5 Tampa Bay Rays Prospects You Must Watch During Spring Training
Tampa Bay Rays Look to Restock With Youth In 2014
In the 2014 MLB season, the Tampa Bay Rays will be expected to make the playoffs for the fifth time in the last seven seasons and to challenge for the World Series. Of course, the way that the Rays go about winning baseball games is much different than that of division rivals such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, but that doesn't mean that Tampa's reliance on developing players will be any less successful.
In fact, considering that the team boasts homegrown stars such as David Price and Evan Longoria, it could be argued that the Rays' organizational philosophy is more efficient than that of any team in baseball, and also more successful. The team has won 90 games or more in four of the last six seasons, and they can be expected to continue this trend in 2014 with up to 17 former farmhands on the team's 25-man roster.
Still, the team is limited by the fact that they can not spend more than $75 million on players salaries per season, and this has meant that GM Andrew Friedman and his executives must ensure that the team drafts and develops young players with efficiency. Much of the success they've had in doing so can be attributed to manager Joe Maddon, who has fostered a winning environment based on competition, and the fact that young players will always have a chance to prove themselves.
Keeping this in mind, I have formed a list of five must-watch prospects that will be at the Rays' Spring Training camp. Each of the upcoming players has the potential to at the very least become a starter at the major league level in the future, and have a good chance of featuring heavily in Tampa during the 2014 season.
5. Mikie Mahtook
While not one of the Rays' top prospects, Mikie Mahtook has the potential to latch on in Tampa as a fourth outfielder in 2014. Mahtook has great speed, the ability to hit balls to all field, and can play in any of the three outfield positions. After spending 2013 in double-A and compiling a slash line of .254/.322/.386 with seven home runs and 25 stolen bases, there are some few think Mahtook will ever be an All-Star, but he can provide legs off the bench and be a late-inning defensive replacement come Opening Day.
4. Alex Colome
Alex Colome has the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher as he possesses a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and above-average off-speed pitches in a curveball and slider. In 2013, he put together a 3.07 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 70.1 innings pitched in triple-A before starting three games and compiling a 2.25 ERA in Tampa. It will be hard for Colome to crack the starting rotation out of Spring Training, but his lively arm will excite the team's major league staff and will make him a top option if a starter gets hurt.
3. Enny Romero
Enny Romero is the top team's top left-handed pitching prospect. Blessed with a fastball that has above-average movement, a great slider and a useable change-up and curveball, Romero compiled a 11-7 record with a 2.61 ERA at double-A last season and even had a one-game cameo in the big leagues. It will be hard for him to crack Tampa's starting rotation this spring, but he could fight for a long relief spot in the bullpen and will certainly turn heads as a youngster to watch in the future.
2. Hak-Ju Lee
Hak-Ju Lee has all of the tools to become a All-Star shortstop in the future as he plays well above average defense, has good speed and hits for average. During the 2013 season, Lee only played in 15 games because of injuries, but did compile a .422 average at the triple-A level. Moving into 2014, he will be blocked from starting at the big league level by Yunel Escobar, but will likely be a starter for the Rays or another team within the next year.
1. Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi is the odds-on favorite to become the Rays' no. 5 starter during the 2014 season, and could end up moving up the depth chart rather quickly. He is not going to overpower many major league hitters, but his mix of a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup makes him a tricky pitcher, and his command will ultimately dictate his level of success.