Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Tampa Bay

To say the future is bright in Tampa Bay is a bit of an understatement. Youth is front-and-center with the Rays organization; the club has done an enviable job of developing its home-grown talent. Both the scouting and the player development staffs should be given gold medals.

The youth movement actually begins with Andrew Friedman, one of the brightest, young front office men in the game. Although he hasn’t done a ton of wheeling and dealing, Friedman has managed to score interesting prospects such as Sean Rodriguez, Matt Sweeney, Alexander Torres, and Aneury Rodriguez.

Scouting director R.J. Harrison enters his fifth season in the role and has overseen the selecting of players such as David Price, Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, and Matt Moore. Mitch Lukevics, director of minor league operations, is in charge of the prospects once they enter the system; players such as Jennings, Moore and even Jeremy Hellickson are prospects that have been drafted outside the first three rounds and developed into top prospects. Although the club has received favorable drafting slots in recent years, it clearly makes great use of later round picks.

The draft hasn’t always gone smoothly for the organization, though. The club hit a huge speed bump in 2009 when it failed to sign its first two selections in LeVon Washington and Kenny Diekroeger, both interesting selections to begin with. The organization made up for it, to some degree, by nabbing some higher-ceiling (but higher risk) players in later rounds: catcher Luke Bailey, first baseman Jeff Malm, and pitcher Kevin James.

Not known as an international powerhouse, the organization has one Latin player amongst its Top 10 prospects (pitcher Alexander Colome). The club did break into the European market this past off-season by signing Czech left-hander Stepan Havlicek.

On the big league squad, the team boasts some exciting talent, including the enigmatic B.J. Upton, third baseman Longoria, and second baseman Rodriguez. Young position players marching through the minor league system include nearly-ready Jennings, Tim Beckham, and Reid Brignac. The depth isn’t great, but Jennings has the chance to be a special player.

The starting rotation is the backbone of this club. James Shields is the old man of the group at 28, followed by Jeff Niemann, 27, Matt Garza, 26, Wade Davis, 24, and David Price, 24. All five pitchers arguably have the ceilings of at least a No. 2 starter. Looking down into the minor leagues and the club has a ton of pitching depth, including Hellickson, Moore, Colome, Nick Barnese, Kyle Lobstein, and even Jacob McGee, who is making his way back from injury.

This club can compete with the best organizations in the Major Leagues right now, and it should continue to be a powerhouse for years to come.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


12 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Tampa Bay”

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  1. philkid3 says:

    B-b-b-but, ESPN and the MLB Network keep telling me the Rays window is this year and if they don’t win now, they don’t have a chance.

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  2. Omar says:

    I’m still interested to see how they’ll restock the talent without a consistent top five draft choice.

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    • JH says:

      The premium talent will probably ebb a bit, but the club’s shown a willingness to spend on signability guys in the middle round, and I think that’s the direction they’ll go in the future. That and spending more $ internationally.

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      • JH says:

        Er, middle roundS.

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      • Kevin says:

        To slightly add on, the guys considered the “premium talent” right now are Wade Davis(3rd rounder), Jeremy Hellickson(4th rounder), and Desmond Jennings(10th rounder). The Rays have had tremendous success in rounds 2 through 10.

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    • Kevin says:

      When I did my top 15 hitters and pitchers in the organization(prospects, anyway), only three out of those 30 were drafted in the top two rounds. The 2010 draft will be another boon to the system, with five picks in the top 79.

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    • philkid3 says:

      Probably roughly the same as they have considering only a fraction of their organizational strength comes from top 5 draft choices.

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      • Omar says:

        I wouldn’t downplay the importance of some of their top five draft choices. Longoria and Price look to be the future cornerstones of the organization, same for Upton if he pulls his talent out of his ass and plays to the tools. They probably won’t be able to acquire one of those guys that will be workhorses for the team for over a decade; but they’ve shown the ability to make good trades and acquire the right players that teams have given up on…they better hope that trend continues.

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  3. JH says:

    I know you’d be hard-pressed to list all of the intriguing young talent in the Rays’ system, but Wilking Rodriguez is another very interesting product of their Latin American scouting.

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  4. Omar says:

    Although with the increased fan fair, and perhaps a new stadium, they’ll probably do just fine.

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  5. LibertyBoy says:

    Coaching, coaching, coaching!

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  6. El Guapo says:

    Not much mention of Matt Moore in any of these posts, but seems to have a very high ceiling. Don’t overlook him.

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