Rays Tales: Does Blake Snell’s Cy Young salvage the 2011 draft?

For all the misses the Rays had in the 2011 draft, Snell has been a pretty big hit. Is that enough?
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) and  starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) talk during the second inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla on April 18, 2018.
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) and starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) talk during the second inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla on April 18, 2018.
Published November 17 2018
Updated November 17 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — As the Red Sox rolled up 119 wins and a World Series championship, much credit was given to the contributions from their 2011 draft class, a haul that included AL MVP Mookie Betts, ALCS star Jackie Bradley Jr., reliever Matt Barnes and reserve Blake Swihart, plus since-traded Travis Shaw and several  others who reached the majors in lesser roles.

That's the same draft the Rays are often criticized, especially on these pages, for messing up mightily.

Positioned for a franchise-altering haul with 10 of the first 60 picks (and 12 of 89) in taking advantage of since-changed free-agent compensation rules, the Rays ended up missing in just about all ways.

They drafted players who weren't as good as they projected (Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Goeddel).  Who got hurt (Taylor Guerrieri, Jake Hager). Who had off-field issues (Brandon Martin, arrested on murder charges.)

And they obviously passed on some they should have taken, such as Betts, whose eventual fifth-round selection meant the Rays had more chances — 14! — to take him than anyone.

But the Rays also deserve credit, because the one player they hit on just won the Cy Young award, LHP Blake Snell.

Snell was the seventh player the Rays took that day, 52nd overall, prolific area scout Paul Kirsch leading the way as they signed him away from going to Washington for a relative bargain $684,000.

There was some craftiness the previous season in adding that pick to the pile. On their way to a second AL East title, the Rays in late August signed OF Brad Hawpe after his release by Colorado. Ostensibly, to add a veteran lefty hitter for cheap, less than $100,000 with the Rockies paying the rest of what was left on his $7.5 million contract.

That Hawpe didn't do much, playing in just 15 games, was fine. Because the real value was his subsequent departure as a free agent getting the Rays the extra pick they used on Snell.

The lack of quantity the Rays have to show from that draft make it seem a major failure.  Or does the quality of having a star such as Snell, a 25-year-old among the game's best and four seasons from free agency, make it, as some team officials posit, a success?

Snell's career 9.4 WAR, per baseball-reference.com, is only 13th best in what was a loaded draft class. But fangraphs.com's metric that converts WAR into dollars a player would be worth as a free agent pegs his value for this season at $37.1 million, a pretty good return for a guy making just above the minimum, and thus under $600,000, this year and next.

Whether Snell can repeat his success and remain at the elite level, whether the Rays can sign him to a long-term deal will impact the final equation. But having that Cy Young award on display, though probably behind his Xbox, certainly helps.

Prospecting

Tuesday is the next key day on the offseason calendar as the deadline to add prospects to the 40-man roster and thus protect them from selection in the Rule 5 draft. The Rays have some work to do to make room, including trying to trade 1B/DH C.J. Cron, as they could add four-six from a group that includes Ps Kyle Bird, Brock Burke, Ian Gibaut; OFs Joe McCarthy, Jesus Sanchez; INF Kean Wong. Trading from that group is another option.

Rays rumblings

A French-language sourced report out of Montreal speculating about future relocation floated the idea of the Rays and Jays playing some 2020 regular-season games at Olympic Stadium, though was wrong on the point of the Rays having permission to move up to 10 home games from the Trop. Maybe Jays home games? … Snell was named on 15 AL MVP ballots, finishing ninth, best of any pitcher. (Yes, Kate, ahead of Justin again.) Snell got one vote for seventh, seven for eighth, six for ninth, one for 10th.  Highest finish for any Ray in MVP voting is sixth, by Evan Longoria in 2010, '13. … With a key deadline in six weeks, $16 million of corporate commitments announced by the Rays 2020 group toward the proposed $892 million Ybor City stadium sure doesn't sound like much. … Cool touch by the Rays to light the Trop orange Wednesday for Snell's Cy Young win. … Rodney Linares, the leading candidate for the third-base coach job, is the son of longtime Astros coach/minor-league staffer Julio Linares. … Multi-talented McCarthy may need to add anger management to his to-do list after breaking his right hand punching a wall in frustration during an Arizona Fall League game. … OF Tommy Pham is headed to the Dominican Republic after Thanksgiving to play about five weeks for Escogido. Also playing winter ball there is newly acquired OF Guillermo Heredia, with prospect INF Nick Solak headed down. … Camp invitee LHP Ryan Merritt is most known for his dazzling 2016 ALCS Game 5 start for Cleveland  after Jays slugger Jose Bautista said he should be "shaking in his boots." … Rays minor-leaguers playing in the Australian league include INF Tristan Gray, C Chris Betts, OF Carl Chester, Ps Joe Peugero and Christopher Sanchez. … Expect the Rays to have some sort of promotional giveaway for Snell.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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