Tampa Bay Rays' Top 10 Prospects: Rankings, Spring Forecasts

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterFebruary 27, 2013

Tampa Bay Rays' Top 10 Prospects: Rankings, Spring Forecasts

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    The Tampa Bay Rays' farm system improved virtually overnight this offseason, as the team acquired Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis in early December.

    With five prospects ranked in Prospect Pipeline’s top 100 for the 2013 season, the Rays' system is top-loaded with impact talent in the high minors. But even after the acquisition of Myers, the No. 4 overall prospect, the organization still lacks young, projectable hitters. Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise me if they dangled one or two of their more advanced pitching projects this season to address a deficiency at the major league level.

    Either way, the Rays are in a unique position to reap the benefits of their strong prospect pool throughout the entire 2013 season.

10. Mike Montgomery, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 7/1/1989 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008 (Hart HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: 6’4” left-hander was cruising through the Royals system until landing on the disabled list with forearm/elbow soreness in mid-2010; he’s never been the same since the injury; endured major regression (5.32 ERA, 4.12 BB/9 in just over 150 innings) at Triple-A Omaha in 2011; was even worse at the level this past season (5.69 ERA, 4.22 BB/9 in 91.2 innings) before a demotion to Double-A; traded to the Rays in December as part of deal for James Shields.

    The 23-year-old’s fastball used to sit in the mid-90s, but he’s lost a few ticks over the last year; changeup is an above-average pitch and also the best in his arsenal; curveball can be too slow and lacks both tight rotation and velocity; could be an above-average pitch if thrown with more consistency.

    After nearly reaching the major leagues in late 2010 and early 2011, the left-hander has continued to frustrate; upside is still there, but no guarantee he’ll regain former top-prospect form; seems like a player who may benefit from a change of scenery.

    Spring Training Forecast: Montgomery will see his share of innings in big league camp this spring, which could serve as a fresh start to a once-promising career.

    2013 Outlook: Depending on how he fares this spring, the Rays may choose to send Montgomery to Double-A with the hope that he pitches his way back up the organizational ladder.

9. Blake Snell, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 12/4/1992 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 180 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Shorewood HS, Wash.)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: 6’4” left-hander has been kept on a short leash since he was drafted in 2011; highly projectable body that will need to get stronger as he matures; fluid arm action that allows him to throw all of his pitches on a downward plane; built upon impressive pro debut in 2011 by registering a 2.09 ERA and .193 BAA with 53/17 K/BB in 47 innings for rookie-level Princeton.

    Southpaw’s fastball works best in the low 90s with late sink; as a hitter, Snell just seems like the type of guy who would be tough to barrel; induces tons of groundouts and weak contact; demonstrates advanced command of his slider, though I’d like to see him use it to back-foot more right-handed hitters next season; he’ll also mix in a curveball and changeup, though both are an ongoing work in progress; he had a breakout season last year in the Appalachian League, but could be even better against more advanced competition; I like his potential as a No. 3 or 4 starter in the major leagues, especially if either the curveball or changeup come into play.

    Spring Training Forecast: Snell will be kept on a short leash once again this season as the organization closely monitors his workload and development.

    2013 Outlook: As they do with many of their young players, Snell is a candidate to open the 2013 season in extended spring training before midseason promotion to the New York-Penn League, or possibly even Low-A.

8. Enny Romero, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 1/24/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 165 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: June 2008 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Highly projectable frame at 6’3”, 165 pounds with plenty of room to add strength; 21-year-old left-hander has superb pure stuff, but still hasn’t learned to harness it; registered a 3.93 ERA and .191 BAA with 107/76 K/BB in 126 innings last season for High-A Charlotte; fatigue may have played a part in his rough second half of the season when he walked everything in sight; arguably the biggest wild-card prospect in the Rays’ talented system.

    Romero’s fastball is explosive and ranges anywhere from 92 to 97 mph, as he’s still more of a thrower than pitcher who will gladly let it rip; his curveball has flashed plus potential due to its velocity and downer break; once he develops a feel for his changeup, I like its upside given his fastball velocity and fast arm; 2013 may be his final chance to prove he belongs in the starting rotation; if not, his fastball-curveball combination could land him a spot in the Rays bullpen.

    Spring Training Forecast: Despite not having logged an inning above High-A, Romero will have the opportunity to showcase his potential this spring in major league camp.

    2013 Outlook: Romero is finally ready to make the jump to Double-A in 2013 where he’ll continue to work as a starter. However, if the control issues persist, then the southpaw is a candidate to hop on the fast track to the major leagues as a reliever.

7. Richie Shaffer, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 3/15/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Clemson)

    ETA: 2014

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Shaffer was regarded as one of the more advanced bats in the 2012 draft class but slid to the Rays late in the first round; physically strong player at 6’3”, 210 pounds, but is more lean and athletic; batted .308/.406/.487 with 11 extra-base hits and 31/16 K/BB in 33 games for Short-Season Hudson Valley.

