The 2011 MLB Draft was quite momentous for the Tampa Bay Rays as they had 10 picks before the second round and 12 in the draft’s first 89 selections. We saw two of those picks, Mikie Mahtook and Grayson Garvin appear for the Rays this spring, and both are set to make their big league debuts by the end of 2016. Others, like Taylor Guerrieri and Blake Snell, have more development ahead of them but are still well-regarded prospects.
However, when you select that many players, it is inevitable that some of them will be duds. That can be now be stated definitively for two of the Rays’ supplemental first round picks from 2011. Matt Eddy reports that the Rays have released shortstop Brandon Martin and outfielder James Harris. Both players are just 21 years of age.
Martin hit to a .211/.281/.371 line in 628 plate appearances between Rookie ball and Low-A Bowling Green. He had major things going for him, particularly good defensive skills at shortstop and power potential, but his approach at the plate never got up to par. Martin’s power was fine–he led the Princeton Rays with 10 homers in 2012–but it wasn’t impressive enough to make up for his other deficiencies.
Martin missed the entire 2014 season because of what the Rays termed “a personal matter,” and that certainly wasn’t a good sign. His poor minor league numbers were already a problem, and his missed time simply compounded it. The Rays confirmed to me back in November that Martin was still a part of their organization, but after he didn’t look good this spring, they had seen enough of him.
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The funny thing for James Harris is that he actually got into a major league spring training game for the Rays before being released. Of course, it was just as a pinch-runner, and that was quite fitting given his minor league numbers. Harris hit even worse than Martin, managing just a .215/.291/.305 line between Rookie ball, Short Season-A, and Low-A. He showed some plate discipline and stole some bases, but he simply never hit.
Harris was something of a money-saving pick for the Rays at 60th overall in 2011 as he signed for $490,000 compared to the slot value of $605,700. Martin, on the other hand, was talented enough that he received a touch above his slot bonus. Harris had athleticism and blazing speed, but it was clear from the start that his swing was a major concern. The Rays took a gamble on him hoping they could fix it, but the task proved to be impossible.
It is always disappointing when a team has to release a former high draft pick, and this case is no exception. At least for the Tampa Bay Rays’ sake, they have several other players from the draft who have a chance to make us forget that Brandon Martin and James Harris were ever selected by the team.