Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Twins, Astros, Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, Reds, Phillies & Rays
Scouting Explained: Introduction, Hitting Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6
The common narrative about the Rays system is that 1) it’s down from past years and 2) this is because they can’t pick good players unless they pick in the top 10. Over the 19 years of the franchise, here’s the 7 productive big leaguers over 9 tries they’ve picked from the top 6 overall slots: David Price, Evan Longoria, Josh Hamilton, Rocco Baldelli, B.J. Upton, Jeff Niemann and Delmon Young.
In 21 first round/sandwich picks outside of the top 6 slots, they’ve produced no big leaguers of consequence and the top current prospects of the group are Justin O’Conner (#2) and Blake Snell (#5) on the list below. There’s obviously something to these critiques, but it’s important to keep in mind that the return from draft picks is exponential: the top few picks are supposed to produce far more value than late first round picks.
Due to all the extra high-round picks and farm-stocking trades, along with an increasingly prominent international program, the Rays system is as deep as almost any other. Because the high bonus players haven’t worked out for Tampa Bay at even a league average rate, the top of the system is much weaker than others and their #1 prospect was acquired in a recent trade, along with #4 and #8. There’s enough young, high-upside talent for this high-end shortage to change by this time next year, but it’s impossible to forecast something like that happening.
It’s also worth noting that 8 of the 31 prospects ranked here were acquired via trade; the Rays system has to be deep given the way the organization approaches roster building. If the system was run like a big market team perennially in the playoffs (think Detroit), where prospects are traded once they have trade value to prop up the big league team, the Rays farm system could pretty easily be the worst in baseball due to their struggles in the draft.
Two things to monitor in the system is the catching depth (which took a hit when Arizona took Oscar Hernandez #1 overall in the Rule 5 Draft last week) and the glut of infielders with prospect value that fit best in Triple-A Durham. Behind Ryan Hanigan and Curt Casali at the big league level, the Rays’ primary catchers starting in Triple-A and moving down the chain should be Luke Maile, Justin O’Conner, Hernandez (who most expect to be returned by Arizona), Nick Ciuffo, David Rodriguez and Rafelin Lorenzo, all of whom are mentioned below as prospects, which is very rare.
In the Durham glut, the Rays have SS, Hak-Ju Lee, SS Jake Hager, SS Tim Beckham, 2B/SS Nick Franklin, 2B Ryan Brett and 3B/1B Richie Shaffer, all with varying levels of prospect value. There’s hope that one or two of these guys could play their way onto the 25-man MLB roster, but the organization is aware that, barring injuries, some players may have to play out of position or at a lower level than expected to make things work.
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