2013 Tampa Bay Rays Top Prospects

 

System Overview: After promoting the likes of Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings, Jake McGee and Wade Davis over the past several seasons, Tampa Bay’s farm system should remain the lifeblood of the team, still offering a plethora of young prospects in the lower levels of the minors as well as perhaps the game’s top prospect — Wil Myers — and two more arms — Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer — ready to step in and make an impact on Opening Day.

The system has also shifted from pumping out high-end arms over the recent years to emphasizing young position players, led by Josh Sale, Richie Shaffer, and Drew Vettleson, who all profile as above-average big league regulars.

Outside of Odorizzi and Archer, left-hander Taylor Guerrieri — the team’s number two prospect — has as much potential as any hurler in the minor leagues, and other arms like Blake Snell, Kyle Lobstein, Jacob Partridge, Jeff Ames and Andrew Bellatti offer added depth.

This is still a very strong, very deep system.

 

#1. Wil Myers, Age: 22, Position: OF

Acquired in the James Shields mega-trade with Kansas City, Myers instantly becomes not only the top prospect in the Tampa Bay system, but the strong argument could be made that he’s the best in all of baseball. He absolutely destroyed minor league pitching to the tune of .314/.387/.600 to go along with 37 homeruns last season.

Offensively, Myers is the complete package, a middle-of-the-lineup hitter with plus-power, above-average plate discipline and sneaky speed. He’s been masquerading as a center fielder — and a part-time third baseman as well — but his real future is in right.

Projection: Myers has the tools to step in and become one of the better all-around players in the game right now. He’s shown the ability to handle lefties and righties — .294/.373/.557 vs. .288/.373/.499 since 2011 — and is easily the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year.

Ceiling: 6.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Inevitable

 

#2. Chris Archer, Age: 24, Position: RHP

Often forgotten as one of the more ill-regarded deals by the Indians, Archer was the centerpiece heading to the Cubs for former backup-infielder-turned-super-utility player Mark DeRosa. He was then bounced by Chicago to Tampa for right-hander Matt Garza.

Archer’s always posted above-average K-rates — he’s averaged exactly one punch out per inning in his career — but that comes with the all-too-often caveat of poor control. In 719.2 career innings, he’s walked 405 hitters (5.1 BB/9). And his most recent season stint in Triple-A was only moderately better (4.36 BB/9).

Projection: Even after dealing away James Shields to Kansas City, the Rays’ rotation is still very deep, with David PriceJeremy HellicksonMatt MooreAlex CobbJeff Niemann and Jake Odorizzi, all of whom are ahead of Archer on the depth chart. It’s exceptionally likely that Tampa finally relents and pushes Archer into a bullpen role where he has the potential be very dominant.

Ceiling: 4.0-win starter 

 

#3. Taylor Guerrieri, Age: 20, Position: LHP

Damn near as dominant as you will see from any 19-year-old making his professional debut in low-A, Guerrieri made 12 starts, throwing 52 innings while striking out 45 and walking just 5. He allowed just 6 earned runs (1.04 ERA). His Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, was a sparkling 2.52. He also have up just nine extra base hits, none of which were homeruns, thanks in part to a ridiculous 60% groundball rate.

Projection: Yes, the data is limited. But you get the sense that the sky is literally the limit for Guerrieri. And the organization could realistically have the young right-hander skip A-ball and jump straight to High-A in 2013. I’m going to reserve any long term projections for him now. But he’s certainly has the potential to be very, very good.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#4. Jake Odorizzi, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Odorizzi capped off a moderately successful season with a two-game stint in the big leagues. Once touted as one of the better pitching prospects in the game — he was ranked by Baseball America as the 69th and 68th in consecutive seasons — some of the luster may have dulled, if ever so slightly.

Odorizzi, who has typically averaged more than a punch out an inning throughout his career, saw a significant drop once promoted to Triple-A, though it could be looked upon with at least a touch of skepticism. He underwent a similar decline during his first stint in Double-A before briefly repeating the level at to start the season. But by and large, most of his Triple-A stats were blasé.

His K-rate, 7.38, was only slightly above the PCL average; his walk rate, 3.4, slightly below it. And his overall ERA, 2.93, at the level is misguiding. Both his FIP, 4.19, and SIERA, 4.40, were significantly higher.

