The Rays’ farm system was weakened with the graduation of American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and runner-up Chris Archer to the major leagues in 2013. However, as usual, it has an endless supply of major league-ready arms in the upper levels poised to make an impact next season.
Replacing Myers as Tampa Bay’s top prospect is left-hander Enny Romero, who flashed his potential during a late-season spot start with the Rays in the heat of a playoff race.
After that is a trio of right-handers in Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome and Jesse Hahn, who could all be in the starting rotation by the end of the 2015 season. Both Odorizzi and Colome are expected to spend a majority of the 2014 season in the major leagues and could even compete for a rotation spot should David Price be moved this offseason.
In terms of positional talent, 2013 first-round draft pick Nick Ciuffo stands out for his potential as a dual-threat catcher, as does center fielder Andrew Toles for his game-changing speed. The Rays also have a solid collection of high-floor up-the-middle players in shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, second baseman Ryan Brett and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.
Here’s a look at the Tampa Bay Rays’ top-10 prospects for 2014.
DOB: 04/22/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 200 pounds
Drafted: 31st round, 2010 (Parkland College)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in ’13)
Kiermaier is an excellent athlete at 6’1”, 200 pounds; defense in center field ranks among the best in the minor leagues; he has 70-grade speed and outstanding range in all directions; arm and glove are both plus attributes; could carve out everyday role in the major leagues based on defensive prowess; dude can flat-out go get it in the outfield.
Left-handed hitter with good strength; consistent gap power and plus-plus speed produces as many triples as doubles; good bat-to-ball and on-base skills; raw base stealer with inconsistent jumps; possesses the wheels for 20-25 stolen bases with refinement; offensive production is just a bonus given plus defensive profile at an up-the-middle position.
Projection: Major league reserve center fielder
DOB: 10/09/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5’9”, 180 pounds
Drafted: Third round, 2010 (Highline HS, Wash.)
Brett is a solid ballplayer who can do a little of everything except hit with power; 5’9”, 180-pound right-handed hitter gets the most out of his frame; advanced bat-to-ball skills with plus barrel control; sprays line drives from line to line; stays inside the ball using strong hands and wrists; below-average power; plus runner capable of stealing 20-plus bases in a season; potential for plus hit tool could make him an everyday regular at maturity.
Combination of speed and quickness translate to above-average range at second base; solid, dependable glove; defensive actions are aggressive but consistent; possesses ideal arm strength for the keystone.
Projection: Second-division second baseman
DOB: 05/24/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 185 pounds
Drafted: Third round, 2012 (Chipola College)
Toles is arguably the best athlete in the system; easy 70-grade speed impacts the game on both sides; above-average glove with plus range in center field; excellent closing speed compensates for his inconsistent jumps and routes; will have no problem remaining at position.
Right-handed batter has sneaky pop in his 5’10”, 180-pound frame; drives the ball with backspin carry but lacks over-the-fence trajectory; timing of swing and bat path are geared toward hitting fastballs; overcommits with stride and struggles to keep weight back against quality secondary offerings; pulls off hard with front side at times; below-average pitch recognition results in too much swing-and-miss; possesses athleticism and bat speed to make adjustments.
Projection: Second-division center fielder
DOB: 12/1/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2011 (Spring Valley HS, S.C.)
The 6’3”, 195-pounder possesses present physical strength and quiet athleticism; strong upper body and broad shoulders leave room for favorable projection; arm 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; will miss most of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in July; makeup has been a concern since high school and worsened last summer with a 50-game suspension after testing positive for drug abuse.
Flashes the potential for four above-average-to-plus pitches; advanced pitchability; velocity was down a few ticks last season; two-seam fastball is an excellent pitch in the low 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 94-95 mph.
Above-average 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 raw but flashes average potential. Prospect stock should take off again with a healthy return to the mound next season.
Projection: No. 3 or 4 starter
DOB: 03/07/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 205 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Lexington HS, S.C.)
