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Tampa Bay Rays Top 20 2014 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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Tampa Bay Rays rookies Jake Odorizzi and Kevin Kiermaier proved valuable in the majors this year.

Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi
Brian Blanco

This afternoon we move forward with our organization reviews, examining the Tampa Bay Rays. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades. This is a general review of 2014, not a detailed preview for 2015.

This list was originally posted March 29, 2014

1) Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Grade B+: Age 24, posted 4.18 ERA in 168 major league innings, 175/59 K/BB, 156 hits, 11-13 record. A couple of rough starts early and late but overall a very successful season that makes number three starter projection look valid.

2) Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Grade B: Age 23, hit .203/.287/.276 with 37 walks, 86 strikeouts in 315 at-bats for Triple-A Durham. Very disappointing offensively, has to hit better than this to get past a possible utility role, also needs to prove durability.

3) Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Grade B: Age 21, posted 10/2 K/BB in 9.1 innings in rookie ball on Tommy John recovery.

4) Enny Romero, LHP, Grade B: Borderline B-. Age 23, posted 4.50 ERA with 117/52 K/BB in 126 innings for Durham, 128 hits. I still like his stuff but he’s still rather unrefined. Should get a trial next year.

5) Nathan Karns ,RHP, Grade B-: Age 26, posted 5.08 ERA with 153/62 K/BB in 145 innings for Durham, 13/4 K/BB in 12 innings in the majors. Older prospect but has a good arm, and I think the strikeouts are more indicative of his potential than the high ERA.

6) Andrew Toles, OF, Grade B-: Age 22, hit .265/.304/.341 with 24 steals, 12 walks, 37 strikeouts in 223 at-bats between Charlotte in the Florida State League and a week of late-season tuneup games in the GCL after being benched, then placed on the inactive list in late May with personal issues.

7) Ryan Brett, 2B, Grade B-: Age 22, very good year for Double-A Montgomery, .303/.346/.448 with eight homers, 27 steals, 24 walks, 74 strikeouts in 422 at-bats. I’d like more walks but this is his fourth-consecutive solid year.

8) Riley Unroe, SS, Grade B-: Turned 19 in August, hit .226/.315/.325 with 29 walks, 47 strikeouts in 243 at-bats for Princeton in the Appalachian League, cooling off after a fast start. Has some potentially nice on-base skills but needs more power.

9) Nick Ciuffo, C, Grade B-:
Age 19, hit .224/.289/.333 with four homers, 17 walks, 45 strikeouts in 192 at-bats for Princeton, threw out 48% of runners. Glove ahead of bat at this point.

10) Alex Colome, RHP, Grade B-: Age 25, 3.77 ERA with 73/30 K/BB in 86 innings for Durham, 84 hits. 3.63 ERA with 7/9 K/BB in 17 innings in the majors, pitching time reduced this year for PED usage. No change in status: he has plenty of stuff but command and durability remain questionable.

11) Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .264/.314/.448 with 10 homers, 22 walks, 69 strikeouts in 326 at-bats in the majors, cooling off after a fast start. Excellent defensive player with some sparks of offense, should have a long career as a fourth outfielder and platoon partner.

12) Richie Shaffer, 3B, Grade C+:
Age 23, hit .222/.318/.440 with 19 homers, 56 walks, 119 strikeouts in 427 at-bats for Double-A Montgomery. Power is developing but overall hitting is not as good as I expected it to be when he came out of Clemson.

13) Blake Snell, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, posted 3.19 ERA with 119/56 K/BB in 116 innings for Low-A Bowling Green and High-A Charlotte, 95 hits. A solid season from a southpaw prospect who deserves more attention.

14) Ryne Stanek, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, former University of Arkansas ace coming back from labrum surgery, posted 3.99 ERA with 50/18 K/BB in 59 innings between GCL rehab, Bowling Green, and Charlotte. Key now is rebuilding stamina.

15) Matt Andriese, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, posted 3.77 ERA with 129/48 K/BB in 162 innings for Durham, 153 hits. Nothing left to prove in the minors, still seems like a plausible strike-throwing inning-eater to me.

16) Curt Casali, C, Grade C+: Age 25, hit .253/.382/.369 in 233 at-bats between Montgomery and Durham, .167/.268/.208 in 72 major league at-bats. I think he’s capable of better but will probably end up as a reserve long-term.

17) Jose Mujica, RHP, Grade C+: Age 18, pitched just three innings in the GCL in late August after being laid up most of the spring and summer.


18) Oscar Hernandez, C, Grade C+:
Age 21, hit .249/.301/.401 with nine homers, 25 walks, 78 strikeouts in 362 at-bats for Bowling Green, threw out 41% of runners. Defense very promising if in need of a bit more refinement, has power but needs tighter zone.

19) Tim Beckham, INF, Grade C+: Torn ACL, lost most of season, came back to hit .258/.281/.290 in 15 games for Durham in August. Age 24. No change in status. I still think he’s a utility guy.

20) Kean Wong, 2B, Grade C+:
Age 19, Kolten Wong’s younger brother, hit .306/.347/.370 with 27 walks, 73 strikeouts in 422 at-bats for Bowling Green. I think he is promising.

Although the major league club will finish under .500, 2014 was generally a good year as far as the Tampa Bay Rays farm system was concerned. The Rays ranked 25th on the pre-season organization ranking list but should move up a few notches entering 2015.

The Rays got a strong campaign out of rookie starter Jake Odorizzi, while outfielder Kevin Kiermaier did enough to solidify his hold on an outfield roster spot for the future.

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Kevin Kiermaier practices his Jedi levitation skills. Photo by Tom Szczerbowski

Alex Colome and Matt Andriese have nothing left to prove in the minors and could slot onto the big league roster next year. Outfielder Mikie Mahtook pushed his way back up the lists after a so-so 2013 in Double-A, hitting .292/.362/.458 with 12 homers and 18 steals this season for Triple-A Durham. Catching prospect Justin O’Conner is another rebounder, hitting .278/.316/.466 on the year between High-A and Double-A at age 22 to restore his prospect status.

Other holdovers of interest are Triple-A lefty Mike Montgomery, who continues to flash major league ability, and Double-A strike-throwers Grayson Garvin and Dylan Floro, and A-ball control expert Jacob Faria. Infielder Jake Hager hit .271/.316/.376 in Double-A at age 21. None of these guys are exceptional prospects but all are capable of contributing something.

2014 has added additional talent. First-round pick Casey Gillaspie adds a needed impact power/patience bat. The David Price trade added high-ceiling infielder Willy Adames from the Tigers system, who hit .271/.353/.429 in the Midwest League at age 18. The ’14 draft also added right-hander Cameron Varga, a high school arm who should fit well into the Rays pitching development system.