Projection: The Royals seemingly have one spot in the rotation open heading into Spring Training and maybe not even that, depending how the front office views Luis Mendoza. Odorizzi would be a significant upgrade, but Kansas City has on occasion mismanaged young talent before. He should develop into a solid number three//four.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

#5. Josh Sale, Age: 21, Position: LF

The 2012 season was a bit of a breakout for Sale, the 17th overall pick in the 2010 draft. After a disappointing debut season which, admittedly, was plagued by a significant amount of bad luck (.241 BABIP), the young left fielder did not disappoint in A-ball, hitting .268/.394/.469 with 10 homeruns and seven stolen bases. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 39% better than the league average.

Projection: Sale’s still several years away, somewhere between three and four, but he combined above-average power (.201 ISO) with a tremendous eye at the plate (17.2% BB-rate), and very well could develop into a J.D. Drew-type player.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#6. Hak Ju-Lee, Age: 22, Position: SS

Acquired along with Chris Archer in the Matt Garza deal with the Cubs, Ju-Lee turned in a moderately disappointing 2012, hitting .259/.334/.358 while also committing 24 errors at shortstop. He failed to top the league average mark offensively, coming in at 4% below it.

Projection: Despite the pause in development, Ju-Lee still profiles as an above-average big league regular. He showed his trademark eye at the plate last season (9.6% BB-rate), above-average or better speed (37 stolen bases in 46 attempts), and he was three years younger than the average Southern League. Quite simply, he was overmatched, so there’s no reason to suggest he would get his career back on track when he repeats the level in 2013.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

#7. Richie Shaffer, Age: 22, Position: 3B

Shaffer, who was nabbed with the 24th overall pick in last year’s draft, was considered one of the premier collegiate bats around, hitting .315/.438/.577 during his final season at Clemson with 15 doubles, two triples, and 13 homeruns.

And despite transitioning from metal to wood, Shaffer’s bat showed little, if any, ill effects. In 33 games with the Hudson Valley Renegades (low-A), the young third baseman hit .308/.406/.487 while showing a similar skill set: a strong eye at the plate, above-average power and modest strikeout rates.

Projection: Shaffer’s poised to move fast through Tampa’s farm system. The problem, however, is third base belongs to one Mr. Evan Longoria for the foreseeable future. He profiles as a solid .280/.360/.440 hitter with 15- to 20-homerun potential so his bat will likely play anywhere on the field, even first or the corner outfield. You have to wonder if the team would be interested in shuffling him to second base…

Ceiling: 3.5-win player (depending on position)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

#8. Jake Hager, Age: 20, Position: SS

Hager was one of ten first round picks the Rays held in the 2011 draft. After a solid, but semi-lackluster showing in the Appalachian League that year (.269/.305/.399), he took a gigantic developmental step forward in 2012, hitting .281/.345/.412 in the Midwest League. His total offensive production was 14% better than the league average, despite being two years younger than the average hitter.

Projection: Right now, Hager doesn’t really have a standout tool. His speed is arguably his best asset at this point; otherwise he’s average across the board (8.0% BB-rate and .131 ISO). He does, however, represent a fairly well-rounded offensive player, that has the potential to develop into an soild-average regular.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#9. Drew Vettleson, Age: 21, Position: OF

Tampa Bay has never shied away from taking toolsy high-schoolers early in the draft, and Vettleson, a 2010 first rounder, is just another example.

At just 20-years-old, he put up impressive numbers in the Midwest League, hitting .275/.340/.432 and showed the potential to be a solid four-tool player. He hit for power (15 homeruns and a .156 ISO), swiped 20 bases, and has 20 assists from the outfield (18 in right and 2 in center). His total offensive production was 17% better than the league average.

Projection: Vettleson, a lefty-swinger, showed an above-average eye at the plate, walking in more than nine-percent of his total plate appearances. He’s also shown no discernible platoon splits in career either (.289/.333/.413 vs. .276/.348/.447).  He has the chance to be a very good outfielder.

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#10. Blake Snell, Age: 20, Position: LHP

Another one selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, the left-handed Snell stands at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds and has shown an above-average feel for pitching, despite his age. During 2011, he tossed 26.1 innings, while showing strong peripherals (8.89 K/9 and 3.76 BB/9) and a lot of groundballs (53.2%).

And last season, Snell continued where he left off, averaging more than 10 punch outs and just 3.23 walks per nine innings, to go along with a similar groundball rate (51.3%).

