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A year after big draft haul, Tampa Bay Rays pleased with prospects' progress

It has been almost exactly a year since the Rays brought in a historic draft haul with 10 picks in the first 60. With that opportunity, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they made a conscious effort to get players with big upsides. "We weren't looking for guys that have a chance to get to the major leagues," Friedman said. "We were looking for the guys that have a chance to have an impact in the major leagues. We're anxious to see how this plays out in four to six years." Friedman and scouting director R.J. Harrison have been pleased with the progress of their picks. Here's a look at how some of them have fared in their first taste of pro baseball:

RHP Taylor Guerrieri

He was arguably the biggest prize, and he definitely was the most talked-about pick of the Rays' 2011 class. Guerrieri, selected 24th overall from Spring Valley (S.C.) High, intrigued the Rays with his power and potential but had an incident in his past that raised concerns about his maturity: He switched high schools during his senior year, done, he said, after he was caught at a football game after drinking one beer. He has received rave reviews in extended spring training for his three "plus pitches" and his makeup. Expect him to get sent to either short-season Class A Hudson Valley or Rookie League Princeton in the coming weeks. "He's everything you would want in a young pitcher," said Mitch Lukevics, director of minor-league operations. "Taylor has really matured. … He's right where he needs to be."

OF Mikie Mahtook

The former LSU standout is showing the kind of athleticism, versatility and work ethic that had some saying he could move through the Rays' system quickly. Mahtook, the 31st overall pick, earned a spot in the Florida State League All-Star Game with his strong start at Class A Charlotte, hitting .287 with 21 RBIs and 10 steals in 50 games. "Mikie is a very mature young man, very serious about his craft," Lukevics said. "He has found a real home in rightfield. He's an above-average outfielder with a very good arm. One thing you like about him is he competes every at-bat, every inning of every game."

SS Jake Hager

He started slowly with Rookie League Princeton last year but rebounded nicely to hit .269 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 47 games. He is now with low Class A Bowling Green and batting .250 with eight errors. Lukevics says Hager, 19, has "matured beyond his age. You experience failure for the first time in your life and you don't succumb to that, it tells me great things about Jake Hager."

Other notables

• SS Brandon Martin (1st round, supplemental, 38th overall): In extended spring training. He played 11 games at shortstop last year for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Rays, hitting .255 and with a .957 fielding percentage.

• 3B Tyler Goeddel, (1st round, supplemental, 41st overall): Holding his own at Bowling Green, hitting .263 with four homers and 20 RBIs in his first 42 games (38 at third base).

• RHP Jeff Ames (1st round, supplemental, 42nd overall): Went 4-2 with a 7.12 ERA in 11 appearances (five starts) for rookie-level Princeton last year, with 39 strikeouts and seven walks in 301/3 innings.

• RHP Lenny Linsky (2nd round, 89th overall): In extended spring nursing a sore elbow; should be back in three weeks. Former University of Hawaii standout went 3-0 with three saves and a 1.23 ERA in 291/3 innings between Hudson Valley and Bowling Green last season.

Rays rumblings

In its latest mock draft, Baseball America has the Rays picking Bishop Gorman (Nev.) High 3B Joey Gallo with their No. 25 selection Monday. … If you think the 30 Japanese media members who were at the Trop for Hideki Matsui's Rays debut last week were a lot, wait until he goes back to Yankee Stadium this week. … The next wardrobe-themed road trip is this week: "All White" from New York to Miami.

Gotta minute? UTL Drew Sutton

Best meal you can make? (Thursday night) I cooked steaks, with mashed potatoes, crescent rolls, and I make homemade ice cream.

Band you'd like to be on stage with? The Red Hot Chili Peppers. That'd be intense. They're like the modern-day rock band.

Go-to karaoke song? Garth Brooks' Friends in Low Places. Get the crowd into it.

Favorite movie? Braveheart.

With wife Staci's permission, dream date? (Country singer/actor/dancer) Julianne Hough. But I bet my wife is a better two-stepper than Julianne.

Sock it up

B.J. Upton had already decided he would wear high socks the rest of the season when he saw a post on on Thursday analyzing how he has better offensive numbers when he wears them. "It's amazing what people break down these days," Upton said. He asked home clubhouse/equipment manager Chris Westmoreland to get him a healthy stock of the socks. "I wore high (socks) my whole life until I got to the big leagues," he said. "You still see a couple guys doing it. Juan Pierre has always done it. I like the look." But as far as a correlation between sock choice and success, Upton smiled and shook his head: "The pants ain't got nothing to do with it."

A year after big draft haul, Tampa Bay Rays pleased with prospects' progress 06/02/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 9:33pm]
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