2014 Top 10 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays

The strength of the Rays organization is depth. The club lacks a true impact talent at the top of this list, although both Taylor Guerrieri and Hak-Ju Lee have the tools to be outstanding players if they can put injuries behind them.

#1 Jake Odorizzi | 55/MLB (P)

23 29.2 6.67 2.43 32.2 % 3.94 3.89 4.33 0.3 0.3

The Year in Review: Playing for the third organization in his young career, the Illinois native enjoyed his first season with the Rays and made his MLB debut. He appeared in seven games in the Majors and made four starts for Tampa Bay. The young pitcher spent the majority of the year in Triple-A where he struck out 124 batters in 124.1 innings of work.

The Scouting Report: The 32nd overall selection from the 2008 draft, Odorizzi has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter. He has a solid pitcher’s frame and should provide a healthy number of innings. His stuff is solid and he has a four-pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, an above-average slider, a curveball and a changeup. He needs to work down in the zone more consistently and his fly-ball tendencies could get the best of him in the Majors.

The Year Ahead: Odorizzi has little reason to return to the minor leagues so he should settle in to the back end of the Rays’ opening day rotation.

The Career Outlook: The young pitcher should produce a solid career as a mid-rotation starter.

#2 Alex Colome | 60/MLB (P)

24 16.0 6.75 5.06 42.9 % 2.25 5.05 4.87 0.1 0.0

The Year in Review: Colome missed the second half of 2013 with an elbow strain. When he was on the mound, though, he was effective in both Triple-A (14 starts) and the Majors (three starts).

The Scouting Report: Colome has a chance to have three average secondary offerings to pair with his mid-90s heat. He throws a slider, curveball and changeup although he needs to become more consistent with the offerings. His control took a step forward in 2013 but he needs to do a better job of keeping the ball down in the zone.

The Year Ahead: After making 28 starts in 2011, Colome has failed to start more than 17 games each of the past two seasons while dealing with injuries. The 2014 season will be an important one for the right-hander; he needs to stay on the mound to both prove he can stay healthy and to further his development. He’ll very likely open the year in Triple-A.

The Career Outlook: If he can shake the injury bug, Colome has the talent to be a No. 2 or 3 starter at the big league level. If his body cannot hold up to the rigors of starting, he could develop into a high-leverage reliever.

#3 Enny Romero | 60/AAA (P)

22 4.2 0.00 7.71 64.3 % 0.00 5.62 6.79 0.3 0.0

The Year in Review: Romero spent the bulk of 2013 in Double-A where he showed excellent stuff but struggled with his command and control — as witnessed by his 75 walks in 148.1 innings of work. When he found the plate, the southpaw was difficult to hit and he allowed just 110 hits, although he needs to cut down on the fly balls and work down in the zone more consistently. He also made one start in Triple-A and one in the Majors.

The Scouting Report: The fly-ball pitcher needs to improve both his command and his control if he’s going to realize his full potential. The lefty shows good velocity in the low 90s and the fastball can even touch the mid 90s. His curveball has potential but the changeup still needs a fair bit of work. Although he can fire some heat, Romero is still learning how to “pitch.”

The Year Ahead: Romero will likely open 2014 back in Triple-A where he’ll work on polishing both his command and control. He could become big-league relevant in the second half of the year.

The Career Outlook: Romero has the talent necessary to develop into a No. 3 starter and he could develop into an innings-eating workhorse. However, if he can’t improve his command and control, as well as further develop his secondary stuff, he could end up in the bullpen.

#4 Taylor Guerrieri | 60/A- (P)

20 14 14 67.0 54 5 6.85 1.61 2.01 3.63

The Year in Review: Guerrieri’s first full pro season started off very well and he was dominating Low-A ball before he blew out his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. He was also levied a 50-game suspension for recreational drug use. When on the mound, the right-hander missed bats and opponents struggled to put the ball in the air against him.

The Scouting Report: When healthy, Guerrieri flashes very good stuff. His fastball works in the low-to-mid 90s and he also flashes a plus curveball, although it can be inconsistent. The changeup should be at least an average offering for him, if not better. Guerrieri has an athletic frame and repeats his delivery.

The Year Ahead: Guerrieri, 21, probably won’t pitch a competitive game in 2014 while he rehabs from surgery. However, he should be ready to go at the beginning of 2015.

