For years, prospect mavens have considered the Rays one of the standard bearers for impact potential and overall depth throughout the minor league system. While they have dipped a little from their peak of a few years ago, the addition of Will Myers and Jake Odorizzi provides two very good prospects that boost the system and augment talents like Taylor Guerrier, Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee. While the Rays system may not be the envy of everyone in the league like it used to be, it is still the envy of most of the league.
1. Will Myers – OF (Last Year’s Rank: NR)
The headline prospect in the winter deal that sent James Shields to Kansas City, Myers is one of the top handful of prospects in the entire game. Both his power and hitting ability rate as at least plus tools with many scouts willing to go higher on the scouting scale. He projects as a quality defender in right field and his potential as a dynamite middle of the order hitter makes him an elite-level prospect.
2. Taylor Guerrieri – RHP (3)
I had the opportunity to scout Guerrieri six times last summer and to say I am a believer would be selling my opinion short. Even with decreased velocity as he endured the longest season of his career, Guerrieri’s fastball had excellent sink and induced plenty of weak contact. He has an uncanny ability to pound the strike zone with his entire arsenal, and given the Rays success developing pitchers, I believe the velocity will bounce back and he could be a number two starter.
3. Chris Archer – RHP (4)
There has always been talk that Archer could end up in the bullpen and that talk will exist until he demonstrates and ability to start in the big leagues. Archer has the raw stuff to succeed in any role thanks to a plus-plus fastball and arguably the best slider in the minor leagues. He can miss tons of bats and even if his change-up maxes out as a fringe-average pitch and his command does not develop, he can fit in the number four spot in a big league rotation, while always having the potential to reach higher.
4. Hak-Je Lee – SS (2)
Lee is a supreme defender with the ability to pick it with the best of them at the big league level. His arm fits well on the left side of the infield with at least plus grades from scouts, while his speed also earns plus scores. Lee can get the bat to the ball and has a good idea of the strike zone but he lacks punch with bottom of the scale power and may only be capable of hitting an empty .250 in the big leagues. Lee could survive as an everyday shortstop but the defense will have to come as advertised in every way.
5. Richie Shaffer – 3B (NR)
A first round pick of the Rays in 2012, Shaffer has a power profile that could make him an impact big leaguer. He is a solid hitter with a good approach, allowing his power to come through in game situations and even though he strikes out plenty, he can hit 20+ home runs on the back of a .275 average. Shaffer will have to hit with his rough defensive profile. He lacks the projection to remain at third base and could end up on an outfield corner or at first base down the line.
6. Jake Odorizzi – RHP (NR)
Odorizzi’s profile centers on a wealth of solid tools rather than anything exceptional. His fastball is his best pitch, sitting in the low-90s with good movement and touching 95 mph in rare instances. He mixes his change-up, curveball and slider into his outings well and is showing an improved ability to command his entire arsenal. What Odorizzi lacks in flash, he makes up for in certainty, as he has a high likelihood of fulfilling his potential as a third or fourth starter.
7. Blake Snell – LHP (NR)
Snell should have been on this list somewhere last year and that is a mistake I pointed out in the Rays Accountability Check earlier today. He has an ideal pitcher’s frame with tons of room to add strength and add to his plus fastball and he could work in the 93-94 mph range down the line. Both his slider and change-up show promise and some scouts I spoke with in the Appy League last year believed both could be plus pitches in time. Snell needs to refine his control and command profile in order to reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation workhorse.
8. Alex Colome – RHP (6)
I can’t get past a relief profile for Colome but he could be an impact player in that role. His fastball works in the 93-94 mph range during starts and he has shown the ability to work in the 95-97 mph range in shorter bursts. His curveball has excellent velocity separation from his fastball and also shows hard, late break. Colome’s max-effort delivery precludes his command development and can sometimes leave him without the ability to find the strike zone. With any luck, Colome could be a seventh or eighth inning power arm.
9. Felipe Rivero – LHP (NR)
An undersized lefty, Rivero doesn’t lack for raw potential and if you can get past his size, he looks like a potential mid-rotation arm. He already works in the low-90s with his fastball and shows good command for his age, leaving him with additional projection as he reaches physical maturity. Both of Rivero’s secondary pitches have at least average potential and the curveball will flash better than that. He is miles from the big leagues but he has to be watched closely as a potential breakout arm.
10. Drew Vettleson – OF (8)
Not unlike Jake Odorizzi ahead of him, Vettleson earns plenty of points for doing a lot of things solidly but doesn’t do anything at a top-flight level. He has a sound approach at the plate, though his bat-to-ball skills still lead to some swing and miss. He should be an average hitter with some walks and 15-18 home runs at his peak. His defense in right field will be solid as well and his arm is his best tool, working in the plus-plus range. Vettleson isn’t a flashy prospect but he should be at least a fourth outfielder and could be a solid everyday guy if he fulfills every part of his potential.
11. Mike Montgomery – LHP (NR)
I noted during my Kansas City Royals Accountability Check that I have had a hard time quitting on Montgomery. Okay folks, I’m still having a hard time doing it. My name is Mark Anderson and I have a Mike Montgomery problem. There’s just too much to like in his past and I am a big believer in how the Rays develop and polish pitching prospects. Color me hopeful that the Rays can work some magic with Montgomery and coax a mid-rotation starter out of him. I may be writing here next year and have a lot of egg on my face, but I’m going to stand firm on this one.
12. Oscar Hernandez – C (NR)
This is a lofty ranking for Hernandez; a player that still has a long, long way to go to the big leagues. He has plenty of refinements to make behind the plate but he has made progress since signing and should be an average defender in time. Where Hernandez stands out is with the bat. He has an excellent feel for the barrel, good bat speed and strength that lead to plenty of raw power and a decent approach for his age. He has work to do, particularly in handling secondary pitches, but his bat could carry him.
13. Tim Beckham – SS (10)
I still like Beckham and think he plays for an extended period in the big leagues. He is a fringy defender at shortstop but has the tools to handle both third base and second base defensively, giving excellent versatility. He does a lot of things at a decent level at the plate and won’t be a punchless utility player when he settles onto the Rays roster.
14. Jose Castillo – LHP (NR)
I just coulnd’t keep myself from doing this. Castillo is the type of prospect I live for and even though I know the incredible risk associated with talents like this, Castillo has a chance to be absolutely special. Signed for $1.55 million last summer, Castillo already has a mature 6-foot-4, 200 pound frame that has projection remaining and there are hints that his fastball that already runs in the low-90s could be a complete monster down the line. He shows occasional feel for his secondary pitches but needs a lot of work to refine them. There’s a ton of risk here but I just can’t stop myself from including him at the back of the list.
15. Jake Hager – SS (12)
I like Hager’s overall profile but still question just how much impact potential he has. His glove work is fine for now but he is not a natural looking shortstop and could shift to either side before his development is complete. At the plate, Hager has a decent approach, solid contact skills and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. He should show really good gap power and could ultimately pop 12-15 home runs a year. I don’t think Hager will ever be an elite prospect but he should steadily climb the ladder and reach the big leagues.