Weight: 185 lb.
Born: 12/31/1988 in Santo Domingo, Distrito Nacional, Dominican Republic
Acquired: Signed by Tampa Bay as a non-drafted free agent on March 20, 2007
After being signed by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as an 18 year old in 2007, Alex Colome began his professional career in his home country of the Dominican Republic playing for the DSL Rays. He immediately began to display fantastic stuff striking out 50 hitters in 39.1 innings, but also showed the command of a young, inexperienced pitcher by posting a 7.1 BB/9 rate.
In 2008 he came to the US and pitched for the Rookie level Princeton Rays. He showed signs of brilliance striking out hitters at 10.1 K/9 clip, but was also extremely inconsistent and ended up with an ERA of 6.80 in 46.1 innings. He did not win a single one of his 11 starts that year, but his struggles at Princeton proved to just be a slight hiccup as he adjusted to pitching against better competition, because the following season he was brilliant.
In 2009 he was promoted to the Short-Season A Hudson Valley Renegades where he began to show what a dominating pitcher he could be. In 15 starts spanning 76 innings, Colome allowed only 46 hits and pitched to a 1.66 ERA. He continued to strike out batters at a high rate, whiffing hitters at a 11.1 K/9 clip. He also lowered his walk ratio for the third straight season and led the entire Rays' organization and was second in the New York-Penn League in ERA. His tremendous season ended by being named the Topps New York-Penn League Player of the Year.
Going into the 2010 season, Colome was ranked as the #68 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. He was again promoted, this time the Low A Bowling Green Hot Rods of the Midwest League. Colome continued to increase his innings with the Hot Rods as he made 22 starts and threw 114 innings for the squad. He went 6-6 with a 3.95 ERA while striking out 188 hitters before a late season promotion to High A Charlotte where he made one start.
Going into last season, Colome was firmly entrenched as a top pitching prospect in the Rays' system and he was named the organization's #9 prospect by Baseball America prior to the season.
There were some concerning signs from Colome in 2011, but it is also important to point out that although he was already 22 when the season began, he is actually a few years behind in development compared to most international signees. This is because the majority of players from Latin America are signed as 16 year-olds and often have the benefit of spending two seasons with the Rays' club in the Dominican Summer League.
Not that Colome was horrible in 2011, for he certainly wasn't. However his strikeout rate decreased to 7.8 K/9 with the Charlotte Stone Crabs and again to 5.4 K/9 in his 9 starts for AA Montgomery. It is not uncommon to see this when a player first moves up to a higher level of competition, and as will be discussed in the scouting section - Colome is still very much learning how to pitch.
In all, between both levels Colome was a combined 12-9 in 28 starts while posting a 4.09 ERA. He also threw 157.2 innings and increased his workload by over 40 innings. Despite the lower strikeout totals though, he still proved to be a tough pitcher to hit as he allowed only 119 hits which indicates that there is nothing wrong with his stuff, but that he is learning how to pitch in the zone and conserve energy instead of chasing strikeouts and wasting pitches. In other words - pitching to contact more.
Colome's walk rate did go up slightly to 4.1, but compared to that of other top pitching prospects like Chris Archer (5.3) and Alex Torres (5.1), his increase relatively speaking is not a cause for alarm.
In November the Rays' added Colome to the 40 Man Roster protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft for which he would have been eligible to be selected if not for the move by the franchise.
He also pitched for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League in late October and early November and was very impressive working out of the bullpen. In 11 appearances he posted an 0.77 ERA and struck 14 hitters in 11.2 innings.
Colome features a mid-nineties fastball that occasionally touches 97 mph with very good sink. He also has a plus curve ball, a decent slider, and a steadily improving change-up.
Already possessing two plus pitches, Colome needs only to improve his slider and/or change-up to have a truly devastating arsenal. As is, he has enough in the bag to be dominant out of the bullpen, but the development of a third pitch and a slight improvement in command could go a long way towards helping him become a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Colome is learning how to pitch and is being brought along slowly by the Rays - one level at a time. There is nothing in his delivery to suggest that he is an injury risk, and his stuff is as good as anyone's in the system. His control issues usually flair up when he begins to overthrow and as he continues to mature and trust his raw stuff, that tendency should go away.
I spoke with a scout on the phone yesterday about Colome, and he had this to say:
He overthrows his change-up at times, but the rest of the stuff is there. His ceiling is really limitless. He has learned how to drop his curve ball in the zone more consistently since I last saw him. I also like the way he challenges hitters inside. He has really long arms, so he needs to watch his delivery to make sure that he keeps a consistent release point. I like the stuff and body though and even though he is still raw, I think he has a ton of upside.
Colome should begin 2012 at AA Montgomery with a shot at being promoted to AAA Durham by mid-season. He should also see another slight increase in his workload, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him in the 180-190 inning range.
Since he is already on the 40 Man Roster, the possibility exists for him to be a September call-up this season, but a lot of that will depend on his development and the team's needs come that time. In any case, he is on track to hit the Majors sometime in 2013 at his current development rate.
As mentioned before, Colome has the potential to be the best pitcher in the system with Matt Moore and possibly Alex Torres graduating this season. He really only needs to refine his command and not overthrow as much and he has a great shot at being in the Rays' rotation in the very near future.
While the Rays' starting pitching depth is seemingly limitless right now, that situation could easily change by the time Colome is ready for the big leagues. At the very least, he should be an above average reliever, and I believe that he already has the skills to be that right now.
I'm personally very high on Colome and will even go out on a limb here and say that I expect him to break out in 2012. He seems to have eventually adjusted to every step up on the organizational ladder, and I'm not concerned about his lower K/9 rate last season as I think it is actually a positive sign pointing to a raw pitcher becoming more polished and learning how to pitch. Besides, his stuff is unquestioned by anybody who has seen him pitch, and it's not like he was knocked around last year.
Baseball America ranked him at #5 in their brand, spanking, new 2012 Top Prospect rankings. Rays Prospects had him at #11 in their combined rankings. I personally had him ranked at #3 in my initial rankings, but moved him down after having some conversations with some other Rays' prospect writers. I'm kicking myself for that now, and as stated earlier, I think that he will break out in 2012. If he does then that will take some of the salt out of my wounds for knocking him down on this list and not trusting my instincts.
Why am I so high on Colome? It is because he has the perfect blend of positive scouting reports and results. He has made the necessary adjustments with each move up in the organization. The Rays can afford to be patient with him given their current starting pitching situation and I also like the way that he has been handled thus far. To this point he has been moved slowly but steadily through the system and I think in the long run it will greatly benefit him. He has the stuff and needs only a little polishing to take his game to the next level.
That and he truly does remind me of his uncle, Jesus, who I will admit I was extremely high on as well. Uncle Jesus has had a pretty decent career as a reliever, but I believe that Alex will be able to harness his stuff and develop the consistent command that his uncle couldn't. I hope I am right.
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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