The Pittsburgh Pirates selected outfielder John Raynor with the second pick in the 2009 Rule 5 draft. Under the terms of the Rule 5 draft, Raynor must remain on the Pirates’ 25-man roster the entire 2010 season, or be offered back to the Florida Marlins, the team from which he was drafted. The Pirates could attempt to work out a deal with Florida to keep Raynor, but that assumes that Raynor passes through waivers and doesn’t get claimed by another team, who would then be under the same requirements to keep Raynor on the 25-man roster.
Raynor entered the 2009 season as the Florida Marlins 11th best prospect, according to Baseball America. However, the 2009 season was a down year for Raynor, who hit for a .257/.327/.360 line in 447 at-bats in AAA. Raynor also had six homers and 19 stolen bases during that span. This follows a year in which Raynor hit for a .312/.402/.489 line in 452 AA at-bats, with 13 homers and 48 stolen bases. Raynor also had success in low-A in 2007, with a .333/.429/.519 line in 445 at-bats, 13 homers, and 54 stolen bases.
One issue with Raynor is strikeouts. Raynor struck out 121 times last year, a 27 percent ratio. He had the same ratio in AA, when he struck out 122 times. Raynor had a decent walk ratio in AA, at 12 percent, but saw that drop to 8 percent in AAA. In his minor league career, Raynor has a 25 percent strikeout rate, and a 10 percent walk rate.
Raynor is very quick, as shown by his 142 career stolen bases in 419 games. Raynor has been clocked from the right side of the plate to first base at 4.1 seconds. However, he has a below average arm, which is why he has played the majority of his time in left field, rather than center field. Raynor was in competition for the starting left field position with Florida last year, but lost out to Cody Ross in Spring Training.
Raynor seems to me like a Nyjer Morgan type in the short term. He wouldn’t be a bad option off the bench, providing good speed and defense, with the ability to play all three outfield positions. If the Pirates don’t sign a right fielder like Rick Ankiel, Raynor could have a shot to be a starter. That would assume that he rebounds from his 2009 numbers and puts up numbers similar to his 2007-2008 seasons. Raynor does do well against left handed pitching, with a career .327/.392/.475 line against lefties in the minors, so he could also be a decent platoon option.
Long term, Raynor has more upside than Morgan, with the ability to hit for some power. However, he turns 26 in January, so he doesn’t have much time to grow. The big issue lies with the strikeouts, although Raynor showed that he can be productive despite a high strikeout total in his time with AA.
I like Raynor’s chances of rebounding. His BABIP in 2009 was .341. In 2008 it was .401, and it was .406 in 2007. Hitters usually see their BABIP stay in the same neighborhood year to year, which means a .341 BABIP is pretty unlucky for Raynor. I don’t think Raynor will have a .400 BABIP in the majors, although the .360-.370 range could be possible, due to his speed adding a few extra hits. For reference, Nyjer Morgan had a .360 BABIP in 2009.
If I were rating Raynor for my Top 50 Prospects, I’d probably place him in the 16-25 range. He wouldn’t be a top ten prospect because of his age and his down year in AAA, but he still has a lot of talent, and is a good shot to be a productive major league player.
As for the 2010 season, the selection of Raynor brings up questions about the opening day roster. The Pirates have Bobby Crosby, Delwyn Young, and Jason Jaramillo as locks for the bench. That leaves Ramon Vazquez, who will make $2.125 M, and Brandon Moss, who is out of options, on the chopping block. The situation gets even more crowded in June when Pedro Alvarez is expected to get promoted, which would move Andy LaRoche to the bench.
The Pirates could give Raynor the final bench spot over Brandon Moss, but they would have to designate Moss for assignment. They could also get rid of Ramon Vazquez mid-season when Alvarez comes up, as there would be no need for Vazquez with LaRoche and Crosby on the bench. Of course, if Jose Tabata also gets the call to the majors by mid-season, it would be extremely difficult to keep Raynor around.
One option would be to go with six arms in the bullpen, rather than seven. That could be tough on the bullpen, as we saw what happened with Donald Veal last year, and Veal spent a lot of time in the minors on “rehab” assignment. There’s also the possibility that the Pirates work out a deal with Florida to keep Raynor, although Raynor is 26, and eventually will figure in to the mix in the majors. Then again, all it takes is one injury to create space on the 25-man roster for Raynor to stick around, even if Alvarez and Tabata do get the call in June.
As for the rest of the draft, the Pirates didn’t have anyone selected from their entire organization. I credit Dave Littlefield’s poor drafting in 2005/2006 for that. They did select shortstop Rodolfo Cardona from Baltimore in the AAA phase of the draft. Cardona looks more like organizational depth, and nothing to really get excited over. Cardona had a .283/.358/.415 line in 325 at-bats over two seasons in rookie ball in 2007 and 2008. He jumped to high-A in 2009, where he hit for a .238/.250/.310 line in 42 at-bats. After a month he went to AA, where he only received 14 at-bats, and went hitless. After two weeks at AA, Cardona was sent to low-A for the remainder of the season, where he hit for a .235/.301/.364 line in 132 at-bats. He’s basically making the jump from low-A to AAA, which seems like a huge jump considering his numbers. He must be good at defense, although I couldn’t find any scouting reports on him.