Tampa Bay Rays 2013 Top 15 Prospects
The rest of Bullpen Banter’s 2013 Top 15 Prospects can be found on the 2013 Team Prospect Lists Bar on the right side of your screen. Thanks for reading! -BB
Bullpen Banter Tampa Bay Rays 2013 Top 15 Prospects
Jeff Reese: Tampa Bay graduated one of my favorite pitching prospects in some time last year. Matt Moore may not have immediately been the dominant pitcher who over-matched AAA hitters and at time major league hitters in the September that followed, but he more than held his own. I expect him to take a massive step forward in 2013 and establish himself as the 1B to David Price’s 1A. It’s not typical for a team that graduates such an elite level prospect to replace him with another elite player a year later, but that’s exactly what the Rays did. By trading James Shields to the Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay landed an outfielder with impact offensive potential. Athletic enough to play center field at the moment, Wil Myers has a prototypical right field profile and needs little additional minor league seasoning. It would be one thing if Myers was the only prospect returned in the Shields deal, but in the deal they also added Jake Odorizzi — a little over-hyped in the past but still a good chance to be a number three type of starter; Mike Montgomery — former top 50 pitching prospect who has struggled to master his command at the upper levels; and third baseman Patrick Leonard — toolsy third baseman from the Royals 2011 class. I particularly like the gamble on Montgomery; the Rays tend to get the most out of their pitching prospects and will likely allow him to return to the long toss program that helped mold him into the premier pitching prospect that he was a few years ago.
The Shields trade undoubtedly bolstered the system; there was certainly interesting talent before the trade, but it did not have the same sheen as the last few years. Taylor Guerrieri fits well as the second best prospect in the system. He spent his entire first season in the NYPL, showing off his low 90s fastball with heavy sink and knockout breaking ball. The Rays are notorious for slowly progressing their prospects through the minors, so Guerrieri failing to see any full season action is unsurprising. Chris Archer is the most major league ready of their top pitching prospects and saw time towards the end of the season with the big league club. With a devastating slider and a lively mid 90s fastball, Archer has never had difficulty generating strikeouts; improving his command and limiting walks will be key to remaining in the rotation long term; out of the bullpen, he would be electric. Alex Colome has a similar profile, but the command is less projectable and the breaking ball is not quite as good. He should be a good relief option for the Rays as early as this year. The left-handed trio of Enny Romero, Blake Snell, and Felipe Rivero all have projectable builds and above-average starter ceilings.
The offensive prospects after Myers all have question marks. Hak-Ju Lee is a major league quality short stop, but his offensive game is suspect with nearly non-existent power and a hit tool that, while not bad, certainly cannot compensate. I labeled him as a poor man’s Dee Gordon a few years ago; I’d append to that label “with significantly more defensive polish.” Richie Shaffer is the opposite. He has good athleticism and impressed me with how competent he looked when Clemson moved him over to third base during his junior year — his arm in particular is well suited for the position — but his range will be a bit limited. Offensively, he has a balanced swing with good bat speed and extension along with a well-developed approach at the plate. I think he’s going to hit and that he at least has a chance to stick at third base. Others may think less highly of him and see a bigger gap between him and Lee.
The depth in the system is still a bit underdeveloped, but there are certainly players with significant upside that fall below the cutoff. Without the Shields trade, we would be looking at more of a middle of the pack system; with it, it’s among the best in the league.
Al Skorupa: For the last couple years I commented a number of times on how I thought Wil Myers might end up the best major leaguer out of the Hosmer-Moustakas-Myers trio. I expect a strong bounce back from Eric Hosmer, but I still like Myers the best of the three. His selective batting eye is a weapon by itself, but in 2012 Myers finally learned to fully integrate his hips and lower half in his swing while looking for pitches to drive. The results were impressive to the tune of .314/.387/.600 and 37 home runs across two minor league levels. I also believe Myers’ athleticism has been consistently understated by the major media sources. As he gets more and more accustomed to the outfield I expect him to develop into at least a solid average defender with a very strong arm in right field. If you’re looking for gaudy fantasy stat lines you may be slightly disappointed by what Myers does the next couple years (especially in cavernous Tropicana Field). What he is going to be is a very valuable major leaguer and perennial all star caliber outfielder. Taylor Guerrieri had a lot of helium in the days and weeks leading up to the 2011 Draft. He’s got a live arm and I see front of the rotation potential here. Chris Archer is an exciting arm to have in the upper levels of your minor league system. As I’ve discussed in the past, he does have some flaws in his game that limit how effective he can be against major leaguers. He’s made significant improvements over the last year and the pure stuff is still filthy. I’m still of the opinion he fits better working out of the bullpen, but Archer is also capable of giving the team strong innings as a starting pitcher. I really need to see further improvements in his command and changeup to give him a long term starter projection, but the velo and stuff is probably enough for him to succeed a couple times around the league at least. If I were to view him as a relief prospect, it’s a really short list of prospect relief arms I like better.
Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell are two other arms with some similar issues as Archer to varying degrees (command and control issues, fastball command lacking, work up in the zone, lack of a consistent, quality third offering). I like both guys considerably. Snell is still young enough that it’s very possible for him to overcome the flaws in his game, too. As we look at the rest of the arms in this system we can also pick apart Alex Colome, Enny Romero and Felipe Rivero. These are some really talented arms. Either a couple/few of these players make adjustments and become very good major leaguers or the Rays are going to have an historically good bullpen! I’d bet on the former. Prospects are human beings and development is not a clean, linear process like we tend to see it in our heads. This statement actually goes doubly for pitching prospects, too. I’m just not a big believer in Hak-Ju Lee’s bat. There was a lot of excitement about him heading in to last winter following his strong finish… but I think what you saw from Lee this season is a little bit more indicative of what we can expect from him against major league pitching. He just lacks physical strength and punch at the plate and its going to be an issue. I still anticipate he’ll be a quality major league shortstop because of his patient approach, glove and wheels. The bar is pretty low for what we expect from shortstops anyway and Lee can up his game even more if he continues to stay within his game and play to his strengths. I just see him as more of a bottom of the lineup type whose offensive production is going to be pretty empty in years where his AVG dips.
As usual, there is a very deep pool of potential break-out prospects after the top 15 in this system. Tampa has accumulated a large amount of power arms and raw, toolsy athletes. The Rays farm system would be down quite a bit but for the acquisition of Myers. With Myers in the fold, this farm looks very strong again and lots of help will keep filtering in. Business as usual for the well run Rays.
OF Wil Myers (Steve Fiorindo)
RHP Taylor Guerrieri (J.D. Sussman, Jeff Reese and Peter Wardell)
RHP Jacob Odorizzi (Stephen Kuperman)
SS Hak-Ju Lee (Chris Blessing)
3B Richie Shaffer (E.Tyler Bullock)
RHP Jeff Ames (Jeff Reese)
SS Tim Beckham (Al Skorupa, Steve Fiorindo and Peter Wardell)
LHP Jose Molina (Jeff Reese)
2B Tommy Coyle (Jeff Reese)
SS Leonardo Reginatto (Jeff Reese)