Schultz zooming through the system, but instead, he will head back to High-A and need the perfect storm of health and control to make up for his missed opportunity.

Armando Araiza: We have no reason to think he will hit

It was his Bowling Green teammate, Oscar Hernandez, who was selected in the Rule 5 Draft, but prospect-knowledgable Rays fans know that Araiza is actually a better defender than him. This past season with the Hot Rods, Araiza threw out an incredible 58% of opposing basestealers, and he has the defensive skills to continue gunning down runners at an outstanding rate.

However, Araiza’s bat generates exponentially more questions. He hit to just a .214/.292/.316 line in 2014, striking out 101 times against just 31 walks in 385 plate appearances. Even tough he didn’t hit at all, Araiza struck out in 26.2% of his plate appearances and that just can’t happen. Will Araiza ever hit enough for his defense to matter?

Araiza had his moments at the plate in the Mexican Pacific League, hitting .270 with a .432 slugging percentage in his 38 plate appearances. Of course, his OBP was also .270 as he didn’t walk a single time while striking out on 15 occasions. He also has just a .125/.176/.125 line in 17 postseason PA’s, although he did finally draw a walk.

A positive outlook on the situation, though, is that Araiza found himself in a tough spot in the MPL. He played very sparingly for the Yaquis de Obregón and also went up against older competition, yet he wasn’t entirely helpless at the plate. In addition, he was only at Low-A last season so we could not have expected much.

Even so, when will Araiza start showing any ability to hit for a sustained period? He delivered good enough results at Advanced Rookie Princeton in 2013 to be bumped up to Bowling Green–he isn’t a total lost cause–but he has a long way to go as he hopes to prove himself at the plate. His 2014 was about as bad as the Rays possibly could have expected and his Winter Ball stint did little to ameliorate the situation.

Jake Thompson: There is still plenty of risk here

Thompson, the Rays’ second rounder from 2010, looked good in his conversion to relief in 2014, managing a 2.79 ERA and a 44-15 strikeout to walk ratio in 34 appearances and 51.2 innings pitched. He certainly wasn’t overpowering, striking out just 7.7 batters per 9 innings, but it wasn’t difficult to imagine him in the major leagues between his fastball reaching the mid-90’s and solid slider.

Thompson’s second Venezuelan Winter League appearance then prompted more excitement as he tossed four no-hit innings with 4 strikeouts and 5 groundouts. It was at least worth asking whether Thompson had broken through and would soon push for a spot in the Rays’ bullpen. Instead, Thompson went down with rotator cuff inflammation in his next start and pitched 1.1 more innings before the season was through.

The Rays may get something out of their former second rounder. That certainly is within the realm of possibility, especially given his stuff. However, between his middling command, lack of plus secondary pitch, and now some injury concerns, can we really say that Thompson is likely to make more than an appearance or two for the Rays?

Winter Ball represented the best of Jake Thompson and the worst of him in back-to-back starts. Now he will hope to continue moving past his issues as he returns to Triple-A Durham and deliver enough more exciting moments that he will have a chance.

We hope you enjoyed reading about these five Tampa Bay Rays players in Winter Ball, and we will wrap things up with one more of these next time. The last five up for discussion will be Andrew Velazquez, Kes Carter, Mark Sappington, Luke Maile, and Edgar Gomez.

Next: Where Is Former Ray John Flaherty Now?