The logic of the rankings are based off of the prospects’ tools and potential, as well as previous performance in the minors leagues.
Because most of the prospects on this list are at different stages of development, future upside was a large factor in putting together these rankings.
Without further ado, here’s a look at my top 10 Rays prospects heading into spring training.
1. Wil Myers
Wil Myers was the top prize in the four-prospect trade package that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City. After putting together an outstanding 2012 season in Class AA and Class AAA ball, the 22-year-old has become arguably the best hitting prospect in all of baseball.
As you can see from the numbers, Myers’ main forte is his impressive raw power. He also has great bat speed and the ability to hit well for power and get on base proficiently. On the base pads, he’s an average runner with decent speed.
Myers’ main weakness overall is his plate discipline. The exciting power does come with some swing-and-miss tendency, as he struck out 140 times in 134 games last season. Hopefully, Myers will be able to fix the holes in his swing as he matures overall as a ballplayer.
Defensively, Myers is nothing special but nothing below average either. He played centerfield, right field and some third base in 2012, but right field will most likely be his main position in the majors. With a plus arm and average range, he should manage pretty well there.
Barring an injury, Myers will most likely get his first taste of the big leagues this season with Tampa Bay. The only question is how early. If he goes on a tear this spring he could even make the Opening Day roster.
2. Taylor Guerrieri
Drafted by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, 20-year-old right hander Taylor Guerrieri didn’t hesitate at all to open eyes in his professional debut with Class A- Hudson Valley last year. Guerrieri posted an impressive 1.04 ERA through 12 starts (52 innings) with 7.9 K/9 and 9.0 K/BB.
He has a good feel for four pitches, including a two-seam fastball with excellent late sinking action and a plus curveball. He’s also in the process of developing a changeup which could also transform into an above-average pitch.
Guerrieri’s fastball reaches up into the mid-upper 90’s and he still has plenty of room to grow into his six-foot-three, 195 pound frame to build up velocity in the future.
Besides for having great stuff, Guerrieri has also displayed advanced control and command with the ability to pound the strike zone. He only walked five batters throughout the entire 2012 season.
3. Chris Archer
Chris Archer has been one of the top prospects among the Rays’ plethora of young arms for a while now, and it looks like his minor league days could be coming to the end as spring training rolls in.
Archer made his MLB debut last season, making four starts as a replacement in the rotation. He posted a 4.60 ERA through four starts (29.1 innings), but continued to show a bright ray of light with an outstanding 11.0 K/9 ratio.
The 24-year-old right-hander has great stuff, including a fantastic fastball that reaches velocities in the upper-90’s range along with great live movement. He also has a very good slider, giving him a nice two-pitch combination with the fastball. His changeup is still lagging behind, but it does seem to be improving.
Command and control are by far the biggest issues for Archer. He’s struggled throwing strikes in both the majors and minors, and it’s been holding him back from a breakout season.
With such a terrific arsenal, the sky is the limit for Archer. His big league future can be anything from a middle reliever to an All-Star starter. If he can just improve his command enough, the Rays are going to have yet another dangerous starter in their rotation.
4. Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi was another highly-ranked prospect acquired from Kansas City in this winter’s blockbuster trade. The Rays may have lost two talented starting pitchers in that deal, but they did gain one back in Odorizzi.
The 22-year-old right-hander had a very productive 2012 season, going 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 8.4 K/9 through 145.1 IP.
He has four pitches in his arsenal, including a solid fastball that reaches the mid-90’s and a plus curveball and slider. His changeup is still a work in progress, but he has displayed excellent command over all his pitches for a pitcher at such a young age.
Odorizzi already made his big-league debut last year, making two starts with the Royals, and will be fighting for a spot in the rotation this spring. If he stays on the path he’s on he’ll eventually make it, and should be exciting to watch with a very high ceiling to be a frontline starter in Tampa Bay.
5. Hak-Ju Lee
Like Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee was acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade back in 2011. Ever since, Lee’s appeared in two MLB Futures Games and rised to be the organization’s best position player prospect until the Wil Myers trade this offseason.
The 22-year-old Korean native posted an underachieving .261/.336/.360 line with 37 RBI and stolen bases last year in Class AA ball. He failed to make much progress and unfortunately didn’t even get the call for Triple-A Durham.