Projection: The data is still rather limited on Snell, but the early returns couldn’t be better. He’s still several years away from the big leagues and still must make it through the injury nexus, but it looks like he could be very good. It also wouldn’t be a shock if the team pushes him straight to A-ball, skipping Low-A.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#11. Todd Glaesmann, Age: 22, Position: OF

After a disappointing 2011 — he hit .224/.282/.338 in 63 A-ball games — Glaesmann turned in his best season to date, hitting a combined .285/.336/.493 between A-ball and High-A.

The young outfielder, who’s spent time at all three positions, began the year by hitting .281/.338/.469 in a repeat stint with the Bowling Green Hot Rods, with 13 homeruns and eight stolen bases. His total offensive production was 23% better than the league average. The organization then promoted him to High-A, where he hit even better (.295/.333/.554 in 36 games).

Projection: Even though he’s been in the organization since 2009, Glaesmann just turned 22-years-old in October. He shows below-average patience at the plate (5.7% BB-rate) that hasn’t really improved during his career, above-average power potential and decent speed. During his peak years, he could be capable of hitting .260/.330/.430 with 20+ homeruns and 10 stolen bases. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him develop into an above-average fourth outfielder either.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#12. Jeffrey Ames, Age: 22, Position: RHP

After a ridiculously unlucky debut season — in 30.1 he posted a 7.12 ERA despite averaging 11.57 K/9 and 2.08 BB/9 — Ames got back on track in low-A last season, showing strong peripherals (9.79 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9) and a solid SIERA (3.04).

Projection: While his 2012 season was solid, if not impressive, Ames is, in fact, a polished collegiate player in the lower rungs of the minors. He’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to do: play well. He’s coming off of back-to-back seasons with strong peripherals, so the prudent thing would be to push him to a more age-appropriate level of competition (High-A).

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#13. Kyle Lobstein, Age: 23, Position: LHP

Lobstein, a 2008 second round pick out of high school, is slowly, methodically making his way up through the minor leagues. After a two-game stint in Double-A in 2011, the left-hander spent the entire year back with the Montgomery Biscuits, making 27 starts and showing the second highest K-rate of his career (8.06) while also finishing with an uncharacteristically high walk rate (4.31).

Projection: Lobstein’s control has typically been better than average, so there’s reason to believe that this could just be a blip on the developmental curve. He profiles as fourth/fifth starter who could easily end up in the bullpen at some point in the coming years.

Ceiling: 1.5-win starter; Replacement Level to 0.5-win reliever

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate (starter); Above-Average (reliever)

 

#14. Patrick Leonard, Age: 20, Position: 3B

Leonard, the Kansas City’s fifth round pick in 2011, mashed during his debut season, hitting .251/.340/.494 while finishing with the fourth highest homerun total, 14, in all of the domestic rookie leagues. His overall production was 27% above the league average.

Leonard showed an above-average approach at the plate, walking in 11.2% of his plate appearances, while posting a modest K-rate, 20.5%, too.

Projection: At an age appropriate level, Leonard proved to be one of the better offensive prospects. He shows a well-rounded toolset with above-average power, despite transitioning to wood bats for the first time in his career.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#15. Jacob Partridge, Age: 22, Position: LHP

Tampa Bay isn’t afraid to think out of the box, and they continue to do so in the lower levels of the minors, particularly with their young pitchers in A-Ball

Partridge made a total of 34 appearances, yet threw 96.2 innings, too many to be considered a full workload for a reliever and too few for a starting pitcher. The system, seemingly, is slowly building up stamina this way. He showed a strong K-rate (8.7) and average-ish control (3.5).

Projection: It’s fairly difficult to get an accurate read on the young left-hander because of how the team is developing him. He could be an above- or below-average full time starter. For now, I’ll reserve any long term projections for another year. He does, however, show promise.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#16. Andrew Bellatti, Age: 21, Position: RHP

Much like Patridge, Bellatti made a lot of appearances — 40 — and threw more innings than the normal reliever workload (91). Again, suggesting that the team is probably stretching him out for a much larger workload in the coming years.

Bellatti, a 12th round pick in the 2009 draft, posted the best K-rate of his career (9.8 K/9) while keeping a solid walk rate (3.0). The big red flag thus far, however, is his complete lack of groundballs; he generated an average of just 29.6% last season.

Projection: See Partridge

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

 

Photo of Wil Myers Courtesy of Minda Haas via Flickr.com

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.


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