2012 MLB Preview: Matt Moore and the 12 Most Hyped Prospects in Tampa History

Wyatt SinclairContributor IFebruary 7, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Matt Moore and the 12 Most Hyped Prospects in Tampa History

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    Every year we hear about the "can't miss" prospects for every Major League team. We've heard endless chatter about Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Buster Posey and numerous other players.

    However, for every David Price that we see have sustained success in the pros, there are five other highly touted players that never pan out.

    Today we're going to delve into the Tampa Bay franchise and see how 12 of their most hyped prospects have turned out to date.

No. 12: Desmond Jennings

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    While Evan Longoria was the real catch of the 2006 draft for the Rays, being taken with the third overall pick, Rays fans have been clamoring about Jennings since he was taken in the 10th round of the same draft.

    A former WR at Itawamba Community College, scouts have always been in awe of Jennings' foot speed. In fact, in 2008 scout.com said that Jennings is a [Carl] Crawford type, but with more power.

    While Jennings had his fair share of injuries preventing a quick rise through the Rays' system, his speed coupled with his incredible knack for base-running still received rave reviews.

    Through 509 minor league games, Jennings stole 188 bases in 222 attempts, or 84.6 percent of his attempts.

    Jennings was called up to Tampa for his first extended play at the Major League level in 2011, and while he still hadn't shown the power that scouts were talking about, he still showed a fairly decent amount of power with a .449 slugging percentage. Through 63 games. Jennings batted .259 with 10 home runs, 25 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 26 attempts.

    Expected to be the starting left fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays this season, should he be able to stay on the field, he could make Tampa Bay fans completely forget about their former mainstay in Tampa.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 509 games, .294 BA, .443 SLG%, 382 runs, 41 HRs, 200 RBI, 188 SBs, 34 CS

    Career Stats (MLB): 80 games, .254 BA, .440 SLG%, 49 runs, 10 HRs, 27 RBI, 22 SBs, 8 CS

No. 11: Jeff Niemann

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    A former Rice standout alongside Wade Townsend, Jeff Niemann took his first chance to start marquee games for the team and ran with it.

    During the 2003 season, Niemann helped Rice win their first National Championship with a 17-0 record with a 1.70 ERA and 156 strikeouts. It was clear that Niemann was going to do good things.

    Niemann battled through injuries during the 2004 season and finished with a 6-3 record. However, this did not deter the Rays from taking him with the fourth overall pick in the MLB draft. 

    While Niemann never reached the level that he was at in Rice, he steadily climbed through the Rays' farm system before getting his permanent call-up in 2009. 

    Niemann won't be the top of a rotation starter that the Rays had been hoping when they selected him, but he shouldn't become a bust. Unlike our player at No. 10.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 27-19, 385.1 IP, 3 CG, 3.55 ERA, 387 Ks, 2.71 K/BB

    Career Stats (MLB): 38-23, 506.1 IP, 4 CG, 4.16 ERA, 375 Ks, 2.27 K/BB

No. 10: Wade Townsend

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    Wade Townsend is a perfect example of how a player DOES NOT meet the hype. After setting a school record at Rice with 164 strikeouts in 2003, Townsend went on to go 12-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 2004.

    Along with teammates Phil Humber and Jeff Niemann who were also taken within the top eight of the 2004 draft, Townsend was selected with the eighth overall pick by the Baltimore Orioles.

    Townsend couldn't come to terms with the Orioles and re-entered the 2005 draft, being selected by Tampa Bay with the eighth pick.

    Townsend never showed any of the promise that he had during his time at Rice and was released by the Rays in 2009. 

    Fun fact: Wade Townsend is actually a much better poker player than he is a baseball player. It is rumored that Townsend has won over $1 million by playing online poker.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 7-21, 214 IP, 5.68 ERA, 186 Ks, 1.38 K/BB

    Career Stats (MLB): N/A

No. 9: B.J. Upton

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    BJ Upton was set up for stardom since he was in high school. In 2001, he played for the USA Junior National team where he batted .462 and helped the USA win the silver medal in Cuba that year.

    Upton's high school Senior season earned him All-American honors by Baseball America after he batted .641 with 11 home runs and 32 RBI.

    Upton was believed to be an almost pro-ready player who could hit for both power and average. However, Upton's defensive ability was far behind that of his offense. His first full season in the minors, Upton committed 56 errors in his first 122 games.

    Despite his defensive lapses, the Rays were salivating at the prospect of bringing up a potential 30/30 player and pairing him with the likes of Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Delmon Young and other top prospects.

    Upton slowly worked his way up through the Devil Rays' farm system where he stole more than 40 bases on three different occasions. 

    While it seemed like Upton had been in minors forever, he was called up permanently to the club in 2007 at only 22 years old.

