A team’s worst nightmare is to lack both the talent to compete at the major leagues level and the prospects to make the future look brighter. The Tampa Bay Rays never arrived at that point, but it looked for a while like they might. After all, they won just 77 games in 2014 yet possessed just the 20th-best minor league system in baseball according to Baseball America.
This spring training, Rays broadcasts haven’t been available for every game, so I’ve found myself watching and listening to the broadcasts of other teams. Every third or fourth game, if not more, I heard something that made me smile: “The Rays have always had a great farm system.” Obviously that was true for a long time. They had the best organization in baseball in 2010, and they ranked 2nd, 8th, and 4th in the three subsequent years.
Lately, though, “Tampa Bay Rays top prospect” has been a title bestowed upon players that would not have been deserving in the past. Every fan base idealizes their team’s prospects, but one look at the quality of the minor leaguers elsewhere, and it became clear that the Rays were missing something. The organization still had solid players, but where were the potential superstars? They simply weren’t there.
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The Rays still have plenty of more work ahead of them. However, their move from 20th to 12th among the top organizations in baseball is a move in the right direction. It was scary looking at the Rays’ Top Prospects from a few months ago. Their number two prospect was 26-year-old Alex Colome while number five prospect Nate Karns was 27 years of age. Their number four prospect was Adrian Rondon, who is extremely talented but just 16 years of age and lightyears from the majors.
Now, things are a lot more reasonable. Steven Souza is another older prospect, but he is coming off an MVP season in the International League and looks ready to be a starting outfielder. Daniel Robertson joins Willy Adames in the competition for Rays shortstop of the future, and he will likely be ready a year sooner. In addition, others like Boog Powell, Burch Smith, and Jake Bauers have added a few more interesting names into the system.
Where would the Tampa Bay Rays be without their most recent trades, let alone the ones they made earlier in the offseason? It’s a scary thought, but now we have moved past it. It was frustrating at the time that players like Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers were dealt, but the Rays desperately needed to boost their system and managed to do so without extinguishing their 2015 hopes. Now the hope is that the prospects will turn into strong major leaguers and more talented youngsters will step up to replace them.