Top 30 Prospects: The Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays
2010 MLB Record: 96-66 (first place, AL East)
Minor League Power Ranking: 2nd (out of 30)
Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List

The Prospects

1. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
Acquired: 2005 4th round (Iowa HS)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 6.0

Notes: Hellickson stands to be one of the most promising rookie pitchers in the Majors in 2011. The 23-year-old hurler does have some hurdles to clear, though. The Rays have a lot of pitching depth so he may end up as a long reliever to begin the season — or he could open 2011 in Triple-A (although he has nothing left to prove in the minors). Hellickson has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 pitcher and he held his own in a brief MLB trial in ’10. He showed good strikeout numbers while also showcasing above-average control for his age. I would like to see him improve upon his ground ball rate from triple-A (37%); being a fly-ball pitcher in the potent AL East is never easy. He throws with a three-quarter arm slot and utilizes an easy delivery that doesn’t put much stress on his shoulder, which bodes well for the future. Hellickson has a good fastball-changeup combination, and improved command of his curveball could transform him into a Rookie of the Year candidate if he receives the opportunity to start.

2. Matt Moore, LHP
Acquired: 2007 8th round (New Mexico HS)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+
Opening Day Age: 21
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.5

Notes: Moore could easily be a No. 1 prospect in a lot of organizations. He plays second fiddle in Tampa Bay’s system, though, to Hellickson. The club has been exceptionally patient with the young southpaw, moving him up one level at a time during his four-year career. Moore has never seen his strikeout rate drop below 12.75 K/9 in any of his four seasons, which is absolutely outstanding for a starting pitcher. There is a trade off to his K-rates, with his control and command fluctuating. He’s been effectively wild in the low minors but will face a stiffer test in double-A in 2011. Moore has seen his inning totals steadily improve each season and he pitched a career high 144.2 innings last season, while also maintaining a 2.38 FIP. On the negative side, he’s seen his ground ball rate decline as he has moved up the ladder, from 61% to 48% to 43%. Despite that, he projects to develop into a No. 1 or 2 starter. His repertoire includes a 90-95 mph fastball, curveball, and changeup. His delivery does have a little bit of effort to it.

3. Desmond Jennings, OF
Acquired: 2006 10th round (Mississippi JC)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0

Notes: Like Hellickson and Moore, Jennings is another player that could be a No. 1 prospect for a lot of clubs. The athletic outfielder has already played parts of two seasons in triple-A but is expected to begin the 2011 season back at that level after the club brought in veterans Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez late in the offseason. The outfielder posted the lowest wOBA of his pro career at .355 but managed a triple-slash line of .278/.362/.393 in 399 at-bats. The speedster swiped 37 bags in 41 tries and has developed into an effective base stealer. He also shows a respectable strikeout rate (16.8 K%) given his modest power and is not afraid to take a walk (10.3 BB%). Despite the obstacles ahead of him, Jennings should be starting in the Rays’ outfield by midseason and has the potential to be an impact player, albeit with no more than 20-homer power. His current stance doesn’t lend it self to much power production at all but he does show solid balance.

4. Chris Archer, RHP
Acquired: 2006 5th round (North Carolina HS)
Pro Experience: 5 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Obtained from the Chicago Cubs this past off-season during the Matt Garza trade, Archer went from being the Cubs’ No. 1 prospect to No. 4 in this deep system. The right-hander has a lot of potential but has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter. Archer succeeds with a solid fastball (91-95 mph) and plus slider. His changeup is still a work in progress. In 2010, he split the season between high-A and double-A. Archer showed marked improvement in his control in 2010 while at high-A ball it sat at a career-low 3.24 BB/9 but spiked back up to 5.01 after the promotion to double-A. He also took a hit in the strikeout rate as it dropped from 10.20 to 8.61 K/9. It’s easy to see that Archer still has some work to do in double-A, but youth is on his side and he’s now in an organization where he’ll be given every opportunity to fully develop before he’s promoted to the Majors. He does a better job of inducing ground balls than Hellickson and Moore; Archer posted a rate of 57% in high-A and 51% in double-A, a level he should return to in 20111.

5. Jake McGee, LHP
Acquired: 2004 5th round (Nevada HS)
Pro Experience: 7 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Opening Day Age: 24
Estimated Peak WAR: 2.0

Notes: McGee has gone through a lot of peaks and valleys during his career. The young lefty has gone from promising starter to Tommy John surgery survivor to potential closer. He could become the go-to man in the ninth inning at some point in 2011 but the club has brought in some pitchers (Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth) to help soften the transition. McGee produces average ground ball rates but also has massive strikeout totals, including a strikeout rate of 10.19 K/9 in 88.1 double-A innings. He fights his command and control at times but has shown signs of improvement. With a little more time, McGee has the potential to develop into a top high-leverage reliever.

6. Josh Sale, OF
Acquired: 2010 1st round (Washington HS)
Pro Experience: None
2010 MiLB Level: None
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: In recent years many top prep hitters have moved relatively quickly through their respective organizations. Sale has the offensive potential, though, to hold his own in low-A ball at the age of 19. Defensively, Sale is a work-in-progress and projects as a left fielder. He has the potential to develop into an offensive, mid-line-up stalwart who could produce 30+ homers per season. He hits with a pronounced crouch, which he explodes out of. His hands are busy and need to be quieted, which could help him make more consistent contact. I would also move his hand positioning back to help him be in a better position to catch up to good fastballs as he moves up the pro ladder.

