Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Can Blake Snell save the Rays draft class of 2011?

PORT CHARLOTTE — Blake Snell showed enough promise during an overall inconsistent rookie season for the Rays to feel good he can soon become the front-of-rotation starter they envisioned.

But can he win enough to salvage their entire 2011 draft class?

After a staggering 10 of the first 60 picks in a draft that was supposed to yield a passel of promising prospects, the Rays nearly six years later don't have much to show for it - except maybe the T-shirts the scouting department wore as reminders from their bosses to not, well, mess it up.

"It yielded a handful of players who directly, or indirectly, can help fuel our future successes,'' baseball operations president Matt Silverman said Thursday. "But it's far from the bumper crop that it could have and should been.''

That's because five of those 10 are already gone, with little in return for the millions of dollars and thousands of hours invested.

And of the five left, only Snell has reached the majors, and projects to have much impact. And even he admits it took longer than he anticipated.

"I got there a lot later,'' said Snell, 24. "When I first got drafted, I was like, three years tops and I'll be in the big leagues. But reality kind of hits you – there is a lot to learn, and you are so young. … And there is still a lot of improvement I need to do.''

Infielder Jake Hager and pitchers Taylor Guerrieri and Jeff Ames are in big-league camp, and Grayson Garvin on the minor-league side, still battling to overcome injuries or inconsistencies and make their mark.

"I think we're not done yet, that's what I want to say,'' said Hager, 24 on Saturday. "Maybe people say it was a bust, but I don't see it that way.''

Neither does Guerrieri, the first of the Rays picks, 24th overall.

"The lack of big-league appearances we've had from that draft, it's been subpar,'' he said. "I'm in that category. I've had some injuries and some off the field stuff to go along with it. I'd still want to say it's a good draft though.''

It's going to take more than Snell pitching in the majors for the Rays to be able to say that. Here is a look at the top 10 of that class:

Rays Class of 2011

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Taylor Guerrieri (56) throwing in the first inning during the exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Fla. on Sunday, March 13, 2016.

RHP Taylor Guerrieri

Pick: 24th

Bonus: $1,600,000. Compensation pick from Red Sox, for Carl Crawford

Status: Pitched first full season last year at Double-A Montgomery (12-6, 3.76, working 146 innings) but still trying to regain previous velocity in returning from July 2013 Tommy John surgery (and a drug suspension) that interrupted promising start to pro career. Likely headed back to Montgomery.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Mikie Mahtook (27) in the dugout after his solo home run in the second inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016.

OF Mikie Mahtook

Pick: 31st

Bonus: $1,150,000. Compensation pick from Yankees, for Rafael Soriano

Status: Traded to Tigers in January for what's likely to be a low-level minor-leaguer (or cash) after playing his way out of their plans spending parts of two seasons in majors, following solid '15 debut with disappointing 2016, hitting .231 with 12 homers, 30 RBIs, .685 OPS in 106 games. May be no more in majors than a spare part.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Jake Hager (69) fields a ground ball during a Spring Training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.

INF Jake Hager

Pick: 32nd

Bonus: $963,000. Rays original pick.

Status: Returned with solid 2016 season, moving from Double- to Triple-A after missing all of 2015 recovering from right knee surgery, having had solid start to pro career, including '13 FSL All-Star selection. May be headed to utility role, will play behind higher ranked prospects Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson at Durham this year.

Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Brandon Martin #13 during an extended spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles at the Charlotte County Sports Park on April 28, 2012 in Port Charlotte, Florida.

INF Brandon Martin

Pick: 38th

Bonus: $860,000. Supplemental pick, for Carl Crawford.

Status: Was released in March 2015, following a so-so first three seasons in the low minors and a 2014 suspension as a result of off-field personal issues. That was a precursor to horrid events ahead as Martin, who had mental health issues, is now awaiting trial on charges of murdering his father and two other men in September 2015 in Corona, Calif., with a baseball bat (that bore his name) and faces the death penalty.

AP Photo/Derik Hamilton

Philadelphia Phillies' Tyler Goeddel in action during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Philadelphia.

OF Tyler Goeddel

Pick: 41st

Bonus: $1,500,000. Supplemental pick, for Rafael Soriano

Status: Lost to the Phillies as the top pick in the December 2015 Rule 5 draft for a $50,000 fee after not being added to the 40-man roster following a solid Double-A season, earning All-Star status for the third time in four years after signing for a hefty $1.5-million. Spent last year in the majors, as required, hitting .192-4-16 with a .549 OPS in 92 games, now looks headed to Triple-A so he can play every day.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jeff Ames (78) throws a bullpen session during a Spring Training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017.

RHP Jeff Ames

Pick: 42nd

Bonus: $650,000. Supplemental pick, for Grant Balfour

Status: Converted in 2015 to reliever after returning from June 2014 thoracic outlet surgery, and complications including a collapsed lung. Spent all of 2016 at Double-A, going 6-2, 2.41, with six saves. Projects as a middle reliever at best if he makes it.

DOUGLAS S. CLIFFORD | Times

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) delivers a pitch during the first inning of Monday's (2/27/17) Spring Training game at Spectrum Field in Clearwater.

LHP Blake Snell

Pick: 52

Bonus: $684,000. Supplemental pick, for Brad Hawpe

Status: Has had the most success to this point, going 6-8, 3.54 in 19 starts in one April 2016 appearance and a likely-for-good June promotion, and the highest ceiling with the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation starter.

AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Wallace

Peoria Javelinas' Kes Carter cannot make the catch against the Salt River Rafters in the fifth inning during the baseball Fall League championship game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

OF Kes Carter

Pick: 56

Bonus: $625,000. Supplemental pick, for Joaquin Benoit

Status: Released after five seasons, getting no higher than Double-A in 2014-15, hitting .233 with a .691 OPS. Playing his second season for independent league Fargo-Moorhead.

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Vanderbilt starting pitcher Grayson Garvin delivers against Florida in the first inning of an NCAA College World Series baseball game in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 20, 2011.

Grayson Garvin

Pick: 59

Bonus: $370,000. Supplemental pick, for Randy Choate

Status: Slowed again by injuries, as has been the case pretty much since he arrived from Vanderbilt, including Tommy John elbow surgery in 2012, assorted arm issues that sidelined him all of 2015. In five pro seasons has pitched in just 50 games, going 3-15, 3.70 while logging 182 1/3 innings, yet to get above Double-A.

Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder James Harris #16 during a Spring Training game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 29, 2013 in Lakeland, Florida.

OF James Harris

Pick: 60

Bonus: $490,000. Supplemental pick, for Chad Qualls

Status: Released in March 2015 due to lack of progress, not having gotten past low Class A in four seasons. Signed with Oakland and progressed to Double-A level after solid season at advanced Class A Stockton, hitting .303-7-53 with an .802 OPS.

Other 2011 picks of note

RoundPlayerStatus
2OF Graden GoetzmanFinally made it to Double-A in '16, has had injuries.
2RHP Lenny LinskyReleased last month, sidelined since 2013 with injuries.
10RHP Jake Faria Added to 40-man roster last year, slated for Triple-A.
17INF/OF Taylor MotterMade it to majors in'16, was traded to M's.

Five they could've had instead

Pick PlayerDrafting team
29INF Joe PanikGiants
40OF Jackie Bradley Jr.,Red Sox
44RHP Michael FulmerMets
45INF Trevor StoryRockies
62INF Brad MillerMariners

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

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