The best known baseball games that take place in the fall are obviously postseason contests. Once those games near their conclusion, fans interested in prospects also enjoy the Arizona Fall League. There is also a third league, though, albeit one we do not hear much about: the Fall Instructional League, which takes place from the middle of September to early October. Those games give teams an opportunity to get some promising players additional time to get work in and also provide injured players with an organized format to rehab. And on the 2014 Rays Instructional League roster, the talent is most certainly there. Let’s look at the prospects the Rays will send to the League and highlight a few of the notable players.
Right-Handed Pitchers (21): Blake Bivens, Damion Carroll, Diego Castillo, Henry Centeno, Hyrum Formo, Enderson Franco, Isaac Gil, Brent Honeywell, German Marquez, Deivy Mendez, Spencer Moran, Jose Mujica, Luis Nunez, Gerardo Reyes, Abrahan Rodriguez, Orlando Romero, Jaime Schultz, Ryne Stanek, Cameron Varga, Hunter Wood, Angel Yepez
Obviously a lot of names here, with an intriguing combination of top prospects and players that we haven’t heard of. The players you’ll be hearing quite a bit about include Stanek, Marquez, Varga, Honeywell, and Mujica. It is especially exciting that Stanek and Mujica are healthy and will be pitching after injuries derailed their seasons. Among the sleepers, meanwhile, are projectable 2014 11th rounder Spencer Moran, Gerardo Reyes with his fastball reaching 97 MPH, and 2014 GCL ERA leader (minimum 45 IP) Henry Centeno.
One name has to stand out above everyone else here: Jeff Malm. The former first baseman and left fielder has been converted to the mound, and it will be interesting to see whether he can experience better results there. Burke and Castillo stand out as two high-upside prospects among those group.
No Justin O’Conner here–apparently the Rays considered him advanced enough that he didn’t need the extra instruction–but a talented group nonetheless. Ciuffo, Hernandez, and Rodriguez represent three fascinating young catchers in the system while the non-drafted free agent Clark will be someone to watch. For Tissenbaum, meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the Rays have him playing the infield in addition to catcher to prepare him for more of a super-utility role moving forward.
For all of these lists, you want to say that there’s “one guy all eyes will be on,” but that is really true of multiple players here. There’s Rondon, the top international signing who is just 16 years old. Adames was the prospect everyone wanted to know more about after the Rays acquired him in the David Price trade. Then, of course, there’s 2014 first rounder Casey Gillaspie. It will also be interesting to see how the legend of Grant Kay continues moving forward–evidently the Rays have some belief in his talents even though he cooled off.
Other than the left-handed pitchers, this may the group with the least recognizable names, but has more to do with their youth than anything else. Everyone in this group has a high ceiling with the exception of Lee, who makes up for it with significantly more polish. Moreno and Milone have the most tools, and it will be interesting to see whether they can start harnessing them more often.
Out of six players, we have four current and former top prospects and two relatively high 2014 picks. That’s about as strong as we could have possibly expected. Guerrieri will hope to finish up his rehab and prepare to get back on track next season while Toles is working back into playing shape after personal issues sidelined him for much of 2014.
The 2014 Rays Instructional League roster is not quite a listing of the team’s top prospects, but it will feature quite a few players we will be hearing plenty about in the Rays system in coming years. Rays fans have to hope that we will be hearing about several players impressing in Instructional League and preparing to break out in 2015.