3B Tyler Goeddel---Bowling Green Hot Rods: Mere days after Scout's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere gave this glowing scouting report on Goeddel, the 19-year old was named to the Low-A Bowling Green roster. As a high school draftee who did not play at all in 2011, that is a pretty impressive feat. The athleticism, baseball instincts and make-up are all there, but Goeddel's bat is what has his stock rising in the system. He looked fantastic at the plate in spring training and it is very obvious that his hit-tool is pretty far advanced for his age. By season's end we could be looking at the system's best hitter and he will only get better as he grows and adds more power to his game.
C Stephen Vogt---Durham Bulls: Vogt is knocking on the door to the major leagues and only needs to improve his defense some behind the plate to get the call. Rays manager Joe Maddon has stated that his bat is major league-ready and it won't be long before the Rays need an influx of offense at Tropicana Field. His ability to play multiple positions will ultimately help his cause and should Vogt get the call, he should hit enough to stick with the team for good.
1B Jeff Malm---Bowling Green Hot Rods: Malm showed what he is capable of doing at the plate last year at Hudson Valley when he posted a .844 OPS with 12 home runs in 249 at bats. The power has been on display again during spring training and he is showing signs of becoming the hitter the Rays thought they were getting when they drafted him in the 5th round of the 2009 June Draft. According to Malm, he will be playing some corner outfield in 2012 and it will be interesting to see how manager Brady Williams distributes the at bats between him and fellow first baseman Cameron Seitzer.
Tim Beckham---Durham Bulls: The former number-one-overall pick has been a divisive player in the system for what seems like forever now. But the fact remains that at age 22 he is beginning his first full season at AAA and developmentally is right where he needs to be. He played some second base in big league camp during spring training, which will only help him in the long-run, and Joe Maddon seems to be a fan of his defensive play. The bat is slowly coming along as well and while his detractors will point to his strikeout numbers (120 in 524 at bats in 2011), his OPS of .736 last season was the highest of his four year career.
RHP Albert Suarez---Charlotte Stone Crabs: The 22-year-old Venezuelan has had trouble staying healthy but 2012 may finally be the season we see what Suarez can do over a full season. Despite the injury troubles, he still owns a 3.24 career ERA and has always shown excellent command (2.3 BB/9 for his career). The question remains whether his future is as a starter or reliever and that question will be put to the test as the Stone Crabs have Enny Romero, Grayson Garvin, Braulio Lara, Wilking Rodriguez, George Jensen and Victor Mateo all in the mix for rotation spots. Whether he pitches as a starter or reliever though, just being on the field for a full season will be a major victory for Suarez and should put him back on the prospect radar.
RHP Marquis Fleming---Durham Bulls: Fleming, who pitched in the prestigious Arizona Fall League last year, also got a long look in major league spring training where he more than held his own. With the unfortunate exodus of Matt Bush from the organization and Lenny Linsky on the disabled list to start the season, Fleming becomes the system's best reliever by default. Blessed with an incredible change-up, Fleming's numbers are more than worthy of the mantle though and it is clear that the Rays are eyeing him as a potential bullpen option for the very-near-future.
OF Josh Sale---Extended Spring Training: In many ways it is unfair to say that Sale's stock is slipping as he has only had one full season in the system. But there seems to be a lot of alarm about his swing among scouts and beginning a second straight season in extended spring training is not a good sign for a first round pick. He may have ultimately been the victim of a numbers game, as there are many talented outfielders in the Low-A to High-A range of the system. Still, if Sale doesn't hit in 2012 the "bust" tag will, fairly or not, be thrust upon him.
C Justin O'Connor---Extended Spring Training: Ditto the above for O'Conner, but in his case it will be his third straight season in a short-season league. O'Conner is said to be battling hip soreness and the last thing he needs is a nagging injury to contend with as he tries to make adjustments at the plate. The .157 average and 78 strike outs from last season are a statistical eyesore, but the power is still very real. O'Conner has plus defensive skills, unlike Sale, and his catch-and-throw abilities are enticing enough to promote patience until his bat comes around.
RHP Matt Bush---Restricted List: It goes without saying that not only has his stock fallen, but it may be completely gone forever. On the field Bush possesses a plus fastball and a good secondary offering. He figured to get the call to Tampa Bay at some point in 2012 and now it remains to be seen if he will ever pitch in baseball again. In any case, his Rays career is effectively over and so is his place as the farm system's top bullpen arm.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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