Mar 15, 2014; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Mikie Mahtook (67) hits a grand slam during the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Do The Tampa Bay Rays Have Sufficient Young Talent at Durham?


There is lots of talk about the Tampa Bay Rays being sellers at the trade deadline. If players like David Price, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce are traded, will the Rays have replacements at Durham? After 73 games, let’s see what prospects are shining for the Bulls.

Starting pitchers: The Bulls have four solid big league ready starting pitchers. They include Nate Karns, Alex Colome, Mike Montgomery and Matt Andriese. Karns has been up and down in his starts as is shown in his 4.73 era but when he is on, he’s dominant. Colome has only a small sample of four starts but he has a 0.67 ERA, and he also pitched well at Triple-A last season. He also has a few MLB appearances under his belt. Montgomery has been dominant with an 8-1 record and a 3.38 ERA. Andriese has showcased great command and groundball abilities en route to a 3.06 ERA. . Any of the four could end up as a starter or a back-end of the bullpen guy this season. In any case, they offer the Rays good protection if Price or another starter is traded.

Relief pitchers: The Rays currently have young relievers Brad Boxberger and Kirby Yates on the 25-man roster. At Durham, Jeff Beliveau, C. J. Riefenhauser, Adam Liberatore and Jake Thompson have been lights out. Beliveau and Reifenhauser have also had a cup of coffee in the big leagues this season. Liberatore is a sleeper and Thompson is just now coming into his own. All four have excellent ERAs under 2.50 and only Reifhauser has shown any command issues. If Oviedo, Cesar Ramos , or another reliever were to depart, any of the four would be a solid replacement. Also, they aren’t considered prospects, but both Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke are sitting at Triple-A with big league time under their belts.

Catching: Ryan Hanigan likely isn’t going anywhere, and Jose Molina is undesirable in a trade, though releasing him isn’t out of the question. Curt Casali mashed Double-A before moving to Triple-A. He has cooled of there as of late and his OPS sits at .741. He isn’t quite big league ready yet, offensively or defensively, but he isn’t far off either.

Infield: Replacing Zobrist would be a problem as the only legitimate infield prospect playing at Durham is Hak-Ju Lee. Lee is a shortstop and is struggling to find his groove after a serious ACL tear caused him to miss most of 2013. Tim Beckham may well be Zobrist’s replacement but he is on the 60 day DL with an ACL injury. Cole Figueroa and Vince Belnome are both more Quad-A type utility players than a replacement for Zobrist.

Outfield: The top young outfielder in the system is already in a Rays’ uniform in the likes of Kevin Keirmaier. So far he has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season thanks to his hitting, fielding, and hustle. The only caveat is that he has not sustained performance over a long period of time. The other outfield prospect is Mikie Mahtook. A college kid out of LSU, it has taken him a couple years to settle in, but he has finally broken out in his first year at Triple-A. He leads the Bulls in hitting, OPS and RBI’s. Mahtook is a right-handed hitter and at worst would be a nice platoon partner for David Dejesus or Joyce.

None of these guys are going to be David Price or Ben Zobrist in the short-term but if Jake Odorizzi, Brad Boxberger,and Kevin Kiermaier are good examples, the much maligned Rays farm system has something to offer. We will just have to wait and see which players among this group get a big league chance this season.

Tags: Alex Colome Kevin Kiermaier Mikie Mahtook Nate Karns Tampa Bay Rays