    BJ still hasn't lived up to what scouts and fans thought that he would be, but he still shows flashes of the power that he had, and is still one of the best base runners in the game, successfully stealing almost 80 percent of the bases he attempts.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 485 games, .297 BA, .393 OBP, 346 runs, 50 HRs, 234 RBI, 154 SBs, 59 CS

    Career Stats (MLB): 820 games, .257 BA, .342 OBP, 460 runs, 90 HRs, 369 RBI, 201 SBs, 63 CS

No. 8: Carl Crawford

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    Carl Crawford was going to be successful no matter which sport he chose to play. Coming out of high school, Carl had a scholarship offer to play point guard for UCLA, and he also had scholarship offers from Nebraska, USC, Oklahoma and Tulsa to come play quarterback.

    Instead of pursuing football or basketball, Crawford decided to play baseball instead. With the first pick in the second round of the 1999 MLB draft, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Carl Crawford.

    Tampa knew what they were going to get with Crawford, which was a plus-plus defender with plus-plus speed, average power, and above average contact. All they had to do was wait for Carl to develop.

    In 2002, Crawford won the International League Rookie of the Year honors by batting .297 with 7 home runs, 52 RBI, and 26 stolen bases.

    Since being called up to the Majors full time, Crawford has lead the league in stolen bases four times, triples four times and in 2006, Crawford became only the eighth player in MLB history to have more than 200 stolen bases before he turned 25.

    Crawford was everything that they wanted and more, which helped give CC a huge contract with the Red Sox, becoming one of only six outfielders to secure a contract of over $100 million.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 414 games, .294 BA, .336 OBP, 285 runs, 17 HRs, 186 RBI, 134 SBs, 41 CS

    Career Stats (MLB): 1365 games, .293 BA, .333 OBP, 830 runs, 115 HRs, 648 RBI, 427 SBs, 96 CS

No. 7: Delmon Young

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    Delmon Young is the younger brother of former Detroit Tiger Dmitri Young. After being drafted with the first overall pick in the 2003 MLB draft, Young was expected to do amazing things for the club, which was evidenced by the fact that Tampa gave him a Major League contract when they signed him.

    John Sickels, in an article for ESPN, had great things to say about Young. He was projected to hit for both power and average, he had above average base-running skills and had good range in the outfield.

    Rays assistant, Don Zimmer has said that Delmon Young has an arm comparable to Jesse Barfield or Raul Mondesi, two players known to have accurate cannons.

    Young didn't disappoint during his time in the minors. In Young's first season of professional baseball at the A level, he batted .322 with 95 runs, 25 home runs, 115 RBI and 21 stolen bases at just 18 years old.

    In 2005, Young picked right up where he left off. While splitting time between both AA and AAA, Young was named the Minor League Player of the Year after batting .315, with 92 runs, 26 home runs, 99 RBI and 32 stolen bases, while also adding 10 outfield assists.

    Young was the second person in three seasons to win the MiLB POY award, with Rocco Baldelli last winning it in 2002.

    Young ran into a little trouble during the 2006 season while playing for the Durham Bulls, but it didn't have to do with his play on the field. 

    After striking out against the Pawtucket Red Sox, Delmon threw his bat at an umpire and was suspended for 50 games. This started to bring into question Young's character. However, Young still raked on the field to the tune of a .316 BA, 50 runs, 8 HRs, 59 RBI and 22 SBs in just 86 games.

    At the start of 2007, Young was named the starting RF for the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays. While Young had a very good rookie year, he did not show the power that he was known for in the minors and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.

    Currently, Young is playing for the Detroit Tigers and still hasn't lived up to the hype of being selected first overall..

     

    Career Stats (minors): 362 games, .317 BA, .362 OBP, 242 runs, 61 HRs, 278 RBI, 75 SBs, 22 CS

    Career Stats (MLB): 729 games, .288 BA, .321 OBP, 342 runs, 71 HRs, 408 RBI, 34 SBs, 19 CS

No. 6: Rocco Baldelli

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    It's never a bad thing when you're mentioned in the same sentence as Joe DiMaggio. Rocco Baldelli heard those comparisons when he was in high school, and they carried with him as he played his rookie season with the Devil Rays.

    Baldelli was mentioned in the same breath as Joe DiMaggio in this article by Fox Sports.

    Rocco was drafted with the sixth overall pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and was seen as a real five tool player. Baldelli could hit for average, power, had great speed, a strong arm and was a well above average fielder.

    "The Woonsocket Rocket" as he was known, showcased all of these skills while quickly working his way up from High-A ball to AAA during the 2002 season.

    Baldelli finished that season with a .331 average with 19 home runs, 71 RBI and 23 stolen bases.

