MLB Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospects

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Top 10 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays

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Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have one of the lowest payrolls in all of MLB, but the reason they stay competitive in the toughest division in baseball is their consistent ability to balance the present and the future. The Rays may have traded away James Shields and Wade Davis, but what they got in return is why this mid-market team has been the most consistent team in the AL East the past five years. "We're always trying to thread the needle,” executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "As an organization, we rely more on contributions of our young players than basically anyone else in baseball. And with this trade, we're hoping to replenish our system and add a lot of players we feel like can help us sustain this run of success that we've had for the last five years." The Rays are the model of success for teams trying to compete with the big boys, and have also shown the baseball world you don’t need the highest payroll to be a good team. Each year the Rays bring up another fresh face and the player becomes a star under the guidance of manager Joe Madden. To see the Rays involved in a blockbuster trade, that brings in some of the top prospects in all of baseball is no surprise, but for this to continue to work, these young players need to continue to step up. For the Rays to stay competitive they will need these young guns to play big roles again in 2013. Here is a list of the top 10 prospects the Rays need to stay in the hunt for years to come.

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10 - Felipe Rivero, LHP

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Felipe Rivero, LHP - Rivero is raw and only 21 years old, but a team can never have enough lefties, especially ones that can fire the ball like Rivero. In 2012, his first full season in the minors, his fastball increased velocity; he also has a strong curve and is developing a changeup he can rely on. For his age especially, he commands and mixes his pitches suitably, which should bode well on his way up the system. He may not be major league ready yet, but his progression in just one year, not only in the minors but in the states, is a positive sign he is on his way.

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9 - Enny Romero, LHP

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Enny Romero, LHP - Another young lefty with a fastball coming up in the Rays’ system. Romero is another 21 year old and may also be need a little time to get to the majors, but there’s a lot to like about him. He has a fastball that gets into the mid-90s easily and has good movement. He also isn’t a one trick pony he has two good secondary pitches, his curve and changeup are becoming outstanding weapons for him. With any young arm, he has things to work on to get to the big club, but the Rays are patient with their talent and Romero has a lot. More importantly he has gotten better, which is what teams want to see from their top young talent.

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8 - Blake Snell, LHP

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Blake Snell, LHP - Snell, is yet another talented young left-hander for the Rays, he has a ton of talent and upside. Snell is only 20 years old, but he has showed a lot of poise and the desire to learn and get better, according to scouts within the Rays’ organization. He is a great ground ball pitcher and had a good summer debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2011 and posted even better numbers in the Appalachian League in 2012. He uses his low-90s fastball down in the zone that generates inning killing double-plays. He is closer to being ready than most think, but he needs to work on his curve and a changeup; that refinement will decide how soon and how fast he moves up the ladder. Being so young, his presence and command on the mound is very impressive.

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7 - Chris Archer, RHP

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Chris Archer, RHP – Archer slips down this list a little after the Rays blockbuster trade with the Kansas City Royals, but after having a cup of coffee in the majors in 2012, he has a chance to be a good set-up man but has some work to do on his fastball and slider. When he’s locked, they are good enough to get any hitter out at any level. He has a mid-90’s fastball with good sink and one of the nastier breaking balls in the Minors. If he can work on his changeup, which is less than stellar compared to his other pitches, and his command, he may have a chance to make it in the majors. He walks too many batters and if he is going to be a middle inning guy the Rays can’t have that, so he needs to work on his command to succeed long term.

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6 - Mike Montgomery, LHP

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Mike Montgomery, LHP – Montgomery came over from the Royals in the trade for James Shields and Wade Davis. He is very talented and has been one of the Royals higher prospects for a few years now, but he had a very poor 2012. The thought on Montgomery is that he is a few years away from competing for a spot in a major league rotation, but with how well the Rays do with their young arms, a fresh start will be exactly what Montgomery needs. He had some command issues in 2012 but if the Rays can work on that and get back to where he was, he will have a good chance to be up sooner than most think. With young pitchers they do have their ups-and-downs but it is all about bouncing back. If Montgomery takes advantage of the change of scenery, he is going to be the biggest surprise in the trade.

