Even after their trades from this offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays do not possess one of the top minor league systems in baseball. If you want a reason for optimism, though, you can look at the number of Rays prospects that appeared on the Fangraphs Top 200. The Rays’ nine minor leaguers was the 7th-highest total in baseball and it’s been a while since we have seen the Rays ranked that highly in any positive category related to prospects.
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Of course, five of the Rays’ nine prospects came from 143rd or later on the list: Alex Colome, Blake Snell, Taylor Guerrieri, Andrew Velazquez, and Brent Honeywell. Players like Guerrieri and Honeywell have the ability to be top 100 prospects if they perform well in 2015, but nevertheless, not every Top 200 spot is created equal. It means a lot more to have a top 20 or 30 player than it does to have a few guys who sneak in through the back door.
The Rays’ highest-rated prospect was Steven Souza at #52. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs notes the risk involved in Souza because of his unusual history as a prospect, but now his upside is apparent to all as well.
"Souza is a late bloomer, but he was also the key to the Wil Myers trade for Tampa Bay and he’ll likely be an Opening Day Starter that may post a couple WAR in 2015 and also may outperform Myers right after the deal. These things are all on the table now, but seemed completely absurd to consider a year or two ago, giving you a sense of how much Souza’s stock has risen in that time."
The other three Tampa Bay Rays prospects on the list came in at #90, #96, and #97: Willy Adames, Justin O’Conner, and Daniel Robertson. Robertson was ranked the lowest of the three, but he may have generated the most interesting comment:
"I think Robertson fits as an offensive second baseman who may hit 15-18 homers, so even Robertson’s detractors see a solid everyday player."
Obviously the Rays are hoping for a little bit more than that from Robertson. They are hoping he can stick at shortstop, where his bat could truly be special. There is something to be said, though, about top prospects who are safe bets. Ben Zobrist was a big loss for the Rays, but in return, they received a player who has a very good chance to be a part of their future infield and just maybe turn into a franchise cornerstone.
What should be your reaction after reading McDaniel’s prospect rankings? Well, we certainly can’t say that the Rays’ farm system is as good as it should be, but at least they are finally on the way to respectability. With players like Souza and Robertson on the way, the Tampa Bay Rays are expecting much bigger things from their minor league system than they have seen in recent years.