    At only 21 years old, Rocco Baldelli was called up to play with the big club and never looked back. 

    It seemed like night in and night out Rocco was coming up with a big play in the field, or a clutch hit at the plate. The comparisons to DiMaggio were starting to look like they may have been warranted, as Rocco finished third in the AL RoY voting.

    After another very strong season in 2004, Baldelli's career took a turn for the worse and he couldn't stay on the field due to health issues. Rocco never played another full season in the majors and retired in January of 2011.

    Rocco Baldelli will go down as another case of "what could have been."

     

    Career Stats (minors): 357 games, .276 BA, .326 OBP, 210 runs, 38 HRs, 187 RBI, 64 SBs, 27 CS

    Career Stats (MLB): 519 games, .278 BA, .323 OBP, 281 runs, 60 HRs, 262 RBI, 60 SBs, 16 CS

No. 5: Jeremy Hellickson

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    Since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Herbert Hoover High School, Jeremy Hellickson has been the talk of all Rays fans.

    "Hell Boy" as he is known by fans, dominated every level that he pitched at in the minor leagues. During his first full season of professional baseball at the age of 19, Hellickson went 4-3 with a 2.43 ERA and 96 Ks in 77.2 innings.

    Hellickson moved slowly through the Rays' farm system, making stops at every level from Rookie ball to AAA where he won the MiLB Player of the Year award in 2010.

    Hellickson would have made the rotation for just about any other team in baseball during the 2010 season, but the Rays held the best team ERA in the league for most of the season, and just didn't have the space to bring him up for more than a cup of coffee.

    Jeremy got his first taste of the big leagues with a late call-up to the Rays at the end of the 2010 season. In his first four career starts, Hellickson went 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA and 25 Ks in 26.1 innings. It was clear that the Rays weren't going to be able to keep "Hell Boy" out of the rotation any longer.

    After making the rotation out of camp in 2011, Hellickson decided not to look back. After being named the Pitcher of the Month for the month of May, Hellickson put together a Rookie of the Year season, finishing 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA and 117 Ks in 189 innings.

    It may be too soon to tell, but it appears that while Hellickson may not be the strikeout pitcher that he was in the minors, he still has the stuff to be a No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher in the tough AL East.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 49-16, 580.1 IP, 1 CG, 2.71 ERA, 634 Ks, 4.63 K/BB

    Career Stats (MLB): 17-10, 225.1 IP, 2 CG, 3.04 ERA, 150 Ks, 1.88 K/BB

No. 4: David Price

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    No team wants to celebrate having the worst record in baseball, but I bet a small part of the Rays organization was doing just that when they found out that they had the first overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft.

    Coming through Vanderbilt University, David Price was as close to a sure thing to come through the college ranks in years.

    After three seasons at Vanderbilt, Price had a record of 17-7, with a 2.55 ERA, and 366 Ks. This included a new school record and NCAA-leading 194 Ks during his final season.

    After being selected with the first overall pick of the 2007 draft, Price only pitched in 19 games before being called up to the Majors to help the Rays make the playoffs for the first time in their existence.

    Price became immediately known to the baseball world when he shut down the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS to send the Rays to the World Series. On just about the biggest stage in the world, Price performed just like he had in all of his previous stops. 

    After being kept down in the minors for a month to enable the Rays to control an extra year, Price was called up permanently to the big league club in May of 2009.

    Price hasn't become the shut-down number one that was expected when he was taken with the first overall pick, but he has shown incredible poise and flashes of brilliance while pitching in the killer AL East, and could be an ace for more than half the teams in Major League Baseball.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 13-5, 144 IP, 1 CG, 2.69 ERA, 144 Ks, 2.88 K/BB

    Career Stats (MLB): 41-26, 575.1 IP, 2 CG, 3.38 ERA, 520 Ks, 2.60 K/BB

No. 3: Evan Longoria

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    Just how confident were the Tampa Bay Rays in third overall pick Evan Longoria? Andrew Friedman signed Longoria to a six year extension before he had even taken his first Major League at-bat.

    Longoria had a lot of hype following him before his selection in the draft, as he was named the 2005 Cape Cod League MVP, and the Big West Co-Player of the of the Year in 2006 at Long Beach State University.

    Coming out of college in 2006, Baseball America called Longoria the "best pure hitter" among college players in the draft.

    Drafting Longoria was a boon for all of the Rays fans at the time, as they were used to seeing players like Sean Burroughs, Nick Green and Vinny Castilla man the hot corner.

    It only took Longo 36 games of A ball to be called up to AA to play for the Montgomery Biscuits. In those 36 games, Longoria had 27 runs and batted .349 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI. It was becoming clearer what kind of player the Rays would have with them in the near future.

