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Tampa Bay Rays 2015 Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

The prospect staff at Fake Teams continues their fantasy prospect rankings and system reviews with an in-depth look at the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Just like last year, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking an in-depth look at each major league organization, including our top 10 fantasy prospects, an overview of the organization's minor league system as a whole and potential opportunities for playing time in 2015. Our goal is to provide you with more information as you prepare for minor league drafts for dynasty and keeper leagues, as well as look at players that could potentially be worth watching during the spring, as they could be in line to potentially help your fantasy team. We will be reviewing two teams per week until we are through all 30 teams, and you can see the schedule of when your favorite team will be reviewed below. if we have already reviewed the team, a link to the post, along with the team's top prospect is noted.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore
(Bundy)

Chicago
(Rodon)

Houston
(Correa)

Atlanta
(Sims)

Chicago
(Bryant)

Arizona
(Bradley)

Boston
(Moncada)

Cleveland
(Lindor)

Los Angeles
(Heaney)

Miami
(Kolek)

Cincinnati
(Stephenson)

Colorado
(Gray)

New York
(Judge)

Detroit
(Hill)

Oakland
(Olson)

New York
(Syndergaard)

Milwaukee
(Taylor)

Los Angeles
(Pederson)

Tampa Bay
(Today)

Kansas City
(Manaea)

Seattle
(Jackson)

Philadelphia
(Crawford)

Pittsburgh
(Glasnow)

San Diego
(Renfroe)

Toronto
(3/25)

Minnesota
(Buxton)

Texas
(Gallo)

Washington
(Giolito)

St. Louis
(Piscotty)

San Francisco
(Crick)

Organizational Overview
by Brian Creagh

Turnover ran rampant throughout the Tampa Bay organization this offseason. General Manager Andrew Friedman bolted for Los Angeles, Manager Joe Maddon left to become skipper for the Chicago Cubs, and multiple players from the 2014 roster are now playing elsewhere. This has created a ton of opportunity for new names to come in and make an impact and this holds true in a fantasy baseball context. The Rays projected 2015 lineup has new faces up and down the order and provide an opportunity for sneaky fantasy value. The team will still be run on the back of a strong analytical approach, so we should expect to see the same sort of platoon exploitation from hitters as well as a matchup-based bullpen usage. This tends to hurt fantasy value as hitters lose a PA or two at the end of games and the SV/HLD stats are harder to project, but this team will still score runs and have reliable sources of production.

The new faces on offense include Asdrubal Cabrera, John Jaso, Steven Souza, and Rene Rivera. Kevin Kiermaier and Nick Franklin will also step up into full-time roles to go with lineup mainstays Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, and James Loney. Souza is the most interesting name in this order because he figures to get a ton of AB's and is going late in most fantasy drafts. He struggled in a late-season callup with Washington, but put up big minor league numbers. He's a deep sleeper worth keeping an eye on if only for the opportunity he has for consistent playing time.

The rotation remains entirely intact from the end of last year. News of Drew Smyly not being ready for Opening Day could present an opportunity for a new arm, but there is nothing official yet. Nate Karns and Burch Smith are the next two up if an opening in the rotation presents itself. The rotation is anchored by a three-headed monster in Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi. These guys will be owned in every league, and all are available at a reasonable value. They all get a bump in QS leagues since wins may be hard to come by for Tampa this season. Newly acquired Kevin Jepsen currently has a hold on the closers role, but with some big arms in the bullpen like Brad Boxberger, and Grant Balfour, I expect the closer situation to be quite fluid as the year progresses.

The minor league system for Tampa remains to me one of the weakest in the MLB. They've done a good job adding some serious depth up the middle with the acquisitions of Daniel Robertson, Willy Adames, Adrian Rondon, and Andrew Velazquez. There isn't a ton of impact talent outside of this group, except for emerging catching prospect Justin O'Conner. He's a late bloomer that could provide some pop for a player projected to stick behind the plate. The system is in dire need of high-ceiling talent after a series of iffy draft picks. Nick Ciuffo, Ryne Stanek, Casey Gillaspie, and Richie Shaffer represent the clubs most recent 1st Round draft picks. Even with the teams inability to go over slot on draft picks, there were still more highly regarded and highly signable players available at each pick. The jury is still out on many of these players, so it's hard to call the picks misses, but none of these players are sniffing the recently released Top 100 lists from major publications.

2014 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time.

