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Mikie Mahtook OF (1st Round, 31st pick, LSU):
Mahtook played CF and RF for the Tigers and both corner spots in the recent Arizona Fall League. The general consensus among scouts is that he has the speed and range to play center, but also the arm to play right.
Scout.com's National Baseball Expert and former Texas Rangers scout Frankie Piliere weighed in on Mahtook in a recent scouting report:
"There’s a question regarding whether Mahtook can play center field at the Major League level. He probably can, but he’d be an elite defender in right field. He has a plus throwing arm and gets outstanding jumps. In center he'd be a fringe-average defender, but would be a plus defender in right.
What Mahtook says: "I know that they’re going to give me a shot in center. They haven’t told me for sure what position they would prefer me at. But like I said, I’m just going to come out here and wherever they put me out in the outfield, I’m going play and I’m going to adjust. I’m going to play the best that I can play."
Brandon Martin SS (1st Round Sup., 38th pick, Santiago HS, Corona, CA):
Of all of the shortstops in the lower levels of the system, Martin has the best chance at staying at the position. While he is still very raw, he is very athletic and has above-average range. He possesses a strong arm as well, but needs to work on some of his mechanics and actions at the position.
Last year in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, Martin played 11 games at shortstop and had a .957 fielding percentage in 46 chances with 2 errors.
What Martin says: "I try not to think about it. I let them do what they do - the front office. I have no control over it, I just go out there and do my best each and every day. I know I have no control over it."
Tyler Goeddel 3B (1st Round Sup., 41st pick, St. Francis HS, Mountain View, CA):
There is a wide-range of opinions on Goeddel's future position. There are those that think his athleticism and above-arm strength will play well at the hot corner. Still others believe that his speed would make him an elite center fielder. Shortstop is a possibility as well, although with other 2011 top high school picks like Martin, Jake Hager, and Johnny Eierman all in the fold, he may be best served by getting his at bats at third base for now.
What Goeddel says: "It’s still up in the air right now. There having me split at short and third, so I guess we’ll see what happens at Spring Training and they’ll make their decision then."
Granden Goetzman OF (2nd Round, 75th Pick, Palmetto HS, Palmetto, FL):
Goetzman played shortstop his senior year at Palmetto, but like Goeddel is unlikely to see any time at the position due to better defenders at the same levels of the system. Despite his 6'4" 200 lb. frame, he is athletic enough to play center field. He is one of the many "toolsy" players drafted in 2011 by the Rays and his skill-set gives the organization several options.
The 19-year-old was dealing with a groin issue last season in his debut in the Gulf Coast League, but he managed to get 75 at bats primarily as the designated hitter.
What Goetzman says: "I’m pretty much done with the infield. I think center field is where I am to be. But I’m a big guy, so maybe the corners. I’m gonna try and keep my speed up and stay in center. Center field is what I want to do and is what I am working for."
Lenny Linsky RHP (2nd Round, 89th pick, University of Hawaii):
Linsky seems a sure bet to stay in the bullpen as his sinker/slider combo plays well there and he has the makeup and durable frame to be a closer. He generates a ton of ground balls, but can also use his slider as a put-away pitch and allowed no home runs last season at Hawaii.
Between the Short-Season A Hudson Valley Renegades and Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods last season, he was 3-0 with 3 saves and a 1.23 earned run average in 29.1 innings pitched while striking out 30 batters.
What Linsky says: "To be honest, I have no clue what they want me to do. I’m just going to do whatever they tell me to do. I love closing, but whatever they’ll need me to do, I’ll do."
"I’m kind of a high energy, kind of intense kind of guy. When I got to Hudson Valley, I was screaming a lot on the mound like I did in college. So they wanted me to tone it down a little bit. Have a little more controlled rage on the mound I guess."
Johnny Eierman SS (3rd Round, 119th pick, Warsaw HS, Warsaw, MO):
Many scouts believe that it is a forgone conclusion that Eierman won't stick in the infield as a professional. His average arm and suspect hands do raise some questions about his ability to handle short. His skill-set may be best suited for center field and many scouts believe that will be his future position for the Rays.
Frankie Piliere isn't necessarily in agreement with that assessment and opined on Eierman in a recent live chat:
"I like Eierman a lot. His plate discipline needs work but he has a live bat. We'll have to see how consistently he make the plays at shortstop, but if he can't do that he's more than athletic enough to play in the outfield. For now, let's see what he can do at SS."
The Rays agree with Piliere and have kept Eierman at short, and thus far in a small sample-size he has held his own there. Last year in the Gulf Coast League, he played 11 games there and had a .940 fielding percentage in 50 chances while making 3 errors.
Eierman has some very interesting quotes below on his future and it seems like many in the baseball-world have jumped the gun on his proposed switch to center field.
What Eierman says: "The Rays haven't talked to meet about outfield at all - like literally nothing. On my first baseball card they actually had me listed as an outfielder, but I've never played outfield."
"This past summer after I got drafted I played center field some, because I thought I might play outfield. Right now I'm really just trying to stick in the infield as long as I can. If I do move to the outfield, obviously I'd love to play center, because I think I have the speed to run down some balls. I think I'd like that more than the corner positions."
"Right now, I think I can play in the infield, either at short or third, but it's really wherever. If they move me, I'll just work on it. I think as long as I'm hitting they'll find a position for me in the field."
"Actually before I got drafted, I got called by a bunch of teams saying they were going to draft me as a center fielder. So I figured that summer that I'd play some center field and try and get used to it."
"When I first signed with the Rays, the first week they had me at short. I was like 'a bunch of other teams said that they were gonna work me in the outfield, do you want me to go get my outfielder's glove and work in the outfield or something?' And they were like, 'no, no, don't do that.' They haven't said anything about the outfield ever since."
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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