The Career Outlook: The Georgia native has the stuff to develop into a No. 2 starter if he rebounds from his health woes and can stay on the straight and narrow.

#5 Hak-Ju Lee | 55/AAA (SS)

22 57 19 3 1 11 9 6 .422 .536 .600 .508

The Year in Review: Lee’s 2013 season came to an abrupt halt after just 15 games due to a serious knee injury. It was especially painful because the South Korea native was off to a hot start with the bat after a disappointing offensive campaign in 2012. The injury no doubt helped convince the Rays’ to pick up incumbent shortstop Yunel Escobar’s 2014 contract option.

The Scouting Report: A healthy Lee can be an impact player on the base paths and in the field. He has good range, a strong arm and reliable hands. Prior to the injury, he had the potential to steal 30+ bases in the Majors. Offensively, he doesn’t have a lot of upper body strength but he started driving the ball with more authority and does a nice job of waiting for his pitch.

The Year Ahead: Had Lee not gotten hurt, he may very well have opened 2014 as the Rays’ starting shortstop. Instead, he’ll return to Triple-A and will look to cement his status as the favorite to inherit the big league role for 2015.

The Career Outlook: Lee has the tools to be an impact player at the big league level even if his bat is only average — assuming he bounces back well from the knee injury.

#6 Ryne Stanek | 55/DNP

The Year in Review: A first-round draft pick from last season, Stanek did not pitch after signing out of the University of Arkansas.

The Scouting Report: Stanek slid to the 29th slot in the 2013 draft and was snatched up by the Rays who were less concerned than some other teams that he might end up in the bullpen. He has a four-pitch repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball, a potentially-plus slider, good curveball and a changeup. Stanek needs to improve his fastball command — and trust it more. His mechanics are not the smoothest and hitters tend to get a good, long look at his pitches; those two concerns are what led some talent evaluators to project him as a future reliever.

The Year Ahead: Stanek should open the 2014 season in Low- or High-A ball. He may need some time to work out his mechanical issues if he sticks in the starting rotation. If the club chooses to move him to the bullpen, though, he could move much more quickly.

The Career Outlook: The Kansas native has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter but could also develop into a high-leverage reliever.

#7 Andrew Toles | 55/A- (OF)

21 552 169 35 2 22 105 62 .326 .359 .466 .374

The Year in Review: Toles had a breakout season in Low-A ball in 2013. He stole 62 bases in 79 attempts and was one of the leading hitters in the league with a .326 average. He also slugged 53 extra base hits. although just two cleared the fences.

The Scouting Report: Toles has plus speed on the bases and plus center-field defense, although his arm strength is average at best. He’s still developing his hit tool, although he’s starting to understand how to take advantage of his strengths. With that said, he’s still too aggressive for his own good and needs to become more patient and focus on putting the ball in play and getting on base. He also needs to polish his pitch recognition.

The Year Ahead: Toles, 21, will move up to High-A ball to open the season but should see Double-A in the second half.

The Career Outlook: The Georgia native has a chance to develop into an impact lead-off hitter if he can improve at the plate. Even if he doesn’t, though, he’ll have a solid career based on his ability to run and play center-field defense.

#8 Nick Ciuffo | 55/R (C/DH)

18 169 41 6 0 9 40 0 .258 .296 .308 .290

The Year in Review: Ciuffo was the second catcher taken in the 2013 amateur draft, 21st overall out of a South Carolina high school. After turning pro, the left-handed hitting backstop had a quick start to his career but tired in August and saw his numbers take a significant dip. Ciuffo held his own against left-handed pitching during an early (and small) sample size.

The Scouting Report: Ciuffo has the potential to develop into a well-round player on both offense and defense. At the plate, he has an idea of what he wants to do, has developing pitch recognition and enough pop to hit 15+ homers in a season. As a catcher, he flashes a strong arm, improving receiving skills and good leadership/game calling.

The Year Ahead: Ciuffo may open the year in extended spring training because the Rays tend to be somewhat conservative with their young players and fellow catching prospect Oscar Hernandez should open the year in Low-A ball.

The Career Outlook: Ciuffo is potentially four years away from the Majors but he has the all-around skills to develop into a strong leader and defender, as well as an offensive threat.