Kevin Kiermaier (AB), Brandon Guyer (AB), Curt Casali (ST), Jake Odorizzi (IP), Brad Boxberger (IP), Jeff Beliveau (ST), Kirby Yates (ST)

Major League Opportunities in 2015
by Brian Creagh

As I mentioned above, prospect Steven Souza has the best opportunity with the big league club as he should be their Opening Day right fielder. With Jaso and Rivera handling the catcher duties, the door is currently blocked for Justin O'Conner, but he's a player capable of taking a starter's role over and never look back. The rest of the offense appears locked in for the season and only injuries will present opportunities for prospects to break on to the scene. In the rotation there is equally little opportunity. Smyly's injury could give a few spot starts to Karns or Smith, but neither guy is a prospect new to the fantasy scene. I have long been a fan of Burch Smith and would love for him to get a longer look as a starter, but he could be destined to a long reliever role.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
by Jason Hunt

Our top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are based upon standard 5x5 fantasy baseball leagues, with a balancing of ceiling and present value. While we are having discussions regarding these lists as a collective group, the top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are finalized by the writer listed above. Players are no longer considered prospects once they exceed either 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days of service time in the Majors.


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1. Daniel Robertson (SS)

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.310 110 15 60 4
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
642 0.402 0.471 11.21% 14.64%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 R R A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017

The key prospect acquired in the Ben Zobrist trade, Robertson was drafted by the Athletics with the 34th pick in the 2012 draft. A shortstop out of the draft, Robertson has been moving consistently a level at a time, hitting .277 with 9 home runs at Low-A Beloit in his first full season. He moved up to High-A Stockton last season, and hit .310 with 15 home runs. He cut down his strikeout rate substantially (14% from 22%), while maintaining his walk rate at 11%.

Robertson has been playing shortstop primarily since signing, and while he has improved at the position defensively, it's not clear that he will be able to stay there long term. A move to second base would cut into his long-term value slightly, but the overall offensive profile is still fairly strong at either spot. He has the potential to provide a high batting average in part due to a short, quick swing and an excellent approach at the plate. He's not going to be a slugger by any stretch, but should still be good for double-digit home runs as he continues to develop. There will be questions about him due to his improved power performance coming in the California League, but I believe the potential is there for Robertson to be a .290 hitter with 15 home runs and solid run and RBI totals. He'll likely head to AA for the 2015 season, and we could see him in Tampa by the end of the 2016 season.

2. Willy Adames (SS)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.271 55 8 61 6
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
514 0.353 0.429 10.51% 24.51%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 R R A
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

Another acquired shortstop, the Rays received Adames as the main prospect in return when they traded David Price to the Tigers. He was practically unheralded coming into the 2014 season, ranking as the #30 prospect in the Tigers' organization by Baseball America, and unranked nearly anywhere else. However, a strong showing in full-season ball in 2014 has vaulted him up rankings across the industry, and could be the steal of the Price trade for the Rays.

Adames doesn't have a single tool that really stands out above the others, but rather has the potential to be at least average across the board. He is considered a solid defender and capable of sticking at shortstop in the near term, and also likely in the majors at the start. With that said, he may have to move later depending on how his 6'1, 180 lb frame fills out as he grows. He's not expected to provide high-level production in any one category, but more likely provides a solid batting average with 12-15 home runs and some stolen bases each year. He gets rave reviews about his approach and work ethic, which should help him to maximize his tools just that little bit more. He's probably at least three full seasons away from the majors right now, but there is a fairly high ceiling on Adames and is a name worth keeping an eye on in nearly all dynasty formats.

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3. Steven Souza (OF)

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.332 64 20 79 28
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
445 0.416 0.566 12.36% 19.55%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
25 R R AAA-MLB
Roster Status: On 40-Man Roster (2 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2015

The key prospect received in the Wil Myers deal, Souza has taken longer to get to the majors than anticipated, but is in line for a starting job now. He was drafted by the Nationals back in 2007, spent the next four seasons between the two Single-A levels, and nearly quit baseball entirely after a rough 2011 season. (You can read more about that here.) He did return for the 2012 season, and definitely appeared changed. He hit 23 home runs that year between those same two Single-A levels, and while he missed time in 2013 due to an injury, he still hit 15 home runs in just 81 games at AA. He moved up again in 2014, continuing to hit for both average and power at AAA, and earned a 21 game call-up over the span of the year.