    A right-handed hitter, Shaffer possesses advanced discipline and is comfortable holding out for his pitch; love his balanced swing from start to finish, as well as his loose wrists and consistent bat path; excellent bat speed and extension after contact aid him in driving the ball with backspin carry to all fields; curious to see how his power develops at higher levels.

    Despite his 6’3” frame, Shaffer is agile at the hot corner with good instincts; glove and actions are better than I anticipated, and he’s not afraid to show off his strong arm; it’ll be interesting to see if he’s ever moved across the diamond to first base (a waste of his athleticism) or to a corner outfield spot with Evan Longoria entrenched at the position for many years.

    Spring Training Forecast: Shaffer will spend the spring refining his skills, but could possibly see action in a few games exhibition games in late March.

    2013 Outlook: After playing at Short-Season Hudson Valley in his professional debut last season, Shaffer will likely open the year in extended spring training before reporting for a  full-season assignment at Low-A.

6. Alex Colome, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 12/31/1988 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: March 2007 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: 6’2” right-hander has moved through the Rays' system at a gradual, one-level-per-year pace; registered a 3.48 ERA and .235 BAA in 75 innings at Double-A Montgomery before a late-season promotion to Triple-A Durham; had two significant stints on the disabled list due to oblique and lat injuries, respectively.

    Colome has a projectable four-pitch mix that suggests midrotation upside, though his command will need more refinement before he reaches the major leagues; two-seam fastball sits low to mid-90s that digs against right-handed hitters; curveball flashes above-average potential with sharp break; slider and changeup are both decent pitches and effective when sequenced correctly.

    Spring Training Forecast: Like so many other pitchers in the Rays’ deep system, Colome will be competing for a roster spot later this season.

    2013 Outlook: Projected to open the season back at Triple-A, Colome is a solid candidate for a promotion to the majors in the event of an injury, as there’s less of a concern about his service time.

5. Hak-Ju Lee, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 11/4/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 170 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: March 2008 by Cubs (South Korea)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Left-handed hitting shortstop cruised through Class-A levels but has been challenged at Double-A; endured a terrible start to the 2012 season, but rebounded to bat .261/.336/.360 with 29 extra-base hits (10 triples) and 37 stolen bases in 116 games; put together an impressive 46-game on-base streak and improved jumps on the basepaths.

    Excellent defensive shortstop whose glove is nearly big league ready; plus speed lends to his outstanding range up the middle; has solid instincts and plays the position creatively; outstanding hand-eye coordination gives him soft hands and slick glove; gets rid of the ball quickly with more than enough arm strength to stick at the position.

    A 6’2”, left-handed hitter, Lee is yet figure out how to be a consistent top-of-the-order hitter; not impressed by his inability to work counts in his favor; bat speed can vary depending on his timing, though it’s naturally quick; speed is his biggest asset at the plate, so it’s vital that he improves his plate discipline and on-base skills; he’ll never hit for much power but should amass his share of doubles and triples; he’s a streaky hitter who can stick at shortstop, and I still believe in him despite the off year in 2012.

    Spring Training Forecast: Still regarded as the team’s future shortstop thanks to his defensive prowess, Lee should see plenty of time at shortstop this spring as he auditions for a potential September call-up.

    2013 Outlook: Despite struggling offensively at Double-A, Lee will likely make the jump to Triple-A in 2013 with the chance of a late-season promotion to major leagues.

4. Chris Archer, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 9/26/1988 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2006 by Indians (Clayton HS, N.C.)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: 6’3” right-hander’s development has been impeded by his lack of command and, at times, control; consistently repeats athletic delivery; gotta love his lightning-quick arm and overall explosiveness; has always missed plenty of bats thanks to three-pitch mix that’s filthy when he’s around the plate; was up and down a few times between Triple-A Durham and major leagues; command was better than expected after the All-Star break; posted a 4.60 ERA with 36/13 K/BB in 29.1 innings with the Rays.

    Fastball jumps out of his hand and registers anywhere from 93 to 97 mph; sits 95 to 98 mph in shorter stints; Archer’s slider is a legitimate plus out-pitch thrown with fastball-like velocity and featuring exceptional tilt and two-plane break; ongoing development of changeup will ultimately determine his success as a starting pitcher; throws the pitch with deceptive arm speed but lacks a natural feel for it; with James Shields now out of the picture, Archer will presumably contend for the final spot in the Rays’ still-impressive rotation.

    Spring Training Forecast: Although Alex Cobb may be the team’s fifth starter on paper entering spring training, Archer will likely give him a run for his money.

    2013 Outlook: As long as there’s a hint of control, Archer’s stuff will miss plenty of bats in the major leagues this season. If he doesn’t break camp in the starting rotation, the right-hander’s plus fastball-slider combination warrants a temporary spot in the bullpen.

3. Jake Odorizzi, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 3/27/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008 (Highland HS, Ill.)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Opening the season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Odorizzi was promoted to Triple-A Omaha at the same time as Wil Myers. Overall, the right-hander registered a 3.03 ERA with 135/50 K/BB in 145.1 innings and made two unimpressive starts for the Royals in late September. Along with Myers, Odorizzi was dealt to the Rays this offseason in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis.

    Excellent athlete; wiry frame; loose body; was headed to the University of Louisville for both baseball and football; 6’2” right-hander is agile on the mound; repeats his mechanics well; still learning to use his lower half; should help him keep the ball down in the zone; induces too many fly balls; clean, fluid arm action; doesn’t always finish delivery; loses pitches to the arm side.

    Fastball will range 92 to 95 mph with sink and action to the arm side; occasionally will get under the pitch and pipe up in the zone with minimal movement; needs to throw on a downward plane with more consistency; curveball has an impressive top-to-bottom shape and will freeze right-handed hitters; also throws a slider and changeup, though neither are as advanced as the curveball; he’ll need to refine the command of his four-pitch mix, but he should be able to reach his ceiling as a midrotation starter.

    Spring Training Forecast: In his first spring with the Rays, Odorizzi will get plenty of looks on the mound as he auditions for a role on the team later this season.

    2013 Outlook: While he’s ready to be challenged in the major leagues, the right-hander is now one of many talented Rays pitchers in the high minors. Therefore, he’s likely headed to Triple-A to open the season with a probable second-half call-up.

2. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 12/1/1992 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Spring Valley HS, S.C.)

    ETA: 2015

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: Guerrieri signed just before the Aug. 15 deadline and didn’t make his professional debut until 2012, where the right-hander was the top pitcher in the Short-Season New York-Penn League. Overall, he registered a 1.04 ERA and .185 BAA with 45/5 K/BB in 52 innings.

    The 6’3”, 195-pounder possesses present physical strength; quiet athleticism; strong upper body and broad shoulders leave room for favorable projection; arms works well; clean release; can get a little long on the backside; works against his body, though it does create cross-body deception in his delivery.

    Flashes the potential for four above-average-to-plus pitches; pitchability; two-seam fastball is an excellent pitch in the low to mid-90s; considerable weight and late life to the arm side; commands the pitch effectively to both sides of plate; isn’t afraid to challenge both right- and left-handed hitters middle-in; will mix in the occasional four-seam fastball that scrapes 96 to 97 mph.

    Plus curveball is a second viable weapon with tight spin; consistent shape and late, downward bite; advanced enough to locate the pitch for strikes and bury it to induce whiffs; changeup is coming along; raw feel.

    Spring Training Forecast: Guerrieri will participate in minor league spring training as he prepares for his full-season debut.

    2013 Outlook: Although Guerrieri has the potential to rise quickly through the Rays' system, it’s more likely that he’ll be eased through the minors—as they tend to do with a majority of their young arms—and open the year at Low-A in June.

1. Wil Myers, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 12/10/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 205 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2009 (Wesleyan Christian Academy, N.C.)

    ETA: 2013

    2012 Stats

    Scouting Notes: After battling through a knee injury in 2011, Myers turned in a monster season at the plate last season, batting .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs in 134 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Despite the huge numbers and his proximity to the major leagues, the Royals traded Myers to the Rays as part of a prospect package for James Shields and Wade Davis.

    At 6’3”, 205 pounds, Myers' upper body is loaded with quick-twitch muscles; seemingly flicks his wrists at the ball without sacrificing hard contact; setup is upright and slightly open; allows him to clear his hips and tap into his plus pull-side power; excellent bat-to-ball skills; has a tendency to drop his back shoulder; swing can get long; streaky at times; gets out on his front foot; can overcommit against off-speed; cast hands around ball; mechanical/timing issues that will be ironed out with experience.

    Developed as a catcher up until the 2011 season; surprisingly athletic for his size; showcases smooth, natural actions in the outfield; good instincts; average range; plus arm strength that will play at any outfield position; played 87 games in center field last season; will likely play a corner position in the major leagues.

    Spring Training Forecast: Myers will undoubtedly be the talk of Rays' camp this spring and will receive every opportunity to prove he’s ready for the major leagues.

    2013 Outlook: Even if he tears the cover off the ball this spring, Myers is ticketed for Triple-A to start the season. However, once he’s clear of service-time concerns in June, expect the 22-year-old to hit in the middle of the Rays' order. And if he goes off as expected, Myers could be locked up with a team-friendly contract a la Evan Longoria and Matt Moore.