Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Rays' farm system. Of those 10, seven remain on the 2010 list.
Nick Barnese, RHP: A third-round pick in 2007 out of high school in California, Barnese was very impressive in his first full season, posting a 2.53 ERA at Bowling Green and striking out 62 batters in 74 2/3 innings. With a live fastball in the low 90s and a promising pair of secondary pitches in his changeup and curveball, Barnese mixes his pitches well and is not afraid to throw them at any time in the count. His low inning total was due to missing the first two months of the year with shoulder trouble, but he has clearly rebounded from that.
Tim Beckham, SS: Taken out of Georgia with the top pick in the 2008 Draft, Beckham spent his first full season at Bowling Green where he flashed good tools across the board, notably his strong arm at shortstop and plus speed. He hit .275 with five homers, 63 RBIs and 13 steals along with 33 doubles, and he continues to work on consistency. The club feels more power will come with time and he already has good bat speed and fine baseball instincts.
Reid Brignac, SS: An outstanding defensive shortstop, Brignac made his big league debut in 2008 but missed an ensuing September callup that year due to a broken wrist. Healthy in 2009, he saw more time in the bigs but has maintained his rookie status. A second-round pick in 2004, Brignac hit .282 with eight homers and 44 RBIs at Triple-A Durham in '09 and then batted .278 in 31 games with Tampa Bay. He has a strong arm and good range as he was was voted the best defensive shortstop in the International League. He also has power that has been inconsistent from year to year but is there to tap.
Wade Davis, RHP: The next in an impressive line of up-and-coming starting prospects, Davis has moved through the system without a bump and now apparently has a lock on a spot in the Rays' rotation, punching that ticket with a glowing September debut. In 2009 his 3.40 ERA was seventh in the International League while his 140 strikeouts in 158 2/3 innings ranked second. He limited hitters to a .231 average. Davis throws a lively sinking fastball in the low-90s, a three-quarter curve and usable changeup and slider as well with an easy delivery and smooth mechanics. He posted a 3.72 ERA in six big league starts including a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts against Baltimore.
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP: The Rays' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 has drawn the inevitable Greg Maddux comparisons over the years for his pinpoint command from an early age. Despite missing a few months with a shoulder strain in 2009, he combined to go 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA between Montgomery and Durham, fanning 132 in 114 innings while walking just 29. He has consistently landed among the leaders in ERA and strikeouts per nine innings every year and should be the first go-to guy at Durham if needed. He's recently added a changeup to his plus fastball and curve.
Desmond Jennings, OF: A wrist injury suffered during Spring Training will set Jennings back far enough that his outside shot at making the club out of Spring Training ended, but he still remains the organization's shining offensive star of the future. The best athlete in the system, he was finally healthy all year in 2009 and, splitting the season between Montgomery and Durham, hit .318 with 11 homers, 62 RBIs and 52 steals, including a club-record 37 steals at Montgomery. He was 33-for-33 while attempting to steal with right-handers on the mound and, shortly after his Durham promotion, had a seven-hit game on Sept. 3.
Matthew Moore, LHP: An eighth-round pick in 2007 out of high school in New Mexico, Moore has quietly put up dominating numbers in three pro seasons, and he is just 20. He missed winning the Appalachian League ERA title by one-third of an inning in 2008 (he had a 1.66 ERA), and he had a 12.75 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio and a .154 average against which led all Minor League starters. In 2009, his first full season, his 176 strikeouts in just 123 innings at Bowling Green led the Minors and his .195 average-against led all full-season starters. He also led that group with 12.88 strikeouts per nine innings. Moore posted a 3.15 ERA in 26 starts. He throws a low-90s fastball, hard curve and changeup with a deceptive but easy delivery.
Prospects to watch
|Nick Barnese, RHP||Nick Barnese, RHP|
|Tim Beckham, SS||Tim Beckham, SS|
|Reid Brignac, SS||Reid Brignac, SS|
|Wade Davis, RHP||Alex Colome, RHP|
|Jeremy Hellickson, RHP||Wade Davis, RHP|
|Desmond Jennings, OF||Jeremy Hellickson, RHP|
|Matthew Moore, LHP||Desmond Jennings, OF|
|Jeff Niemann, RHP||Jake McGee, LHP|
|Fernando Perez, OF||Matthew Moore, LHP|
|David Price, LHP||Alexander Torres, RHP|
These three players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Jeff Niemann, RHP: The first-rounder out of Rice in 2004 had seen his career slowed by injuries. Finally healthy, the 6-foot-9 righthander became one of the aces of the staff in 2009, going 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA in 31 games including two shutouts in 180 2/3 innings.
Fernando Perez, OF: Off the top 10 due to injuries, which wiped out virtually all of the speedy defensive standout's 2009 season, he still should be a factor if healthy as a potential fourth outfielder, spot starter, pinch runner and late-inning defensive replacement. Perez played in just 18 games in the bigs once he had recovered from the gruesome wrist injury he suffered while diving for a ball during Spring Training.
David Price, LHP: Taken out of Vanderbilt with the first overall pick in the 2007 Draft, Price remains one of the premiere up-and-coming southpaws in the big leagues. Though he didn't win the American League Rookie of the Year award that many had predicted he would, Price posted a fine 4.42 ERA in 23 starts.
The following three players are new additions to the Rays' Prospects to Watch list.
Alex Colome, RHP: The nephew of former Rays reliever Jesus Colome went 7-4 with a 1.66 ERA in 15 starts at short-season Hudson Valley in 2009, striking out 94 batters and limiting hitters to a .174 average. Colome struck out 11.13 batters per nine innings to rank among the league leaders in most categories. It was a big turnaround from his stateside debut in 2008 when he posted an 0-5 record and 6.80 ERA at Princeton. He is poised on the mound and throws a lively, electric fastball in the mid-90s and a hard 11-5 curve with an easy, fluid delivery. He allowed more than two earned runs just once in 15 starts and finished with a stretch of 15 2/3 shutout innings.
Jake McGee, LHP: Once one of the system's top prospects, Tommy John surgery slowed his ascent. McGee did come back to the mound mid-summer and spent the rest of 2009 in basic rehab mode. Though his numbers at Charlotte were poor, the club was pleased with his progress as he actually returned to action ahead of schedule, striking out 40 batters in 30 innings between two Florida-based stops along the way. A fifth-round pick in 2004 out of high school in Nevada, this spring will determine if he remains in a starting role or moves to relief.
Alexander Torres, RHP: Acquired in a late summer trade from Anaheim for pitcher Scott Kazmir, Torres had been dominating in a hitters' league by leading Class A Advanced California League with a 2.74 ERA at Rancho Cucamonga. From there Torres moved up to Double-A Arkansas, where he had a 2.77 ERA in five starts before posting a 3.12 ERA in two starts at Montgomery after the deadline. Overall he combined to fan 156 in as many innings. He throws a fastball in the low-90s and has good movement on his secondary pitches.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.