The opinions on Souza are extremely varied, in part because of the time it took him to get to the majors and his age at these higher levels. With that said, the reports on his tools point to the performance being legitimate. He has shown above-average power potential, and couples it with average speed and an easy swing that should help him make enough contact to let the power play. The potential is there for a 20 home run, 20 stolen base outfielder who provides average value in batting average and the other two categories, but with enough question marks to keep his draft position down this year and make him a potential sleeper. He's expected to be a starter at the outset of the season, and was our #72 outfielder in our consensus rankings.

4. Adrian Rondon (SS)

AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
16 R R DNP
Roster Status: Protect after 2018 Season
ETA to Majors: 2020

The reports on Adrian Rondon are absolutely gushing at this point, which you'd expect from a prospect signed for a bonus of nearly $3 million out of the Dominican Republic this past year. He has yet to debut, but the hype on Rondon has already been immense. There is the potential for an above-average hitter who provides both power and speed while playing shortstop at a high level, but he has yet to play even a single game as a professional, and will turn just 17 years old this coming July. He's worth rostering in the deepest formats where 150+ prospects are likely to be held, but any less than that and I'd probably want to see him play at least some games before I'm ready to move him too much higher on this list.

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5. Justin O'Conner (C)

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.278 49 12 47 0
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
424 0.316 0.466 3.77% 23.11%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R A+-AA
Roster Status: On 40-Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2016

A 1st round pick of the Rays back in 2010, O'Conner has been plodding his way towards the majors, and emerged as a legitimate catching prospect. After spending his first three pro seasons in short-season ball, O'Conner hit 14 home runs (albeit with a .233 batting average) in his first full-season assignment in 2013. Moved up to High-A to start 2014, O'Conner split time between there and AA, hitting .278 with 12 home runs over 101 games.

O'Conner's best tool is his defense and specifically his arm, which grades out as elite. He is still a work-in-progress in other parts of his defense, but is expected to be an above-average defender behind the plate. At the plate, his power potential grades out as above-average, but is contingent upon his ability to make contact consistently. He has struck out in the 22-25% range each year as a professional, posting the lowest rates of his career in 2014, but also saw a drop off in his walk rate to go with it. If it all comes together for O'Conner, he can be a solid hitter for average with 15-20 home run power, which would be a very interesting profile at catcher. He was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, and we could see him debut in Tampa by the end of the 2016 season.

6. Brent Honeywell (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
2 0 1.07 0.74 40
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
33.2 0.300 1.070 4.69% 31.25%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
19 R R Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

The second of two 2nd round draft picks in the 2014 draft, Honeywell has an unusual profile both as a draftee and a prospect. He was not drafted out of high school, but after spending a year at a junior college in Tennessee, was selected in the 2nd round and signed for $800K. Sent to the Appalachian league, Honeywell threw 33 innings as a pro last year, striking out 40 and walking just 6.

Honeywell's repertoire sets him apart as well, as he features a fastball, curveball, changeup and a screwball. The fastball has the potential to be above-average, with his screwball being his best offspeed pitch and one which not that many hitters have seen on a regular basis. The curve and change can both potentially be average as well, giving him a very deep arsenal. His delivery is fairly easy and repeatable, and gets rave reviews about his competitiveness. The potential is for a mid-rotation starting pitcher, providing strikeouts and solid ratios, and could be in the majors by the end of 2017.

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7. Alex Colome (RHP)

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
9 0 3.369384359 1.29 96
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
120.2 0.22 0.91 8.82% 18.82%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
25 R R AAA,MLB
Roster Status: On 40-Man Roster (Out of Options)
ETA to Majors: 2015

It's been a slow climb for the Rays' righty after signing out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007, having reached the majors in 2013 before a 50-game suspension started his season last year. He returned to AAA for a majority of the year, pitching reasonably well as a starting pitcher and making a pair of spot appearances in the majors before joining the club for the rest of the year in mid-September. He made two starts down the stretch, throwing 6+ innings of shutout ball in both with 10 strikeouts.

