MLB Futures Part 5: American League East, Tampa Bay Rays
This is the final entry of American League teams. Previously, the teams covered have been the New York Yankees (5), Seattle Mariners (4), Boston Red Sox (3) and Kansas City Royals (2). They can all be found on my writer profile here. The beginning piece (New York Yankees) has a description of what the series is about.
Since 2008, one team has become the creme de la creme of prospect development. They've developed multiple aces and several top-notch offensive threats.
That team is the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays remain a team stranded in financial woes. Attendance has become a major concern for the organization, forcing them into the drudges of a small-market team. Nonetheless, they continue to find ways to gain prospects and create organizational depth.
Of all American League teams, their future remains the brightest.
1. Matt Moore
2. David Price
3. Jeremy Hellickson
4. Wade Davis
5. Chris Archer
Unlike the last two teams covered, the Rays have no issues in the pitching department. It's no surprise that their top-three starters were top prospects in their rookie years.
Matt Moore is MLB's 2012 top prospect. In reality, he's one of the best pitching prospects to come along in quite some time. He's got a pitcher's frame, a plus fastball and a devastating curve. His stuff is designed to obliterate the strike zone.
Then there's David Price. We all know his story, and he's quickly become one of the American League's top pitchers. Behind him is Jeremy Hellickson, the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award winner.
Since they're new to the league, Hellickson and Moore are under Tampa Bay control for the next few seasons. Price still has four seasons of team control ahead. In other words, these guys will be around for a while.
Which team has the best outlook amongst AL teams?
Rounding out the bunch are Wade Davis and Chris Archer. Davis is an inning-eating fly baller, exactly what you want in a back-end starter. Archer has some wild stuff, but a high ceiling.
This bunch represents the top tier of American League pitching. Of all teams covered in this series, the Rays' rotation has the best upside.
But, pitching has never been the Rays' issue. The one reason they've yet to win a World Series is their lack of offensive clout.
Over the seasons, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist have been relied on to bring in runs.
Zobrist is a super utility player with an everyday bat. He has power, he has speed and he knows how to get on base. Consistently underrated, he's one of the best players in the AL East.
The same goes for Evan Longoria (except for the underrated part). Longo is becoming one of the best third basemen in the game. His defense at the hot corner is amongst baseball's best.
Add in a ridiculous bat with a lot of power and you get Tampa's best player.
Things don't slow down there.
The infield, a major issue for recent Rays teams, is finally rounding itself out. The trade of Matt Garza helped bring in top prospect Hak-Ju Lee. Also in the mix is 2008 first-rounder Tim Beckham.
Does money represent a roadblock to Tampa Bay's future?
Beckham was seen as the next great shortstop, but his development hasn't shown it. However, he's managed to put together some decent stats. The power doesn't seem all there, but he's got what it takes to be a speedy everyday player.
Lee was one of the bigger pieces of the Garza trade, and he showed it last season. He's not a power threat, but his speed and hit tools are elite. He is one of the Rays' best prospects, and his development carries a lot of weight on the organization's future.
Last but not least, who could forget Desmond Jennings? Jennings is best described as Carl Crawford 2.0. His speed is blazing, his power moderate and his hit tools very well developed. Like many Tampa Bay players, his defense is on an elite level.
Despite current offensive woes, the Rays are equipped to score runs in the future. Desmond and Lee represent the league's best top-of-the-order tandem. Longoria, Zobrist, Beckham and Joyce make up a strong middle of the order.
Tampa Bay continues to excel in the things they know best: pitching and defense. Heading into future years that won't change.
With the young offensive pieces in their system, the Rays finally have what they need to win a World Series. Add in some better attendance and they could be on the cusp of building a baseball dynasty.
Even without money, they've managed to retain a plethora of organizational depth and talent. A lot of that goes to GM Andrew Friedman. He's made that club what it is today, and his methods represent the best the MLB has to offer.
They've got a ways to go, but the future is very bright for these Rays.
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