The 2011 MLB Amateur Draft was where the Tampa Bay Rays were meant to find their core for the future. Instead, the failures from that draft are still impacting their success on the field.
With ten of the first 60 picks in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, the Tampa Bay Rays appeared to be set up nicely. If they were to hit on each pick, they would have a stellar young nucleus coming up through the minors at the same time, and be ready to contribute when the current roster needed to be split apart.
Instead, the Rays essentially missed on every single one of those picks. Three of their ten selections, Kes Carter, James Harris, and Brandon Martin, were released. Mikie Mahtook was traded. Blake Snell and Tyler Goeddel reached the Majors, but only Snell did so with the Rays. The other four players, headlined by Taylor Guerrieri, have had injury issues. It has been an almost complete disaster.
That disaster has continued to set the franchise back. While players like Snell and Guerrieri were expected to take some time to develop, it was expected that the fruits of the draft would be blossoming by now. Instead, Snell may be the only player that pans out in the way the Rays anticipated.
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Naturally, there is still time for these players to develop. Guerrieri is still making his way back from Tommy John surgery, and had a solid year in 2016. Although his mid 90’s velocity has not returned, Guerrieri is still looked upon as a back of the rotation arm, and could become a solid fourth starter in Tampa Bay.
The biggest key as to how much of a disaster this draft has become may well depend on Blake Snell. He had a solid rookie campaign, posting a 6-8 record with a 3.54 ERA. However, his command was concerning, as he walked 51 batters in 89 innings of work. That led to a bloated 1.618 WHiP, which indicates that his ERA may not have been what it seemed. However, his 99 strikeouts also bode well for the future.
There is still time for the 2011 draft class to find its way and contribute to the Rays. Snell and Guerrieri both just turned 24. Jake Hager just reached AAA last season, and could eventually become a utility infielder at the Major League level. Jeff Ames could develop into a decent middle reliever. Yet, even if this scenario takes place, that draft will still be a major disappointment, as only Snell appears to have a chance to deliver upon his immense promise.
The Tampa Bay Rays needed to make the 2011 MLB Draft their time to shine. Instead, they have one player who could become a star, and the possibility of some other minor pieces. They needed a lot more than that.