    Longoria played the 2007 season split between both the Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League (AA) and the Durham Bulls of the International League (AAA). Once again, Evan made it known that he wanted his shot at the big leagues. His stat line that season? .299, 97 runs, 29 2Bs, 26 HRs, 95 RBI.

    The Rays weren't going to be able to keep Longoria down in the farm any longer.

    16 games, .313 batting average, 12 runs, 3 HRs, and 9 RBI.

    Those were Longoria's stats for the 2008 Spring Training.

    Andrew Friedman knew what he had on his hands and after playing seven games at AAA ball, Longoria was called up and given a six year, $17.5 million deal before even taking an at-bat.

    A serious risk, and possibly a move that would get you fired if it didn't pay off.

    Since being called up to the Majors, Longoria has been arguably one of the three best third basemen in baseball. Thankfully, all of the hype about Longoria paid off for Friedman and the Rays.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 209 games, .300 BA, .386 OBP, 145 runs, 47 HRs, 157 RBI, 8 SB, 2 CS

    Career Stats (MLB): 563 games, .274 BA, .360 OBP, 341 runs, 113 HRs, 401 RBI, 34 SBs, 7 CS

No. 2: Matt Moore

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    The left-handed Stephen Strasburg. Not a bad comparison for someone that was taken in the eighth round of the 2007 amateur draft. Moore has completely dominated every level he has played at in the minors, and if all the hype surrounding him comes to fruition, the Rays are going to be SCARY for years to come.

    In 2010, while pitching for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Matt Moore had 208 strikeouts, setting a record for Rays farmhands.

    Last season, in 2011, Moore split his time between AA and AAA, and he once again set the strikeout record for a Rays farmhand, with 210. In addition to that, Moore was selected to the All-Star team in not one, but two different leagues.

    If the 210 strikeouts weren't enough, Moore had a 12-3 record with a 1.92 ERA, and a 4.57 K/BB ratio.

    Moore was selected to the midseason All-Star team for the Southern League in addition to being selected to the postseason All-Star team in the International League.

    Friedman and the Rays didn't let this season go unnoticed, as they brought Moore up for a cup of coffee at the end of the season. Not one to disappoint, Moore went 1-0 in three games with a 2.91 ERA and 15 Ks in 9.1 innings.

    To keep in line with his approach of young stars, Andrew Friedman has already signed Matt Moore to a contract that will keep him in Tampa Bay until at least 2018.

    While it may be too early to tell, I cannot see Moore projecting as any worse than a high-end No. 3 pitcher.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 28-21, 497.1 IP, 1 CG, 2.64 ERA, 700 Ks, 3.30 K/BB

    Career Stats (MLB): 1-0, 9.1 IP, 2.89 ERA, 15 Ks, 5.00 K/BB

No. 1: Josh Hamilton

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    While the internet wasn't the buzzing sensation that it is today, Josh Hamilton was still about as hyped of a prospect.

    Back in 1999, Sports Illustrated ran an article on the phenomenal left-handed pitcher/outfielder from Raleigh, North Carolina.

    Hamilton's stats for his Senior season in high school are just eye-popping. At the time of the Sports Illustrated article, he was  7-1 with 83 Ks in 47 innings. Hamilton was also batting .556 with 11 home runs, 34 RBI and only four strikeouts in 63 at-bats.

    To put that in perspective, Hamilton had 35 hits in 63 at-bats. Of those 35 hits, Hamilton hit 11 of those out of the park. Josh Hamilton was averaging a home run out of every six at-bats, and one out of three of his hits went over the fence.

    Hamilton went first overall to Tampa Bay in the 1999 draft and went on to bat .312 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI between Rookie League Princeton and Low-A Hudson Valley, helping lead them to the New York-Penn League Championship.

    After a 2000 season of plus .300 batting average, 13 home runs, and 61 RBI, people within the league were still raving over Hamilton, who had been clocked at over 95 mph throwing from the outfield.

    The next season, Hamilton started getting into drugs and attended rehab for the first time. This was the start of Hamilton's downward spiral, and he was out of baseball from 2003 to 2006 where he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft and immediately traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

    Surprisingly, even though Hamilton had his history of drugs issues, he overcame all of that and is one of the most feared hitter in Major League Baseball today, and was the AL MVP in 2010.

     

    Career Stats (minors): 290 games, .291, .474 SLG%, 183 runs  39 HRs, 186 RBI, 49 SBs, 12 CS

    Career stats (MLB): 589 games, .308, .543 SLG%, 368 runs, 118 HRs, 425 RBI, 36 SBs, 9 CS

What Do You Think?

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    Are there any other current or former Rays players that you feel should have made the cut? Let your thoughts be known in the comments section below.