Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Tampa Bay Rays

Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE

Jason Hunt takes a look at some of the top fantasy prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Over the past few weeks, Craig and I have been looking at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.

Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.

Previous Reviews

NL West: Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco
NL Central: Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis
NL East: Atlanta, Miami, New York, Philadelphia
AL East: Baltimore, Boston, New York Yankees
AL Central: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota
AL West: Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle

System Overview

The Rays are known for getting more out of their farm system than most teams, and with the trade of James Shields and Wade Davis they helped to reload the system even further. Realistically, they now have at AA or higher their future shortstop, right fielder, and at least two members of their starting rotation. With players like Evan Longoria and Matt Moore locked up to team-friendly contracts as well, the team should continue to compete for playoff spots for the foreseeable future.

Graduates

Jose Lobaton (C), Matt Moore (SP), Jake McGee (RP)

AAA or Higher in 2012

These are players who reached the Rays' International League affiliate in Durham in 2012. They will likely see time in the Majors in 2013, and could be a significant contributor there.

Wil Myers (BBRef Statistics, Profile from KC's Minor League Keeper Thoughts)

It was a massive surprise that Myers was traded by the Royals to the Rays, and it sounds like he'll likely start the season in AAA long enough to push off arbitration and free agency for another season. He remains potentially a fantasy monster who provides elite power and solid batting average totals.

Mike Montgomery (BBRef Statistics)

Montgomery was considered a top 25 prospect by many coming into the 2012 season, and had a pretty rough season. He was sent to AAA to start the season, and after three months of poor performance (5.69 ERA, 67 K, 43 BB in 91 IP), Montgomery was demoted to AA to try and work out whatever issues were plaguing him. So much for that theory: He posted a 6.67 ERA, 44 K, 21 BB and 12 HR in 58 IP at AA.

Clearly the Royals had soured on him enough to include him in the Shields trade, and it will be interesting to see if the Rays can figure out what has been ailing Montgomery and put him back together. If they can, he could be a potential #2/#3 starting pitcher in the near future for them, which could make the Shields trade a complete blowout.

Jake Odorizzi (BBRef Statistics, Profile from KC's Minor League Keeper Thoughts)

Odorizzi was ANOTHER player included in the Shields trade, and appears to be Major League ready now. He'll likely be given the opportunity to compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training, although it would not surprise me if Odorizzi ended up spending a substantial portion of 2013 with Durham. Even with trading away two starting pitchers, the Rays still have more potential starters for the five rotation spots.

Chris Archer (BBRef Statistics)

Acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade two offseasons ago, Archer was a question mark coming into the 2012 season after having issues with his control throughout the 2011 season. I wrote last offseason that he needed to work on those control issues for him to remain in the starting rotation, and it sounds like he may have shown improvement during the season. Baseball America noted that Archer posted a 45 K/12 BB rate in the second half of his season at Durham, but then struggled again when he was called up for the second time.

Overall, Archer looks like he should also get a shot to win a rotation spot out of Spring Training. He seems like he could be a "Boom-or-Bust" type for fantasy owners, as he has shown at times that the control can be there. Or it can get really ugly fast. That profile reminds me a lot of Francisco Liriano, just in terms of the potential for greatness mixed with the potential for a complete disaster.

Alex Colome (BBRef Statistics)

Colome has been rising through the Tampa Bay system, starting the 2012 season at AA before ending with three starts at AAA Durham. Overall, Colome threw 91 innings between the two levels, striking out 90 and walking 43. He missed time at both the start of the season (mid-April to late May) and the end of the season (late August) due to injuries as well.

Colome seems likely to be back at AAA for most of the 2013 season, given the depth in front of him in the Rays' starting rotation. He has shown the ability to post high strikeout rates, albeit at the cost of a higher than average walk rate. To me, he profiles as either a streaming type for fantasy owners or possibly a back of the fantasy rotation for most leagues, as he could have struggles with WHIP and ERA if his walk rate does not improve. Someone worth watching though, as he could be a nice source of strikeouts in the right situations.

AA in 2012

These are players who reached the Rays' Southern League affiliate in Montgomery in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.

