A Minor Review of 2008: The Rays

The Graduate: Evan Longoria | Born: October 1985 | Third Baseman

Tampa Bay did not graduate many rookies in 2008 while racing towards the organization’s first World Series appearance. The club obviously chose quality over quantity as Evan Longoria snatched up the Rookie of the Year award this week after hitting .272/.343/.531 with 27 home runs in 448 at-bats. Longoria posted rates of 9.3 BB% and 27.2 K%, as well as an ISO of .259. Defensively, he made 12 errors with a .963 fielding percentage and showed solid range at third.

The Riser: Jeremy Hellickson | Born: April 1987 | Right-Handed Pitcher

Jeremy Hellickson is quickly becoming the best pitching prospect in the system – not named David Price. The right-hander was originally drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 draft and moved slowly during his first three pro seasons, peaking at A-ball. He jumped on the fast track in 2008, though. After allowing 64 hits in 76.2 innings with a 2.00 ERA in High-A ball, Hellickson was promoted to Double-A, where he made 13 starts. He allowed 84 hits in 75.1 innings but posted excellent rates of 1.79 BB/9 and 9.44 K/9. His biggest issue at Double-A was the home run – he allowed 15 (1.79 HR/9) and must show better command within the strike zone against the more advanced hitters.

The Tumbler: Chris Mason | Born: July 1984 | Right-Handed Pitcher

Chris Mason is not often mentioned in the same breath as Jacob McGee or Wade Davis despite posting solid numbers – well, until 2008. Mason struggled mightily in 2008 and posted a 6.21 ERA during his first shot at Triple-A. The former second round pick out of UNC-Greensboro allowed 144 hits in 108.2 innings of work. He also posted rates of 3.40 BB/9 and 7.45 K/9. Both those rates are respectable, which gives hope for a significant rebound but Mason’s walk rate did increase by about 1.00 BB/9. He may be better suited to a relief role due to an average fastball in the 87-89 mph range.

The ’08 Draft Pick: Jake Jefferies | Born: October 1987 | Catcher

A solid all-around player, Jake Jefferies was nabbed in the third round of the 2008 draft out of college. He had a solid pro debut with a line of .315/.371/.433 in 238 short-season at-bats. Jefferies also posted encouraging rates of 8.1 BB% and 9.2 K% with an ISO of .118. The catcher is currently a solid contact hitter and is working on learning to drive the ball. A left-handed batter, Jefferies is also a solid-average defensive catcher (although he threw out just four of 23 runners attempting to steal in 2008) and he could end up as a third-round steal.

The ’09 Sleeper: Nick Barnese | Born: January 1989 | Right-Handed Pitcher

There are a lot of talented pitchers in the system and Nick Barnese can sometimes get overlooked after spending the past two seasons in short-season ball. However, the right-hander posted solid numbers in 2008: 52 hits allowed in 66 innings pitched, along with rates of 3.27 BB/9 and 11.45 K/9. He also allowed just one home runs all season and posted a FIP of 1.99. The former third round pick features a low-90s fastball that flirts with 95 mph, as well as a slider and a change-up.

Up Next: The San Diego Padres



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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