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5 - Drew Vettleson, OF

Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Drew Vettleson, OF – Putting Vettleson as high as five on this list may be a reach, but seeing tape and reading on him, he has more than just natural ability, he has a very high baseball IQ and plays a position now that the Rays will be looking to fill needs at in the near future. Vettleson, a former pitcher with a very strong arm, is a good contact hitter. He is rated lower by many but the kid is young and raw at his position, but with his ability to hit for contact and having a big arm, expect him to advance up the ladder more than most expect.

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4 - Taylor Guerrieri, RHP

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Taylor Guerrieri, RHP – The Rays used a first-round pick in 2011 on Guerrieri and he has not let them down. Guerrieri has been lighting up the radar gun, throwing anywhere from 92 to 97 mph. In addition to his fire, he has an arsenal of great pitches. He has a knee buckling curve, a hard downer breaking ball and has just recently developed a changeup that is already a pitch he could get use as his out pitch in the majors. This kid is legit. He already has a full selection of pitches he feels comfortable with on top of the fact he throws a pretty good cutter. Guerrieri has a solid delivery and a great pitcher’s body. He is young and exactly why the Rays have been such a competitive team the past five seasons. He is major league ready even though he just turned 21 on December 1st. He has demonstrated excellent command and a very impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio in his young career. The Rays are great about being patient with young pitchers, but it may be hard to keep this kid out of the majors for too long if he keeps advancing and excelling as he has so far.

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3 - Hak-Ju Lee, SS

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Hak-Ju Lee, SS – Lee is the first of the top three prospects for the Rays. The top three illustrate why the Rays are no longer a Cinderella story and are going to be a thorn in the side of the AL East and the AL for a long time to come. Lee, who joined the Rays from the Chicago Cubs as part of the Matt Garza deal, is worth the price of admission just to watch him play shortstop. He is an amazing shortstop who is a highlight waiting to happen each game he plays in. Lee is a two-time Futures Game participant that can not only run like the Rays love, but he can also hit for average. He may never be a huge homerun threat, but with the style of baseball the Rays play, he fits in perfectly. Although he may never win the homerun title, he isn’t just a singles hitter. Lee has a little pop to his bat and uses his speed to help him get a lot of doubles. As Lee learns how to use that speed, he will develop into a big base-stealing threat. Lee played the 2012 season in Double-A, where he ended the season a year earlier, and hit .261 while swiping 37 bags before an oblique injury cut his season short in mid-August.

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2 - Jake Odorizzi, RHP

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Jake Odorizzi, RHP – Odorizzi came over to the Rays in the Shields, Davis trade and should be ready to compete for a spot in the Rays rotation right from the gate. Odorizzi did pitch a little in the majors late in the season for the Royals to mixed reviews, but he has all the talent to be ready to be on the opening day roster for the Rays. Odorizzi was the 2012 Futures Game starter. He has four pitches that are above average. His fastball has been clocked at 95 mph, with it usually being in the 92-93 mph range with plenty of sink. He has a strong curve, an above-average slider and an average changeup, which if worked on could put him in a special category as one of the really good pitchers for years to come. He has good command and has all the tools to be something special and remind the Royals why they have been a bad team for so long, as well as remind all of baseball how the Rays can compete with their payroll.

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1 - Wil Myers, OF

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Wil Myers, OF – Myers isn’t just the top of the Rays prospects he is arguably the top minor league prospect in all of baseball, and a player Rays fans will be excited about for years to come. Myers is the best hitting prospect in the Minor Leagues. This guy is going to be a trade Royals fans and management will regret forever. He was the player the Rays wanted most in the deal from the Royals because he is ready for his first big league shot. He had a huge '12 campaign; he won baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year award, an honor that includes every player from all levels in the minors. Myers split time between Double-A and Triple-A and played in his second straight All-Star Futures Game. Between the two levels, Myers finished second in the Minors in home runs, fourth in RBIs and third in slugging. He has outstanding bat speed that will allow him to hit for average and power, and he’s an on-base machine. Myers is that good and as much as many Royal fans now want to convince themselves he hasn’t proved anything yet in the majors, they were drooling all over themselves when they thought about him being in the lineup for their team in 2013. Instead, he will be with the Rays and should make a major impact and help the team again prove it doesn’t take the largest payroll to win the big bad AL East.


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