The Tampa Bay Rays are the model small-budget franchise for Major League Baseball. They eschew going after big ticket free agents in favor of methodical young player development. In recent years they have had particular success in cultivating starting pitchers in their farm system, producing quality young arms like James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore. The Rays must feed this machine every year in order to be able to keep churning out a consistent flow of talent. One of the newest starting pitcher prospects they have brought into the fold is Taylor Guerrieri; someone they believe will eventually become another of their developmental successes.
Guerrieri is a right-hander from Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. During his senior year he experienced a meteoric rise up draft boards, as he went 6-1, with a 1.10 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 51 innings. Scouts drooled over his effortless delivery of a fastball that runs into the mid-90’s, an excellent curveball, and other secondary pitches believed will keep getting better over time. Although it initially looked like he was going to attend the University of South Carolina, Guerrieri was taken by the Rays with the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft, and they managed to wrest him away from his collegiate commitment.
Like most young pitchers, Guerrieri is being handled gently by the Rays. He is getting his first taste of the professional game this season, having appeared in 3 games for the Hudson Valley Renegades in short-season ball. He has been dominant in his limited exposure, posting a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings. More information on his statistics is available at http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=605260.
Guerrieri took a few minutes to chat with me during his team’s recent road trip to Vermont. This is definitely one prospect you are going to want to know more about, as he looks to earn his place as another cog in the Rays’ prospect machine.
Taylor Guerrieri Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball?: My dad. He had a big part in my life. He was telling me that whenever I was in my crib he would ball up socks and throw them to me and I would pick them up and throw them back, and that’s when he knew I was going to be a baseball player.
Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?: I was always a Braves fan kind of, because that was my hometown team, being the closest to South Carolina. My favorite player? I just liked watching the game because I appreciated it. But I really didn’t have a favorite player to be honest.
Is there any pitcher who you model yourself after?: I like Verlander a lot; he’s real fun to watch… Halladay and his command. Growing up I didn’t have any favorite pitcher.
What pitches do you currently have in your repertoire?: Two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, curveball, and a changeup.
What was your draft experience like?: It’s funny because you get teams who come to get you to fill out questionnaires and the Rays didn’t do it until the last second, the day before the draft. They didn’t even call me before they picked me, so that was funny too. So they picked me and it was exciting and everything. It was a good experience; something you’ll never forget.
Why did you ultimately sign with Tampa instead of attending school at the University of South Carolina?: Just playing baseball every day. No school was kind of tough to get used to. Mainly I wanted to come out and play baseball every day. That’s what I love.
What has been the toughest thing to get used to in being a professional baseball player?: Probably every fifth day, just throwing. I was coming out of high school, so I was throwing every seven days. Now it’s every fifth day and it really takes a toll on your body, but I’m starting to get used to it a little bit better and it’s working out for me.
Is there anything you personally hope to improve on this year, or the Rays have asked you to work on?: Just the changeup. They want me to develop my changeup more. I work with it every day and I’m sure, you know, with every pitcher out here, they just want command; to just improve their command of the strike zone. If I do those things I’ll be alright.
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