Hak Ju Lee (BBRef Statistics)

Lee returned to AA for the 2012 season, and questions about his value to fantasy owners started to surface. He did steal 37 bases in 46 attempts last year, although it still comes with little power (4 homers), and his slash line dropped to .261/.336/.360. We ranked Lee as our #12 fantasy shortstop prospect this offseason, primarily on the fact that he will likely help his real-life team more than your fantasy team. He should be a nice source of speed at a premier position, but with very little power to add and question marks about what his batting average can be, he seems like a deep league play only. He'll likely start the 2013 season in AAA, and could see time in the Majors if he hits well there.

Short Season in 2012

The prospects in this group reached one of the short season leagues as their final stop of the season. For the Rays, this could mean the Appalachian League, Gulf Coast League or New York-Penn League.

Taylor Guerrieri (Profile from August, BBRef Statistics)

I wrote about Guerrieri back in August, and not a lot has changed on him since then really. He finished the season with a 1.04 ERA, 45 strikeouts, 5 walks, and just 35 hits allowed in 52 innings pitched in the New York-Penn League. There don't appear to have been any more issues with makeup during the season, and I would say that those concerns are a non-issue at this point. He has the potential to be a top of the fantasy rotation starting pitcher, providing excellent production across all 4 starting pitcher categories. I think he may be ready for a full-season assignment based on the performance this year, but the Rays are known for moving pitching prospects through the system slowly, so he could repeat the NYPL again in 2013.

Richie Shaffer (BBRef Statistics)

Shaffer was the top draft pick of the Rays in this year's draft, and was considered to be the top college bat available by many sources. After signing, the Rays sent him to the New York-Penn League, where he hit .308/.406/.487 with 4 home runs in 138 plate appearances.

We ranked Shaffer as our #8 third base prospect this offseason, and he could be ready for the Majors quickly. He has above average power potential, solid plate discipline, and is likely to be able to stick at third base. Given that the Rays have their long-term answer at third base sewn up for the next eight seasons, we could see Shaffer shifted to either first base or a corner outfield spot. His bat will likely play at either of those positions, but clearly would have the most value as a third baseman.

Others of Note

Tim Beckham (BBRef Statistics)

Beckham came into the season already having lost a lot of the luster that comes with being the overall #1 pick in your draft, and being suspended for 50 games for a drug of abuse this year probably didn't help that. He did hit 6 home runs and steal 6 bases in his 72 games at AAA, but with a .256 batting average. It remains to be seen what exactly Beckham will be in the Majors, but we are pretty likely to see him there at some point during the 2013 season.

Mikie Mahtook (BBRef Statistics)

Mahtook reached AA just a season after being one of the Rays' 1st round draft picks. He hit nine home runs, stole 23 bases in 32 attempts, and hit .277/.342/.415. I am a bit interested to see what exactly Mahtook becomes, as he has already fallen out of the Rays' top 10 prospect list over at Baseball America. He played right field primarily this year, but it sounds like his profile doesn't necessarily match up with a normal corner outfield profile.

Enny Romero (BBRef Statistics)

Romero spent the full season at High-A Port Charlotte for the Rays, striking out 107 and walking 76 in 126 innings pitched. The other key numbers: Just 89 hits allowed, and 5 home runs allowed all season as well. Romero has shown flashes of brilliance, and seems to be in a similar spot to Chris Archer was a season ago: He could turn into a mid-rotation starting pitcher, or end up in the back end of a bullpen.

Ryan Brett (BBRef Statistics)

Brett was ranked as our #15 second base prospect this offseason, and could potentially have been higher if he weren't going to miss nearly 50 games due to a positive drug test. He has shown the ability to hit for average and steal a good amount of bases in his minor league career.

Blake Snell (BBRef Statistics)

Snell was a 2011 draft pick in the supplemental first round for the Rays, and has pitched very well so far in limited innings. He was sent to the short-season Appalachian League in 2012, where he posted a 2.09 ERA, 53 strikeouts, and 17 walks in 47 innings pitched. The scouting reports on Snell are extremely positive, and specifically that he is a projectable lefty who could end up as a mid-rotation starting pitcher. I would love to see what Snell could do in a full season assignment, but it remains to be seen whether the Rays will keep him in another short-season league for 2013.

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