The main concern with Lee is hitting, which is really the only thing holding him back in Double-A. He has no power, so getting on-base is crucial for him, and he’s going to have to do a better job of that this season if he wants to break into the big leagues.
On the other hand, Lee’s strong points are fielding and speed. He’s a very good shortstop with both great range and a good arm, and definitely has high upside defensively at the position at the major league level.
6. Alex Colome
Alex Colome is definitely a name to watch for in the minor leagues in 2013. The 24-year-old right-hander went 8-4 with a 3.44 ERA and 8.8 K/9 through 17 starts last year in both Double-A and Triple-A.
What makes Colome such an exciting prospect is his electric stuff, making him one of the higher upside prospects in the entire organization.
Colome’s arsenal is highlighted by a great fastball which he throws up to 97 MPH with plenty of live action. He also throws a pretty good curve, along with a slider and changeup which are still developing.
Like many talented hard-throwers in the Rays’ farm system over the years, the team has done a nice job gradually transforming Colome from a thrower into a pitcher. His command—which is his main weakness—is slowly but surely improving as he moves up the ranks.
7. Richie Shaffer
The Rays drafted Richie Shaffer 25th overall in last summer’s draft, adding a talented bat to Tampa Bay’s farm system.
After a succesful college career with the Clemson Tigers, Shaffer made his pro debut with Short-Season Hudson Valley. There he hit .308/.406/.487 with four homers and through 33 games.
Shaffer—a right-handed bat—is a very good hitter overall, with big-time power and a nice plate approach. He does have holes in his swing and tends to strikeout often because of them, but he has his whole minor league career ahead of him to work on it.
Defensively, the 21-year-old’s main position is third base. Although his strong arm profiles well for the position, lack of range makes his future at third a question mark. Both first base and/or right field could be possibilities for him long term.
8. Blake Snell
Blake Snell is another pitching prospect on this top 10 list with the tools to become a frontline starter in the major leagues.
Selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 Draft, Snell shined in the Appalachian League last season being named Pitcher of the Year. He went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 10.1 K/9 through 11 starts (47.1 IP).
The 20-year-old lefty has four pitches in his arsenal. He throws a low-90’s fastball that touches the mid-90’s, and with such a lanky physique the Rays can expect Snell to gain velocity as he matures.
Snell also throws a plus changeup, which leads his two other secondary pitches; the slider and curveball. The slider—which he developed last year—could serve as a good pitch for him down the road. The curve is also a work in progress and lacks sharpness a bit.
One thing to like about Snell is his command, which is pretty impressive for such a young pitcher. He does well throwing strikes, and is able to entice groundballs by throwing low in the zone.
9. Enny Romero
Another electric arm in the Rays’ system with very high upside, Enny Romero has steadily moved up the farm over the past five years level by level.
Romero spent the entire 2012 season with Class A+ Charlotte, going 5-7 with a 3.93 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and a .201 opponent’s batting average.
The 22-year-old southpaw throws a powerful fastball in the mid-to-upper 90’s, along with a hard curveball with very high potential as his secondary pitch. He also throws a changeup, but there’s still plenty of refining needed to be done there.
Unsurprisingly, Romero’s main area that needs improvement is his command and control. Throwing strikes and pitch location has frequent issue with the flame-throwing MLB Future Gamer.
Romero could also use good share of work on his mechanics, which has caused inconsistency in pitches.
10. Drew Vettleson
The Rays have an intriguing bat to keep an eye on with 21-year-old Drew Vettleson emerging in their farm system.
Vettleson had a solid 2012 season with Single-A Bowling Green after being drafted 42nd overall in the 2010 Draft, hitting .275/.340/.432 with 69 RBI, 15 homers and 20 stolen bases.
What I like about Vettleson is that he’s a very well-rounded player. His excellent swing and terrific bat speed provide him with both the capability to hit for average and for power.
He’s also a good baserunner, and has above-average speed which should help him continue to steal bases throughout his career.
Defensively, he fields well at both corner outfield positions. With a good arm (was a rare ambidextrous pitcher in high school) and good range, he should be able to play right field.