5 Minor League Pitchers to Watch in 2012

With minor league pitchers and catchers holding their first workout today, it is a good time to take a look at some of the better arms in the Rays' system and see who bears monitoring in 2012. Whether it is because they are poised for a breakout or making their professional debut, here are some of the hurlers to keep a close eye on this season.

RHP Taylor Guerrieri (DNP): The 19-year-old right-hander has every thing a pitcher needs to be a successful starter in the American League East and the Rays will finally get to see the 24th-overall pick from last year's June Amateur Draft in action this season.

The native of South Carolina works with a fastball in the 93-96 mph range that was touching 98 frequently last spring, and a devastating curveball that features late breaking action and is thrown from the same arm slot as his fastball. But that isn't the end of his arsenal. He also has two other offerings that have the potential to be plus pitches in a mid-80s changeup and a cutter that some scouts believe could develop into a pretty nice slider.

His 6'3" 195 lb., projectable-frame is a classic build for a power-pitcher and he has a spotless injury history. His delivery is smooth and low-effort and he has made great strides in repeating it consistently. In short - he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses and there have even been some whispers that he might be one of the best high school pitchers to ever come out of the draft.

The biggest question regarding Guerrieri is where he will begin his career. The Rays are notoriously cautious with talented high school arms and Guerrieri shouldn't be any different. If they take the presumed conservative approach, he would begin in the Appalachian League with the rookie level Princeton Rays after some time in extended spring training. Wherever he is assigned though, he definitely heads the list of names to watch in 2012 and with Matt Moore set to graduate to the majors, he should subplant him as the system's top arm.

LHP Enny Romero (Low-A Bowling Green):The 21-year-old Dominican has breakout written all over him. Romero first came on the radar after being voted the Most Valuable Player at Princeton in 2010 when he led the Appalachian League in ERA at 1.95 and ranked third in strikeouts with 72. Despite posting a 5.4 BB/9 last season at Bowling Green, his strikeout rate jumped to 11.1 K/9, a jump of 2 strikeouts per game from 2010. He figures to stay in Port Charlotte after spring training and pitch at the top of the Stone Crabs rotation this year.

His delivery needs some ironing out, and as is the case with a lot of young pitchers, is mostly to blame for his control and command issues. His curveball and changeup are ever-improving and his low-90's fastball has incredible sink when he is on. He is very raw, but definitely projectable at 6'3" and 165 lbs., and next season should go a long way towards determining if his future is as a starter or reliever. But if he continues to make adjustments as he moves up in classification, he could easily become the next big-time arm in the system.

RHP Lenny Linsky (Low-A Bowling Green): Linsky finished his 2011 season with the Hot Rods after being drafted in the 2nd-round of last year's draft and a dominating 12 game stint with Hudson Valley. Overall his pro debut was impressive, posting a 1.23 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 29.1 IP.

A very polished pitcher coming out of the University of Hawaii, where he became the single-season saves record-holder as a junior, Linsky is your classic power-sinker/slider pitcher. One scout I discussed Linsky with told me that hitter's have no chance of elevating his sinker when he is on and that was evidenced by his not allowing a home run in 34.2 innings last season with Hawaii.

Linsky, his sinker/slider combination and his severe ground-ball tendencies spell "closer" and by all accounts he has the perfect make-up to pitch in the late innings. He should be a quick mover through the system and figures to start 2012 with High-A Charlotte. It wouldn't be surprising to see him in Montgomery by season's end and working as a high-leverage reliever in the majors sooner rather than later.

LHP Ryan Carpenter (Short-Season A Hudson Valley): Another college pitcher from the 2011 draft, the 6'5" Carpenter has been a frustrating hurler to get a true read on. His brief stint at Hudson Valley last season was promising despite being a very small sample size, when he allowed only 9 hits in 23.2 IP while striking out 26. Yet despite the promise shown last year, it is hard to say what Carpenter will show up in 2012 and that alone makes him worth monitoring.

The talent with Carpenter is very real, but he remains somewhat of an enigma because of his inconsistency. He has touched as high as 97 mph on the radar gun in the past, but was working in the 89-92 mph range for the majority of last year. He has a big breaking curveball, a slider which has the making of a plus pitch and changeup as well. Carpenter seems to completely lose his velocity at times though and there have been games where he was working with his fastball in the high 80's. Carpenter has a lot going for him: his size, age and stuff all give him a lot of upside, but as he moves to full-season ball in 2012 will the velocity come back?

LHP Grayson Garvin (DNP): Like Guierreri, Garvin was drafted in the first round in last year's draft (#59 overall), but did not play in the Rays' system. He was the most Outstanding Pitcher in the Cape Code League in 2010 when he went 5-0 with a league-leading 0.74 ERA. Last year as a junior for Vanderbilt he was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year going 13-2 in 18 starts while striking out 101 hitters in 112.1 IP. As an advanced college pitcher, Garvin figures to go straight to full-season ball to start his career with either Low-A Bowling Green or High-A Charlotte.

Garvin's fastball is a low-90's offering, but he gets a nice downhill plane on it. He also has a slurvy, sweeping breaking ball and a changeup. There is a 10-15 mph difference between his fastball and change and he uses that to his advantage to keep hitters off-balance. There are injury and durability concerns with Garvin and his delivery needs to be smoothed out. But after having tremendous success at the highest of collegiate levels, the 22-year-old left-hander is an intriguing pitcher. Although he doesn't stand out in any one way, he has enough of an arsenal to be successful in the big leagues either as a fourth or fifth starter or reliever.

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 raysdigest.com@gmail.com.


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