The reports on Colome's repertoire continue to make prospect followers drool, and with good reason. He features a four-pitch repertoire build on an excellent fastball, an above-average cutter and curveball, as well as an average changeup. However, his ability to limit walks and maintain his command has been a cause for concern for a while, and while he showed improvement last year, he may still present some risk to ratios as a result. The potential is there for a mid-rotation starter, but between the command risk and the fact that he is out of options (and could end up in the bullpen as a result), his ranking is down a little further than his upside would suggest. If he wins a job in the rotation, he can be a #4 or #5 starter for fantasy purposes, well worth owning in all formats. That said, he's also been in the hospital dealing with pneumonia, and may be behind in that fight when Spring Training ends.

8. Justin Williams (OF)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.351 47 4 46 1
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
320 0.403 0.467 7.50% 20.94%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 L R Rk-A
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

The Rays acquired Williams (along with Andrew Velasquez) in return for starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson in mid-November, and had already been ranked as our #5 prospect in the Diamondbacks system. Here's an excerpt with my thoughts then:

Scouting reports rave about Williams' raw power, although it has not entirely shown up in-game yet. If he can translate that, he has the potential to be an impact bat, capable of providing a good batting average to go with 25+ home run potential. The bat should be strong enough to carry him defensively, as he is expected to be limited to left field in the long-term. He's a long way from the majors right now, and should return to full-season Low-A for the 2015 campaign.

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9. Casey Gillaspie (1B)

Photo Credit: Kim Klement - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.262 27 7 42 2
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
308 0.364 0.411 13.64% 21.10%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 S L A-
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017

Taken with the 20th overall pick in last year's draft, Gillaspie signed for a bonus of just over $2 million after three years at Wichita State. The team sent him to their NY-Penn League affiliate after signing, where he hit 7 home runs and a high walk rate (13.6%). Gillaspie is limited defensively to first base, which puts more pressure on his bat to provide value to fantasy owners and the Rays. His calling card is above-average raw power, which has the potential to provide 20-25 home runs a year, but is reliant upon his hit tool, which projects as average in the best case scenario. He has shown an excellent approach at the plate so far, and can potentially be of more value in OBP leagues. That said, there are concerns that he ends up as a low batting average type, which would be more valuable outside of 1B. He's expected to move quickly, and could be in the majors by the end of the 2016 season.

10. Taylor Guerrieri (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
0 0 0.00 0.96 10
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
9.1 0.000 18.000 5.26% 26.32%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018

The 24th overall pick back in the 2011 draft, Guerrieri did not debut in his draft year, but rather at short-season ball in 2012. He pitched well there, and was given a full-season assignment in 2013 at Low-A. He showed some of what made him a top pick in his 14 starts, but ended up injured and in need of Tommy John surgery in mid-July. He missed nearly 12 months, returning in July of 2014 in the Gulf Coast League for a nine inning stint before being shut down again.

The potential for Guerrieri when he was drafted was a potential top 25 starting pitcher, capable of providing high strikeouts and low ratios, but with the injury concerns that seems a much lower possibility. He features a fastball, curveball and changeup combination, with all three pitches profiling as average or better before the injury. There are also questions about his makeup as well, with him serving a 50-game suspension while injured for a second positive drug test. With that said, there's still the potential for a very useful starting pitcher with a little more upside than his history might indicate. If you already own him in your league, I'd hold him unless you will receive a clearly better prospect back.

Other Interesting Prospects
by Jason Hunt

Nathan Karns RHP - Acquired from the Nationals a year ago, Karns has the potential to be a back-end starting pitcher, but there are enough questions about his arsenal and command to leave him off a rather deep list like this. There is also the possibility of a high-strikeout reliever, although it's not really been mentioned before that he would get a shot at closing either. Lots of value potentially for the Rays, not a ton except in extremely deep formats for fantasy owners.

Mikie Mahtook OF - Mahtook spent all of 2014 at AAA, and could be in line for a shot to make the Rays' roster this year. However, the tools profile as more of a backup outfielder or defensive outfielder than an everyday player, so the value would be limited at best to AL-only leagues.

Ryan Brett 2B - We've been writing about Brett for a while now, and reached AA for the 2014 season. The potential for Brett is a potential contributor in all five categories, but with none of the numbers likely being above-average with the possible exception of speed. There's not a lot in front of him on the depth chart right now though, so he could be in the bigs by 2016.

Blake Snell LHP - Snell pitched between Low and High-A this past year, and posted a strikeout per inning, but with over 4 walks per 9 to go with it. The profile is interesting and could be a mid-rotation type starter down the line, and would likely have been in the top 10 in a slightly shallower system.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects
Follow him on Twitter 

Brian Creagh is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter