This is the third piece in a series on the Tampa Bay Rays’ prospects. The first part dealt with the theoretical major league arrival date of the top 20 prospects as listed in Baseball America’s Prospect guide. The second dealt with a theoretical 2018 25-man roster filled with those prospects. Now today, we will deal with the best of the remaining Rays prospects.
Each year Baseball America’s prospect guide lists 55 prospects that they feel deserve mention for each team. The top 30 get lots of ink and the remaining 25 get listed on the team’s prospect depth chart. I’ve taken a look at prospects number 21 through 55 and here are my picks for ten who might make the Rays someday.
Twenty-one Through Thirty:
#23 C.J. Riefenhauser: He is a left-hander who gets left handed hitters out. That’s never a bad combination. He was converted to a reliever in 2012 at DoubleiA and has shined ever since. Riefenhauser has a fastball touching 93 MPH that moves down in the strike zone, a great slider, and an improving changeup. He could be the first left-handed reliever called up by the Rays in 2014.
#25 Mikie Mahtook: Mahtook is a righty-hitting outfielder out of LSU. He’s a hard nosed ballplayer who does everything well but has no tool that stands out. That kind of player usually ends up as a fourth or platoon outfielder. Mahtook should get a chance with the Rays in that role but the timetable for him spending a whole year on the 25-man roster is unknown.
#27 Thomas Milone: Milone is a 2013 draftee who in high school was better known for his football talent than his baseball skills. The Rays love athletes and took him as the 97th overall choice. He had a rocky start in rookie ball and we will see if he can learn how to play baseball at a professional level. Like all athletes, he could have a huge upside like Carl Crawford or never get the hang of the game and flame out.
#28 Jose Castillo: Castillo, like fellow Venezuelan Jose Mujica, has raw talent that leaves scouts drooling. The left-hander has a 95 mph fastball and slurvy curve that is advanced for his age. He needs another pitch and refinements to his mechanics, but if that all comes together he could be a high-end starter for the Rays down the road.
#29 Curt Casali: Obtained in a trade for Kyle Lobstein, Casali looked very good in 2013 at High-A and Double-A. He’s a solid line drive hitter who also hit 10 home runs and slugged at a .488 clip last year. He needs work on his defense and throwing. He will probably always be an offense-first catcher but that’s not all bad. Look for him to replace Jose Molina as the Rays’ backup in 2016.
The Best of the Remaining Twenty-five:
Brandon Guyer: Guyer came over in the Matt Garza deal as a legitimate top 10 prospect. Injuries have slowed his progress and at age 28 and out of options, he’s in a fight for a roster spot. Going into spring training, he’s the leading candidate to platoon with David DeJesus and be the fourth outfielder. As you can imagine, there is competition for that job and he has to stay healthy and hit well to make the team.
Vince Belnome: Belnome came over in a minor league deal with the San Diego Padres. He’s an offense-first utility infielder who plays first, second and third. Voted Durham’s MVP in 2013, he is a contact hitter with excellent pitch recognition and bat control. If the Rays ever stop platooning at multiple positions, he could be a utility player and excellent bat coming off the bench. Look for him to get a call-up in 2014.
Mike Montgomery: Montgomery has gone from a #1 prospect with the Royals to a mention on Baseball America’s depth chart. The left-hander’s best chance to make the show may be a relief pitcher. He’s still got a 93 mph fastball and a quality changeup and that combination works for a reliever. In typical Rays fashion, they will send him to Durham to start, but he may be the next Alex Torres.
Kirby Yates: Yates features a plus fastball that reaches 95 mph. He was lights out at Durham last year and, along with Riefenhauser, is part of a new young set of relievers in the Rays system. If the Rays keep Brandon Gomes on the big league roster, he could be the first right handed reliever to be called up in 2014.
Luke Maile: Maile is a young catcher who is flying under the radar. Another offense first catcher with good power, Maile has better defensive credentials than Casali, but is still a work in progress. He’ll play at High-A this year and we will see if the growth on both sides of his game continues. At worst he could be a John Jaso type catcher/first baseman/dh.
The One Baseball America Missed:
Cameron Seitzer: Seitzer gets a lot of love from the Rays but none from Baseball America. Seitzer is a left handed hitting first baseman who is a solid line drive hitter with power potential. However, he’ll never be confused with James Loney around the bag. The Rays thought enough of him to promote him from Low-A to Double-A in 2013 and he did a decent job at that level Baseball America didn’t include him in their 2014 depth chart. Who knows best? We’ll see.
Will any of these eleven Tampa Bay Rays prospects ever see the big leagues on a regular basis? Nobody knows, but it will be interesting to follow their careers. It is always exciting to know that there are players with ability beyond the top 20 in the prospect list, and maybe a few of the sleepers can amount to something.