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Premium Content Tampa Bay Rays Top-15 Prospects of 2011, No’s 1 – 5

January 17, 2011 BY ALEX EISENBERG One Comment

Rays Top-15 Prospects of 2011

    1. Jeremy Hellickson | RHP | Age – 24 | Grade – A-
    2. Matt Moore | LHP | Age – 21 | Grade – B+
    3. Desmond Jennings | CF | Age – 24 | Grade – B+
    4. Chris Archer | RHP | Age – 22 | Grade – B/B+
    5. Hak-Ju Lee | SS | Age – 20 | Grade – B
    6. Josh Sale | RF/1b | Age – 19 | Grade – B
    7. Alex Colome | RHP | Age – 23 | Grade – B
    8. Jake McGee | LHP | Age – 24 | Grade – B
    9. Drew Vettleson | RF | Age – 19 | Grade – B-/B
    10. Justin O’Conner | C | Age – 19 | Grade – B-
    11. Enny Romero | LHP | Age – 20 | Grade – B-
    12. Alex Cobb | RHP | Age – 23 | Grade – B-
    13. Alexander Torres | LHP | Age – 23 | Grade – B-
    14. Jake Thompson | RHP | Age – 22 | Grade – B-/C+
    15. Robinson Chirinos | C | Age – 26 | Grade – B-/C+

Key Links
› Prospect Primer (Grading Criteria Explained)
› Team Page Listings
› Index of 2011 Top Prospect Lists
› Index of Last Year’s Top Prospect Lists
Rays Links
› Rays Team Page
› 2010 Rays Top Prospects

ALSO SEERays Top Prospects, No’s 6 – 15

Grades are based on a prospect’s projected value over the course of his career and how likely it is that prospect will fulfill his projected value. Various factors are accounted for including upside, red flags, actual performance, and closeness to the majors. See the 2011 Top Prospect List Primer for more information as it relates to prospect grading and philosophy.


Hitters must have 100 or fewer Major League ABs to qualify for this list. Starting pitchers must have 50 or fewer Major League innings to qualify. Relief pitchers must have 25 or fewer Major League innings to qualify. Ages are listed as of May 1st, 2011. Levels are based on the highest level in which a prospect played in 2010. All grades are subject to change based on any new information I receive before the season starts.

Prospects 1 and 6 are available for everyone to read. All other scouting reports can be accessed by Premium Members only.


Quick Rundown on Prospects 1 – 5

    1. Jeremy Hellickson | RHP | Age – 24 | Grade – A- … See his in-depth report below.
    2. Matt Moore | LHP | Age – 21 | Grade – B+ … Has some of the best raw stuff in the minors. Control is still an issue, but it’s improving.
    3. Desmond Jennings | CF | Age – 24 | Grade – B+ … Jennings’ stock is down due to a sub-par 2010, but he remains one of baseball’s best prospects.
    4. Chris Archer | RHP | Age – 22 | Grade – B/B+ … Acquired in the trade for Matt Garza…had a breakout year in 2010, in part because of the development of his two plus (or better) pitches and improved control.
    5. Hak-Ju Lee | SS | Age – 20 | Grade – B … Also acquired in the Garza deal…very talented shortstop who needs better focus. Didn’t do very well from a numbers-standpoint last year, but scouts were impressed by his tools at the plate. He was also young for his level.

*Reid Brignac, Wade Davis, and John Jaso are no longer considered prospects based on the criteria set forth for these lists.

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  • The Dominance of Matt Moore
  • Pitch-by-Pitch: Scouting Hak-Ju Lee
  • Pitch-by-Pitch: Scouting Tim Beckham
  • 1. Jeremy Hellickson | RHP | Age – 24
    MLB | Drafted – Round 4, 2005

    Player Grades
    Fastball – 55 Now | 55 Future
    Curveball – 60 | 60
    Change-Up – 60 | 65
    Cutter – 50 | 55
    Control – 55 | 60
    Command – 55 | 60
    Pitchability – 60 | 65
    ETA – 2011
    Final Grade – A-

    Last Year’s Team Ranking – No. 1

    Last Year’s Top-100 Ranking – No. 16

    Last Year’s Grade – A-/B+

    Body Type – He’s undersized as a pitcher and doesn’t offer much, if any, projection.


