Welcome back to the RCG Mailbag, where we take those burning Tampa Bay Rays questions on your mind and attempt to give you answers.
The easiest way to submit a question is to fill out this Google form. Otherwise, you can comment on any of our posts here or on Facebook, email us at rayscoloredglasses at gmail dot com, or tweet me @RobbieKnopf. If you could say “for the mailbag,” that would make things especially easy.
Jeremy asks: Robbie, How do you think our farm ranking for the end of the year or the start of next yearh as been affected between this draft and all of our trades? With three in the midseason top 50 ranking, and Robertson who probably will be a top 100 guy again, I believe we have done a great job putting together a great farm with top-end talent and a ton of depth. Also we have a lot of young-high ceiling guys. Where do you think we rank?
This is a very difficult question to answer fully–there is a reason that sites like Baseball America and Minor League Ball only publish their rankings of the 30 MLB farm systems once a year. However, the shorthand that I’ll use to answer this question in an hour rather than a week is to look at each team and ask “Is this team’s organization better than the Rays?” We can do that because we’re only worrying about the Rays’ rank and nobody else’s. The order below is Baseball America’s system rankings from the beginning of the season, and bear in mind that I’m looking at consensus prospect rankings rather than my own opinion for the individual player ranks (although you can certainly quibble about my team assessments).
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Cubs: Yes, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Jorge Soler have graduated to the big leagues. However, Kyle Schwarber hasn’t yet and remains one of the top 10 prospects in baseball while Billy McKinney and Gleyber Torres are in the top-30 discussion as well. Then we have Ian Happ, the ninth overall pick from this year’s draft as a polished college bat, and others like C.J. Edwards. The Cubs’ system is certainly worse than it was at the beginning of the year, but I would still rank it ahead of the Rays until Schwarber is no longer eligible.
Of course, it looks like Schwarber will stick in the major leagues with Miguel Montero now injured. If that is the case, the Rays would beat the Cubs between Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell, Blake Snell, Daniel Robertson, Taylor Guerrieri, and Garrett Whitley, especially because the rankings are a touch divisive on McKinney and Torres.
Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez and Blake Swihart have graduated while the stock is down (at least a bit) for Yoan Moncada, Rusney Castillo, and Henry Owens. However, Moncada, Rafael Devers, and Manuel Margot are a trio that the Rays simply can’t match.
Mets: Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Kevin Plawecki have moved up (although Matz is injured), and there’s a good chance that Dilson Herrera will exhaust his rookie eligibility as well. If that is the case, Michael Conforto‘s leap forward and another good prospect in Brandon Nimmo aren’t enough to overcome the Rays’ talented group.
Diamondbacks: This season is in free-fall between prospects graduating and Touki Toussaint being given away. Dansby Swanson is excellent, but that still isn’t enough for them to beat the Rays.
Pirates: Tyler Glasnow is an excellent prospect while Jameson Taillon, Austin Meadows, Reese McGuire, and Josh Bell (in some order) are about as good as the Rays’ minor leaguers. Glasnow puts the Pirates over the top–we forget just how valuable a top-10 prospect is, and the Rays don’t even have a top-30 guy.
Rockies: This is a relatively top-heavy system, but the top is quite good between Jon Gray, David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, Ryan McMahon, and now Brendan Rogers. This one is close, but I have to give it to the Rockies.
Blue Jays: Aaron Sanchez, Devon Travis, and Roberto Osuna have graduated, but Daniel Norris remains an excellent prospect before we get to Jeff Hoffman and Dalton Pompey. Even so, the Rays have a lot more depth and Norris isn’t a consensus top-10 guy. I’ll take the Rays.
Royals: Now we are up to the teams that trailed the Rays in the Baseball America pre-season rankings. Raul Mondesi isn’t good enough by himself to put the Royals ahead.
Cardinals: I don’t know if this system will ever be bad, and Alex Reyes gives them another headliner. Stephen Piscotty and Rob Kaminsky are two more guys. However, the Rays have enough top-50 or top-65 type of players to beat out the Cardinals.
Yankees: Aaron Judge and Luis Severino give the Yankees two top-20 type of talents, which the Rays can’t match. However, this is another case where the Rays just have more depth (and the concerns about Severino moving to relief don’t hurt either).
Phillies: The Phillies are about to shoot up after their oncoming trades, but even before that, J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola give them two excellent prospects. We’ll see Nola in his big league debut against the Rays on Tuesday.
Indians: Bradley Zimmer, Brady Aiken, and let’s move on.
Athletics: Franklin Barreto and whoever they acquire in trades.
Padres: They basically traded everybody they had.
Marlins: Even their best guy, Tyler Kolek, comes with reason for concern.
Giants: They have no top-50 prospects.
Angels: Sean Newcomb is a very good pitcher.
Tigers: Nothing to see here…
Based on my quick analysis, the Tampa Bay Rays have the ninth-best system in baseball trailing (in an order that I won’t try to figure out) the Dodgers, Nationals, Pirates, Phillies, Rangers, Astros, Rockies, and Red Sox. If you’re more optimistic, you can put them ahead of say the Rockies and Phillies and place them seventh, while if you’re more pessimistic, the Blue Jays and Yankees could push them to 11th. This Rays organization is moving in the right direction, and the hope is that they can return to being a top system in baseball season after season.