This offseason, the Rays dealt away two pitchers who have been a big part of their major league team, right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis. But in return, though, they received four prospects with the ability to influence their team in a major way in coming seasons: outfielder Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, lefty Mike Montgomery, and third baseman Patrick Leonard. Just how good does the presence of those four make the Rays’ minor league organization? In a recent mailbag, Jim Callis of Baseball America ranked the Rays system 6th in all of baseball. Combining a system that continued to produce impact major league talents with a young organization that has won 90 games the last three seasons, and the future will continue to be awfully promising for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The past two years, Alex Cobb has pitched the equivalent of one full season in the major leagues and done so quite well, going 14-11 with a 3.86 ERA (99 ERA+), a 6.8 K/9, a 2.9 BB/9, and a 0.7 HR/9 in 32 starts and 189 innings pitched. The past two years, he began the season in the minor leagues before getting an opportunity to pitch in the Rays’ rotation. This offseason, he’s finally ready for his first season spent entirely in the major leagues, and as he told Bill Chastain of the Rays’ official site, he can’t wait to seize the opportunity.
“The comfort factor of going into this season knowing that I’ve faced the best team in the league at any given time, the hottest bat at any given time, I know I can compete at that level and I know it’s up to me that particular day whether I perform or not.
“That’s a real weight off your chest, to know that your talent level is capable of competing day in and day out. I’d say just the experience factor. There are a ton of little aspects that go into it, and I think they fall into the category of repetition and knowledge going into each year. Every year, it will get a little better.”
“With that trade happening, it improved my odds of getting into that rotation,” Cobb said. “It didn’t guarantee it, by any means. I still have to work and fight for a spot in Spring Training — and I know that. I like that aspect of competing, knowing that I have guys around me who are going to take my spot if I don’t perform. I figure it’s a real healthy system we have working right now.
“It’s exciting, and I know that nothing will be given to you in this organization, so I’m ready to prepare like I’m fighting for a spot in the rotation regardless of who is there.”
Cobb was not a pitcher who came into the major leagues with much fanfare at all, but the past two seasons he has pitched great and he has a chance to be a very good third or fourth starter for the Rays for the next several years. Starting 2013 in the Rays’ rotation is a deserved relief for Cobb, and the Rays hope he can continue his development as a pitcher and be a major component of the Rays’ rotation next season.
To close, the Rays’ player development department has always been a pivotal piece of their success, and the Rays’ are going to have some new faces in the ranks and others serving in new positions. Chastain reported that the Rays have hired ex-Astros scouting director Bobby Heck as a special assignment scout among a series of changes. Carlos Rodriguez has also been promoted to Director of Latin American Scouting and Carlos Alonso to special assistant for international operations, and various other scouts have been moved up to various capacities, most notably ex-Rays minor leaguers Josh Arhart and Ronnie Merrill. Congrats to everyone involved and good luck to them keeping the Rays’ renowned player evaluation department up to there among the best in baseball.