    Fastball – Sits in the low 90′s, touching 94. The pitch doesn’t have a super amount of movement, but there is some run and sink. The pitch also has plenty of late life, giving it a sneaky quality.

    Curveball – A low – mid 70′s pitch with a big 12-to-6 break…very difficult for hitters to pick up as evidenced by the weak hacks they take on Hellickson’s curveball even when they end up bouncing in the dirt.

    Change-Up – An extremely useful offering for Hellickson that he’ll throw in any count, to hitters from either side of the plate. He does an excellent job of maintaining his arm speed and he’ll consistently have hitters fooled and out in front of the pitch. The pitch has a nice fading action and good depth.

    Cutter – He doesn’t throw it much, but Hellickson has been incorporating a slider/cutter into his repertoire to act as a change-of-pace pitch. He throws it in the mid-80′s, but it needs more development. We’ll see if he can make strides with the pitch over the off-season.

    Scouting Report

    A little surprising to me, but a cursory glance at Hellickson’s numbers indicate he was actually a better pitcher in 2009 than he was in 2010. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up a bit, he’s allowed a higher rate of hits, and his ground ball percentage has dropped as well. The difference is small, however. And that doesn’t mean Hellickson didn’t pitch well. In fact, despite the drop-off in a few key peripheral stats, he put together a tremendous season, overwhelming Triple-A hitters and not showing any need for an adjustment period in the Majors. Also, there was one key area where Hellickson actually did improve last year: his home run rate, which is a sign he was leaving less balls over the heart of the plate, something he did too much of in 2009.

    Hellickson is wise beyond his years. He knows how to pitch and work the ball around the strike zone in unpredictable ways. He’ll throw any pitch in any count. What really brings it all together is Hellickson’s ability to command every pitch he throws. This is particularly important when it comes to his fastball because he’s able to move it inside-ouside, up-down and this is really key to keeping hitters off balance. Adding to Hellickson’s deception is that all of his pitches come from the same arm slot.

    While I’m not a giant fan of Hellickson’s mechanics, I do really like his arm action. It’s a very loose and fluid action and he achieves good whip as he rotates into release. His delivery actually reminds me of fellow Rays pitcher James Shields. Compare the two below (Shields is on the left and Hellickson is on the right):

    *Credit to MLB Advanced Media

    There are a couple of important differences to take note of. The first is that Shields has a little more bend in his back leg, while Hellickson is taller and almost appears to be leaning over in the first base direction. The other big difference is the hip turn Shields uses to garner a little extra torque and a little more rhythm to his wind-up. Shields was not using this hip turn as dramatically a couple of years ago as he is now. It’s a common adjustment that pitchers make (Brandon Morrow is another example) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hellickson makes a similar kind of adjustment down the line.

    Hellickson only has a couple of weaknesses you can point to: his occasional penchant for leaving hittable balls over the middle of the plate and the fact that he is simply not an overpowering type of pitcher.

    Hellickson is clearly ready for a spot in a Major League rotation, and the Rays acknowledged this by trading Matt Garza to the Cubs for a nice package of prospects. The trade opened up a spot in the opening day rotation for Hellickson, who should serve as the team’s fifth starter for the 2011 season.

    Best Case Outcome – Borderline No. 1 starter

    More Likely Outcome – No. 2 starter

    2. Matt Moore | LHP | Age – 21
    A+ Charlotte | Drafted – Round 8, 2007

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  • Pitch-by-Pitch: Scouting Alex Cobb
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    UP NEXTTampa Bay Rays Top Prospects, No’s 6 – 15

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