Harvesting Opinion: Tampa Bay Rays--Top 2011 Draftees

Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars. Each week, six of FanSided’s team blogs send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as these go on a five-week cycle. 

Please note that any statistics used may be a day or two out of date, as we prepare our answers over the course of a week.

In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Tampa Bay Rays site Rays Colored Glasses:

The Rays had a lot a lot of draft picks in 2011 and remarkably managed to sign almost all of their top 20 picks. Who would you say is the best of the players that the Rays signed? Who do you predict we will see the soonest in a Rays uniform?

Wally says:

Tampa had a record 12 picks in the first two rounds alone and it is certainly noteworthy that they managed to sign all but one* of their first 19 picks. As Jim Callis mentioned in a recent Ask BA column, part of the reason Tampa was able to sign so many of their top picks is because they targeted guys they felt they could get under contract and passed on some players that were perceived to have more talent. But once the dust had settled, 9 of their top 12 picks were ranked in Baseball America’s pre-draft top-100 and that’s pretty impressive regardless of the draft philosophy they used to assemble their 2011 draft class.

*For those who are curious, the one that got away was 5th rounder J.D. Davis, a 3B out of Elk Grove High School who will be attending Cal State Fullerton instead of joining the Rays farm system.

Of the players Tampa did sign, and this is kind of a softball, the best of the lot is the first of their two 1st round picks. I am of course talking about RHP Taylor Guerrieri, who the Rays drafted 24th overall out of Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. In terms of talent alone the was a legitimate top-10 selection, even in such a deep draft class, but some teams had questions about his character and decision making and that pushed him down draft boards. For more of a scouting report, you can check out his S2S Pick Profile.

As far as the player that will reach the Rays the fastest, that has as much to do with the team’s positional needs as much as it does with the ceiling and potential of each player they selected in June.

Given the strength of Tampa’s current rotation and the depth of starting pitchers they have in the minors, it’s hard to imagine any 2011 draft pick cracking the major league rotation anytime soon. The bullpen however is another matter entirely and that’s where 2nd round selection (89th overall) Lenny Linsky comes into the picture.

A RHP out of the University of Hawaii, Linsky features a heavy sinking mid-90s fastball and a filthy slider that he can throw in the high-80s. His fastball-slider combo makes him an ideal power arm for the bullpen and he has the mentality to one day be a major league closer. Further augmenting his chances to move rapidly is the unsettled nature of the Rays relief corps and the fact that college relievers have a tendency to move much faster in the development process than other players selected each draft.

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Nathaniel says: I totally agree with Wally here. Guerreri had some serious top billing coming out of high school, but high school pitchers often take several years to climb to the majors, whereas a reliever like Linsky could be up fairly quickly.

Of course, it’s important to remember that the Rays tend to move people to the majors at the slowest pace of any organization–just look at Desmond Jennings, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, and Jeremy Hellickson for recent examples. That could slow down the fast track of any of their players, so it could be a fair amount of time before any of these players become key Rays contributors–just because the organization moves them slowly will not necessarily mean they are not fulfilling their promise.

The other thing to remember is that a lot can change in a year. Rays fans probably know this well, as their top picks last season, outfielder Josh Sale and catcher Justin O’Conner, have had horrible seasons in 2011 that have really dropped their stock. Of course, many picks see their stock dramatically increase in their first season as well, so we could have a very different outlook on these top picks in rather short order. The nice thing is that Tampa Bay got talent in large quantities, so even if somebody like Guerreri turns out to be a bust, they could still strike it big with one or more of their other selections.

For more on the Rays, check out Rays Colored Glasses.

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Tags: Lenny Litsky Tampa Bay Rays Taylor Guerreri

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