7. Alex Colome, RHP
Acquired: 2007 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
Pro Experience: 4 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-/A+
Opening Day Age: 22
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: Colome is yet another pitcher in this system that would get a lot more attention if he were in another organization. The right-hander had a respectable season in low-A ball by posting a 4.02 FIP in 114.0 innings of work. He showed average control with a walk rate of 3.55 BB/9. His strikeout rate was solid at 9.32 K/9 but down from 11.13 K/9 ’09 in short-season ball. Like his walk rates, Colome’s ground ball numbers are average. His repertoire includes a 90-95 mph fastball, curveball, and changeup. He’s working to improve the command of his secondary pitches. He could split 2011 between high-A and double-A if he shows more consistency.

8. Hak-Ju Lee, SS
Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Korea)
Pro Experience: 3 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: A-
Opening Day Age: 20
Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0

Notes: Lee, 20, didn’t highlight the Garza deal but he has a shot at becoming the top talent acquired in the swap. The youngster produced a triple-slash line of .282/.354/.351 in 485 at-bats in low-A ball. He showed little-to-no power with an ISO rate of .068, but the infielder projects as more of a No. 1 or 2 hitter. He nabbed 32 bags in 39 attempts. Lee handles the bat pretty well and had a strikeout rate of 17.7 K%, which is a tad high but he did show a willingness to take a walk (8.9 BB%). At the plate, he shows good balance but his stance will not help him hit for power; his knees are turned in so that they almost face each other. He also doesn’t take much of a stride. Defensively, he shows a strong arm and good range but he makes youthful mistakes that should lessen with time.

9. Alex Torres, LHP
Acquired: 2005 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela)
Pro Experience: 6 seasons
2010 MiLB Level: AA
Opening Day Age: 23
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0

Notes: Torres could end up being a steal from the Scott Kazmir deal with the Angels. The 23-year-old southpaw had a solid season in double-A by posting a 3.47 FIP in 142.2 innings. Despite his smallish pitcher’s frame, Torres has shown good durability over the past two seasons and racked up the strikeouts in 2010 (9.46 K/9). The lefty’s downfall throughout his career has been his lack of consistent command and control. His walk rate sat at 4.42 BB/9 in ’10, which represented a career low. Torres’ tendency to throw across his body is one of the reasons why he struggles with his control. I do like the fact that he has an easy delivery that doesn’t put a lot of stress on his frame. His repertoire includes an 88-92 mph fastball, plus changeup and developing curveball. Torres finds his way into my good graces because he regularly produces an above-average ground ball rate.

10. Justin O’Conner, C
Acquired: 2010 1st round (Indiana HS)
Pro Experience: 1 season
2010 MiLB Level: Rookie
Opening Day Age: 19
Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5

Notes: A former prep two-way player, O’Conner’s value skyrocketed in his final high school season when he showed the ability to be a full-time catcher. Plus bat speed leads to above-average raw power but it remains to be seen if he will hit for average as well. Defensively, O’Conner’s skills are noticeably raw, which isn’t surprising given his lack of experience behind the dish, but he flashes plus tools. He has a strong arm and moves well behind the plate. He could open 2011 back in extended spring training but a strong showing could see him open the year in low-A.

Top 3 Organization Bonus

11. Enny Romero, LHP
12. Jake Thompson, RHP
13. Brandon Guyer, OF
14. Drew Vettleson, SS/OF
15. Nick Barnese, RHP
16. Ty Morrison, OF
17. Alex Cobb, RHP
18. Tim Beckham, SS
19. Robinson Chirinos, C
20. Ryan Brett, 2B
21. Braulio Lara, LHP
22. Luke Bailey, C
23. Yoel Araujo, OF
24. Joseph Cruz, RHP
25. Derek Dietrich, SS
26. Wilking Rodriguez, RHP
27. Kyle Lobstein, LHP
28. Ian Kendall, RHP
29. Jesse Hahn, RHP
30. Todd Glaesmann, OF

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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13 years ago

Like the names but some of the peak WARs are way more generous than you have been elsewhere. Hellboys got an estimated 6 WAR peak and is described as “Hellickson has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 pitcher”. Moore is at 5.5 and “he projects to develop into a No. 1 or 2 starter”. By contrast, Teheran is at a peak WAR of 5 and is described as “Just 20, he has the potential to develop into a No. 1 starter before he turns 25.” I like the peak WAR feature but it seems to need a bit of fleshing out (or you just love Tampa Bay for some reason).

Poor Nunomember
13 years ago
Reply to  JMS

Because all number 1 and 2 pitchers are created equally and must have the same est. peak WAR?

13 years ago
Reply to  Poor Nuno

I’d be hard-pressed to say Moore has more potential than Teheran.

13 years ago
Reply to  Poor Nuno

Depends on who you like. Moore’s a lefty, and he has plus stuff. And his k rate is so dominating, its hard to ignore the ceiling on a guy like that.

13 years ago
Reply to  Poor Nuno

Johan, considering just about everyone in the prospect community agrees Teheran is the highest-ceiling pitcher in the minors, I highly doubt Moore deserves a higher Peak-WAR projection. Maybe Hellickson does, with some extra points being awarded based on reliability of reaching the peak. But that’s a big maybe.

12 years ago
Reply to  Poor Nuno

haha. You guys are hilarious. Look at Moore’s numbers