Obviously the big move that Tampa Bay made this off-season was in trading all-star pitcher James Shields to the Royals. While,in doing so the Rays may have taken a step back in the level of talent they have for this season, they depleted the Royals talent in the upper-minors, picking up three players who should have impacts in the major leagues this season: Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, and Michael Montgomery. While Shields is a stud, and it was a necessary move for Kansas City to make, the Rays could be the team that benefits long term if any of these players reach their maximum potential. Here are some notes I see regarding the Tampa Bay organization:
1. Let's start with discussing the Rays biggest problem with their organization right now. Drugs. Currently, the team has FIVE prospects serving suspensions for drugs of abuse, mostly methamphetamine, including pretty impressive prospects like Josh Sale and Ryan Brett. Both of these guys spent last year with Class A Bowling Green, so it may just be a culture thing that needs to be addressed at that level. But obviously something needs to be done by the organization to prevent this from happening so often for the protection of their individual player's careers and health, as well as their system.
2. The Rays picked up two guys, Shelley Duncan and Jack Cust, who both only do one thing well, and that's hit for a little bit of power. Luke Scott is a similar player, but he is probably the starting DH at the Major League level. I can't see Cust making the team, but it will be interesting to see if Shelly Duncan can make it to DH against lefties. If not they'll probably go with both utility guys Sean Rodriguez and Ryan Roberts.
3. Normally a guy who's in AAA at age 23 and can play a variety of infield positions is considered a bigtime prospect, but it's different when you're an underachieving #1 overall pick. It looks like Tim Beckham's future is as a backup infielder, and he may get a shot at the big league level this year after the Rays parted ways with both Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson. But there's a good chance he won't even be an everyday guy at Durham, especially if Mike Fontenot hangs around and starts with Durham.
4. I see why they felt like Shields was expendable. Between Archer, Odorizzi, Montgomery, and Colome they have a load of dynamic and nearly big league ready arms. Montgomery has struggled bigtime the past two seasons, but he was a Top 20 prospect just two years ago. Change of scenery and coaching could benefit him.
5. I'm not sure what the Rays are planning to do with Vince Belnome and Nick Weglarz, both of whom they picked up in minor league deals, but I put them both in AA where they filled roles. Weglarz was the #58 prospect in baseball in 2009, but has really struggled to break through in the Cleveland organization.
6. For as many great arms that they have knocking on the major league door, they have just as many 2-3 years away. Taylor Guerreiri, Blake Snell and Jeff Ames are all studs.
Overall Farm System Grade: B
Top 10 Prospects
1. Wil Myers, Durham
2. Jake Odorizzi, Durham
3. Taylor Guerreri, Bowling Green
4. Blake Snell, Bowling Green
5. Hak Ju Lee, Durham
6. Chris Archer, Durham
7. Jeff Ames, Bowling Green
8. Richie Shaffer, Bowling Green
9. Drew Vettleson, Charlotte
10. Jake Hager, Charlotte
HM: Enny Romero, Mike Montgomery, Mikie Mahtook, Josh Sale, Alex Colome, Tyler Goeddel, Justin O'Conner, Grandon Goetzman