The Tampa Bay Rays' minor league affiliates had a good 2013 season overall, with a pair of affiliates advancing to the championship games of their respective leagues.
The Triple-A Durham Bulls won the Governors’ Cup in the International League before falling to the Omaha Storm Chasers in the Triple-A National Championship Game. Similarly, the Charlotte Stone Crabs fell to the Daytona Cubs for the Florida State League Championship.
The Tampa Bay Rays are proud of their affiliate teams’ performances, although the ultimate goal is to develop talent that can contribute to the major league roster.
It is no secret that the Rays do not have the cash resources to spend on big-name players, especially compared to division rivals like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. In order to remain competitive, they have to rely on inexpensive free agents and homegrown talent.
The Rays have had to part ways with players in the past as contracts expired or approached expiration due to their inability to pay market value. Those players most notably included left fielder Carl Crawford, center fielder B.J. Upton and pitcher James Shields.
The team has replaced these slots with young players from the minors, including center fielder Desmond Jennings, right fielder Wil Myers (acquired via trade for Shields) and pitcher Chris Archer.
Here is a list of the top 10 prospects at the conclusion of the minor league season who hope to be in the next crop of young talent on the major league roster.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
DOB: 12/04/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 180
2013 Stats: 99 IP, 4.27 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 106/73 K/BB (Single-A)
Blake Snell was drafted by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 draft.
In 2013, he had a productive season with Single-A Bowling Green, starting 23 games. While his ERA could certainly use some improvement, he is still a young pitcher with a lot of promise.
DOB: 03/15/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 218
2013 Stats: .254/.308/.399, 33 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 73 RBI, 6 SB (Single-A)
Richie Shaffer was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the 2012 draft.
In 2013, his performance for Single-A Charlotte left plenty to be desired. As a first-round selection out of Clemson, he was expected to show much better power numbers than his 45 extra-base hits in 122 games.
He's one of the guys we thought in this Draft that stood out, that brings real power and power now. It's not the power people are suggesting, it's real power. He just seems like the kind of kid that fits in with what we're doing. He's excited about being a Ray, and we're excited to have him.
If Shaffer is unable to find the power in his bat, he could find his way off of this list next season.
DOB: 07/19/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185
2013 Stats: .274/.331/.388, 29 2B, 6 3B, 4 HR, 62 RBI, 5 SB (Single-A)
Drew Vettleson was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the 2010 draft.
Vettleson put up some decent numbers for Single-A Charlotte. He did not have the type of year to make you want to accelerate his progression timeline to the majors, but he was consistent overall and made good progress.
One of his biggest improvements was in reducing his strikeout totals from 117 in 2012 to 78 in 2013.
DOB: 05/24/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 185
2013 Stats: .326/.359/.466, 35 2B, 16 3B, 2 HR, 57 RBI, 62 SB (Single-A)
Andrew Toles was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the third round of the 2012 draft.
Toles stole 62 bases in 2013 to set the single-season record for Single-A Bowling Green. If he can improve on his 105 strikeouts and remain consistent behind the plate, his stock will begin to rise quickly.
DOB: 11/04/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 170
2013 Stats: .422/.536/.600, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 6 SB (Triple-A)
The Tampa Bay Rays acquired Hak-Ju Lee in 2011 as part of the trade that sent pitcher Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs.
Lee was off to a very impressive start for Triple-A Durham in 2013 before his season was cut short after 15 games due to torn ligaments in his knee. Knee injuries are always scary for players like Lee, as he depends on his speed and athleticism to make plays.
Barring any setbacks from the injury, Lee should be ready for the major leagues at some point next season.
It will be interesting to see how the Rays handle Lee. There may not be a roster spot available at shortstop, a position that has been a weakness for the Rays over the past few seasons prior to the arrival of Yunel Escobar.
DOB: 01/24/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 165
2013 Stats: 148.1 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 112/75 K/BB (Double-A and Triple-A)
Enny Romero started 27 games in 2013 between Double-A Montgomery before getting called up to Triple-A Durham at the end of August.
His numbers for the year were impressive and justify his promotion to the final step before the majors. His 112 strikeouts are a positive sign for a lefty with a good fastball.
He has certainly improve his control in 2013, where he had only five wild pitches for the seasons compared to 36 total wild pitches in his previous two seasons.
If Romero can continue to fine-tune his pitching, there will likely be an opportunity for him in 2014 with the Tampa Bay Rays, at least in a spot start or a temporary relief role.
DOB: 07/30/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 182
2013 Stats: 69 IP, 2.09 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 67/18 K/BB (Rookie and Single-A)
Jesse Hahn was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.
He recorded an impressive 67 strikeouts along with a 2.09 ERA in 2013. His eight wild pitches are worth monitoring to see if they continue to be a problem for him.
Hopefully, he can overcome his injuries and remain healthy enough to develop and continue to advance in the system.
DOB: 03/27/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185
2013 Stats: 124.1 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 124/40 K/BB (Triple-A)
This will mark the third time that Odorizzi has been called up this season to the majors where he has played in five games with four starts, an 0-1 record and 5.09 ERA in 23 innings.
Every team can use additional pitching depth in the battle for the postseason. The Rays are certainly in need of such with the number of injuries they have experienced alongside subpar performance from normally outstanding pitchers.
Up to this point, Odorizzi has played very well in his first full season at the Triple-A level, although Odorizzi’s ERA is higher than ideal for a player of his potential. His strikeout-to-walk ratio, however, is a very good sign that he is ready to pitch at the highest level.
DOB: 12/31/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185
2013 Stats: 70.1 IP, 3.07 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 72/29 K/BB (Triple-A)
This season was Alex Colome’s first season starting at the Triple-A level and he performed well, earning him the opportunity to make his major league debut.
Colome won his debut with the Tampa Bay Rays on May 30 against the Miami Marlins. His performance was impressive in giving up no earned runs with seven strikeouts over 5.2 innings of work.
In three major league starts this season, Colome went 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA over 16 innings of work.
He is on the 60-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain that has ended his season. He will likely start next season back in Triple-A Durham, but should return to more action in the majors as the season progresses.
DOB: 12/1/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195
2013 Stats: 67 IP, 2.01 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 51/12 K/BB (Single-A)
Taylor Guerrieri was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Guerrieri became the team’s top prospect once Wil Myers was called up to the Rays. Shortly after that, he injured his right elbow and had to undergo Tommy John surgery.
The young pitcher looked very promising in his 14 starts in 2013, going 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA.
It is possible that Guerrieri can return at some point in 2014, but if he does not return until the 2015 season, he will, hopefully, be able to pitch again with no loss in his skills.
Guerrieri is important for the Rays' future, as they will likely not be able to afford to sign David Price at the end of his contract.
Having another homegrown arm that can fill one of the positions at the top of the rotation is absolutely necessary for the team on a budget to remain competitive.