Ciuffo has a short, left-handed stroke and gets the barrel through the zone quickly to make solid contact; struggles to recognize off-speed stuff out of pitcher's hand; clean swing and bat speed leads to potential for average hit tool; possesses above-average raw power that didn’t translate in games during pro debut last summer; has the upside to hit 15-20 home runs at maturity but lack of stride gives him more line-drive power at the present; development of hit tool may determine whether he reaches power potential at next level; advanced approach for prep draftee; off-speed stuff will fool him early until he adjusts to professional pitching.
6’1”, 205-pound frame is ideal for career behind the plate; average speed for catcher but below-average overall; plus arm strength is loudest tool; registers quick pop times behind the plate; exhibits good athleticism behind plate with ability to block balls; advanced receiver and framer relative to his age and experience; projects to be an above-average defender at maturity; shows good, consistent footwork that aids ability to get ball out of glove; solid catch-and-throw skills with a quick release.
Projection: First-division catcher
DOB: 11/04/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 170 pounds
Signed: 2008 by Cubs (South Korea)
ETA: Late 2014
Scouting Report (Pre-2013 Report)
Missed most of 2013 after tearing knee ligaments in 15th game of the season; above-average 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 has yet figure out how to be a consistent top-of-the-order hitter; needs to work counts in his favor; bat speed can vary depending on his timing, though it’s a naturally quick stroke; 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; streaky hitter with defensive chops to stick at shortstop.
Projection: Bench/reserve middle infielder
DOB: 07/30/1989 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 182 pounds
Drafted: Sixth round, 2010 (Virginia Tech)
2010 draftee didn’t make full-season debut until 2013 due to Tommy John surgery; 6’5”, 182-pound right-hander has a power-pitcher’s frame and the stuff to back it up; Hahn throws a heavy plus fastball that sits comfortably in the mid-90s; demonstrated ability to pump plus-plus velocity more consistently since regained arm strength; adept at generating groundouts with the pitch.
Hahn’s curveball serves as his go-to secondary offering, thrown with velocity and featuring late downer action; mixes in a fringe-average slider to give opposing hitters a different look; right-hander’s changeup plays a tick above average with nice fading action to the arm side; still working to establish a consistent feel for secondary arsenal since the surgery; solid overall command profile with plenty of room for improvement; poised to take a big step forward in 2014.
Projection: No. 3 or 4 starter
DOB: 12/31/1988 (Age: 25)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 pounds
Drafted/Signed: March 2007 (Dominican Republic)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in ’13)
6’2” right-hander has moved through the Rays' system at a gradual, one-level-per-year pace; inability to stay healthy has prevented him from making impact in major leagues; Colome has a filthy four-pitch mix suitable for a mid-rotation spot; command will need more refinement before he becomes fixture in rotation; quality of stuff also suggests big upside as late-inning arm.
Fastball registers in the low to mid-90s as a starter; pitch has late life and digs on the hands of right-handed hitters; will sit a few ticks higher out the bullpen; also throws a good cutter in the low 90s with late, slider-like action; inconsistent secondary arsenal is highlighted by a curveball that flashes above-average potential with sharp break; changeup is an average offering but effective when sequenced off his fastball and cutter; ability to improve command-of-power arsenal will dictate future role on the mound.
Projection: No. 3 or 4 starter, late-inning reliever
DOB: 03/27/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 pounds
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008 (Highland HS, Ill.)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in ’12)
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 registers in 91-94 mph range with sink and moderate action to the arm side; will occasionally get under the pitch and pipe it 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 should be able to reach his ceiling as a back-end starter.
Projection: No. 4 or 5 starter
DOB: 01/24/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 165 pounds
Signed: June 2008 (Dominican Republic)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in ’13)
Highly projectable frame at 6’3”, 165 pounds with plenty of room to add strength; possesses the best arm strength in Tampa Bay’s system; still more of a thrower than pitcher; struggles to repeat a consistent release point; plus fastball is explosive and ranges anywhere from 92-97 mph; fringy command but effectively wild; power curveball flashes plus potential due to its velocity and downer break; changeup is still raw but has at least above-average potential; demonstrated an improved feel for turning it over to create late fading action last season; Romero has the stuff to pitch in a major league rotation, but the below-average command doesn’t make him a long-term lock for the role.
Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter, late-inning reliever