#9 Ryan Brett | 55/AA (2B)

21 407 103 19 7 34 52 33 .281 .349 .428 .359

The Year in Review: Brett had something to prove in 2013 after finishing off a suspension handed down in 2012. Once he got the green light to play, the diminutive second baseman posted an .886 OPS in 51 games in High-A ball to earn a promotion to Double-A. However, he struggled at that level. In total on the year, Brett stole 26 bases in 33 attempts. He made up for lost development time by appearing in 16 Arizona Fall League games.

The Scouting Report: Brett isn’t flashy but he’s a grinder that gets the most out of his modest abilities. He handles the bat well, makes solid contact and uses the whole field. Unfortunately, he can get too aggressive at times. He has above-average speed and could steal 30 bases at the big league level. Defensively, he should be an average or better fielder at second base thanks to solid range, an average arm and decent actions.

The Year Ahead: Brett should return to Double-A to open the 2014 season and could eventually work his way into the big league second base picture in 2015 with an eye on taking over the role in ’16 when Ben Zobrist is a free agent.

The Career Outlook: Brett could develop into a solid everyday second baseman and a No. 2 hole hitter.

#10 Felipe Rivero | 55/A+ (P)

21 25 23 127.0 122 7 6.45 3.69 3.40 3.88

The Year in Review: Rivero broke the 100-inning mark for the second straight season in 2013 while pitching in High-A ball. He struggled (uncharacteristically) with his control by walking 52 batters and he struck out just 91 batters in 127.0 innings.

The Scouting Report: Rivero is a talented southpaw but he needs to improve his command — especially with the fastball. Getting ahead in the count more often will certainly help him cut down on the base runners and improve his strikeout rate. His fastball works in the low 90s and he shows potential with his curveball. The changeup is also making strides and could be an average offering when all is said and done.

The Year Ahead: The Venezuela native should open the year in Double-A and will need to polish his command if he’s going to succeed against the more advanced hitters in the league.

The Career Outlook: As mentioned, Rivero needs polish and improved command but he has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter if he realizes his full potential.

The Next Five:

11. Blake Snell, LHP: Snell has the raw ingredients to develop into a dominant left-handed pitcher as witnessed by his 106 strikeouts in 99.0 innings, as well as his well-above-average ground-ball rate. However, his control needs a lot of polish after he walked 73 batters in 2013 at the Low-A ball level. If everything clicks, he could become a No. 2 or 3 starter for the Rays.

12. Jesse Hahn, RHP: Hahn has flashed the potential to develop into a mid-rotation starter but he’s struggled to stay healthy and managed to make just 19 starts (67.0 innings) in 2013. He has only slightly-above-average stuff but it plays up thanks to above-average command. He also induces a ton of ground-ball outs and keeps the ball in the yard. If he’s healthy to open the 2014 season, he should be assigned to Double-A and could see the Majors by year’s end.

13. Kevin Kiermaier, OF: One of the best defensive outfielders in the minors, Kiermaier also has above-average speed on the base paths. Unfortunately, his offensive development is not as far along and his hit tool projects as fringe-average. If that’s the case, though, he could still spend some years in the starting lineup on the strength of his other tools.

14. Richie Shaffer, 3B: The 25th overall selection of the 2012 draft, Shaffer’s first full pro season was modest. He showed gap power but he needs to improve his approach at the plate and improve his on-base percentage. Seeing more pitches could provide him with better pitches to drive — unlocking some of his raw power. Defensively, he shows a strong arm at third base but so-so range.

15. Jose Mujica, RHP: Mujica received a significant bonus from the Rays in 2012 and was one of the best arms available in Venezuela. He opened his pro career as a 16 year old in the Gulf Coast League in ’13 and held his own against much older competition. The righty is quite a ways away from reaching the Majors but his ceiling is significant with an above-average fastball and potentially-plus changeup.

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

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8 years ago

I’m intrigued by Blake Snell. 6’4″ lefty, 21 years old. His first two stops he walked 3.5 per 9 and last year that went to 6.64/9. Guy’s gotta stop trying to strike everyone out. Strikeouts are fascist. Give up some more ground balls. They’re more democratic.

Seriously, if he can revert to 3.5 bb/9 and keep the Ks and hits where they are, I’d certainly take him on my team!

Frank C
8 years ago
Reply to  Dave

+1 for Bull Durham