Prospect Preview: Andrew Toles

Jared Wickerham

The 4th round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays has slid under the radar thus far, but he deserves your attention

It's been an interesting road to professional baseball for Andrew Toles. Blessed with great talent, Toles was selected in the 4th round of the 2010 draft out of high school by the Florida Marlins, though he didn't sign, choosing instead to go to Tennessee. He was drafted again in 2012, this time in the 3rd round by another Florida team: Tampa Bay. Now if you know your draft rules you might be surprised to see that a guy like Toles, who went to a four-year program, get drafted just two years after committing, without being a draft-eligible sophomore. What made this possible was that he was dismissed from Tennessee in the fall of his sophomore year, later enrolling at Junior College (JC) powerhouse Chipola. That's a bit concerning, though misunderstandings happen and transfers or dismissals are not always what they seem. However, the real concern is that he was also suspended in his time at Chipola and seeing that pattern is obviously worrisome. Makeup doesn't seem to be a concern in the long run though, and Toles' tools and lineage (his father is former NFL pick Alvin Toles) was too much for the Rays to pass up on.

Signed quickly enough to get 214 plate appearances under his belt, Toles produced a .281/.327/.482 slash line in the Rookie level Appalachian League, adding 14 stolen bases in 19 attempts. For someone with Toles' speed, that slugging percentage might surprise some, however he doesn't lack punch and should be able to hit plenty of extra base hits, even if they're not home runs. One of the things to worry about out of his 2012 season was Toles' walk percentage, registering at 5.6% compared to a 16.8% strikeout rate. Unfortunately we haven't seen those rates go in the direction you want, with his 2013 rates sitting at 3.5% and 19.4% respectively. He's got a 5.5:1 K:BB ratio, which is an obvious concern...however the slash line to go with that ratio is a solid .314/.344/.455. There's been a bit of a dropoff in power, with five fewer home runs in 155 more at-bats, though he's compensated a bit with 22 doubles and 11 triples thus far. He's also upped his stolen bases, swiping 45 in 57 attempts, an obvious increase in total number but also an improvement in his efficiency. His combination of elite speed and moderate power should appeal to fantasy owners.

While the main attraction in Toles' skillset is his plus-plus speed, he doesn't lack physicality. He's shortened his swing since being drafted, allowing his plus bat speed to play up. Again, he's not going to be a home run hitter, but extra bases are well within his repertoire as we've seen by his doubles and triples totals. He can show above-average raw power in batting practice, though it shows up as gap power in-game. Defensively, Toles should have no trouble staying in center field, using his blazing speed to cover large swaths of ground. He has a solid arm and doesn't try to overdo it, focusing on making accurate throws. While makeup concerns were present based on college/juco issues, Toles is a hard worker on the field. The impact tools though, as discussed is his plus-plus speed. He's still learning how to harness it and is finetuning the technical aspects of basestealing. It would be nice to see a little less miss in his swing and a little more patience at the plate but even if only one of those things happens, Toles should be a big leaguer. While Tampa tends not to move prospects quickly, Toles' tools could have him move through the system quicker than your standard Rays' prospect.

While he is by no means a five-tool prospect when it comes to fantasy, Toles is a nice under-the-radar type guy that I have confidence will be a major leaguer and provide a good return on investment to anyone who has drafted him. His speed should always allow him to contribute on the fantasy side and he won't hurt you in the power categories. He should play at the top of a lineup which would help with runs and his bat to ball skills should allow him to help in average, or at the very least, not actively hurt you. He's a guy I've been keeping an eye on since he was drafted, and his production combined with his tools merit a bit more hype than he's been receiving. I suggest investing before others take notice.

Source Material
Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference
FanGraphs

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